The toon sector offers comparable positions for many who have live-action skills. (Pixar was happy to welcome “Little Miss Sunshine” writer Michael Arndt into its fold, for example.) Given the industry’s recent string of CG hits, “Animation is seen by the studios as a growth area, and employment levels have remained robust,” notes Steven Hulett, a business agent for the Animation Guild. Primetime animation also is performing well, encouraged by such signs as “The Simpsons” being renewed for two more years. “There’s a lot of interconnectivity in animation,” Hulett stresses. “It not only drives theatrical grosses, but it drives DVDs, merchandise and ancillary markets, and all of that means plenty of employment opportunities.”
Reality TV is still strong. “With all the cable channels out there now, we’ve simply got to have much more new product, and most of that will come out of smaller production houses who are always looking for talent in all areas of production,” says David Bowman, chairman of TTG Consultants.
Those willing to look beyond conventional screens can find opportunities in fields such as edutainment — online courses presented with Hollywood production values. “It’s the way education, particularly college- and university-level education, is moving today,” notes TTG’s David Bowman, “because no one can afford traditional brick-and-mortar universities anymore, so it’s got to go online.” Simple scrolled text online is too boring for students — hence the need for jazzed-up Hollywood-style presentations, which create opportunities for animators, graphic artists, writers and d.p.s.
One trick to guaranteeing future employment is to identify and specialize in an emerging technology likely to factor into the industry’s future. Stereoscopy — or 3-D filmmaking — is one of those fields always looking for experts, says 3-D pioneer Vince Pace (exec producer on the Jonas Brothers concert movie). From the camera department to editorial and post, “People who have had exposure are in the highest demand right now,” he explains. The field also has opened up opportunities for software programmers who can help track the depth and motion data captured by stereo cameras to aid filmmakers in manipulating those images later. “I’m running short of personnel as we speak,” Pace says.
Gaming and other interactive media may be feeling the pinch, but when the current downturn ends, some expect those sectors to rebound first. “Videogames, like movies, provide inexpensive escapism and are a bright spot,” says Gary Kaplan, president of Gary Kaplan and Associates, a Pasadena-based executive search firm. “And online gaming, particularly these massive multiplayer games like Blizzard’s ‘World of Warcraft,’ seems recession-proof.” Blizzard recently merged with Activision, and
Activision-Blizzard is “definitely growing and hiring,” he adds. “It’s a real hot area, and most movie skill sets also apply to gaming.”
Specialized experience pays dividends in the visual effects world, where hiring pros insist that in periods of boom and bust, positions such as compositors and Inferno artists are always in demand. And for those willing to specialize, Pace advises, “Now there’s a lot of time for learning new skills. Certainly for anyone with time on your hands, fill it with things that can benefit your future.”