Episode 306 — Taking Pride in Your Work


Episode 306 — Taking Pride in Your Work 

Taking pride in your work and in your process is so critical! You want to have people want to work with you again. If you don’t get it — if you still don’t care — that is an issue for any Supervisor.

This seems like simple stuff. It goes back to the idea of self-management. You have to anticipate the notes. You have to know how to evaluate if the shot is good enough before you show it to the rest of the team. The more you take pride in your work, the more you’re able to take an initiative, the more wins you get. 

In this Podcast, Allan shares his experience working with junior artists as a Supervisor and the initiative that was missing in their work — potentially costing them jobs — and gives advice on how to get the wins you want!



[03:17] What Inspired This Podcast

[04:43] Taking an Initiative in Your Work

[11:56] Looking at the Long-Term Goal

[19:48] The Myth of “Having Creative Control”



Hello, everyone! This is Allan McKay. 

Welcome to Episode 306! This is a solo Episode about my experience working with junior artists and the initiative their work misses at the beginning of their careers. I talk about anticipating your Supervisor’s notes, aligning yourself with the director’s vision and taking pride in your work. It’s about having a better outlook.

Please take a few minutes to share this Episode with others.

Let’s dive in!



[01:17]  Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

[25:27] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!



[03:17] I want to go on a quick rant about working with junior artists. One of the things I think tends to be a mission for a lot of us is taking pride in your work. It may sound trivial. However, when you just take direction — and that’s all that you’re doing — there is not a lot of growth that happens. The biggest aha moments in my career happened when I examined my own behavior. When a Supervisor would come by my desk and tell me to make the effect 10% bigger and I would just do it. I wasn’t thinking about what they were asking, I wasn’t thinking for myself. A lot of the time when you’re starting out, you aren’t doing that until it becomes an issue. Then you end up being micromanaged because you aren’t thinking for yourself. You aren’t looking at what the client might be looking for. 



[03:43] As a Supervisor, I am aware that you may be just starting out. I’m not expecting you to be amazing at everything. But I often ask the junior artists, “What do you think about this?” A lot of students in my Mentorship will hear me say that. I want them to recognize what they need to work on. But when I get an answer, “That looks good” and it doesn’t, I know they just want my approval. I struggle with seeing that because it seems that you don’t care. In general, the more you take pride in your work, the more you’re able to take an initiative, the more wins you get. When I was starting out, I would take direction but then I would try other things and give my Producer options. And it trickled down to my Supervisor who wrote an email to me, “Congratulations on hitting the ground running!”

[07:44] These are the little nuances you can do. I used to make logos and I didn’t take pride in that work. I remember being pulled aside and being told, “This is the worst logo I’ve ever seen.” It was a huge lesson for me: Even if I didn’t care about the job, I had to take pride in my own work. Since then, I would try to align myself with the director’s vision. It’s part of the process to take notes and take feedback. I do think that some of you are just waiting for the approval, which is the wrong idea. Whether you care or not, the client does. No matter what it is, you have to take pride in your work.

[10:49] These days, no matter the job, I’m always going to find something fun or challenging in a job. I’m going to take responsibility. It’s also about the experience. I care more about the relationship with the people I’m working with. I want to make sure they have confidence in me. I also want to make them look good in front of their client. As long as they look good, they will appreciate that about me and want to work with me again in the future. 



[11:56] Taking pride in your work and in the process is so critical! You want to have people want to work with you again. If you don’t get it — if you still don’t care — that is an issue for me, if you’re working with me. As an artist, I’m always looking at timing and hitting all the right beats. If these things aren’t in place, it doesn’t matter how good or cool a shot looks. Correcting something takes 10 times more time. I wish people cared more about the process and how they fit in with everyone else. If it feels wrong or silly, I am going to lose confidence in you. 

[14:44] This seems like simple stuff. It goes back to the idea of self-management. You have to anticipate the notes. Evaluate if the shot is good enough to show to the rest of the team. I would rather hire someone who delivers and gives me their own educated opinion — and they get it — than someone who makes things look cool or complicated. It took me a long time to pinpoint what bothered me about that: And it’s that a junior artist doesn’t take pride in his or her work. The more you align yourself with the needs of the person you’re performing the service for, the more everything comes into an alignment. 

[17:08] So think about:

  • What can you do to make a better product?
  • What can you do to make a better shot?
  • What else can you do to make this something you could be proud of?
  • What if you went ahead and made an additional version of this, which is entirely yours, just to present them with an option?

[17:46] But more than anything, it’s about being able to think for yourself and do that without being high maintenance. This is more of a rant that comes from my experience as a Supervisor. Before that, when I was a junior artist myself, it took me a while to get it. But once I did, it changed everything. I would also make sure to communicate if I’ve underestimated how long a shot would take. If I say I’m going to deliver — I’m going to do it. Once I started doing that, I was invited into meetings or the Flame Suite with the team. The difference in how I was being treated was obvious.



[19:29] I saw a video recently by an artist who refused to work for studios because he didn’t feel that he had any creative control. That sounded insane to me! The person was obviously a junior artist. He hated working for a studio and whenever the studio would give him notes, he would just deliver what they asked and figure out how to do less work. That’s where taking pride in what you do is so important! If you don’t, you shouldn’t do this work. Now, working from home — for yourself — is great once you’ve gotten to a certain level. But don’t do it just so that you have the so-called “complete creative control”. That doesn’t exist. The only time it exists is when a client doesn’t know what they’re asking for; because they themselves don’t care about how the product looks. If a client / studio cares, they’re going to be very hands-on. They’re a professional team of people! It’s so important to recognize that. If you want to work with amature clients, you may get some creative control. 

[24:17] Taking pride in your work and doing something that aligns with your client is where you want to find yourself. If you’re wondering why you aren’t getting the opportunities you want, it may be because you don’t recognize that your work isn’t there yet. You’re sending your reel out and you think that it’s really great. Which is why it’s important for you to focus on a couple shots that are really great, compile a killer reel — and get that job! 


I hope you enjoyed this Episode. Thanks for listening! There will be more solo Episodes coming up. 

Please take a few minutes to share this Episode with others.

Next week, I have a really cool interview coming up with Clinton Jones who, until recently, was working at Corridor Digital. We talk about how to leave a job successfully.

Until next week — 

Rock on!


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