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Don’t Give up on your Dreams in Animation – the Skills vs Passion and Re-Think Hope

Gundam
Gundam Docks in Singapore

Came across and old article about Dreams and Passion for this animation industry blog. It seems the writer was questioning the state of the industry and the schools churning out students for the industry and not finding jobs. Similar over in Japan, in that post the writer cited an article where a young high schooler asked famed director and anime creator of Gundam Yoshiyuki Tomino, how to get into the industry. He had a reply that sounded like to give up and go become a salary person. Its 11 years old at time of writing this, though he wrote an addendum to the first response. I have embedded the letter below 👇

Firstly I feel Don’t give Up!

There are other ways to have a career in animation, even though you are not in the animation industry.

My Thoughts:

I think passion is a fleeting thing. It’s hard to know what you will still be passionate 10 years later. I remembered there was so much talk and the cultural thinking that you need to find your passion. That I felt it lost the meaning and what it means for work.

Be So Good they Can’t ignore you. THat is the title of Cal Newport Book I remembered reading it around that time period. That’s the advice to build skills and not rely on passion. I think this book is somewhat true to build a craftsman mindset. But is the sacrifice worth it? The Gundam creator says you have to be so passionate and skillful to beat out the competition and survive.

But sometimes Sacrifice is not worth it.

Somehow a lot of industries that require hits such as now the new creator economy, demand so much that many burn out. Many creators and animators in Japan cannot even start a family. I suspect this verteran creator may be earning from toy sales and leverage his brand equity that he build up when the industry was so small back then? It was small and there were not so much competitions so the chance t be top is high and top end of the industry.

Oversupply of Goods

Right now its a case of oversupply of candidates and little demand in this new world. I think many fans want to draw or create for a living its is a human instinct. Children have this desire to make things and image worlds. But turning pro is harder than it seems.

I also have a counter intuitive thought is not to want it so much and focus on building skills and try and see if you can do it for a year on your own. If can can you can set yourself to start the path to turn pro. I can’t give definite timeframes cause the process for each person is different.

I think the important thing is to build up skills so that you are so Good like Cal Newport Books says.

Build Skills but also think how to monetize it. Something Like ikiga.

https://sofiri.com/blog/how-to-find-your-ikigai/

Re-Think another way

Thinking of a better way. I feel that being an anime animator has challenges and other places too though some places do pay well but the slots are limited.

The old way was to go to a school get trained or draw a lot to improve to a Gi Level. But that may be not possible for all. We may have to take on other roles while working on our craft.

I wrote something back in 2019 about Animator vs Sofware Engineer, and my own transition to UI Dev for a while.

Don’t follow you heroes

I applaud the high schooler asking the question but One thing I feel is not to ask your heroes for advice.

I don’t think its a binary answer other than one should build skills. We should not deny hope or freedom of choice.

https://justinjackson.ca/heroes

I still will encourage those that love to draw and want to make a career out of it to pursue it. Make sure you have a backup if it does not work out. Just some wise thoughts and pragmatic advise I received years ago.

I hope that the person asking the veretran anime producer is still drawing and creating their own stories even if they are not working in the industry.

Just keep hanging on to those Dreams!

Links:

http://hilscreate.blogspot.com/2011/01/closure-for-now.html

Cartoon Brew

Global Voices Advising Someone to Give Up on Dreams Addendum to the post

Japan times Animator Poverty

Question asked to Gundam Creator how to Draw for a living

Q:

Dear Director Tomino,

I am a second year high school student. The time when I have to decide on which university I want to go to, and what kind of career I want, is rapidly approaching. I know this sounds vague, but I am filled with the desire to make a living by drawing. I can’t talk to my parents about this. The last time I told them “I want to draw for a living,” they basically told me “there’s no career in that. You should go to university and become an OL (office lady) like other people.” After hearing this kind of thing I lost interest in discussing it with my parents, but it’s a fact I need to start making decisions about my future. Even if I am hazy about what it’s going to be. That’s why I’m writing you, Director Tomino. How can I decide my future path? I’m willing to take anything you dish out, so I’d really appreciate it if you could share your thoughts.

Miyuri, Aichi Prefecture

A:

Now that is a tough question. All I can tell you is the same thing your parents did: you should go to university and become an OL.

