Animation Mentor. iAnimate. Anim School. Three online training courses taught by working, professional animators to give the skills and insight needed to become a solid animator ready to be snapped up by any studio in need of their talent. It is something they do honestly better than most colleges in the country. With every year, each course creates a new batch of animators yearning to use their passion and new found skills towards creating the next great film, game or show. And this isn’t unique to animation. Game Design courses of various worth are popping up at universities everywhere.
So I wondered, when do we hit the saturation point of creating more viable talent then needed?
I posed this question on the podcast I co-host with some fellow animators. The general consensus the four of us came to was that we had in fact hit our saturation point.
If this is the case, then what is our responsibility to do something about it?
Sure, the cream always rises to the top. And having too many awesome applicants isn’t often a problem many studios face. But I don’t see that percentage of top notch talent being affected much by more schools. What I see being produced is more average skilled applicants. And that is what worries me. These are the students who were diligent and passionate, just not as inherently gifted or able in their craft as the cream of the crop.
Students like me.
Students who believe that if they work hard enough they are going to make it. I’m not talking about edge cases like Rudy who are all heart with almost no ability. I’m talking about people with a high batting average, but not a lot of home runs. Not sure where these sports metaphors came from, but you get my drift.
See, there are A LOT of these type of graduates out there. And for the last few years, they have been able to find work if they put in enough effort. And the schools had the placement rates to prove it. But it doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. And when the diligent yet average can’t find work, I’m afraid that their most important trait might fade.
That is what can set them apart. I’m not talking about the fanatic, all encompassing form of passion that can do more harm than good. I’m talking about the passion that can sustain through even the darkest times of development. The passion that makes them valuable when the superstars jump ship for something better or are too busy working on a tent pole moment to care about the more mundane. The passion that makes them a true diplomat in the industry for the next wave of creatives.
That is my biggest fear. A generation of disillusioned creatives that did everything right, to the best of their ability, and still couldn’t scale the wall. What happens when their kids then want to make their own run at it? Who in their right mind would encourage someone on what they already proved to be a fool’s errand?
I can feel some Fox News levels of hyperbole seeping out of that last paragraph, so I’m probably reaching the end of any rational conclusions. But I can’t help but think we have some responsibility to quell this tide. It is at a point where it feels like just trying to give access to anyone interested is turning into a business model. Something that is already being played out with the Art Institute. I don’t for a second believe Animation Mentor, iAnimate and Anim School are in the same league as Art Institute in trying to turn art students into widgets. But for a field where students are always looking for the magic key that can unlock their entry into the industry, those schools represent the closest thing to the public at large. And that perception, coupled with the professional perception that there is a saturation of these schools, is a dangerous combination.
So what can we do as professionals working in the field? I would say the first step is to not create another online animation school run by professionals. Not even a game animation focused one, though a course like that COULD be beneficial. No, in all honesty, the crap programs are going to fade due to low attendance numbers and struggling budgets as the years go by. But in the mean time, I do think it is our responsibility to be even more honest to those enrolled in all of these programs. In a time when American Idol proves season after season that this is certainly a generation plagued by disillusioned self empowerment, an extra dose of Simon might just be the answer. Sure, it might drive away some, but if some tough love was all it took to make them give up their dream, then they probably didn’t have the passion needed to set them apart anyway.
So the answer towards saving the average yet passionate talent is to be a wet blanket of truth? Instead of giving them MORE support, we should lob honesty bombs at them? Talk about some old testament solutions to current day problems…
But, it worked for me. That honesty helped to test and strengthen my passion and push my drive. Maybe that passion, drive, and average skill set can be enough to help this current generation poke their head up among the crowd long enough to be given a chance.