My Life as a Cartoon Network Intern (and how I think you can Intern in Animation too!)
Over this past summer, I was given the amazing opportunity to be a Production Intern at Cartoon Network (I worked on Clarence; woo!)
Every once in a while I get people who either come up to me in person, or who message me on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram etc. and ask me how I got the opportunity, and how they can intern in animation as well. Recently (Over the course of the last week or so) I’ve been asked a bunch, so I decided to create this massive master post in an attempt to get the information out to as many artists (and non-artists) as possible!
I know a lot of people who feel like getting into the animation industry is completely impossible, (I should know, I felt the exact same way not too long ago) and I also know just how LITTLE references there actually are on finding an internship, and beyond that, the type of experiences that people who gotten the chance to intern have had. I told myself that if I got the internship, I would try to change that, and here we are! (A little late, but I really want to make this as helpful as possible)
If you all could please Reblog this to your followers I would love it! You never know who’s looking and hopefully, I can help people with my experiences!
So to make it easier for people who don’t have the time to read all of my ramblings, AND for the sake of ease/reference; I’m going to break this post up into different sections: My Internship search- My initial excitement/rejections -How I got the internship - My experience as an Intern and How Interning has helped me as an artist
My Internship search:
Halfway through last year (My Sophomore year of college) I had decided that I would take a leap of faith and apply for some internships. I didn’t expect much of it, but my hopes were high because I thought I had at least a halfway decent portfolio, and my resume had some pretty okay animation experience on it (I’m the head of the only Animation organization on campus) and I’m majoring in animation so I had some 3D experience and 2D experience (which I’ve worked on on my own time, since it’s what I want to do)
One of my biggest worries was the fact that I go to a state school: Southern Illinois University. The school is great, and I love it there, but I couldn’t afford art school, so I was very worried about how many opportunities there would be for me in Southern Illinois. Especially with the amount of amazing art that I see coming from people who go to schools like CalArs, Sheridan and the like. I was frustrated because I wasn’t there and felt like I would never get the opportunity to work in animation, which has been my dream since I could hold a pencil. Cartoons have changed my life, and they still do; but I was genuinely afraid that because I couldn’t afford a more art-related education, that I wouldn’t get the opportunity to tell stories like I’ve always dreamed. (But I digress)
As I was saying: I was doing all of your standard (I want/need a job) searches to try to find something in animation: Glassdoor, Internships.com, JOBS.com; stuff like that. FUN FACT: I’ve read every single Glassdoor review for both Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Every Job. All of them.
Some internships are a lot easier to find: Nickelodeon, Disney, Titmouse
While some are WAAAAAY more elusive: Cartoon Network…
This narrowed my search down from a bunch of animation studios.. to a handful. My candidates were: Nickelodeon, Dreamworks and Titmouse. (All wonderful animation studios!) Now here’s where it gets interesting:
My initial excitement/Rejections:
I didn’t hear back from any of them! NOT ONE. Which I learned after a very long, VERY stressful waiting period. (At this time it was early to mid April)Now; I knew that I was really too young to be applying for the internships, (I’m young for my grade so I was 19 at the time) And I knew that all of these internships specified that they wanted a Junior or above, but I figured since the year was almost over and I had good grades that MAYBE, they would let me slide. But I had no real experience working in animation, and although my hopes were high, they were also reeeeeeeal low.
After waiting for the few weeks that I did, and not hearing a peep, I was dejected, frustrated, and I felt like there was no hope for me… Which leads us to…
HOW I GOT THE INTERNSHIP:
When it comes to how I actually GOT the job: The answer I want to give you guys is that it was complete luck, and that by a series of random occurrences, somehow I was offered the position…. BUT, that’s only half true. Honestly, I worked really hard on making sure that I had as good a résumé as I possibly could:
By that, I mean that I’ve worked really hard in school to get good grades/dean’s list/honors program, etc.; and I also started an animation organization on campus. (There’s a major, but there was a huge lack of enthusiasm and community within the program at SIU so I wanted to help to bring other artists and myself closer, and make great art while we’re at it)
On top of that, I wrote (what I think was) a really good cover letter. But… Even with all three of those things, I don’t know if I would have gotten the position if it wasn’t for the internship coordinator at my school. I go to Southern Illinois University, and she pointed me in the direction of the Cartoon Network internship. (The Turner website isn’t like Nickelodeon, they only post internships when there’s a position to be filled)
LUCKILY for me, the Producer of Clarence (The wonderful Keith Mack) is an alum from SIU, so he connected with the internship coordinator (bless her heart) and I learned exactly when the position opened up. My resume and things got sent straight to him. I got a Skype interview a couple of weeks later, and I got accepted the day of the interview!
So I mean… Looking back, it was half luck, half hard work.
