Things to remember about Climbing the Ladder

A big thank you to Peter Giles (AFTRS), Nick Hore (Animal Logic), Jason Bath (Fuel) and Lara Hopkins (Rising Sun Pictures) for their excellent session on career paths and how to get into the industry.

Playing to a packed house, the panel described an industry where, although there are lots of people doing foundation level training, there is a chronic shortage of artists at the higher levels needed to achieve international feature film-level work. Peter Giles described how the AFTRS is providing more attachment-style schemes and shorter courses designed for people working in industry who want to add techniques and professional-level skills to their repertoire.

The questions that captured the audience interests were:

How do you know how to rate your own work?
Where can you find examples of good work (and bad work) so that you can make comparisons?

The panel recommended checking out the advice on their websites:

and the value of participating in the dlf:

All of the companies have job boards and general application advice on their websites and recommended that applicants approach them through those mechanisms. The consensus is that you take your application seriously and that what you provide should reflect that attitude. Jokey approaches were generally not recommended nor were applications full of spelling mistakes and similar errors.

The companies suggested that keeping in touch and sending in updated showreels on a six-monthly basis was the best tactic. They pointed out that an updated showreel should be significantly updated with more and better work each time. Applicants that send in the same reel time and time again generally did not make a good impression. Nor did those who pestered houses constantly. If you are not successful on a first or second application, it is wise not to take this personally. The houses are driven by the work they have on hand and recruit accordingly. If you are not hired straightaway, it will be a reflection of the level and kind of work they have on hand at the time you apply. This is why it is important to keep building your skill set and sending in updated reels.

What is the industry looking for in Australia?

—€œA generalist with a specialty.—€

Ultimately the VFx houses are looking for talent – someone with an eye and the capacity to execute work that is visually impressive. Two well-rendered frames are much better than five minutes of mediocre work.


  • say what you can do – demonstrate your skill set and be willing to take on the basic tasks of a role rather than pitching yourself at the senior-level goal that you are pursuing (note: it’s ok to let people know what your goal is, just don’t overstate where you are on the path to that goal)
  • list all of your skills, including administrative abilities
  • do not let the software be what holds you back; flexibility about software is valued
  • a good work ethic is crucial


  • the capacity to take on more responsibility for your own work and to teach juniors and start to lead up teams
  • having a strong understanding of the process
  • usually an average of three years experience/some on-set experience
  • and a good work ethic is still crucial


  • very strong skill set in specialty and wide-ranging knowledge of process
  • expected to be able to do high-level work very quickly
  • usually more than five years experience
  • this also is the point at which people tend to become higher-level specialists (particles, lighting, etc.) or generalists that have enough skills across the process to be a team leader
  • not only do you have a good work ethic yourself, you have to inspire it in others.

Ultimately, getting a job will come down to your skills as an artist. Keeping it will depend upon how well you play with others. Most people get ahead and rise up the ranks by developing their own knowledge and skills and also by training others through knowledge sharing.

For those of you who want to build your knowledge of animation, our May event will feature David J. Smith, a character animator who has worked with Moving Picture Co., Lost in Space, Rhythm and Hues, Click3x, Blue Sky Studios, Animal Logic, and Fuel. His feature film credits include: Ice Age, Babe, The Nutty Professor, Rogue, Pinata, Kazaam, Speed2, Happy Feet.

For those of you who are filmmakers who want to learn more about the craft, we have Steve Murphy (former Head of Sound, AFTRS) presenting on that most powerful side of the art. Check out his bio — he’s even more fun in person!

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