Hey E1n! How did you make it into the entertainment industry? For me, that would be a dream job that I actually really want to achieve. I realize that you've worked super hard and made a lot of contacts, so is it that? Does living in southern CA also help to find an entry-level job in this field? (BTW, nice Sanji cosplay the other day.)
Long story short about me: I got lucky. Pure dumb luck, with amazing people who are willing to take a chance on me.
A lot of animation/entertainment studios are located in Burbank, Glendale, and Santa Monica. All of these are in California, so naturally, living here (despite the high cost) does make quite a difference. Not to mention the big animation/entertainment school such as Cal Arts and Art Center are located here too. But of course, that’s not all it takes.
Working super hard is a requirement, you gotta show that you’re willing to sit down and draw at least 8 hours a day without complains, sometimes even on weekends. How do you show this? By drawing 8 hours a day before you even get a job. If you really do that much drawing, you’ll be able to get personal projects done and they can be a part of your portfolio. And when recruiters see your portfolio filled with FINISHED personal projects, they know you work hard and you can get stuff done. Just remember, if there’s a guy with a decent skill and good work ethic, he’d be picked over a guy who’s extremely talented but is lazy or can’t meet deadlines.
Connections are also important. You’d be surprised how small the industry is — everyone seems to know everyone. So if you have a good skill and work ethic, a lot of people will know. Similarly, if you’re a lazy ass, everyone will know too. Most of the time people get a chance (I say chance, not job) when someone else recommends them. This might sound unfair, but if you think about it, who would you rather work with? Someone that a good friend of yours guarantees will be able to do a job for you? Or someone who looks good, but you’ve never met or heard of? Nobody is willing to take that risk with the latter because if you turn out to be unreliable, the guillotine falls on the guy who hires you.
So make friends. But don’t make friends with the intention of getting a job. Make friends with the intention of making friends. Be genuine, because people can tell when you’re only making friends because you want the benefits. Show everyone that you can do a job, you’re a humble and nice person, you’re reliable, you’re willing to sacrifice sleep to get the job done, and most importantly, flexible.
I’m entering my fourth month working in this industry and there had been many times when flexibility became a massive, massive asset. Flexibility as in, you might be given an assignment and told to do things a certain way. Then after spending three days of hardwork completing your assignment, you’re told NOT to do it the way you were told to do, which means you gotta redo the whole thing. This happens quite a lot in the industry, which is sometimes due to a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. But you gotta soldier on. Swallow the bitter pill and get the job done. The way I see it is that you get to draw more, and that can only make you a better artist!
Lastly, the most important of all is two things: Luck and Timing. If you work hard enough you’ll get lucky, as the saying goes, but timing is something you can’t control. You might have everything but no studio is hiring, or that they’re in between production, or their show just got canceled. But this is when you should remember that you are first and foremost an artist, which means even if you can’t find a job, you continue to create. Beef up that portfolio, start new projects (and finish it!), expand into other industry such as gaming or fantasy illustration. When the timing is right, your chance will come. But before you get a chance to prove yourself, you gotta prove yourself first.