Flip Festival Launch

Animation in the West Midlands: A Snapshot

For the start of the Flip festival there was a small opening event at Millenium Point, Birmingham, which consisted of a small panel of professionals from the animation industry speaking about the state of animation in the West Midlands region.  It started with some statistics gathered about the animation industry here, and although some of the facts given were proven dubious by other panel members, it was interesting hearing many aspects of the industry put into a more graphical form.

The games industry is much larger than the 'animation' industry with about 1,600 in the west midlands alone, with as few as 500-odd registered animators on the west midlands animation forum, many of which are students. The education system that I'm a part of is currently turning out 2,000+ animation students per year, which we found out is far far more than the amount of work available. This explains why there is so much competition for work, and also leads to the question:

Is it better to be a Jack-of-all-trades or a specialist in one area?

Specialism gets you noticed and wanted by larger companies, and makes sure you are called upon when you're needed (provided you're what they're looking for and good enough!). However it's not enough alone to be able to survive on (most of the time). I think the best option would be to find a middle-ground between the two and just make sure you're noticed, and unique.

Going back to the state of animation in the Midlands, its seems a lot of the panelists think that the region is losing talent to companies abroad due to tax breaks and other incentives to move. I have seen and heard this before; during my brief stint as a games tester at Microsoft Game Studios / Rareware, I had heard about how so much of the gaming industry is moving to places such as Canada purely for tax loopholes and benefits. I think this government could be doing a lot more to encourage rising talent in these creative industries to stay here and raise the UK's profile as a hotbed of fresh creative expertise.

A few other tidbits I picked up were:
  • Don't sell to advertising agencies, it's futile - they will coming looking for you if you're wanted
  • The noted pay for an animator falls between £29k and £31k, but could be substantially lower
  • Most new work is gained through networking and word of mouth so its always wise to have a thick book of contacts
  • There is a lot of 'speculate to accumulate' when it comes to doing free work to gain work

I think the biggest thing I learnt from this was that I have to expect to do unpaid work when trying to pitch work to companies. I knew this would be a requirement to a certain extent having already worked freelance in other areas for some time now, but the amount of work that must be undertaken in order to possibly secure work is quite daunting.

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