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View Full Version : LA TIMES: Hiring Boom for Experienced CG artists


RobertoOrtiz
11-25-2003, 03:50 PM
Quote:
"Weta Digital expects to have plenty of work in 2005, when production ramps up for Jackson's remake of "King Kong." In the meantime, Weta is struggling to keep its key staff members from being poached by rivals. Industry observers agree that there are not enough experienced workers to fill the more than 5,000 jobs available in live-action movies, animated features and video game projects.
"
FIXED LINK! (Registration required)
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-weta23nov23,1,1140535.story
-R

Ps Thanks to Animated-news for the link

elektronaut
11-25-2003, 04:40 PM
the link doesn´t work.

greets
marco.

malducin
11-25-2003, 05:26 PM
The link has a <br /> tag embeded. Still you need to be a registered user to get at it, here it is for those that don't have access:


As Trilogy Ends, Weta Trolls for Projects
*The New Zealand digital effects firm, which is best known for its work on the 'Rings' films, now must branch out.

By P.J. Huffstutter, Times Staff Writer

MIRAMAR, New Zealand — The computers are relatively quiet, and the seats have begun to empty inside one of the world's most cutting-edge visual effects companies.

It's downtime here at Weta Digital, the computer effects shop best known for bringing the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy to life.

The final chapter, "The Return of the King," is finished and heading to theaters Dec. 17.

And Weta Digital, located in a suburb of Wellington, the nation's capital, is heading into a period of huge uncertainty.

The company is co-owned by Peter Jackson, the New Zealand native who directed all three "Rings" movies, and it is arguably the most successful piece of his movie-making empire. Its work on the first two "Rings" films has earned Oscars.

Visual effects are increasingly important for major studio films, and the competition among effects firms is increasingly fierce. Profit margins are becoming paper-thin.

This is the challenging environment in which Weta Digital must find projects to replace the work from "The Lord of the Rings."

The job falls largely to Chief Operating Officer Eileen Moran, who has been seeking contracts in film and television for the better part of a year.

Her efforts are starting to pay off. Several Weta Digital staffers are now in Vancouver, Canada, and working on the set of "I, Robot," a remake of Isaac Asimov's classic science fiction book. A couple more are preparing a team to work on television commercials.

But Moran fears her firm is handicapped when it submits its bids.

"People assume that we only work on Peter's projects," she said. "They also can't get over the fact that we're so far away from Hollywood."

At stake is the strength of the country's fledgling film and effects industry, said Suzanne LaBrie, facilities manager for Weta Ltd., the parent company of Weta Digital.

"If there's no work, people won't have jobs and they won't be able to stay — either with us, in Wellington or in New Zealand," LaBrie said.

Weta Digital expects to have plenty of work in 2005, when production ramps up for Jackson's remake of "King Kong." In the meantime, Weta is struggling to keep its key staff members from being poached by rivals. Industry observers agree that there are not enough experienced workers to fill the more than 5,000 jobs available in live-action movies, animated features and video game projects.

One morning, during the 100-plus-hour workweeks leading up to the final "Rings" deadline, Moran's phone rang.

She said it was a courtesy call from Sony Pictures Imageworks to let her know it was sending recruiters to town, hungry for staff and looking at hers. Imageworks declined to comment.

It wasn't the first time. Moran said she received a phone call over the summer from DreamWorks SKG animation executives who were short-handed for several projects, including "Shrek 2."

She said she told them, "We'd be happy to work with you in November, when we're ramping down, so that no one leaves here without a job."

But DreamWorks couldn't wait. Recruiters came to Wellington and offered to double the salaries of Weta workers if they left New Zealand immediately to take jobs in Glendale, said artists who were wooed.

Weta lost only "a couple" of people, Moran said. DreamWorks declined to comment.

Days later, Moran said, she received a bouquet of flowers from DreamWorks. The card read, "Good luck with 'Return of the King.' "

Sitting in her office, an Elvish long bow and quiver full of arrows only a few steps away, Moran grimaced at the memory.

"The nerve, you know?" she said.

CourtJester
11-25-2003, 07:14 PM
Heavy emphasis on "experienced".

The demand is not as broad as it was in the 90's; it is more heavily concentrated, not merely on experienced individuals, but on those with the right kind of experience. Heaviest demand seems to be in the technical disciplines, e.g. shader writing, mocap, scripting etc.

Having good industry contacts, experience in the desired fields, and being local to your target market are still very important.

