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Animation Career: A 27-year old shares his ordeal

Last updated on: July 10, 2014 15:05 IST

Animation Career: A 27-year old shares his ordeal

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Divya Nair/Rediff.com

While the Indian animation industry is poised to get a makeover -- Arun Jaitley, in his maiden budget speech mentioned 'setting up a National Institute of Animation, for supporting Gaming and Animation' -- we look at the struggles in the profession from a 27-year-old's point of view.

We republish this story first posted on August 19,2013.


The Indian animation industry is undergoing an upheaval of sorts.

While there is a huge demand for multi-skilled professionals who can deliver under pressure, availability of cheap labour is forcing several professionals to look for alternate career options.

Here, a 27-year-old professional takes us through the ordeal he underwent in the last three years after pursuing a course in animation from Delhi. Illustration by Dominic Xavier

I'd always wanted to pursue a career in creative arts and when I completed class 12, animation seemed like the perfect career to me.

After completing my BSc in Multimedia from Arena Multimedia, in 2008, I went on to pursue a digital animation course from Picasso Animation in Delhi.

The course fee for the two-year programme was a little over Rs 2 lakhs, which seemed fine because the institute had good infrastructure and would teach us 3-D animation. This was far ahead of the 2D animation I’d learned during my graduation.

Only after we'd enrolled into the programme did we realise that the faculty members at the institute mostly comprised animators or graphic designers who had turned to teaching because they themselves could not find better jobs in the industry. Initially I overlooked all that and focused on mastering the course.

I was lucky to train under a senior animator from Canada who’d worked on international projects like Star Wars. I learnt a lot from him.

When we enrolled into the course, we were promised placements at the end of it, so none of us had bothered to explore options beyond the in-house studio.

At the end of the course, the institute gave us the option of working for lesser-known studios or on smaller projects that had no takers.

We were 25 students in one batch. Since the institute wanted to prove that it offered 100 per cent placement, we were asked to work on animated films that never saw the light of the day.

Some of our seniors who had already experienced it all warned us against working there, still some of my batchmates continued to work there until the studio and the institute at Faridabad closed down. Just to let you know, the remaining two branches in Delhi continue to operate and still claim to provide 100 per cent placement which surprises many of us even today.

But this was the beginning of the many setbacks that awaited me.

After finishing the course, most of us left the institute and went our own ways looking for work.

We realised that Delhi is not a great place for animation artists; the city offers more opportunities for advertising and news media professionals.

If you are doing an animation course from Delhi or any other city in northern India, you will have to move to Mumbai, Bangalore or Hyderabad to find work.

I chose Mumbai because I had a few relatives and friends.

I thought it would be relatively easier to find work because I knew people in Mumbai.

Dear Readers, have you worked in the animation industry? Are you still working in one?

What are the issues you are facing, if any?

How has the experience been for you? More importantly, what is your advice to young aspirants who would like to pursue a career in animation in India or abroad?

You can e-mail your career experience, suggestions and advice to us at getahead@rediff.co.in (subject line: Animation Career Advice) and we'll publish the best responses right here on Rediff.com.

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'My family funded my rent and living expenses for '

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Challenges of living in Mumbai

I came to Mumbai in 2010 and joined four of my friends who had pursued animation just like me from Delhi.

They’d come a few months before me and lived in a rented accommodation in Goregaon (a suburb in Mumbai).

Now, we were five of us and the monthly rent came about Rs 15,000 which we had to share between us.

It was in the first few weeks I shifted here that reality hit me for the first time.

Like any fresher, I too began my sharing my CV with a lot of animation houses. Unfortunately, none of them replied or called me for an interview.

When I called to find out, people from the bigger animation houses told me that they were looking for professionals with at least two years of experience and did not want to hire freshers. Some others I approached to wanted to know if I had any references from people who mattered. I did not have any.

Since I did not have any work experience, I tried looking at smaller production houses because I had to start somewhere.

I knew a couple of people in Mumbai, but no one in the animation industry as such, so I was finding it difficult to get hold of people who’d recommend me to the organisation. All this was new to me and each day was like an experience followed by a lesson -- someone would always give me a tip or two but none of that led me to a job.

I was jobless for almost a year and it was the toughest one year of my life.

