Episode 378 – Advice for Entry Level Artists


Episode 378 – Advice for Entry Level Artists 

At the beginning of your VFX career, things can seem so hard and so stressful. As a junior VFX Artist, you may feel like everyone is out to get you. Here are some powerful mindset shifts that will change your outlook and how you feel about your career.

A lot of artists have a struggling artist mentality. Once you understand that you’re in a commercial industry – and you are a commercial industry of Hollywood movies and AAA games – you also understand that your client’s vision is the most important. It is your job to deliver the result. As a VFX artist, you are in a service industry. Which means that your project is a director’s vision and you have to respect that.

Another shift happens when you over-communicate everything. You have to communicate to your Producers or Heads of 3D – where you are in your progress and where you’re storing the files. It’s a great habit to get into the habit of communicating that information at the end of the day, via an email. That way you’re creating a massive log of your work. Another part of effective communication is building a visual language. Directors can communicate in different ways. As a VFX artist, you need to learn to use reference images, mood boards and other visual tools to get your message across. 

It is also crucial to see the big picture from the very beginning. So as an artist, you have to start with broad strokes. After you understand the importance of blocking the beats out in animation, for example. You can dial things back early on – and only then start zeroing in on details. Which also means that you share your work early on. You should also get used to foreseeing the needs of the client – by giving them options in response to their notes.

Learning how to critique your own work is the most valuable thing you can do. That will change everything for you. You will start taking pride in your work. It’ll also help you anticipate the next creative changes a client might request next. But most importantly, you must take pride in everything that you touch! It is the most important metric for you as an artist and team member!

In this career advice, Allan McKay talks about the mindset shifts that will propel your VFX career forward: from learning that you’re in a service industry to seeing the big picture; from learning to communicate to anticipating the client’s or the director’s needs; from learning to critique your own work – to, most importantly, taking pride in everything you touch!



Hi, everyone! 

This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 378! We’re going to get into some critical advice from early on in my career. This is valuable information that will benefit you, no matter where in your career you are!

Looking back at my career, this is what really moved my career forward – from begging supervisors to approve my work to being invited into the Flame suite – and this is the information that I’ve been applying ever since.

The massive mindset shifts that changed my career are:

  • VFX is a commercial industry – and you are a commercial artist;
  • It’s imperative to over-communicate everything;
  • It’s important to build a visual language between you and the Director;
  • You have to learn to be an active listener – and anticipate the needs of the client;
  • Why starting with broad strokes – not wasting time on details – saves you time;
  • Giving options to the client serves the bigger picture, in the end;
  • The sooner your arrive at the standard of “real” – the sooner you achieve consensus;
  • Why critiquing your own work holds you accountable;
  • And most importantly: Taking pride in everything that you touch makes you a great artist and team member.

Let’s dive in!



[01:29]  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!

[1:11:44] 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!


Okay, what did you think? Let me know if you’d like to hear more career advice like this. 

Next week, I’m sitting down with Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri. Kim talks about his groundbreaking work on the Bullet Time technology for THE MATRIX, why innovation is a must in a film career, performance art and interactivity, the evolution of digital humans – and why greatness cannot be achieved without randomness.

Until next week –

Rock on!


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