This is a subject matter that bugged me for the last few weeks and I think its best I brain dump it while rendering. Whether you agree or disagree, these are just my thoughts and opinions for what its worth.
The current state of the Singapore animation industry obviously isn't the greatest. Even after the introduction of Lucasfilm and D Neg, things have not improved. Of course with the withdrawal of Double Negative, it has gotten worse.There are many causes and effects. But it boils down to a few things consistent with other skilled labor-intensive industries all over the world..
1.) The cost of running the animation business here against the global market.
Cost of running a animation company in Singapore is very high compared to countries regionally or in Asia. The only countries we are comparatively affordable to are Japan and Korea. Both which have better quality of work then what our local companies are capable of at the same price.
Thailand and Vietnam have studios that are similar in quality but much cheaper then us as service provider.
2.) The lack of high level of artistic craftsmanship necessary to entice higher value companies to Singapore.
For most of the aspiring local cg artists, the best career that a local animator or cg artist aims for is to work at ILM Singapore (after the closure of double negative) and if possible move overseas to expand if they can. (more pay, more opportunities). Others choose to stay for family or kids. We do have very talented local artists inside there. But there is a limit to the head count that they can hire while ironically severely lacking of skilled and experienced artists in other areas.
There are of course some local artists working overseas. But even if they want to come back, the salary package here cannot compete against what the bigger studios overseas offer as well as the lack of options besides ILM.
That leaves with a chasm of skill transference from the experienced artists to locals. Because I believe that a majority of the locals here will try go overseas for better prospects and experiences.
3.) Reluctance of local companies to take in fresh graduates. Local companies in my opinion find it challenging to take the time and train fresh graduates because of the cost overhead. Unless they are really talented. A company runs a biz. It needs to make money. Time taken to teach a fresh grad can be used to do a shot. Also the level of quality that the polys as well as degree level and private schools are producing are not at a level that the companies can use. Also the smaller companies know they are just stepping stones for artists hoping to jump to ILM or overseas. So they will not spend more time to train the fresh graduates unless they are really really good. This of course causes a cycle of them not able to get in more work so that they can expend and improve the quality and biz. Which means they cannot spend the money to train artists.
SO what can we do to survive?
- Learn a skillset that is not common. Look.. you want to be an animator or a modeller or a concept zbrush blah blah designer. I get it. Its cool. But there are lots people out there already. And there are other jobs out there that companies need and are actually willing to train you for and pay you for it. Coding, Texturing, particles, pipeline. Jobs that are not on Zbrush central or art station but actually pays you so that you can still be in the industry and keep practising what you strive to be.
- Use your skills learnt in animation to start something else. I do not mean just the technical skills. But designing, storytelling and visualizing. As well as what applications can be created with or for these purposes.
- Learn to invest. Honest truth. Something that is painful and slow and what I regret not having done earlier. I do not mean speculating. But stable low gain shares.
- Rob a bank with a piece of paper. Nicely storyboarded of course.
- Create your own company to undercut the companies that inexperienced fresh grads open up to undercut the established players because the clients care more about the cost more then quality.
- Set up a company AND a school to try and make money off the govt and gullible students while trying to sell part-time courses.
- Get out of Singapore while/if you can. This is not a anti-PAP rant. I do mean it.
Keep working on your reel and polishing your skillset and go out. See the world and gain valuable work experience.(Best advice I ever got from my lecturer). Useful to make connections with new colleagues who might have lobangs in future. Plan your holiday back here to conicide with the durian season.
- If you inherently have some level of talent, and is driven enough (I fucking hate the word "passion"), you can make a living do animation or computer graphics as a career in Singapore. Companies will always want to hire good talent. But honestly that is the hardest thing and yet the simplest thing to do. The same reason dieting almost never work. The short and long term pain cannot justify long term gain.
- Create your own IP. hahahaha... better luck trying to get Gold at the Olympics.
- Network and don't be a dick. I don't mean put on a fake smile and kiss ass. But be curious and ask questions. Dont be a dick at school and treat your colleagues and supervisors with respect. Build trust with them so that if they leave they might recommend you to their new job.
Unfortunately there isn't much chances to network locally. That is why make full use of it.
But that is what I think we got to do. Constantly keep improving and learning new stuff. Stay curious and hungry and be unrelenting in your pursue for creating good work.
Worst case scenerio, you can still create art even if you quit the industry. Isn't that why you got into the industry in the 1st place?
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