Hustle It: Marketing for VFX
Marketing in VFX…Does it happen correctly, is underused, or is there too much of the same thing? The answer is all of the above. In this article I am going to talk about marketing tactics that work in VFX. Whether you are just an artist, an artist with a lot of side hustles, or someone who is probably going to be doing something bigger in the future. Or maybe you are an HR manager, someone wanting to freelance, start something small, etc.
Also, Apologizing for the rambles in this one. If you want to understand the rambles, please sim over to the Outro.
So let’s get started
Marketing As an Artist/Recruiter/Freelancer: The Bare Minimum
If you went to school for the arts, VFX, animation , etc; you might have had a careers and development class. I always consider these classes to be some of the most important you can take, as they should teach you how to operate in a workplace environment. Speaking from personal experience, the class I remember very fondly as this is where I was forced to create this very site you are experiencing right now.
You can be the best artist in the world, but also not receive any job opportunities if people don’t know who you are. So there are some very basic things you can do to put yourself out there.
- This is a must as an artist. This is where all the recruiters and companies hang out. Make it easier for them by posting all your work in one place. As well as your contact information, and other facts about your life. Usually the first thing to pop up on a google search result is your LinkedIn page.
- As a freelancer, you can also pick up valuable and safer work opportunities over LinkedIn. For example, this is one of few sites on the internet where people have to be presentable and work friendly. So if you connect with someone over the site who is coming off as aggressive there, you can quickly be reassured that it wasn’t worth the effort anyways.
- The site also connects you with people who need visualization artists in other industries. Some VFX studios require that all of their employees are not allowed to work for competitors on the side. This would include other VFX and animation studios. But this doesn’t exclude the science industries, teaching, music, or architectural businesses. So it's great for side hustles.
- If you are a company or recruiter using the site. It’s your one stop shop to write everything and show everything about your business, and create a following. If you can win the popularity contest on LinkedIn, more people will want to work with you.(More on this later.)
- Give your LinkedIn personality. Don’t overshare, but post your project updates, Showreels, and more. Breakdowns always gain the most views and attention. As well as general VFX banter over images.
- Two marketing campaigns that I’ve personally enjoyed(I won’t list the companies, you’ll just have to do some digging.) are from VFX companies. The first one in their LinkedIn campaign was them posting general compositing and VFX advice in between show trailers. I found this fascinating because it was almost like I was learning something as I was searching for a job. Which was extremely helpful. The second studio was a bit more classic. They posted pictures of their crew, and behind the scenes of the crew on set. The captions over the images were hilarious, full of puns, and acceptable humor in relation to the image. Which gave them a lot of character.
- Websites are the best way to stand out and look special. As an artist, you can view your website as a more colorful and diverse LinkedIn. This is where people can learn more about you, and see your personality. You don’t ever want to come off as just professional when you are marketing to someone. That is just boring. You want to prove to someone that you have a character, and once you can showcase that character, you can turn it into a brand.
- Same goes for freelancers or companies. What makes you different from all the other talented opportunities out there? What is the perk of working with you? Can I have a normal conversation with you? People don’t want to talk to a corporation, they want to talk to a person. So showcase yourself as an individual, or the individuals you work with. Have a blog going on your site, or LinkedIn. Maybe feature the employee of the month, brief Q&As with yourself, and maybe your history.
- Teaching is the most rewarding thing in the entire world. For several reasons.
- Firstly, it helps build your communication, problem solving, and interpersonal skills. Every lesson you plan, every tutorial you build, there will always be someone who calls your bluff. You may have created the perfect simulation, but someone might break it, have questions, or opinions. You then have to learn to handle this feedback without being defensive and angry. The classroom is a great learning ground for figuring how to handle situations, how they might also be applicable to your job.
- Educators are seen as people who share knowledge and are ready to help. Which are traits that studios look for in their artists. If you don’t have the opportunity to teach in the classroom, YouTube works equally well. If you can demonstrate that you know what you are doing, people are more likely to believe that you can handle complex tasks.
- When you teach, you also build your industry connections. If you can give someone the best experience while learning something new, they will remember that. In the long run, students always appreciate the teacher who challenged them, and supported them when they had little knowledge on how to complete tasks. They will most likely want to work with you, and also mention you sometime in the future when they are asked about their VFX careers.
