Episode 313 — Sh*t I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger
Episode 313 — Sh*t I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger
In the beginning of our career, we just want traction: those quick wins that will validate us. When we get to that elite level, there are tidbits of advice from everyone else that sound stupid. But most of the things we think are stupid — at the elite level — are the biggest breakthrough of all. At the beginning of a VFX career, we all get technical. Instead, we should put our attention on that one thing that’s getting traction. Everything else is a distraction.
Technical skills can only get you so far. We will be picking all kinds of new software when we go to work at different studios anyway. Most of us are missing out on the metrics. We need to look at the problem that the studio we want to work for is trying to solve: Is it explosions? Is it character rigging? The more micro we get into that problem solving, the more we’re going to stand out because our message will be more laser focused.
In this Podcast, Allan McKay addresses the different advice artists need to hear at certain parts of their career, and compares technical skills to skills that give you a bird’s-eye view of your career — and propel it upward.
[02:54] Looking for Quick Wins
[06:44] A Career from a Bird’s-Eye View
[14:03] Technical Skills Versus Problem Solving
EPISODE 313 — SH*T I WISH I KNEW WHEN I WAS YOUNGER
Hello, everyone! This is Allan McKay.
Welcome to Episode 313! This is a solo Episode about my experience with other artists and the advice toward which they gravitate depending on where they’re in their careers. I’m excited about this one! I talk about how we want quick wins in the beginning of our career and then acquiring a bird’s-eye view later on.
Please take a few seconds to share this Episode with others.
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[01:11] 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!
[21:26] 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!
SH*T I WISH I KNEW WHEN I WAS YOUNGER
LOOKING FOR QUICK WINS
[02:54] I wanted to talk about an observation of mine that I’ve had overtime. There are a lot of things in my career I had to learn from scratch and to get good at. I’ve had a lot of wins and success through those times. Every single time, I just wanted traction in the beginning. (It’s the same with dating: We just want that winning line.) With a lot of things, we always look for quick wins. But with every single thing, once I started hitting that stride — and getting those win — I really wanted to understand how to figure it out. That’s when things changed for me.
[04:35] Further down the line when we get to that elite level, there are tidbits of advice from everyone else sounds stupid. But most of the things we think are stupid — at the elite level — are the biggest breakthrough of all. I once paid $500 to hear a speaker. Before he left his lecture, he gave one bit of advice: “Do less.” Once I started hearing “Do less” from other people, I realized that I should pay attention. It became one of the most critical things I’ve learned. For example, if we’re trying to get traction on social media, we need to find out what’s working — and do more of that (and do less of everything else). In the beginning, we all get technical. Instead, we should put our attention on that one thing that’s getting traction. Everything else is a distraction.
[05:58] When we’re starting out, we think, “That advice is stupid.” When we get to mid-level, we’re still fighting that advice. But when we get to the elite level, we’re looking for that one thing that’s going to change everything. In the beginning, we just want the hacks and the cheap wins. At the mid level, we get wins but they may be surface level. That’s when we want to start diving into figuring it out.
A CAREER FROM A BIRD’S-EYE VIEW
[06:44] I try not to talk about money because it makes people uncomfortable. But at the same time, I have talked about it more because of that. This is the best way I can talk about it. People who are making up to $50K, they’re really just dabbling. They just want the quick wins. The $50K-$100K person is the one who is looking to get some wins and get substance to what they’re learning. The $150K-$750K person is the one getting really dedicated, learning additional skills that help him or her get to their goal. The $750K+ is the person looking for that one little thing.
[08:26] Most of us in the beginning haven’t risen out of that thing we’re doing. In the beginning, we’re just footsoldiers in the battle, on the ground. We don’t get the bird’s-eye view of the battlefield. As we move up the ranks, we start to gain that altitude. I’m not talking about management (I think management can be the death of many artists, in terms of managing teams within a corporate structure). I’m talking about managing ourselves. As we start to progress up from ourselves, we start to see what we’re doing. That’s what changes everything. But it’s definitely about seeing what’s working and doing more of that.
