In this interview, Paramount Animation recruiter Alison Mann explains what she looks for when hiring artists and animators. Learn what makes a portfolio stand out to employers and how to use social media to promote your work.
- [Voiceover] My name is Alison Mann. I am Manager of Talent Relations for Paramount Animation. My role is to find talent specifically production staff and artistic talent for our feature animantion division. And then, on top of that I do all of our outreach internal, external events and kind of artist management, looking at our internal population and trying to get them from one project to the next.
So, I've been recruiting for almost 15 years now. I started my career in TV animation then I went to feature animation, went into gaming, and now I'm back into feature animation again. And the one thing that I've found kind of consistent across the board is being discipline specific. So people who have a specific area of interest, whether it's concept, modeling, animation, whatever it might be, and putting together a portfolio or reel that kind of defines them.
I always tell people, if you're stuck on an island and you have to pick one thing to do for the rest of your life, what would that be? To really help define. Often times, you know, people come and they're like I don't know what I want to do, here's a whole bunch of stuff. And I'm like, I could try to navigate you, but ultimately, as an artist, you should go with what you're most passionate about. And that's not to say you can't dabble into other things, there's smaller studios, so if you feel like you're more of a jack of all trades, then you're going to have to look at a studio that maybe doesn't look for disciplined, specific roles, they look for someone who can be a story artist, and a visual development artist, and a CG artist, if you feel like you can encompass all of it.
But for the most part I find that people that tend to be a little bit more focused, tend to be a lot more stronger within their own portfolio. Other trends, I think that it's been interesting watching how social media kind of influences a lot of students and individuals that are coming up. We have a lot of, you know, I think a lot of people, even 10 years ago, didn't have the accessibility to a lot of the talent that is within the studio and being able to see the work that they have done.
Now you have a lot of individuals who, you know, are gathering influence you know, for their portfolio. What I find interesting though, is everyone's portfolios are starting to look the same. So the individuality of the portfolios is what I'm most concerned about. It's like how are you defining yourself as an artist? And I'm an artist too, so if I remember myself back in art school and like, looking at artists, and like training under artists to learn how to better myself, but at some point you need to step away from that and figure out what is your voice as well.
And I think that's where a lot of individuals are having a tough time. Visual development artists, for example. Like, for me I think it's about capturing moments. Any great artist, it's the eye and having a really good eye for something and then being very observant as well. So, I feel that the ones that tend to take from their own worlds and really impact that into their portfolio or the ones that really are tuned to different color sensibilities and palettes from around you know, getting off the computer and looking into reality, I think helps influence the portfolio quite a bit.
I think so much, you know, everybody's always on their computer, or their iPhone, or whatever their device is, and so people are forgetting to take a step back and look at the world around them to gather the influence opposed to just staying within the technology itself. What I think defines a good recruiter is somebody who's able to network, build relationships, and not just for the short term but for the long term.
So, for me, I don't believe in, I'm not a butts in seats recruiter, I really believe in making relationships and helping people throughout their career. So I view myself more of a career counselor and helping individuals, opposed to seeing people by numbers and just trying to fill positions. So, for me, the way I go about it is there's two fold. So, looking for talent from like day one, so looking at high school talent or college talent and watching them as they progress throughout their career.
That's one way I kind of track and find talent. The second is social media. So, there's a lot that I can find now through blogs, pinterest, like everything is very accessible, and finding people's portfolios if they want to be found, you can find virtually anyone. Twitter, Facebook, all is there. And then networking, because of building relationships with a lot of the artists that whether they're internal or external, everybody wants to refer somebody.
Everybody knows everybody, this industry is so small that we're able to kind of build a lot of our talent pool based off of not really what you know, but who you know. I think that's there true potential and I think there's an opportunity to reach individuals that may not have the accessibility that other people from other areas might have. We have an opportunity as, you know, professionals, to go out to these different schools and help educate, maybe individuals that wouldn't necessarily find this accessible down the line.
Maybe give scholarships or different ways that people that may have not been able to get into industry before, because they cannot afford it, etcetera. Maybe now, that we can kind of help, shepherd that, and make sure they do have the opportunity. So, for me, I have, and I will never tell somebody they can't do something. I really feel that's up to the individual to really figure out if it's something they want to do. I think getting into the industry is a lot of work.
I don't think it's one where you just get to take a couple of art classes, graduate with a BA, and then expect a job. I think, to be an artist in our industry is to eat, breathe, and live it every single day. The artists that I know that have been successful are the ones that have gone beyond their college courses. That have really, they take a sketchbook wherever they go, whether it's to restaurants or coffee houses, and they take themselves out of, like being social to really hone in on their skills.
