Today I want to talk about saying yes to those opportunities that lie outside of your comfort zone, because improving yourself doesn’t happen when you’re comfortable. Adventures only happen when you leave home. You only get stronger when you lift heavy things until it burns. And your art skills only improve when you attempt to create something you’ve never attempted to create before. We talk about that last one a lot here on this blog. But one thing I don’t talk about often enough is improving your reputation as an artist. In some ways, your reputation as a reliable, confident, enthusiastic teammate is more important than your skills.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is a common cliche and it’s completely true. However, a lot of people misunderstand the phrase. They take it to mean that breaking in to the industry is pure luck, or only for those privileged enough to have connections. What it really means is that to break into the industry, you have to actually meet people. You can become an absolute ZBrush virtuoso alone in your room, but if you don’t put yourself out there, no one will know or care.
It’s important to say yes to things that are difficult or stressful. The only way to learn how to work with a team under a tight deadline is by doing it. How do you react to challenges, assuming you chose to face them at all? Here’s the big secret: challenges won’t usually just throw themselves at you. YOU have to seek them out and throw yourself at them. When you do that, people will see and your reputation will grow. Case-in-point: Last year someone asked me to do the 48 Hour Film Project with them. I was extremely uncomfortable but I said yes. The film was cheesy and my animation was wonky. But we were the only team with a 3D character and people remember it. I met tons of great, talented, and well connected people and I’m still getting contacted about job offers a year later.
But wait! Before you think that story was about me, there’s more to it! This year I was asked by a different film maker to participate again. He had an insanely ambitious idea and I realized I needed help. I decided to ask a Platt graduate. So I asked a former student named Lindsey Joell Warrick. I had only seen a little bit of her work but it was really good. But the thing about her that really stuck in my memory was that she never once said no to a new challenge while she was in school. She wanted to learn EVERYTHING. And she even came to me after she was done with all my classes to ask about new techniques and technologies that I didn’t cover in class. Her reputation was that of passion, excitement, and curiosity. And she has the skills to back them up.
When the weekend came, we were asked to do so much more than either of us expected. But Lindsey and I never said no. We worked around the clock, barely sleeping for the whole 48 hours, and we delivered our shots on time. Lindsey’s work blew everyone’s minds. Everything she did was out of her comfort zone. We even had to do R&D right there on set occasionally. But we got it done and now these influential San Diego filmmakers know her name. Before we were even done we were approached for another project coming up in the future. And it all happened because she built her reputation as a strong teammate and as an artist even back when she was a just student.
Don’t think for a second that your story isn’t being written RIGHT NOW. You are already a 3D artist. You’re not waiting for your career to begin. It began when you decided to start learning this art. Your fellow students and your instructors will remember the way you sought out and attacked new challenges when you were in school…or how you avoided them. When you graduate and enter the industry, your classmates will be right there with you. Look around. When you get an opportunity, which ones would you want to rely on? Which ones would you not trust? Would any of them call you based on your reputation as an artist?