[10:30] There was a time when I was going to produce my friend’s matte painting course. And I was talking with another friend about producing his TD course and that friend didn’t want to make a beginner course. My matte painter friend wanted to teach the basics like color theory because it’s the basics that got him to where he was. With his course, I taught him to teach the advanced stuff first because the basics [in matte painting] may be too boring. That is so critical: When learning, we have to figure out the best path to learn for us. We want to see people pre-qualify people for what they’re teaching.
TECHNICAL SKILLS VS PROBLEM SOLVING
[14:03] I started my own courses by teaching how to make explosions and pyro first. I was looking at my own career. I put way more effort into my career than I did into my skills. Skills can only get you so far. We will be picking up new software from scratch when we go to work at different studios anyway. Most of us are missing out on the metrics. We need to look at the problem that the studio we want to work for is trying to solve: Is it explosions? Is it character rigging? The more micro we get into that problem solving — the more we’re going to stand out because our message will be more laser focused.
[16:44] So that was the breakthrough for me. In the beginning, I wanted to do the shiny stuff. But what mattered the most were the other areas. For you, what’s going to matter is the mid-level stuff, like knowing your worth and knowing how to do quarterly reviews (instead of annual ones); or knowing how to lower your living expenses, for that matter. A mid-level person may not want to do four reviews a year, but a higher-level person will! The junior person would find all those reviews uncomfortable. In the long run, we start to look for real advice that would help us. It’s more about understanding the problem we need to solve (instead of learning Maya inside out). At the elite level, we start looking for that one shot that would end the war. That’s when we get ultra strategic and ultra specific.
Thank you for listening! I hope you enjoyed this Episode. Please take a moment to share it with others.
Next week, I’m sitting down with Wren Weichman from Corridor Digital (AKA @sirwrender). We talk about a lot of cool stuff.
I’ll be back next Episode. Until then —
Upload The Productive Artist e-book.
Let's Be Friends
“If only there was more time in the day”
“How do you find the time to get so much done”
“I would learn a new skill.. if I had the time”
For many of us, finding time and energy to do more is one of the hardest things we have. Time is finite and we can either be pro-active with our time, or reactive. Meaning – we are constantly running around, jumping from one thing to another, and never really feeling in control.
Allan specifically wrote this guide, after the thousands of responses he received to his contributions on productivity on his Podcast, as well as articles he’s written on the subject, and interviews he’s given.
Allan has interviewed the New York Times Best Selling Authors David Allen (Getting Things Done) and Laura Vanderkam as well as dozens of other experts on the subject – as well as applying many of his best practices.
So how does someone who runs a studio, manages multiple teams, works in production, shoots, runs a hit Podcast, writes articles, multiple courses and a mentorship and more, manage their day?
Find out, and how YOU can apply this to your work and personal life. Grab the guide (It’s FREE).
Whether you’re in games, film or design this guide is focused on giving you the answers and knowledge to confidently seek out the set-up and hardware you need to get the speed and reliability to create the most jaw-dropping visuals you can create. Without being bogged down by slow hardware, or investing in the wrong areas that ‘cost a fortune’ and don’t really make much of an impact on speed and stability.
Allan goes through how to start TODAY applying many unique approaches to building a successful career, and taking control of your year so far.
Gain access to the free guide, videos and other resources now.
From learning to front load your pay raise, to hosting networking events and positioning you as an authority. Allan goes through many tactics and ways to take control, and make this your BEST YEAR YET!
How much should I charge?
If I ask too much, will I scare them off?
What are the key things that I’m doing wrong?
Money, negotiating, probably two words that build the most tension just at the thought of, other than public speaking.
This guide was designed for Artists – whether you’re a Designer, Illustrator, Matte Painter, Animator, FX, whatever! We all need to get hired for productions, and we all need to get what we’re worth.
But, most of are afraid of missing the mark, and scaring away our employers. Or, just not sure how to even start the conversation. Worse, we’re not sure what we’re actually worth, or we just plain don’t want to be in a tense back and forth negotiation.
Realistically – a good negotiator never needs to haggle, they never have a moment of tension, they never are in an uncomfortable situation. It’s actually very seamless, easy and kind of fun. But, it does require understanding many of the fundamentals that this guide covers in-depth. Negotiating your worth the wrong way can cost you tens of thousands of dollars per year, and it’s the most critical thing we all shouldn’t ignore.
Get the guide now, and never leave money on the table again!