Looking to land a career in animation? From networking to crafting a good showreel, Head of the Aardman Academy, Mark Simon Hewis, shares his top tips for getting into the industry.

1. Apply!

You’d be amazed (or maybe not?) how many people I’ve met who’ve told me they haven’t applied for a job at Aardman because they don’t think they’d have a chance. Someone HAS to get the job. Even having your name recognised from previous applications is beneficial. I promise. 

2. Practice your craft

Getting better at any art or craft is the same as learning algebra, surfing, a second language, new software or reading. That’s how we teach in the Aardman Academy; development by doing. It’s hard when you start (like our current In-Studio Stop Motion course participants have found), but by making mistakes and being supported to learn better approaches, means most people can get there. You might have a good brain or patience for specific roles, but you only get better by practicing.

I believe no one is born with outstanding skills in any art form. They have become brilliant by practicing, making mistakes, and then learning from them, finally getting to what looks like an effortless standard through repetition and practice. 

3. Meet people

People at the same place in your career and others who can advise you on how to get where you’d like to go. Everyone has a unique way of getting into this industry, and no one way is the same. But your peers now will be your peers in the future. It’s easier when you don’t feel alone! So make connections and be brave enough to share your work.

Likewise, meet companies and learn as much as possible about how this industry works. We head off to places like the Annecy International Animation Festival and Manchester Animation Festival each year and love meeting people and answering whatever questions you might have. We all genuinely want to help, so please come and talk to us! 

4. Short and precise showreels

Your showreel is only as good as the worst shot in there. If you have 88 seconds of perfect animation and 3 seconds of something you don’t think is that good, I can guarantee that’s the shot everyone will remember. So take it out. Honestly, there is no such thing as a showreel that’s too short (well, maybe shorter than 30 seconds). Put things in that show who you really are and what you really can do. If the job is to animate, then we won’t care about lighting or dodgy props.

Creating the perfect reel can feel like an impossible task, and it’s why we’ve just launched a 5-week Aardman Academy course called Stop Motion Professional. It's been devised to help stop motion animators leave the course with a showreel that gives them the best chance to show the industry just what their capabilities are. 

5. tailored showreels

Don’t expect one showreel will be right for everyone: Read the job description and make sure your showreel demonstrates what this job requires. If you are going for a comping job, ensure your reel covers that. It’s nice to see you can animate, too, but it’s the comping we need to see!

With stop motion, identify what the job role is, and show that. So it’s normal to adapt your showreel based on the job you’re applying for. And remember again, you won’t get marked down because it’s only 45-75 seconds long; if anything that’s a positive! 

Mark Simon Hewis

Head of the Aardman Academy

Mark Simon Hewis is a multi-award winning British filmmaker and Head of the Aardman Academy.