VFX/Animation: You don’t have to be an artist to work in Visual Effects or Animation

Our final guest blog in the 2024 #EdCreativeCareers series is an inspiring read by Ros Webb, Talent Consultant for PXL Talent, a specialised global executive search and recruitment agency servicing the creative industries. 

A huge thanks to Ros for sharing her experience and advice about how you can make it into the VFX/Animation industry. Is a relevant degree required? What do passion and proactivity have to do with it?  

Read on to find out!  

At the time of writing this post, it is the Visual Effects Society Awards in LA. Movies like Oppenheimer, Indiana Jones, Aquaman and the Guardians of the Galaxy 3 go up against each other to battle it out for who had the biggest and best environments, which animated creature was the most complex and which explosion was frankly… the most explosive. 

I cannot think of a more exciting industry to be in than VFX/Animation. 

The artists involved in these projects are incredibly specialised, with hundreds of artists working on one film or TV show. There are many articles out there about the type of artist you can be and what it takes to land a job. However, what is not always talked about is how non-creatives, with a passionate love for film and the creative industries, can end up working with, supporting and having a huge contribution to the success of these projects. 

I am here to help you see how your degree and your passion can land you a role working on the biggest and best films of our generation. 

VFX or Animation? 

First, let me share what the differences between those two industries are. 

For VFX, the director will shoot a scene on set. Those images (plates) are passed to a VFX studio to manipulate, layer and add CG elements to. In the case of shows that use green screens, the VFX studio may receive a plate with only one actor on it, with teams of VFX artists required to create a whole scene around them. 

Animation is slightly different in that there are no plates, no set and no real-life actors. Scenes are storyboarded and crafted out of thin air using complex software in either 2D or 3D. 

Once the work to create these images is underway, there are some key differences but essentially the two industries work very similarly, and thus some professionals, especially those in support positions, will be able to move between VFX and Animation in their career. 

How can you get into the VFX/Animation industry? 

You might be wondering how you can get into the industry if you don’t have an Animation or VFX degree.  

Relevant subjects can be very helpful in demonstrating your interest in the creative fields. A degree in media, graphic design, photography or other creative areas will demonstrate to a studio that you have a keen interest in the arts and are likely to thrive in a creative environment. 

A degree in software engineering, maths or science lends itself very well to technical positions within VFX/Animation, such as Graphics Engineers, Media Engineers, IT Engineers and even FX TDs (who create physics-based particle effects like fire and water!) 

Any work experience in a creative environment that you can gain while at University will be useful, through volunteering opportunities or side projects. Not only will this demonstrate your passion for the creative industries, but will also show your work ethic and can provide very worthwhile networking opportunities! 

What type of jobs can I apply for? 

There are many departments within VFX/Animation that provide integral support to the running of a show. The team that is the closest to the action is Production. The Production team is responsible for making sure everything happens on time and to budget. At the very top of the ladder is the Producer who is responsible for bidding the show, managing the budget and working with the clients. Other roles such as Production Manager, Line Producer, Production Coordinator, Production Assistants and Runners fill out the team. 

When you graduate, you can join a studio as a Runner or a Production Assistant. These are entry level roles where you will be taking notes in dailies (this is where the VFX Supervisor provides feedback to the artists on their work), speaking to artists about their deadlines and providing general administrative support to the team. 

Usually when recruiting for this position, a hiring manager is looking for a keen interest in film and most of all an organised, outgoing and proactive personality. 

Can you have a career in a different department? 

If you find yourself on a different path, for example you have begun a career in Accounting, HR, Recruitment, Facilities Management, IT Support or even administrative work, there are still many opportunities for you.  

When a recruiter is hiring for a support team in a VFX/Animation studio, they will be looking for a combination of work experience in that area (accounting, HR, etc.) combined with a great interest in the industry or a qualification in Film/TV. 

If you can demonstrate in your CV that you have education, work experience, side projects or hobbies related to the creative industries, you will be a step above the average candidate. 

My advice 

I have been recruiting for 15 years across a variety of industries including VFX, Games and Animation. What I have come to learn in this time is that, while experience and education is important, attitude, hard work and positive working relationships are greater predictions of success than the ‘type’ of degree you have.  

When hiring a graduate into an entry level position, hiring managers are looking for a candidate that is eager to learn, trusted to problem solve, that will raise any issues that arise (and they do!) and will be a great team player.   

By gaining work experience or working in projects with your peers, you can develop a greater understanding of what it is to be a team player and how you work with others. 

Connecting with professionals in the industry and sharing your professional interests and goals with them will give you an advantage in the hiring process, as they will be likely to remember you when a vacancy arises. 

Finally, timing is everything, so don’t be afraid to reach out to recruiters on LinkedIn to find out when their studio might next be hiring for entry level positions, or tap into those connections you gained during work experience! 

Good luck!

If you have any questions, Ros can be contacted on LinkedIn or at ros@pxltalent.co. 

Ros highlighted the importance of making connections. Did you know that, apart from LinkedIn, another way to make connections is through Platform One, the University’s online community? You can find friendly people there, who share a connection with the University and are open to supporting each other. You can join and create your profile here 


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