#4 In Person Events
- These are not only fun social events, but also great ways to find what companies are looking for. Yes, these are events where companies might be looking for certain positions, but I also think they are great events to study companies at. For example, if you attend an industry job fair, you might chat to the recruiters and try to understand what the overall company attitude is. As well as how you can market your skills towards them. You can start to observe the interactions of recruiters based on how they interact with other people. What their general personality is, how they respond to the presented reels and art, and get a general vibe of how they might react to you.
- In person events are also a great practice ground for testing your personality and skills. They are way more relaxed, and you don’t have to treat every industry interaction as an interview, or you can. But you can also learn what people find fascinating about you, and what aspects of your character you can lean into.
#5 Showreel Marketing
- How should you market your work? You need to get a good idea on what people are looking for. This includes breakdowns, project files, topology, turntables, software, etc. You will have to do some research regarding this per studio, recruiter, and interviewer.
- A lot of people, including myself, make one reel that we share with every single studio that we apply to. However, if you are creating a reel for the first time, or are trying to get into a certain studio, try and research what will stand out. For example, let’s say you follow an artist in the VFX community and they work in the industry. You can always check out their reel, see what they’ve worked on, and how they are presenting it. Then copy that presentation method. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, but do it in a way that isn’t plagiarism. Add your own spin to it.
- You can also go to a company’s LinkedIn page, take a look at how they present their breakdowns and reels and study them. If they are presenting information in a certain way, they might also like their employees to do the same.
- Always, always, always have your Showreel on your LinkedIn page.
Respect The Hustle: Who Wants This?
Who is your audience? And who are you marketing towards?
If you are someone who likes to hustle on the side, teach, try to break into teaching or freelance…..The first job is always the hardest. Simply because you have to commit to marketing yourself to a degree where you can get that job.
This might be easy or hard for you, depending on the type of person you are. I find that extroverted people are really good at being loud and proud. But introverts are very good at focusing on tasks to get the job done. You need to create a zone for yourself to do a mix of both.
When I first googled the pros and cons of being an extrovert or introvert, this page popped up: https://environmental-conscience.com/introvert-vs-extrovert-pros-cons/
So let’s summarize it from a hiring perspective.
- Extroverts are viewed better in interviews and interactions because they seem very enthusiastic, have a higher level of communication, are exciting, and can lead a room. But they suffer a lot from insecurities. They can take too many risks, need people around them, and can be overwhelming.
- Introverts are not quite the opposite of this. People do judge them as antisocial, low maintenance, and quiet. But they are extremely intelligent. They take the time to analyze situations, problem solve, and listen to situations.
- No one is truly purely introverted or extraverted. But you can do your best to find the perfect middle ground. Because that is what you want to show from a skills perspective. You have the confidence, and you can fix problems.
If you are an artist, you’ll most likely interact with recruiters or HR personnel first when you are on your job hunt. However, you’ll also need to consider these important factors if you are trying to appeal to them:
- Are you trying to get the attention of animation or VFX studios? Or both? Maybe teaching….
- What quality of standard are they looking for?
- How can you create that standard in your work and Showreel?
- If you are just graduating, how can you fake or showcase your work to a higher standard?
- What does your Showreel say about you personality wise?
- If you follow a VFX recruiter, what type of VFX content are they reposting? How can you match your content with theirs?
- What do you want in a studio? What can you showcase online to prove that you are ready to help support your next team?
- Do you have any artistic achievements to show off? They do not have to be VFX related.
- Why do people want to work with you? Could they have a conversation with you other than about visual effects? Would they be able to trust you, and for you to be enthusiastic? If so, make your brand about that.
- Look at studio reels differently. What do they do? From their reel, do you see more comp , FX, asset, or environment design? This might determine what their long term work is focused around.
If you are someone looking to work with other artists, freelancers, or hire artists. Here are some things worth thinking about:
- What is your lure to get artists?
- What is your studio's brand? When people think of your studio, what comes to mind?
- Good/Bad Can you change your image? Always be aware of both the good and the bad.
- What do artists want?
- What artists are we trying to get, and how do we market our studio towards them?
- How do we get artists to stay?
- What are the pros and cons of working at said company? Take an unbiased look. DO people like to work there because their friends are there? Or do they stay because they have reassurance with their job?
Word of Mouth, Character Traits…”It’s a Small Industry.”
What’s the worst thing to happen? - People talk
………And that can be good or bad marketing.