Lastly, don't expect to find work (in LA at least) right now; November and December are relatively dead times. January is when things will pick up again. I plan to be back there on Jan 2 for that reason.

NanoGator
11-25-2003, 07:19 PM
Originally posted by CourtJester


Lastly, don't expect to find work (in LA at least) right now; November and December are relatively dead times. January is when things will pick up again. I plan to be back there on Jan 2 for that reason.


Beaverton? Is there 3d work out there?

CourtJester
11-25-2003, 07:44 PM
Originally posted by NanoGator
Beaverton? Is there 3d work out there?

If there is, I didn't find any. I clean forgot to update the profile, thanks for the headsup. I haven't been in Beaverton since March (except for last month to close everything down and relocate to LA.) I'm in MN for the balance of the year, though.

NanoGator
11-25-2003, 07:52 PM
Originally posted by CourtJester
If there is, I didn't find any. I clean forgot to update the profile, thanks for the headsup. I haven't been in Beaverton since March (except for last month to close everything down and relocate to LA.) I'm in MN for the balance of the year, though.

Ah gotcha. ;)

Not much in terms of 3D jobs in the Portland area. Gonna find myself in Cali before too long.

CourtJester
11-25-2003, 09:48 PM
Originally posted by NanoGator
Ah gotcha. ;)

Not much in terms of 3D jobs in the Portland area. Gonna find myself in Cali before too long.

No kidding. Oregon's beautiful, but wasn't a good move for me job-wise. The boom (if it can be called that) seems to be confined to the usual places. Given that the demand is for experienced CG artists rather than journeymen/entry level, it makes sense.

FClub_TDurden
11-25-2003, 09:56 PM
Court Jester is exactly right....heavy emphasis on experience people....I remember at siggraph the same articles were written and it was the same situation...if you have 5+ years of experience....you could almost name your price....

If you had any film experience...you had chances at studios you wouldnt in the past with limited experience like Dreamworks and ILM....

MartinGFoster
11-26-2003, 12:55 AM
things are good right now, but I'm a little worried about the coming summer when quite a few projects wrap up.

I've had a few friends make the move into film from non-film areas in this current round. Also, students are able to get jobs and get some solid production experience on big-budget projects.

my only regret is that I can't work on more than one cool project simultaneously. There are a bunch of very tasty ones in LA right now.

FClub_TDurden
11-26-2003, 02:49 AM
Well as for the summer....I know at DD they will have a show wrapping up then...but an even bigger one starting then to going into 2005...so there good for work for a while...

I know DreamWorks being full cg has plenty of work for a long time....

ILM has EP3 thats gearing up big time now...

Not sure about Sony and R&H....I know Sony has Spiderman2 wrapping up before summer and has Polar Xpress which goes on for at least another year...

things are pretty busy down here in SoCal:thumbsup:

MartinGFoster
11-26-2003, 05:37 AM
Originally posted by FClub_TDurden
Well as for the summer....I know at DD they will have a show wrapping up then...but an even bigger one starting then to going into 2005...so there good for work for a while...

I know DreamWorks being full cg has plenty of work for a long time....

ILM has EP3 thats gearing up big time now...

Not sure about Sony and R&H....I know Sony has Spiderman2 wrapping up before summer and has Polar Xpress which goes on for at least another year...

things are pretty busy down here in SoCal:thumbsup:

this is all true but if you don't get in the initial crew, then you may not be able to get hired later on. These movies are like several ships crossing a large ocean within a few months of each other. If you don't get on in the beginning, or a bit later on some island, there's little or no opportunity to get on board before the ship reaches its final destination.

(Analogy for the "Master and Commander" fans.)

I finish my gig at the end of May 2004 over at R&H. Most of the big projects in LA are in their last few months. DD is largely an effects house and I'm a character look development / lighting TD so it's an unlikely fit. I'm hoping for a big CG character show to set sail around May/June somewhere in the LA/Orange County area. There are a few possibilities.

CourtJester
11-26-2003, 03:33 PM
Originally posted by FClub_TDurden
Court Jester is exactly right....heavy emphasis on experience people....I remember at siggraph the same articles were written and it was the same situation...if you have 5+ years of experience....you could almost name your price....

As I was saying to a buddy last night, the CGI market is a lot like major league baseball, except all the teams are the New York Yankees. All the big studios seem to focus on the free agent market, bidding up the salaries of the experienced players while putting little or no emphasis on the farmsystem, i.e. training.

That being said...

Also, students are able to get jobs and get some solid production experience on big-budget projects.

