What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

December 22, 2010

Planning for a career in animation locally and overseas.

Let me tell you something you already know....

You will not get rich becoming an animator, td or modeller in Singapore. No. Fucking. Way. For those that is stepping into the industry and harbouring illusions of owning a new Lamborgini or a BMW, definitely keep on dreaming. Life is meaningless without a goal.

But unless you wrote a software that will be bought by a major company or a game changer, its a wee bit hard to retire at 40 or even 50. Or you convince the Govt to give you money to conduct subsidized courses or open a company for outsourcing/collaboration work and you take the middle part. Even then, compared to the Shenton way crowd, the amount is insignificant.

For the rest of the people in this industry, if you are talented, hardworking, easy to work with and most importantly lucky, you should have have a fairly comfortable existence. Job satisfaction and long hours not withstanding.

The problem is long term wise, this industry is still very dependent on contract work. People work for a stated contracted period and then take a few weeks off and then start again. And even then no CPF contribution. Or if you are lucky to be a full time salaried staff, you will get a stable job but the salary won't be the greatest and more often then not, their is no bonus at the end of the year and/or the job isn't the most rewarding/challenging/satisfactory. It is very hard to break this cycle.

As mentioned before, locally animation still functions as a service provider so the money you will get is based on the market rate and the company you work in. Like in other industries, you get stressed because you are working the long hours but you are afraid to leave because jobs are hard to come by. Or the new job may even be worse then the current one. So it becomes a chicken and egg situation. And like the last economy crisis, the 1st thing to go is marketing and advertising budget. Also gone are the investors willing to invest in new content.

If you want to survive in this industry, you better know how it really works. And vfxsoldier does a better job explaining the reality of the industry on his site then I ever could. There is a lot of talk about unions for the VFX industry in the States which of course isn't realistic locally. And also posts about outsourcing which is what Singapore is. So there are a lot of very useful articles like especially this and this to absorb which is a very real reflection of what is happening out there.

There is also this article from a vfx artist.

The faster you figure out the rules of the game, the faster you can adapt to it.

For graduated students, never ever work for free on a commercial project or for a company. If you are starting out and a company approaches you for a offer to work there and learn at the same time, the basic courtesy is still to pay them a allowance. I personally do it believe that and I pay the guys I work with an allowance for non commerical work. (Unless of course, they owe me durian, subway or ramen to improve their reels).

Think about it, if its because you are really crap or ill prepared, why would a company waste their resources and time training you on a paying project where money is at stake? Have a read here If they think you are worth the risk, you are worth an allowance.

From the lessons learnt personally, I feel that means you need to be thinking what is the best for yourself rather then for the company on a whole.

Loyalty to a company is not something that is very common nor recommended. If the manager/boss in a company is facing difficulties, they will get rid of the staff then lose more money. That is just instinctive human nature for big corporations regardless of which industry you are in. (Of course there are exceptions and norms, there are companies that treat their staff well and try to keep them motivated and happy.)

So let me tell you another thing that the bosses and managers do not want you to know. It is necessary to actually job hop.

With every job, your pay increases because they need people for a project and will pay a bit more. You get to know and work with different kinds people and expend your social network. Also get more experiences of how different studios work and more stuff on your reel. It is quite a nomadic existance.

A manager's job is to convince and keep you on because its easier/cheaper to keep you then to hire someone else new. Until the project finishes that is. How many manager/producer got to where they are staying in one place? They follow the same pattern to climb up the ladder.

You owe it to yourself to find the best deal for yourself. You can listen to the managers talk about the fact that things will improve, good things will come, you will get more money once the series sell etc ...... You need to make the call. What is truthful and what is spiel that they have to say to get you to stay at the current price.

Of course money is the prime motivator. But the working environment, colleagues, opportunites to grow and also type of projects you are working on contribute to your decision making. Stress level and working hours will become a factor as you get older. There is no one solution. Everyone wants different things.

So the only way you can get out of your current position is to be actually good at what you do or make the company believe that. (although if you try to smoke too much, you eventually get found out unless you are a master smoker. For some reason, these guys also end up having their own companies, probably because they can sell their business plans to gullible investors ...haha.)

