Also, it depends on your goal and whether you're looking for a particular role or a generalist one, or if you want to focus on a particular area of the industry or are just trying to get any job. Make sure you can show the proper knowledge and artistic skills for that particular job. So if you apply for feature animation films, probably lots of ZBrush sculpt, even amazing ones, won't help. You'll need proper poly modeling.
An extra to having a great portfolio is being part of the community, on sites like this one, collaborating with your own experiments, ideas, tutorials, etc. Having a blog where you share your knowledge and personal works is a big plus. It's a small industry and getting yourself known by others helps a lot.
What is your current workspace like?
I work in a US video game company, Harmonix, as a special effects artist. The company looks after all of the artists' needs in terms of workspace, up-to-date equipment, the latest software and much more. Harmonix provides excellent benefits that are hard to match at other companies. The development team works closely with artists to push forward the evolution of the engine and tools for a wide array of AAA games. Everyone's voices and opinions are heard through structured meetings and impromptu discussion. We all feel like a part of the whole project even when our responsibilities focus on smaller areas of the games. The studio is comprised of the highest skilled artists I've seen, making every day a challenge to stay competitive as well as providing an opportunity for continuous learning.
Where would you like to be in five years' time?
I've already moved a lot and being a family guy I'd like to stay where I am, grow as much as I can in this field and just keep some stability and explore new fields in games and coding. I guess I've already worked in the places I wanted and needed to work. Now I'm more into reliable and constant work. Also, I'd like to stay in the video game industry, seeing the evolution it's having. It's quite challenging to keep up with the way the technology is continuously improving. I have a very good chance in this company to change my career in another direction.
Looking back with the benefit of your experience, are there are things you wish you had done differently, in terms of your career?
I think I started quite late. Not in terms of my training, since this was almost 17 years ago, but I never really had the chance to break into the film, games or commercial industries properly and do things like working for big studios, under big pipelines and big budgets productions. I was stuck in the circumstances of the job opportunities I had around in my country at the time and that was as far as I could go. I jumped quite late into other countries in that search.
If I regret something it is not hunting out those opportunities earlier. In one way or another in this industry you have to become a nomad, so the sooner the better. Of course, there are also ways of not having to move around, like being a freelancer and focusing more on a personal portfolio than productions, but I decided on the second option for my career.
If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to break into the industry, what would it be?
The advice I can give after what I've experienced isn't much, but to put it simply I would say that if you are young and have no strong attachments to a place or person, then travel. Always be open to learning from everyone, keep your knowledge growing and have in mind that the training in this career doesn't finish when you finish school. It never finishes. Every artist from every corner of the globe is making the industry evolve, either with tools or methods, taking the level higher and higher, so be ready to keep up that rhythm. Think out of the box and be creative, even in the way you work. It is art not only in the images, but also in the process.
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