First of all, I want to give a huge apology for taking so long to respond to this; no excuses, I should have given my full response eons ago, but I kept putting it off because it's so important to me. Secondly, I'm so happy you asked - this couldn't be further from annoying, and I'm so excited about all of it! This topic is very close to my heart, and hearing that you guys are looking to get into the industry? Man, I can't stop smiling!
So this is a lot to unpack, but I'll do my best. Seriously, come to me anytime with questions, and I'll give it my best shot based on everything I've learned and experienced over the years!
A few things, first - (disclaimer) I haven't worked in a studio yet, so everything I've learned around that area comes from the incredible teachers I've learned from who have worked in the industry, or stuff I've picked up during my education. My actual work has been in freelance. I have been to studios, however, and have had the opportunity to learn from many amazing people who have spent their lives in this kind of career. Education wise, I have gone to post-secondary school for this in the past, and have spent my time since in self training, so I feel confident giving my opinions on both.
Second disclaimer, I specialize in areas surrounding 3D animation, with a a strong learning background in anything relating to 2D animation, etc. Third disclaimer, I did not organize my thoughts before writing all this, so it's probably a mess.
Anyway, everything I say here is my own opinion/what I've come to learn over time, so don't take any of this as the be-all-end-all! I'm probably not qualified to say a lot of this, but I'm confident about what I say, and that it comes from people who are qualified.
Do you need a specific Degree, or will self-training be good enough?
This is a really frequent question, and a really good one - and I can honestly say, in all my experience? A degree has never mattered. At least, not where it counts. If I was to narrow it down to THREE things that really move you foreward in the industry, as far as I've seen, It's these;
- Obviously, the first thing to consider is your portfolio, AKA, your actual work. You need to be a good artist/writer/etc to be considered for a job, although that's a given. So make sure to practice your art, whatever it is, on a constant basis - focus on improvement in every way possible, study, learn, and practice on a regular basis, and push yourself to become better whenever you can. Once you're ready for the industry, you should have a portfolio of incredible pieces to show off; your best work.
- Another majorly important thing you build is your connections; the people you know. In any situation where there are a lot of people competing for jobs, having friends on the inside is a huge advantage. People hire people they know and like, and they're fully willing to recommend someone they believe in to others.
A tip that's a little unrelated, but in my experience; watch out for anything that tries to teach you how to 'manipulate' 'big shots' into being one of your connections. I've seen a lot of stuff that says stuff like 'look up their interests beforehand so that you can bring them up and get their attention', and It's so important to me that people know this is trash advice. Human beings aren't like that. Human beings are looking for real, sincere connections, and eventually they'll find you out if your 'connection' with them is built on a lie made to manipulate them into liking you.
Be yourself - be passionate and eager to learn, and the right connections will feel your love for what you do, and they will sincerily take you in/recommend you and give you the footing you need to make your place in the industry.
♦Your personality/Work Ethic♦
Another important factor - you're going to be working with other people, constantly collaborating to bring an incredible project to life. If you have a nasty personality (Obviously you guys don't, but whew, the people I've met! :D), you're not going to be very high on anyone's willingness to have you in the team. This isn't always the case, I assume, as with any industry there are more than enough problematic trashbags who seem to get by just fine, but one of my teachers taught me that the hiring industry is 'small', and the reputation you make for yourself as a person has the potential to travel much farther than you might expect.
So to answer the question once more, no, in my experience a degree doesn't matter at all. But that leads to another important question;
Should I go to school for my passion, or should I train myself?
The real reason to consider going to school to get into this industry is entirely surrounding your own ability to learn. While you need to be passionate either way, you need to ask yourself whether you learn better in a schooling environment, with, say, classrooms, and teachers, and other students, or whether you're self motivated and focused enough to learn on your own (Of course, you can build that kind of disipline with hard work, but it just won't work if you're not the type of person who will take the steps :D). Both have some serious pros and cons.
In my experience; I loved schooling for it, but it isn't necessarily what's best for me, and I probably wouldn't do it again. The price alone can be absolutely horrendous for this kind of thing. On that note, an incredible artist that I really look up to told me back in high school, well, not to go to school for it, and instead that he would get me a job in the industry after I graduate. Unfortunately, because of circumstances, I didn't follow his advice or take his offer, but eh, live and learn!
I totally went on a tangent here, but anyway, I found out through trial and error that I learn best when I'm self taught, but I know plenty of people who learn better in a classroom and just can't get themselves to work from home. So final advice on that - If you decide to go to school, make sure you're ready to deal with the finances, and work your hardest, but don't burn yourself out! If you decide on being self taught, make sure you have the disipline to work on your craft every day, make sure you practice regularly, join a lot of online communities where you can share your work and receive constructive critique, and learn from as many tutorials, online classes, and great artists as possible.
Some specifics, and advice I'd like to give myself:
- No matter what your art is, writing, drawing, etc, etc, you need to practice every day. That's key. Practice is what moves you foreward.
- But it's not just about practice - make sure you learn, too. Study from great artists and people you look up to in your medium of passion. Practicing is important, but you need to practice stuff above your skill level to improve.
- Never tell yourself you're not good at it... I've been working on my art most of my life and I still don't feel that great at it, but I've watched my skills improve over the years, and I know they're just going to keep improving. The only way you can be bad at what you do is by giving up. If it's your passion, all you need is perseverance, and confidence that you're where you need to be and learning what you need to get to where you want to go.
- They say every artist has 1000 bad drawings (And it's much the same for writing, composing, and really any art) in them before they get to the good ones... It's more like 10000000. You'll have good days and bad days no matter how much your skills improve, and while it can be frustrating, we never see the thousands of trashed pieces of paper the great artists had to go through to get to where they are.
Drawing/Any visual arts based medium
Whoo! Draw every single day. Draw all the time, and draw what makes you happy. And something extremely important - life drawing! Back when I was in gradeschool, I couldn't stand drawing from life. I couldn't stand drawing what I saw, and I found a lot more fun in drawing what was in my head, or characters I loved. Why would I want to draw apples in a bowl or some person standing in a funny position when I could draw a comic?
I try not to beat myself up over that, because since I've become passionate about drawing from life, my skills have improved a hundred times faster. Anyway, every visual-based artist definitely needs to learn off of life drawing eventually, but I know I can't make any artist want to draw from life, and I would never want to bore any of them if they're not into that yet. But know that it is, in my humble opinion, pretty much the most important thing you can do for yourself as a visual-based artist.
Whew! Alright, I have infinite more to say, but I'm going to cut if off here, for now :D Don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions!
Lots of love,