4 Tips for Finding a Digital Effects Mentor
Posted by Dabney B. on Thursday, August 1st, 2013
You can practice visual effects art every single day for the rest of your life, and you could die old and grey without learning every trick in the book. There’s constantly room for improvement, so often times the biggest factor isn’t how much you know, but how quickly you’re able to pick up new information.
One of the best ways to give yourself an edge in the visual effects field is to find a mentor. To put it simply, mentors are freaking awesome. They can customize lessons to suit your specific needs so that you’re always getting the best possible experience. Improving your skills with a mentor is easy — the only hard part is finding a person who’s willing to deal with your endless questions. These strategies can help you become an apprentice to a visual effects master.
What’s the difference between an intern and an apprentice? An intern usually works for a large group for free in order to learn lessons from everybody at the company. An apprentice works under a single individual. Back in ye olden times, apprenticeships were a handy way to get ahead in a certain profession. Young students would apprentice themselves to masters, offering free labor in exchange for the opportunity to learn important trade skills.
Apprenticeships are fairly rare nowadays, but you might be able to find a visual effects veteran who’s willing to take you under his wing, especially if you offer to do all of the unenviable grunt work. Your mentor gets more free time, and you get a hands-on look at how some of the pros operate.
2. Take Advantage of Company Mentors
Some companies will assign mentors to new hires. Usually these mentors focus on getting new hires acclimated to the company, but sometimes they’ll help with some of the technical stuff. If you’re lucky enough to get a mentor, don’t waste the opportunity! It’s their job to mentor you, so don’t feel guilty about taking up a lot of their time. Also, check with human resources to see if they have a mentoring program.
3. Buy Lunch
The easiest way to get a mentor is to just hire one, but who’s got the money for that? You might have better luck taking a slightly more indirect route. Let’s suppose, for example, that there’s another artist in your company who is incredible at animation, and you want to learn some of his techniques. Ask your coworker to have lunch with you and offer to buy him lunch in exchange for some creative tips. Most people would be flattered that you even ask, so if you throw a free meal on top of that it’s hard for some people to resist. Your coworker will love the attention and the free meal, and the $10-20 you spend on your coworker’s meal will be a far cry from what visual effects masters typically charge per hour.
4. Quid Pro Quo
You scratch my digitally rendered 3D back, and I’ll scratch yours!
There are so many art styles and visual effects programs out there that nobody can master all of them. Odds are good that you probably know a few techniques that your mentor hasn’t mastered. This is especially true if you’re seeking a mentor in another niche. For example, an animator and a modeler can create an awesome symbiotic relationship wherein they both teach other techniques about their specific field. It might be a little bit hard to find somebody who’s willing to devote so much time into a dual-mentor arrangement, but the payoff should be well worth it.