As a recent graduate or new artist, your main goal now is to try and get your foot in the door, to get some experience at a studio so you can start boosting your resume. As we talked about in our 3D Job Experience article, the best way to get experience is to start small. Although, something you'll find at many studios of any size is the "internship." Pixar has them, Disney Animation has them.
However, even internships at these larger studios can be extremely difficult to get into, hundreds of applicants apply and only a handful will make it. Many questions new artists have are if these internships are worth it, and will they always blossom into a full-time position? Let's answer some of these questions, and talk about the pros and cons of internships so you can decide what's best for your future.
Go For It
Upon first examination, an internship is an excellent way to get experience and work on some great projects while doing what you love. Any type of industry experience you can get is a little nugget of goodness to add to your resume. If you're a new graduate and are offered an internship, by all means go for it! You never know what it can lead to, and making new connections can be just as important as what is on your resume. Because, often times jobs are found through word of mouth and recommendations.
While an internship at a studio like Pixar is probably a no-brainer, many smaller studios offer internships as well, and can be much easier to get into and can be just as lucrative. With that being said, there are things you need to consider before accepting an internship position.
Unpaid Internships Can Be Difficult
The biggest roadblock with an internship is that many times they are unpaid. While the larger studios offer paid internships some of the smaller studios do not. If you can find an internship in your home town then this really isn't much of a problem, because you can always stay with a family member or friend for the duration of the internship. While it's nice to get paid for your work, sometimes you have to be a starving artist for a few months.
If you're at a part of the world with little to no studios then relocating is going to be required. Moving to a new location to work for no pay can be nearly impossible. However, you can spend some time to save up money before hand or you could always take the couch surf approach it can be achieved. There'll be a lot more preparation involved if you're taking an unpaid internship, but unpaid internships can still lead to full-time positions.
Don't be Disappointed
One thing to keep in mind if you're going to take an internship, not every internship is going to lead to a full-time position, and you shouldn't be discouraged or disappointed by that. The fact is, it's still experience and you definitely learned something from it.
While not every internship leads to a full-time position it's important that you're cautious of studios who may take advantage of a new artist. Certainly, this is not something that's common, but it can happen. There may be times when studios take advantage of the eager artist who is practically begging them for experience. For one, they don't have to pay them and two they know this is their first industry job. Interns can be a goldmine for smaller studios who need a project finished and don't want to spend the extra money.
While this is sometimes the case, being taken advantage of like this doesn't mean it's still not good experience, because it is. You'll be able to build up your resume and eventually move on to bigger and better things. You still need to be aware of this happening, and you don't want to find yourself working as an unpaid intern for a year because the studio may keep promising a paid position just around the corner. This of course is not a common occurrence but it's important to be cautious as a new artist.
The bottom line is, internships are definitely a good way to get experience. It certainly can be harder to survive on an unpaid internship, but it can be done. You also don't want to be stuck in an unpaid position for a long period of time because there is a promise of a job just around the corner, and if you can find a paid internship than that's all the more reason to pursue it!
If you have your own internship questions, post them in the comments below and we'll be sure to answer them!