Living in Mumbai had its own challenges. Besides the rent, there was living expenses too.

During this time, my parents and elder brother had been of immense help.

If it hadn’t been for them, I don’t know how I would have funded my monthly expenses that approximately came to Rs 10,000 or Rs 15,000.

For a 25 year-old, it felt bad to depend on them for money, but I did not have much of a choice.

Meanwhile, four of my friends who had also come to Mumbai to work in the animation industry had grown tired of the job search process. For some months, they did odd jobs to make up for the rent and food, but eventually got fed up and went back to Delhi.

I somehow wasn't willing to quit so soon.

I eventually moved to another house -- a paid guest accommodation in Andheri.

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'If you can keep your mouth shut, you may survive a few months longer'

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First job: Poor pay, lack of recognition

After a lot of failed attempts, I approached my cousin who eventually referred me to this animation house in Mumbai.

After struggling for a year, I joined this organisation for a starting salary of Rs 5,000 a month.

When I took up the job I knew this won’t even help me fund my monthly rent, but to be honest, I was in dire need of work.

I was willing to take up any job, provided it was related to animation and was within the purview of entertainment.

I wanted to get some experience and professional training, so the salary did not matter initially. I thought if I got a job, things would improve for good.

At the organisation I worked at, things did not look too welcome either. Because I was a fresher, I had no say in creative matters and no matter how well I performed, someone or the other would always bully me and say: You are not doing enough; you better improve your performance, or you won’t get a raise.

In the last two years at this organisation I have learned that if you can keep your mouth shut, you may survive a few months longer than your peers. I stayed quiet because I wanted to learn. I had got this job after a lot of toil and I did not want to let it go so easily.

Some of my seniors were supportive of me, but at the same time, I also realised that beyond a point, no creative artist will be able to cope up with the stress and the lack of recognition.

I, for example, did my job in the best way I could for two years.

My work was never appreciated and I never got a raise without complaining.

When I realised that my career in this organisation was going nowhere, two months ago, I quit the job and started applying to other companies.

I'm once again jobless and unlike my friends, I cannot change my field because animation is the only thing I know and I don’t want to quit for anything else.

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'You have to struggle for at least four to five years'

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Lessons learned, but struggle continues

Choosing animation was a conscious choice.

When I spoke to a few friends and seniors in the industry, they also told me how they'd found parallel interests while continuing as freelance animators -- some of them had turned photographers, others had moved to film editing and so. They asked me to do the same.

I have now asked my cousin if I could help him with film editing; I’m ready to learn, but it’s not very easy. I may or may not get the work I like but I don’t want to give up.

My own experience in the last few years has been bad.

The animation industry is definitely not as exciting as it seemed to me five years ago, but there are many like me who are passionate and don’t want to move on to other professions.

Every time I talk to my family members in Delhi, they give me hope. My elder brother has asked me to stay put and continue my efforts.

Even he feels that some day I might find the right job and forget this phase.

Not many of us are lucky to get this kind of support and encouragement.

Also, I don’t know if I am the right person to ask for advice, but from my own experience, I can tell you that if any of you want to get into it, this is probably not the right time – especially since a lot of studios are shutting down and the average salaries for freshers is so low.

My advice to freshers is that perhaps if you knew someone in the industry, it might help you get an internship or a job.

Fresh graduates must realise that you have to struggle for at least four to five years before you get a hang of things and learn the tricks.

If you are hunting for a job on your own, be forewarned that it will take you at least a year to get a job.

When I last spoke to my friends who’d moved back to Delhi, I realised that one of them is working as a news editor, another is working in a shop – none of their professions are related to animation, but they are definitely doing better than me. They are not even considering returning to animation.

If you are mentally prepared for this adventure, I’d wish you all the best.

(As told to Divya Nair)

Reader invite

Dear Readers, have you worked in the animation industry? Are you still working in one?

What are the issues you are facing, if any?

How has the experience been for you? More importantly, what is your advice to young aspirants who would like to pursue a career in animation in India or abroad?

You can e-mail your career experience, suggestions and advice to us at getahead@rediff.co.in (subject line: Animation Career Advice) and we'll publish the best responses right here on Rediff.com.




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