Please Help - Info/Advice for New Yorker new to this whole thing


Hi guys,

I registered at the forum to mainly as this one question, so I’d be grateful if anyone could help shed some light on it, and I apologize in advance if it’s been done to death.

I’m going to be 30 in a few months, and my life choices up to this point have led me to a very unfulfilling and directionless life. A dear friend, who works in motion graphics, suggested I start over, and even though I have a (useless) BA (in history), that I go back to school and learn computer animation/visual effects and look for a job in that industry.

The idea appeals to me greatly, and I’ve begun looking. I am based in New York City, so I’d like to stay here (I know Gnomon and Savannah, etc, are very good schools, but they’re out of state), and am asking if anyone can help with any info–both as to where to go, and what to look for in a program/what to study. My areas of interest are doing visual effects in film–from flashy Transformers-like stuff, to stuff one doesn’t see (I watched a reel for the work done in Black Swan, for example, and was amazed at how much of what I saw was CG without realizing; such as removing crew members from reflections in mirrors, etc). Film would be the goal, but I’d be more than happy making a living in advertising or game development, etc, if it would lead to a decent living.

I am looking into School of Visual Arts, as well as NYU, NYFA, and New School. I, of course, would like to not spend a fortune, but if a particularly good school is close, and could lead to good work, and is costly, I’d bite the bullet, take out loans, and pay more than usual.

Could anyone please advise any comments or advice they may have, either on this path, the schools above, or any others?

Thanks a million in advance.


I’ve worked at a lot of studios in the NYC. There is definitely a CG industry here and most of it is for advertising. However, there are some places here that do film…

  • Framestore
  • MPC
  • LookFX (they did the Black Swan VFX),
  • Imaginary Forces
  • Brainstorm Digital
  • Phosphene FX
  • and more i’m sure…

You aren’t gonna be working on Transformers here (That’s for the big boys out in LA), but you could be removing crewmembers and adding digital backdrops for less demanding feature films.

As for schooling, most of the people working in these studios come from either SVA, NYU or Pratt. I think those schools would provide the most connections.


Razor, thank you very much for taking the time to post the info you did. I really appreciate you helping the newbie. Cheers, sir.


Let me make some other suggestions for you.

First, the least expensive and probably best way to train for what you need to know is to go through all the Gnomon School of Visual Effects videos. They are terrific. However, this takes a special type of person who is immensely self motivated to do this. These videos are so good, however, that they should be used to supplement any program that you attend.

Second, at least for grad school, NYU doesn’t have the 3d program yet. They terminated it several years ago, although I understand that they will be reinstituting it. However, due to the upheaval that they have had with the grad/certificate program, I would stay away from it.

Thus, your best choices would be SVA, which I like the best, and Pratt. Pratt, from a grad school perspective is somewhat experimental. SVA seems more concrete since all professionals are current working professionals. My daughter is starting their grad program in computer art with a 3d emphasis this September. I’ll know more about the program over time.

The program with both SVA and Pratt is that they are very 3d oriented for grad school, although you can take a smattering of 2d courses too from their undergrad offerings.

There are some other alternatives found in NY. FIT has a new program that supposedly is pretty good. The problem is that they are new. Thus, you could be the test case. Moreover, their reputation and connections can’t be as strong as that of either Pratt or SVA.

RIT has a very decent program that offers several concentrations between 3d and 2d. IN some ways, I Like RIT’s program that best,but it is not as well rated or connected with the industry as either Pratt or SVA.

Hope this all helps.


Forget courses. Get your foot in as a runner / assistance/ reception/ whatever. Observe and learn within. After hours, weekend, use every single chance to help and contribute. If you are really really stuck then get an online course. Sounds like you are willing to go for it. You live at where the shit is. You WILL make it, dude… I’ll kill to be a New Yorker


Gentlemen, thank you very kindly for offering your input. Unfortunately, to the last comment–I “live” in NYC, but only as a visitor at the moment. I cannot work legally in the US, so interning or working as a runner at any of the many wonderful places here just can’t happen.

It is incredibly frustrating. You can’t even imagine.

Thank you again for helping out, guys.


What if schools didnt existed for VFX? That was the challenge many of us had. We used google, youtube, and mostly forums. If you are self motivated, all you need is a forum like ths one, and your software license to work and start sharing. Share here, and many other places. If you work a bit everyday, by the end of the year you will have a job, portfolio is all that matters. :love:

Cesar Montero -


I appreciate the advice, Atzolio, but I have an annoying situation here: I’m a Canadian citizen, and need to stay in the US. If I don’t learn VFX through a school, I can’t secure a visa and remain here, so I have to learn via schooling.

Do NOT take your American citizenships for granted, people!!


Im not American either. I’m Mexican working with a TN visa since 2008 in the US for DreamWorks Animation. Yes, citizenship, or greencard does help :). I sincerely wouldnt focus just working in the US. Why do you need to stay? When I started, I wanted to work st cafefx, and spent over a year developing my demo and materials for them. I never had a call back even after submitting several times for months.

So, there I was, thinking I sucked and depressed. Anxious mostly. While helping in forums like this one, I decided to asks companies what would they like to see from firum members so they could get a job. After a week of doing that, a manager answer, but asked if I would be interested in a job in the UK.

I was really afraid of going far from home, but once you start, youll love it. Years later when you settle, youll miss wondering around the world.

Cesar Monteo -


Wow. Thank you for sharing that.

I had the TN idea brought up to me by a lawyer once, but I was worried about it, because the way she explained it, she made it sound like the border officers can deny you if they want, on any grounds (even if they’re just having a bad day and want to take it out on someone).

But I hear what you’re saying. Thank you very much for the information. And Mexico is a beautiful country. I have been there 3 times and have several Mexican friends here in NYC. Viva Mexico!


Normally visas need to be requested from outside the country, that is the case for me, and I bet for you too. They are granted under several conditions. First and foremost, you need a job offer for it. Second: a bachelors degree or equivalent of 5 years of experience in your area of expertice. Once granted at an embassy outside the US, they will seal it at a port of entrance. They will ask questins as “For how long will you remain in the US?” to which you answer “As long as my work permit allows me”. Then “What is your position, what kind of work will you do in X company?”. To which you answer “Im an X and will work at Y in production Z”. Thats about it. Answer only what they ask for. They will seal the TN visa and stamp an I-94 form to it. Ive done it for years.

My problem at first with working in the US, was that companies liked my work, but where afraid of hiring me, since they where not familiar with the visa process. Big companies are familiar with the legal process, but will not hire a rookie out of school or without previous professional experience. So its better to go out the country, work, and return with better credentials. You might think this sucks, but it will help boost your salary everytime you switch jobs. You dont want to have your dream job and be payed peanuts for it because you came out of school. You will not want to leave that company, but you will want more money, something not very plausible in this economy. Go where work is. is a great place to find US openings.

Cesar Montero -


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