Thursday, June 27, 2013

Should graduates work for free?

The bad guys always wear top hats and smoke cigars
This is a tough question. Lots of seasoned professionals in the entertainment industry feel strongly that graduates should never work for free - why provide cheap labour for greedy capitalists who just want to exploit young talent? The counter-argument is very simple: because it's worth it.

The problem that all arts graduates face is simple. You need experience to get a job, and to get a job, you need experience. It is a chicken-and-egg problem that is not easily solved. "But why", ask many graduates, "don't entertainment firms want to take on young talent and train them up?"

The answer to that is also simple - it's because they don't have time. Most companies in the entertainment industry operate on razor-thin margins and are usually just one flop away from bankruptcy. Don't be deceived by the swanky premises and glossy reception areas - it's all for show. Very few businesses in the arts and media actually make a decent profit. So, while companies talk loudly about training, it's usually just that - talk.

So what's a graduate to do? The answer is, at least at first, work for free, or work for low wages. Get that vital experience that you need to build an impressive demo reel of paid work, work done for clients, subject to all the discipline and intensive feedback that goes with doing client work. Get this sort of work on your reel, and you will have the kind of skills that companies will actually pay for.

How do you find internships? Some of these are publicly posted, such as Cinesite's Inspire program. More commonly, they are informal, word-of-mouth, or even generated by the graduate him or herself. Offer to work for nothing, or for low wages, be enthusiastic, and help out. These are qualities that all companies are looking for.

And don't forget to keep in touch with your tutors. We hear about job opportunities and internships all the time, and are always happy to help out willing talented graduates to kick-start their careers.

(Editor's Note: for more on jobs and recruitment, check out this map of CG companies, also watch this video on how to make a great demo reel,  watch this video on finding a job, read out Dave Berry's interview about his internship, see who is hiring in Soho, and take a look at this dummies-guide to creating a blog or website. And don't forget our interview with Lion King Producer Don Hahn, who explains what it takes to make it in animation. Finally, remember that in order to hone your skills, practice makes perfect.)

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