I'd love to know which studios DO emphasize finding and developing potential talent. I want to shift my emphasis from LightWave to Renderman shader writing/lighting and TD work, but don't know a way to get in without doing at least the basic training on my own dime, a bit of a problem considering my need of work in the immediate term. I'm hoping to address this with some Houdini dabbling over the holidays...

PaulSchoeni
11-26-2003, 04:56 PM
I'd love to know which studios DO emphasize finding and developing potential talent.

Digital Domain stepped out of their normal procedure this past summer and hired 4 of us (from the same graduating class) right out of college. I was told I was hired based on my potential to develop. So it is a win-win situation for us all right now. We get some great production experience on features, and they get relatively cheap labor. So I don't know if they are changing their philosophy and we are the lab rats, or if they have always done this.

MartinGFoster
11-26-2003, 05:47 PM
Originally posted by CourtJester
I'd love to know which studios DO emphasize finding and developing potential talent.

Rhythm and Hues seems to hire loads of graduating students. I'm not sure if they did this in the past or it is out of necessity. I have a lot of experience personally, but there was a lot of students from Vancouver Film School (lighters) and UCLA (programming talent) hired at the same time as me. So the mix of hires varies from extremely experienced to no experience, often doing the same sort of work.

When I was at Sony, I never saw new graduates doing production work. You had to have a lot of experience to light or character animate. New graduates were hired but did mainly TA work (Technical Assistant who manage the render queue and backups, etc).

I want to shift my emphasis from LightWave to Renderman shader writing/lighting and TD work, but don't know a way to get in without doing at least the basic training on my own dime, a bit of a problem considering my need of work in the immediate term. I'm hoping to address this with some Houdini dabbling over the holidays...

Good idea on the RenderMan shader writing. Do a few simple turntables with a 3-point light rig and a few shaders. Concentrate on the shaders not the modeling and don't animate anything.

I think it might take a bit more than "dabbling over the holidays" to impress people. Maybe 6 months of concentrated effort in all your free time.

MDuffy
11-26-2003, 06:05 PM
Originally posted by CourtJester
I'd love to know which studios DO emphasize finding and developing potential talent.

Here at DNA Productions (The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron) we hire a mix of experienced people and people just out of school. We have a lot of "home grown" artists here. While we do hire on potential talent, keep in mind that you must show more potential talent than the other candidates for the positions. I'm assuming it's the same way everywhere.

I want to shift my emphasis from LightWave to Renderman shader writing/lighting and TD work, but don't know a way to get in without doing at least the basic training on my own dime, a bit of a problem considering my need of work in the immediate term.

The book Essential Renderman Fast by Ian Stephenson is a good overall introduction to Renderman. After that I'd dig into Advanced Renderman. Also hit www.renderman.org for links to a ton of info on Renderman. The SIGGraph notes are available online and contain tons of info.

With something like Renderman there really is just a lot of stuff you have to read and digest on your own. So it is possible, and perhaps even necessary, to learn it on your own time. Then you just pick up a lot of tips and tricks from what others have written and released on shader development (and there is a LOT of info out there now).

Hope this helps,
Michael Duffy

NanoGator
11-26-2003, 10:04 PM
Originally posted by MDuffy
Here at DNA Productions (The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron) we hire a mix of experienced people and people just out of school.

This isn't really on-topic, but I just saw an ep of JN a couple of days ago and I was really impressed. Just thought I'd pass that along to ya, I'm sure your coworkers would like to know that a fellow artist appreciates their work.

WhiteRabbitObj
11-27-2003, 12:23 AM
Yep, had some friends from school here intern at DNA last summer and I know they had a great time and learned a lot. I was very jealous that our teacher didn't tell our class about it as well or I would have applied too. Digital Domain seems to be known for hiring a lot of recent graduates, which is fantastic. I've wanted to work there forever anyhow and so it's great that they are willing to give us youngsters a shot at proving ourselves.

Kion
11-27-2003, 12:34 AM
.Also, students are able to get jobs and get some solid production experience on big-budget projects.


I just recently graduated and moved to LA i havn't found any work yet ,I've been here for 2months. I know these things take time. I've had a few interviews but i get turned down, I was told that I did not have enough expereince( which i don't). Atleast I got a chance to interview. I never thought it would be this hard to get in industry.

MartinGFoster
11-27-2003, 12:46 AM
Originally posted by 2mellow
I just recently graduated and moved to LA i havn't found any work yet ,I've been here for 2months. I know these things take time.