If you’re a second-year high school student saying you want to be an illustrator, you’re old enough to be asked about your qualifications. Seeing drawing as a job you can just somehow land is an amateur’s way of looking at things. You need a great deal of actual experience to work in this industry.

Putting it in an easier to understand way with animation as an example, simply loving drawing isn’t enough to become an animator. By the second year of high school, an aspiring animator should be drawing “in-between”-quality illustrations every day, without fail. What’s more, assuming you’re in the art department of your school, you should be constantly applying to art competitions and such.

Not only do you need to have those qualifications, you need to have the personal drive and physical strength that is demanded of a craftsman. Even if you somehow did manage to make your dream a reality without these things, you wouldn’t be able to advance your career past in-betweening. You would find yourself overworked in a sea of others trying hard just to stay afloat. I can’t recommend that.

You may have considered going to a specialty school. But I need to tell you that it is virtually impossible to turn that experience into a job. If you’re considering being a manga artist and have penned a dojinshi, that’s a hobby; it isn’t training for work in the industry. “But I could use Comiket as a springboard to turn pro,” you might be thinking here. The fact is, that isn’t just about how good your illustrations are. It’s about having the editorial sense to turn your comic into a proper product. That know-how isn’t the sort of thing that can be developed in a classroom or with a test. You’re venturing into a very strict world where the only thing that matters is “does it sell or doesn’t it.” If you want to know more about it, please read Naoki Karasawa’s Manga Gokudo (“The Extreme Way of Manga”). It is extremely true to life, and shows that even if you do become a manga artist, continuing to make a living at it requires all sorts of effort and sacrifice. Only those who are capable of doing that are capable of making a living by drawing.

If after reading this you find yourself saying “but I still want to do it,” that isn’t desire. You need to know IN YOUR BONES that you are willing to STRUGGLE to do this, that you’re willing to starve before taking another kind of job. Desire alone isn’t enough for a job that requires you to have the facility in a wide range of styles to draw hundreds of illustrations of a certain quality within a certain timeframe. As a freelancer there’s the fear of never knowing when the next job is coming in, meaning you have to put your all into whatever comes your way, meaning you don’t have any real control over what you’re working on. You can always take a job at a studio, but only those with the drive and physical strength to do the same thing in the same place over and over again for a decade or more on end can make it there. This is why I’m telling you you’re better off going to school and becoming an office lady.

That’s all I can tell you, speaking as someone with experience in the matter. If you still feel like you want to pursue a career in art, the important thing is to take the style you plan to work in — whether it’s design, nihonga, oil painting, pen and ink, pencil, whatever — and practice doing it every single day. Universities will have practical tests, so you will need to push yourself to do at least three drawings a day. When working in pen, you need to get yourself to the level where you can easily crosshatch freehand. This is the level of ability that is already being demanded of you, Miyuri, so there’s no time to waste with simple “desire.”

Follow Up

(Addendum)

I’m very happy to receive so much feedback on this provocative post. Thank you. I’ve read all of the comments and Tweets. There were more sympathetic voices than I expected, but essentially, people were divided in two parties. I think it shows what a difficult issue this is, and how it’s not possible for someone to unilaterally come up with the right answer. Some people quoted musicians and conductors, and I can sympathize that these are competitive and unforgiving fields as well.

Because I wrote in a way that upset people who are already on this road, there were some emotional comments. To stay true to yourself and your dream is a road filled with distractions from naysayers and temptations to take the easy way out. There’s simply no time to be livid at the lack of understanding from your friends and family, let alone becoming unsettled because of a random, unfeeling blog post! Remember, everyone is going through life with uncertainties.

Also, any discussion about how “regular” jobs are also difficult is so obvious that I won’t respond to it here. Of course it is.

Whether or not to say things like this to a person face to face is a difficult issue, and it’s a bit cowardly of me to start on this after writing this post but personally, I would place some distance with people who state their dreams like this. There are some things you can say because it’s anonymous and online, and people who criticize that I am denying the existence of the dreamer should think again. This is a suggestion on how I would advise someone to give up on their dream.

An ordinary but appropriate opinion is to have the person follow their dream and see for themselves, if the dreamer is someone who has that kind of time. A wake up call to reality, if you will. The rest is up to them, whether to continue or to quit. Remember, it’s your life!

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