Those are the ones I found to be successful. So, for me, when I'm seating with an artist and maybe they're not quite there yet, I'm always there to give them, to review their portfolios, get feedback, no matter what discipline. If I'm not, if I don't feel comfortable, if I don't feel like I have enough of the information to give them proper feedback, then I might hook them up with an artist that could give them really good, in-depth feedback and kind of direct them in a way.
My biggest, kind of pet peeve is when people don't really listen. So you spend, I have kind of a three strikes you're out so if you come to me and I'm like these are the areas that I think you need to work on within your portfolio and the next time the portfolio's exactly the same and then I have to repeat myself and then the portfolio the third time is the same, then I feel like, you know, don't waste our time together. Like, you know, if you really want to put in the effort, I'm here to support you, but at the end of the day, if you're not willing to, then I'm going to put my energy to somebody else that is going to.
But, that's basically how I would encourage is to continue looking at someone's portfolio if they really want it, they'll make it happen. So, I believe in quality over quantity. I mean, I wouldn't say put two pieces in, I don't think that's enough to define you as, and for me to get a taste of who you are as an artist, but quality over quantity. Also putting your best work first and don't go in, sometimes I've seen people put like the first work they've ever done in their life so, and then kind of work in a progression from there.
I always tell people like, think of it as your audition reel, if you're like an actor. So, at the end of the day you're not there to talk me through what is in your portfolio. You have to let the portfolio speak for you. So like an actor going in for an audition, what kind of defines that person, are you Rom Com, are you like action, or like which one are you going to be and similar to like into a portfolio.
Are you visual development, are you story? Which CG discipline are you? And then really picking out the pieces that really help you, or you feel would really help define you and get you that job, I think are the key elements. I don't think it's like a set amount of pieces. I feel like when people do that they put too much in, or too little, but I think you have to do what you feel is in your gut to be your best work only.
So I think CG disciplines would break down into animation, modeling, rigging, effects, lighting, TDs, if you want to be a CG Sup. I think that would be a lot of the main ones. Texture artist. I don't think there's one that's easier than the other. I think that you have to go with the one that you really, really kind of speaks to you. I think animation, it tends to be the most popular and kind of my comparison to acting.
You know like, or being a lead member of a band, like some people want kind of all the guts and glory, they don't want to do the stuff that's behind the scenes but you know, some might you know, I love all the other CG disciplines. I think what you can do within texturing or modeling or rigging, like it's absolutely amazing. I think it's just educating yourself that there are roles beyond animation that can really be as as exciting as being an animator.
I look for that passion. Somebody who is really into it. Like I said earlier it's not just what they did in their school, but it's how they take it on beyond that. So, are they doing any projects with individuals outside of defining their careers? There's some people that I work with now and they just got out of school and they're production assistants, but they're also writers and producers and they do all these awesome projects and get them up online all the time.
So they're always working on their craft and somebody who's really into it really inspires me and gets me excited because I want, I really want to then introduce them to other creatives that they might be good for and potentially get them into our studio because I think they could help influence a lot of the creative that we're doing if they are that passionate. I have several success stories but I think some of my favorites are defined by when I was working with Nickelodeon Animation Studio and I was running the internship program.
I brought in a lot of individuals from the start of their career and a lot of them are heads of story now or won Annie Awards and to know that I could help somebody launch their career to be something so successful, to me that has always been something that has been extremely rewarding for me. Some of the biggest learning opportunities that I've had throughout my career is not to compare myself to other people.
Is to realize I'm on my own journey and that I define myself and that I have to be the one that has to appreciate everything I've done and accomplished. That if you look at other individuals maybe are on the same path as you or maybe you feel that they've got to a point faster than you and then you start to feel bitter. I got to a point where I felt like a while ago I was feeling resentful and maybe I wasn't moving up as fast or I didn't feel like I was as defined in my career as I wanted to be at a certain point.
And then the moment I let that point go and realize that that I'm successful in what I've done and who I've impacted and that I really I'm proud of myself and kind of let that go it really helped me kind of move to that next level and have the maturity to understand that again, we're all in our own journey. I feel that a lot of individuals it's hard, especially with social media and the world feeling so small not to relate yourself to other people or compare yourself to other people.