Of course the problem is there is only so little companies in Singapore to go around. S0 you better do your best to GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE for greener pastures. (Another thing I feel is crucial). How? Constant improvement, more techniques, learn more tutorials. Be active in promoting your work online and also keep a look out what is happening in the industry.

Once out there,you will be exposed to different working environment,techniques, networks and of course better salary. Make sure you try to get to a high profile company that does a higher profile work. (i.e Hollywood movies) then the current one you are in.

A lot of guys that have gone, do not come back except to visit family and for the food. But if you have family and obligations here that you cannot leave behind, or you just love Singapore food too damn much, then what to do? Try to have the best of both worlds.. try to get into the big boys.. Lucasfilm, D Neg, Ubisoft and learn as much as you can there. They are the big boys for a very good reason and to get in is hard because the level of expectation is high. (Or you can try to get in on a non creative positon like coordinator or production assistant and go from there)

If you cannot make it then how? Then try to get into the local companies or freelance for the psot production houses. Most of them do children TV shows, ads, digital content for web etc...

Some companies are pretty decent. (can count on one hand) and the rest either pay very little and most definitely work very long hours. Some will hope to sell you the spiel to work for "passion". You can tell these companies to take it and shove it where the sun dun shine.

But always always keep improving..... and strive to go higher. In this industry, the only constant is change.

Most importantly, on top of everything else, regardless of where you work and for the long term, you will need to learn about SUSTAINABLE PASSIVE INCOME. Learn how to generate have passive income.

Regardless of what industry you are in, this is the number one priority you should need to learn.

If successful, it takes out or minimise the worry of the job. A Its a pain to learn and not the most interesting thing in the world for a lot of people but in the long run, you will have a better peace of mind and go to work because you want to, and not because you have to. It is a liberating feeling not having to feel that pressure of worrying about the pay or the bs politics in the office.

But how do you do it? Ah... That is my new year resolution for this year. And it should be yours too. haha. Forget about those adverts you see everyday is the papers cliaming you will earn 10k in 3 weeks and all the BS. If they are already earning so much, why do they need to pay ad space and ask you to attend their talk and pay money to buy their software and methods. Fuckers.....

And be careful of financial advisers. Their job is to make money. but who do you think they will look after 1st? Themselves and their sales target or you?

Look..... I won't lie to you, its tiring and a struggle at 1st. And may be even in the middle and at the end. The uncles and aunites selling tissue paper at the hawker centers are already evidence. The prejudice against older workers here means you got only a certain window to make your mark..... and lastly....fucking 6 million people cramped inside here in the next few years. (okok... I will stop. cynicism is a vicious friend).

Unless you are rich man's son, living in Singapore is tiring and stressful regardless of what industry you are in... haha. (sound like uncle)

So seriously, if you have the opportunity/skills and do not have much attachment and do not mind being a 2nd class citizen elsewhere, get the fuck out of here. Come back for a visit once in a while and eat in Malaysia. Or you can retire there! The food there is way better and cheaper too and just across the causeway. Plus decent dive spots.

Or you can stay here, do your part for the country and help the "industry" grow. How? I have no fucking clue besides being another another service provider. Another post on the local industry soon.

Oh yeah and buy 4d/toto/lottery every week. Its less then the cost of a subway and the chances are ridiculously small...... but like I said, definitely keep on dreaming. Life is meaningless without a goal. What is yours?


  1. Singapore
    Another emerging destination for outsourced animation services is Singapore. With a strong backing
    from its government, the Media Development Authority was created in 2003 as an entity mandated to
    instigate policies and programs to help foster the growth of its animation industry. Singapore also
    invested more on the development of its infrastructure, especially in terms of policy and regulations,
    to help local players develop and safeguard original IP projects. With the growing opportunity in the
    global animation industry, Singapore may soon be one of the better players as its government
    continually supports the development of the sector. However, the fundamental concern of a limited
    talent pool remains for Singapore.

  2. Planning for a career in animation locally and overseas.

    Thanks for sharing