Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Self Education


I've always been about making education if not affordable, well at least free. 
"But Danny now you are teaching for a hefty price... what gives?"
         -Yes, I thought about that and that's why I'm writing this post. There's a lot of people out there who can't afford colleges, animations schools or workshops. They lose hope and don't know Self teaching is an option. It's hard but IT IS POSSIBLE. I came across many students trying to teach themselves how to animate as I did research on this topic. Some had the self taught route under control and knew what they were doing. I'm passing along what I found so that it may be a guide to those who want to become animators but are lost because they can not afford higher education.  

       Personally I can relate to the self-taught route because growing up all I did was study on my own and teach myself to draw. Even though teaching yourself how to animate and teaching yourself how to draw are very different, they share a lot of the same hurdles and issues. Self Education is not easier than going to college, in fact it is harder because you are doing this on your own with no teachers or mentors. Many people try to go the self taught route and fail (True Story)


       - Yourself is not a walk in the park, teach at your own pace, smooth merry go round full of fun. It's as much work as a full time job. The amount of effort you put into your self education is equal to the results you should expect to receive from it. If you spend 5 hours a week self teaching while there are students in colleges spending 6 hour days, 5 days a week taking classes, what do you think your chances are when it's time to hire you or them? 

       -You have to want your goal really bad, but your WANT can not be more than what you are physically willing to do. Example: You want to be an animator but you didn't realize it was so tedious to create animation. You must have patience and foresight to keep the light at the end of the tunnel with in reach. 

        -Surround yourself with people who do better than you, work harder than you and want their dreams just as bad, they just might rub off on you in a good way

We aren't all just destined for greatness - it takes hard work to get there!

Here are some Idea's I compiled from online sources of things to do for experience:

  1. Make your own animated film, even if you have no budget. It doesn't matter if it's very bad,  stop motion with Lego figures, or an experiment with Post it notes. Making a film will show you exactly how much work goes into everything and help develop perspective and respect for the business. (though making a film should not count as practicing working on your skills - PRACTICE ROUTINE)
  2. Watch a lot of movies, take notes, and listen to the director commentary tracks. The commentary can be a gold mine of information on why directors made the choices they made, the challenges they faced, etc. Sometimes they'll call out things you never even noticed.
  3. Learn a lot about story structure, and what makes something engaging, entertaining, satisfying. Here are book I found people mention
    • Invisible Ink and The Golden Theme by Brian McDonald
    • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
    • Francis Glebas' blog (especially his "Ride the Dragon" story structure)
    • The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
  4. Once you've figured out story, then learn about Visual storytelling. It's is an awesome tool for your 'mental toolbox'. In any film, but especially animation, you want to say as much as possible with the visuals, and use as few shots as possible to get it across. Watch really good movies, do sketches of the key moment in each shot or a whole scene and take note of all the different shots there are, and put them together in a reverse-engineered storyboard, so you can see how they were constructed and why the director and story artists made those decisions. There are a few books that have been recommended to me on this subject, but that I have yet to read:
    • The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media by Bruce Block
    • Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative by Will Eisner
    • Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts by Nancy Beiman
    • DREAM WORLDS - Hans Bacher
    There are also plenty of video tutorials on Vimeo and YouTube, if you search for them. One great video lecture I read that was recommended Sherm Cohen on Vimeo, about the 7 Hidden Patterns of Successful Storyboards.
  5. Take a look and see if there are any workshops, classes, or other resources you can tap into to help inform and build your knowledge to create your own curriculum. Skillshare is popular, and it's very affordable as well. there are courses from Sarah Zucker that teach a bit about story structure with the added benefit of valuable feedback from peers. The course was Screenwriting: Writing the 10-minute ShortDaniel Gonzales, an animator at Disney, is also teaching a course called Constructing a Story: Advanced Visual Storytelling, and his lectures have been invaluable from the visual storytelling perspective. Another resource that you may be very interested in is a new book by Tony Bancroft, who directed Mulan. The book is Directing for Animation: Everything You Didn't Learn in Art School.
  6. Learn how to make decisions. There is an interview once with Brad Bird, where he compared being a director to being one of the grasshoppers who get pummeled with seeds in that scene from A Bug's Life, when Hopper makes a point to his gang. The seeds are questions, and as a director, you are buried in them every day - you have more than you can possibly ever answer. But as director, you can never say "I don't know..." you always have to know, because you are the #1 decision maker, and there is no one else for you to go to. So figure out how to look like you know what you're doing, so your crew can trust that they can come to you and get an answer.
  7. Aim to make your work compete with the quality of the work of someone who has a job you want! Aim high and never settle
  8. LEARN FROM ALL ARTS: straight from Lips of Brad Bird (Director of the 'Incredibles')

        So those are some things to do. I know the reality right now is that you'd love to go to a school and have a mentor, work with peers, and get all the benefits that a study course would offer... but you can't. I hope this post is a little beacon that gives you a little more guidance than you'd have other wise if you are thinking about taking this scary journey on your own. 

Why is it great to be an animator. Here is Steven Spielberg saying why


  1. I'm currently in school for animation, but before I had the money and I was going the self-education route, I compiled a list of articles by professional animators grouped by topic:

    I was hoping it would be of use to anyone else trying to learn on their own, because like you said, it certainly is not easy! Just thought I'd share.

    Thanks for the book recommendations by the way, definitely adding those to my read list!

    — Jonah

  2. Great read .. thanks .. incredibly helpful link Jonah .. really appreciate that you are sharing with all of us.

    I thought I should share a link too :)

    When we begin to teach ourselves ,its so overwhelming that we don't know where to begin ?
    How to begin? There are no proven ways and its insanely scary almost like shooting in the dark.

    Some kind of structure might give us a little confidence or system that will assure that it could work if we are doing this consistently with all the heart .

    Here is the structural way how one can approach while pursuing dream of learning animation , its not proven way but definitely a logical way. (For learning anything)

    A way that might reinforce the confidence in self and in practice

  3. thanks Danial! great post

  4. This is surely a very good blog, thanks a lot for sharing such nice information here.