But I think at the end of the day, and I tell people this all the time, you just have to remember you're on your own journey like you define yourself, there's not another individual, or don't let somebody tell you you can't do something because I really feel like that's really up to the individual, to define that. I thnk the one thing I'm constantly learning is patience and learning from other individuals as far as how they might handle different situation. I like to be observant, not only for the people around me, but also for myself.
I'm about to have two little babies and I think that's going to change my world completely and how I balance work, life, and everything else. So I think this next chapter in my life should be pretty fascinating. And then, how I find I think for me being in the industry I am I always feel very fortunate every day to feel that there's people that influence me and that, mentors that help me along through my day to day as well.
Whether it's the creatives that I support and I work with, or my managers, whoever it is, there's always somebody that really helps me and guides me and gets me to, gets me excited to the next day of my life. So, on an artist level, because I'm an artist and I'm a painter, and you know, I have to start practicing what I preach so after looking at so many portfolios or so many, for so long, I stopped doing art cause I was like oh my God, these people are so good.
But I think I really need to start picking that up again so I think in my next chapter I really want to start focusing on myself and my art and my little ones, and influencing them. I think that would be good. I've been drawing and painting since I was about seven years old. I actually thought I wanted to be an animator. And I went to an art high school and did art for a long time and then my teacher told me that 2D animation was dead and I had to pick a different career. But to the point I was telling you earlier where, you know social media was around, and I could've probably done the research.
There wasn't really anybody to kind of guide me and tell me oh well you could do this role, you can be a visual development artist or you could be a background painter or you could like, there's so many other types of positions you could carry based off of your skillset, but there wasn't really anybody that that could do that, and then I ended up going to college for business of the arts. It's like media management or business to support studios. But at the same time I could still do painting classes, so I so I was able to kind of do both and then I ended up interning at Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Finance, realized I didn't really want to do finance so much, but I knew I wanted to go back into animation.
Animation has always been my one true love and then I, when I graduated from school I ended up with an offer to either be a PA at Nickelodeon or to work in special events and kind of look at portfolios. So I picked the special events one and I ended up forming my own recruiting department, taking over the internship program and then I've been doing this ever since. So I feel like the social media as far as being criticized on it, you went from either studios kind of criticizing you, or like whoever you're submitting a portfolio to to the rest of the world.
To me, I think that just is part for the course. I think anytime you put yourself out there, anytime you're putting your your art, or your personna or whatever you do that kind of puts you in the limelight, you're going to get criticism. And sometimes you can take that and it might help you become a better artist. Maybe there's stuff in there that is not superficial but allows you to kind of look at some of your art a little bit differently.
So sometimes taking that criticism and being able to rework some of it, some of your art, I think it's a good thing. And then for the other, this industry's a little tough, so I think anything that you can let let just kind of you know, sort of looking for roll-off your back and not really hurt you so much. Cause you'll get a lot of criticism throughout your career so you have to know and figure out what the balance of that is.
So what is real criticism versus someone maybe just being jealous or having a bad day and taking it out on you. I think there's a lot of people that just bully people for the sake of bullying. Like I did an interview online the other day and somebody put a comment on there and I was like, it had nothing to do with me or anything else, and I was like why would you write that? But at the end of the day, again if you're going to put yourself out there you have to just, you have to go with the punches, you have to roll with them.
You have to be a little tough. And at the end of the day, like you get into a studio and then, you know, everybody is looking at your performance as well. So, whether that's myself or like you're doing like check in with your manager and like are you a good team player or are you meeting expectations as an artist. And then if you're not doing anything are you actually going to roll from one project to the next? Like, how are you like defining yourself within the studio. So, once you get in, then there's a whole other set of people that are observing you.
So, and then another point on social media actually, I think that's important is people need to be careful what they say to each other on social media, so, not only on the point of being criticized yourself, but knowing not to retaliate is a good thing, like taking the high road all the time. But I've also seen people write badly about certain studios or I knew that there was somebody who was trying to get an internship with one of the studios I was with and she was badmouthing the person who was running the studio on Facebook, and I was Facebook friends with her so I forwarded the Facebook response to that individual.
Or I was on Facebook and I saw somebody talking about another studio and the offer they were giving and one of my best friends is head of recruiting for that studio so I was like, did you see this? I was like, you might want to talk to this individual cause they're like discussing, you know. So people like need to be very careful what they put on social media. It's not hidden, everybody can see it. And once it's out there, it's out there. There's no going back. So you have to, whether it's Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr, like whatever you draw, whatever you, it's defining you as an individual.
So you just have to be careful.