Yes, these things do take time. I have 12 years experience and I was out of work for 9 months last year. To be honest I wanted 5 months off, so I guess I was actually only actively looking for 4 months before I found something. That scared me but it was merely a case of timing ultimately. Once projects got ramped up and ready for lighting (what I specialise in) I was getting a few offers.

It takes persistence and a good attitude to find work. Don't be arrogant but don't go the other way and sound desperate. If you have to take a "keep you alive" kind of job while you pursue your dream and refine your craft in your free time. If you believe in your dream and don't give up, you'll eventually land your first gig in the industry.

ppself
11-27-2003, 12:56 AM
if you get a job keep it, no matter what. build your experince for a couple of years then decide where you want to go in the industry.

Kion
11-27-2003, 01:10 AM
I have 12 years experience and I was out of work for 9 months


Wow. I'm not giving up. Goonies never say die! "grrrrr":D

pogonip
11-27-2003, 11:39 AM
I don't care what they say if you send someone who knows what to look for your demo reel and you have killer skills and really show you can do the work most sensible art directors would be willing to give you a chance .....to bad Human Resource monkeys are only trained to look at the numbers ... 4 years doing this , 5 years doing that ...worked on this this and this ....

If you ever worked at a company that gets a lot of demo reels you would know why there is a lot of demand ...99% of students out there have reeeeeaaalllyyy terrible demo reels :rolleyes:

NOTE TO STUDENTS : If the work in your demo reel doesnt look as good as the stuff you are seeing in films then your not going to get a job . If you can only make funny character models because you will only settle for working at Pixar right out of college I invite you to get a clue :D :p .... ...

MarkusM
11-27-2003, 05:05 PM
I find it interesting that the manager is upset about the fact that other studios are ready to offer their people work after their project delivers. First, most people don't want to wait until after the project delivers to learn if they will still have a job for sure, and what project they will be able to work on. These are highly skilled people with great stuff on their reels. Of course they'd want to know what they can do next, after the project delivers. The earlier the better even. I doubt anyone was looking at moving before the delivery even though interviews happen before.

Also, when Weta was formed, where did the talent come from? Every other studio around the globe. Now they are upset cause the talent has great opportunities outside of their company? I think the problem at hand is the fact that unlike other studios or facilities they didn't have a high profile project to be able to keep the talent. It doesn't have much to do with the paycheck as much as that fact. Even if I doubt some of the "facts" of this story. Sounds to me like someone is upset and ranting.

kemijo
11-28-2003, 04:03 PM
I don't think they are necessarily upset that someone went down to do some recruiting. They are upset because a studio supposedly tried to woo people out of jobs before their contract was up. This is bad in general, for studios and for the artists. I don't know if it's true though...I read another article where Dreamworks denied this and said they'd never do that. Who knows.

Right now there simply are not enough experienced people to fill the seats. FsCFC has had postings for senior staff across all three of our film projects (Potter 3, Thunderbirds, Troy) since they began until present. We also had a recruitment crew go down to New Zealand, but I believe it was earlier this month, when it was expected. C.O.R.E. just visited London. This is happening all the time.

Oh, and I agree with pogonip about having a reel that is comparable to the work the studio you are applying to does, or a potential to create that kind of work. Knowing how to evaluate your work honestly is one of the most important skills, and no one can teach it. There is a difference between "Pretty good" and "Pretty good for a beginner." Everyone was a beginner, but you should be working hard to get rid of the 'beginner' stigma as fast as possible, whether you have experience or not.

malducin
11-28-2003, 05:30 PM
On the other hand this is also the second article I've read that said that DW indeed went out looking, maybe ther's something to it:

Studios battle for CG workers (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/film/feature_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1942369)

MartinGFoster
11-29-2003, 03:33 AM
Originally posted by malducin
On the other hand this is also the second article I've read that said that DW indeed went out looking, maybe ther's something to it:

Studios battle for CG workers (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/film/feature_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1942369)

yeah, I'll bet they did it for high-demand positions, like pipeline setup type folks. You know for Maya character setup, RenderMan look development / shader and lighting setup, etc. Basically key pre-production people, but I'm sure they didn't do it for the bulk positions like character animators, lighters, effects people. Those folks are required later in a project anyway and they are usually available in sufficient numbers without resorting to hefty bonuses and questionable recruiting tactics.

I think they've had problems getting those type of folks but they are generally held to fairly concrete contracts by their company to stop such poaching by competitors. You'd be taking quite a risk by breaking a contract. It's just not good form.

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