It’s not like the grades and stuff really matter outside of college; Grades are just arbitrary letters, after all. But, I say that to say that I’ve tried to work hard in college even though I’m not at an art school, and that if you’re focused, it doesn’t really matter WHAT you’re good at; but how hard you work and the type of person you are. You can never go to college but be an amazing artist and an amazing person, and if you meet that ONE right person, or if you’re at that ONE correct place at the correct time; amazing things can happen; and I FIRMLY believe that.
While I was at CN I was talking to someone (I don’t know if it’s best to call her out by name?..) But anyway she was telling me about how some of the artists are found at CN and she told me that Tumblr, YES TUMBLR. Is a HUUUUUUUUGE factor in the hiring of some people! So if you can… POST POST POST! Putting your art out there is the absolute best way to get seen. You NEVER know who’s looking at your artwork, and this website is an amazing platform for sharing, and learning about art. (And as a shameless plug: The blog Artists-Everyday is actually meant for just that ;) check it ouuuuut)
But moving forward; let’s talk about:
The interview to be an intern at CN was both really intimidating, and really comfortable at the same time. I love animation pretty much more than anything, so the idea that a single interview could determine whether or not I got a life-changing opportunity was pretty much one of the most daunting things that I could think of. The fact that I was in southern Illinois RIGHT at the time that I would have had to interview really didn’t help either… It was really scary to me, because it meant that I wasn’t going to be able to interview in person. It was a Skype interview, (a group one at that) and it was my first time ever interviewing for a position online.
Once I got past all of the initial fear, the interview was smooth sailing. They had already seen my resume and cover letter; so we really just spent a lot of time talking about casual things: my favorite animated movie, what my favorite episode of Clarence was, etc. It wasn’t like your usual interview where they ask “why would we hire you” or “what is your greatest weakness” and I really appreciated that. They weren’t robots, they weren’t the ANIMATION GODS like I was imagining in my head – they were actual people, who happen to love animation, and the interview reflected that.
I learned that I had gotten the position the day that I interviewed, and I’m SO GLAD I didn’t have to wait any more days, because at that point I was on fire on the inside. II don’t know what the hiring process was like for interns on different shows, so don’t take my word for how long it’ll take if you make it this far)
MY EXPERIENCE AS AN INTERN/HOW IT’S HELPED ME AS AN ARTIST:
There is no one word to describe how amazing it is to work at Cartoon Network. A lot of CN stuff is “hush hush” high security, and they don’t allow you to take pictures of the inside of the buildings - So I’m not going to say much, other than: It’s magic. Pure magic. But I will say one thing: Free food. AT ALL TIMES. EVERY DAY.
Working there is one of the most creatively satisfying things I’ve ever done in my life. The people, the atmosphere… it was all so inspiring. I’ve learned more in those past three months than I have in the last two years, and It’s all because I was surrounded by so many people who are better than me. People, who I might add, are some of the greatest, nicest, and most helpful people I’ve met in a long time. Plus, Cartoon Network really goes out on a limb to take care of their employees.
I got to sit in on voice actors doing their recordings, I got to see storyboard pitches, I got to see animatics and assets for episodes that were unaired, and it was all being created right in front of me by such PASSIONATE people.
I EVEN GOT TO MEET TOM KENNY. He remembered my name…
As a production intern you get to see the logistic side of things: and you really grow to appreciate Production and that side of the industry, because without the production team, there would be no show! Even though I want to be a storyboard artist, I now know more about the industry and Cartoon Network as a whole, and it makes me feel much more connected to the shows that I watch on television.
One of the other biggest things about the program is the fact that I got to take storyboard/character design tests for practice, and I got the chance to pitch a show to the studio, in front of the Clarence Crew and even some really important executives! which was an AMAZING opportunity that I learned a TON from. I got amazing feedback, and I had to push myself harder than I’ve ever pushed myself before. Mentally, artistically, and personally.
It’s possible. Being an intern at an animation studio is possible. Getting a job in animation is possible. Making friends in animation, and actually feeling like you belong to something you’ve dreamed about since you were a child is POSSIBLE. It doesn’t matter where you go to school, it doesn’t matter if you’re afraid, and it doesn’t matter what you look like. People are drawn to people who are genuine; and if you love animation, or production, or storyboarding or character design, and you work hard and try to really open yourself up artistically; you CAN do it. Take it from the 20 year old black guy who loves anime, video games and cartoons. You can do it.
I don’t know how many people will see this or how helpful it actually is; but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE feel free to share this info with your followers, and on top of that if you guys EVER have any questions about my experiences or need me to clarify anything for ANY reason you’re absolutely welcome to contact me!
I know how many people would love to intern, and I know (from experience) how DREADFUL It is to find conducive information about how the process works and how YOU can get an internship.
Hope you guys stuck with this post till the end, and like I said if you ever have any more questions, (hell, or if you even want to share YOUR art with me… I’m always open!)