Washington, D.C. is a hub of politics and power. And while in the midst of a pop-cultural Renaissance, the nation's capital is not exactly giving Hollywood a run for its money. Usually, and we've had students who've done this, to make it in animation you have to move to a hub like Los Angeles or Atlanta – even Canada! Yet every quarter, not only do we graduate talented, hungry, young animators with the necessary chops to do what they love, but they often find themselves getting paid to do so – without ever having to leave the metro area.
It is actually rather easy to learn the technical aspects of animation. A cursory glance of YouTube how-to's, online tutorials, or a bookstore "For Dummies" section bears this out. If you can change a tire, with time and the right technology, you can learn the technical aspects of animation.
But that does not make you an animator, and certainly not employable.
That's where having a good teacher makes a big difference. The real secret to being an animator is realizing that just learning technology doesn't cut it. Being an animator is a balance between being a storyteller and a visual designer. It takes an analytical mind to be able to negotiate between these two skills. You have to become critical and self-aware. Developing storytellers need to not only wonder about the world, but also their place in it. You have to be able to encapsulate ideas and communicate them through visuals that can be universally understood.
Anyone can learn technology. A true artist uses it to transform, to examine, to satirize, and to explain. By finding your inner storyteller, you are finding your inner thinker. You are becoming a better communicator.
It is these skills, to critically examine, to develop understanding through story, that make an attractive candidate for local jobs. Don't get me wrong, it still helps to be pretty good at the stereotypical entertainment criteria, gags and action, but to make it in DC you can't limit yourself to entertainment. Can you also make animated re-creations for court cases? 3D pre-visualizations for architectural firms? Motion graphics packages for news agencies? Interactive games that teach math for K through 12? Animated diagrams outlining the safety procedures of an airplane? Even the graphic user interface for the phone you're probably reading this on right now? Employable animators in DC can. These things all share a commonality: storytelling and visual design.
That's the secret to being an employable animator in the DC metro area. Understanding that everything has a story. Everyone communicates. People need to convey important information to others. Animators facilitate that understanding everyday. They make the sharing of ideas an easier, richer experience. If there's one thing the nation's capital can use right now, it's better communication skills.