So what makes people talk about specific people they work with?
Personally, I have a three strike rule. You can get a pass for the first two times something bad happens, but after that it is game over.
Usually, people gossip. Not all gossip is bad. If someone is having a rough month, gossip might give that person a better sense of understanding in the office without them saying anything. But from the other perspective, that person may have not wanted everyone to know that they were going through something hard. So it is a fine balance if you are someone who likes to make sure everyone is on the same page.
But bad gossip is usually generated by poor personality, lack of focus, commitment, and the horrible things you could possibly do as a human being.
For example, I’ll use a personal example. Recently I had someone who is a teacher say some pretty horrible things to a friend of mine. They had taken this person’s classes, enjoyed their time, and ended up doing some industry jobs. Out of the blue, they get a marketing email from their previous teacher calling them a failure. Here is a snippet from that email:
_____ I want to take a moment to talk to you about something serious…
You might hate what I’m about to say…
It may even anger, trigger and annoy you to no end…
But that’s OK.
Maybe this isn’t for you.
A while back I asked you for some feedback in a survey
On this survey, one of the questions I asked was:
“What do you struggle with the most on your career journey?”
Some of you, In your own words, said:
“My biggest struggle is lack of skill and motivation”
“I struggle with procrastination and confidence”
“I tend to waste too much time when I am not focused.”
“I struggle to focus on my portfolio”
Do you see a common theme here?
LACK OF FOCUS AND MOTIVATION
It doesn’t matter if you are trying to get your foot in the door at a game studio
If you’ve completely given up on games and are working towards another career.
If you can't get a handle on your lack of focus and motivation…
- You’ll always be poor
- You’ll always be a lazy gamer
- You’ll always be less than what you can be
- You’ll always rely on handouts from the government
- You’ll always work jobs you HATE to make ends meet
- You’ll always be a low-value person in the eyes of your peers
Pretty painful stuff
Now honestly ask yourself:
How many days have I squandered on my gaming addiction?
How many mindless minutes do I spend scrolling Instagram?
How many hours do I flush down the toilet on Tic Tok?
How much time do I waste every day on Youtube?
How many back-to-back shows do I binge-watch?
How much porn do I wank off to every night?
If you answered more than two hours to any of these questions…
Your Brain is ROTTEN ______
Just like eating junk food has negative effects on your body, if you feed your brain with junk media…
It will ROT.
You’ll become lazy, unfocused and unmotivated…………etc etc.
----- This was a copy paste from that email. Words like this travel fast. Even if they are a mass spam email sent to multiple people. It will not make you look good.
But people will also talk about the GREAT ones they work with. I love doing this as a teacher, as you have the personal zone to see how talented someone is. Then help them get somewhere. But you can also do this as a day to day artist.
With another personal vague example….I worked with someone in the past year, who I know will go far. They know they can do a lot of things, but they don’t know where they are going. Which is why I talk about them with my personal crowd all the time. They do lead work, not knowing it’s lead work, and do it without complaining or making a scene. Yes, they are not a lead. But they love what they do.
At least from a personal perspective, getting someone else to a point where they can succeed is more rewarding than personally achieving goals. Because you can see the difference you made in someone else. Plus, you don’t need to brag about it, and they’ll remember that.
Companies can also have “reputations” as well. Which can prevent people from applying, cause artists to burnout, leave, and leave negative reviews.
I think the worst thing I have ever heard about one company in particular was that people referred to it as a cult. I cannot state the name of the company in particular, but I can tell you why people said that.
Cults are usually focused around a few things:
- Sustaining loyalty to one person.
- A focus on always bringing in new people,
- A focus on making money.
- Cults use tactics of sleep-deprivation, alternate states of consciousness, repetition, and thought-stopping to overwhelm someone. This stops their critical thinking skills in immediate situations.
- Cults also use three main methods of brainwashing: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. Unfreezing is breaking a person down to accept the current situation. The changing phase is where the cult introduces the person to the society through lectures, meetings, and activities. Finally, refreezing is the process of building that person a new identity around that cult’s belief system.
From what I heard, there was a lot of behavior that mimicked the situations listed above at this studio. Which made some people rather miserable. Which is very understandable. Talent does not like to be overlooked or controlled in a way where they feel uncomfortable to defend themselves.
But words travel fast in this industry, and sometimes it doesn’t make you look good. So how can you fix that?