The path to career greatness is littered with the sweat, tears and triumphs of those before you. Every milestone and bump in the road produces a bounty of newfound wisdom. We asked Mill VFX artists, designers, colourists and producers in various stages of their careers to share their hard-earned lessons and insights: What advice would you give your younger self?
VFX Supervisor/Senior Compositor
It's such a loaded question... I could go back and advise myself to avoid certain situations, not get stuck in a certain company as long as I did or not talk to that girl in that bar that time. I could save myself so much grief. But then I wouldn't be where I am now!
It's easy to take for granted the situations we find ourselves in, and I am definitely guilty of that. To get to live in New York, in one of the best companies, to work on amazing jobs, with amazing people, it's easy to be complacent. It's easy to forget the long hard road it's taken me to get here.
Sometimes it's the hard parts and the pain that informs who we are. A career handed out on a silver platter will never test you mentally, push your abilities, make you strive for better.
So, what would I tell my younger self? Appreciate what you have now, it will get better… But don't compromise. Oh, and don't take it so seriously!
I wish I discovered the importance of public speaking in our field at an earlier stage in my career. The better you become at infusing energy into your work through your declamation skills, the quicker everyone in the room can tune in to the ideas set forth and the quicker they will to be on board with your design decisions at the inception of the project. The good news is that it's a skill that can be rehearsed and practiced upon to fine-tune its intricacies.
Being in a field where you stare into a monitor for 10 hours, I wish I knew early on the importance of being able to unplug and travel outside of city bounds to draw inspiration from various surroundings; it's a fantastic jolt to your creativity. I find joy in taking my DSLR with me on my travels and practicing proper framing, mastering lighting, and surprising myself with the various moments you can capture, whether it's composed or otherwise. Being able to surrender yourself to the surroundings is a great contrast to being able to control everything in your software.
What’s exciting about this industry is that it’s forever changing. The ground is constantly shifting technically and young people coming into the industry are perfectly placed to pick up the new tools. G Given the necessary drive and passion, the door is open for them to teach old dogs new tricks.
Keep doing your own side projects when you get a permanent job. Pursue your own ideas - make your own films, however simple, experiment with stuff. It keeps your creative brain fresh and keeps the ideas flowing.
View Adam’s side projects on his YouTube channel: Grintstick
Don't panic! Or maybe, just panic a little bit. Everything you work on is one of the pieces that will eventually fall into place.
If there's nothing else you'd rather do - it'll definitely be worth the wait.
That would be like living my own version of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, wouldn't it? I hope that George Carlin would be there. He would remind current me to be excellent to everyone and I could in turn remind younger me, which is a strong philosophy regardless of pretty much any factor in life.
But really, I think this would come in handy when things don't, or aren't working out. Where I am right now? I wouldn't change a thing. I really feel like I won the career lottery. I didn't even know what a colorist was before I set foot inside The Mill, and I've ended up doing something I love. I hope there doesn't come a time in the future when I would really need to go back and give myself some advice other than "Say 'Hi' to the princesses for me."
It's very hard starting right at the bottom, but it's well worth it if you stick to it, and work your way up to the role you want to be in.
Be open-minded and try a little bit of everything, to see what you like best and what you're good at.
Just remember to animate your best no matter what the subject matter is. If you have to animate something as mundane as a product or as complex as an animal, always give it 110%. At the end of the day, it’s our job to give life and charisma to the spot. Always be proud and be confident of your work.
I wish I knew that my art would give me the opportunity to be a professional animator. I always thought that it was just a hobby and nothing else. I'm very thankful that art surrounds my life every day.
Mill+ Jr. Designer
Nurture your hobbies: When I started, I threw myself into my work, staying long hours and pushing myself as hard as possible. It pays off, but I wasn't giving time to my creative interests. I think it's important to keep your creativity flowing and the best way to do that is finding time for passion projects and nurturing your hobbies. I am only now seeing the value that has on my career. You not only evolve as an artist but you gain confidence in yourself.
Surround yourself with art: I've always known that it is important to keep your creative knowledge current, to help with your growth as an artist. It is so easy to get stuck if you don't explore the creative world and really learn about art history, current art, photography, music and, in my case, commercials and films. This keeps your mind working creatively rather than just problem solving all the time. You should do your best to surround yourself with art constantly. In my opinion, doing this is just as important as the learning the programs we use everyday.
VFX Supervisor/Senior Compositor
The time you spend as a runner when you first start in the industry is the only time you’ll ever have so many options. Once you choose your area (2D, 3D, etc.), its very hard to go back. Get your head around the process and spend a bit of time in each department to really understand how they work. There will inevitably be something that jumps out to you. It’s really about what you will enjoy.
The people you are with in the beginning are the start of your network. The other runners I started with are some of the best friends I have in the industry. We were a great team with a healthy competitiveness. At least 50% percent of them are very successful in the industry. These connections/friends will stand to you throughout your career.
Mill+ Production Assistant
I think it’s really important to stay calm and keep a sense of humor in an industry like ours. Back when I started out as a runner, I was probably thinking about my forward trajectory a little too much. Remember to stay calm, work hard for each other, make new friends, and the rest will quickly fall into place.
It’s also really important to stay in touch with new work for inspiration and reference. As well as knowing what your company does, make sure you’re always watching new promos, commercials, films etc. Stay ahead of the game.
Learn to build a shield against the stress of others (and yourself) during crunch time; believe in yourself, remain focused and always look for solutions.
At the beginning of a job, work broadly and meet specific goals quickly, seek direction early. Don't get too focused on the details right away.
All of the sleep you are going to lose, all of the stress and exhaustion you are going to feel, all of the joy, pride, and elation you will experience while watching your hard work on TV, it's all actually very small compared to the time when you have a family.