Yes! The only reason I’ve been struggling financially ever is because I’m trying my darnedest to pay down my student loans within four years.
To give you an idea: my half of rent each month is about $750 (Pretty affordable for NYC. That’s also luck and shitloads of research and stalking rental listings. A lot of people live in NJ or something to commute and can pay even less than that.)
How much I pay towards my student loans each month is $700-1000.
But I’m also doing much much better than when I was in school! I had scholarships and maxxed out federal student loans each year, always had to beg financial aid for any extra I could possibly get and that still wasn’t enough to cover the left over tuition costs. I went to school full time, had to keep my GPA up to continue qualifying for my scholarships but also had to work multiple part time jobs to pay for my monthly tuition costs. And those monthly costs weren’t just a couple hundred. Sometimes I had to come up with around $1200. And that was just tuition! I’m very very lucky my partner basically fed me throughout our entire time at SVA.
I’m still amazed that I somehow pulled that off. My time at college is kind of a big blur because of it, though. And I’m so much happier now that I only have to worry about one job and just paying my regular bills. I think that’s the reason why I haven’t tried taking up the freelance route here in NY and if for some reason Titmouse NY shut down or made cuts or something and I was no longer employed with them, I would most likely move out to California myself.
You really just need to figure out what you’re comfortable with! I know I could do freelance in NY and make that work and be successful. And I know people who do that very successfully and that wouldn’t like working at a decently sized animation studio. Both are valid decisions but I wouldn’t be as comfortable doing only freelance and them visa versa.
My best advice for when you graduate is to just keep asking yourself questions to figure out what you want. Don’t feel pressure that there is a certain tract that you are supposed to follow once you’re out of school. You might not even want to go into animation and instead what to go into other artistic routes. That’s totally cool too! Just explore. You might have to start off doing stuff that you thought you’d be cool doing and it turns out you don’t like it so much. That’s fine! Don’t feel like it’s a mistake or a waste of your time because even if something doesn’t work out, you’ll be one step closer to figuring out what you do want to do. Keep asking yourself “If I do this, will it make me happy? If no, what are my alternatives?” If you aren’t sure, do it anyways. Try it out and see.
I’ve never even been to California. (Trying to plan a trip next year actually!) But I also recognize my experience in NY Animation is still young. I can tell you my own personal experience.
Thesis year I was able to finish my thesis film up a little bit earlier than the deadline. So I got in contact with Titmouse and took a clean up test. While I was waiting to hear back I got in touch with Rauch Bros as a friend of mine had just started working with them (she was also in her thesis year) I interviewed and started interning with them then I guess I was doing a good job they hired me!
I worked with them for a few months and got to learn a lot and work on a lot of great projects. But as they are a smaller studio, they didn’t necessarily need me in more creative aspects so a lot of the work I was doing was production and comp related. When Titmouse emailed me again to see if I was available to work I decided to take it, because I wanted to get back into the artistic aspects of animation.
So I’ve been working at Titmouse since July 2012! I started as clean up, moved up to animator after about a year. I’m learning crap loads. I’ve got to work on Motorcity, The Killers music video, Turbo tv show, Superjail, China IL.
I’m pretty happy right now with where I am and I’m thankful I’ve been able to work so consistently since graduation but this is only one aspect of NY animation.
I have friends that do strictly freelance work and they are making that work for them very successfully also! It’s hard in the beginning but as you work with people and assuming you do a good job you start to build your reputation and get called back or recommended for future projects. The more you work the more work will become available.
I do not know what working in California is like so I really can’t compare the two but my understanding is that there is way more work available in California. New York is harder and more bare. It feels like a battle in the beginning and after graduating and working hard and realizing you’ll have to start paying loan payments and all this other stuff on top of everything else, sometimes people just don’t want to deal with that struggle. And that’s totally fuckin’ valid. You graduate and most people don’t feel like they have any connection to the industry and don’t know where to start. Connections are very important! Try and find ways to involve yourself in the community. Go to events, think about internships, try to keep in touch with people.
I’ve worked very very hard but on top of that hard work, I also feel like a lot of it has to do with luck and timing.
tldr; California has more work it seems.
national moment of silence 2014 (for victims of police brutality)
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