Computer Graphics World

Education Supplement 2009

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other companies, we were hit by the economy, so, of course, that has impacted us from [an employee] retention perspective," she says. Nicola also notes that the increase in the number of artists out of work and, thus, looking for work is not the ideal situation for recruiters that it might seem. "With a down economy and a high unemployment rate, it actually becomes more difficult to source because the volume of active seekers is extremely high and quality continues to vary," she explains. It is also more difficult to hire talent from pre-existing situations, she continues, because people are warier about making such changes. And those who want to relocate sometimes can't because they cannot sell their homes. Independent recruiters are in a special situation to see the big picture. Chris Scanlon, account manager for Digital Artist Management, a recruiting agency that specializes in interactive entertainment (games), says, "Right now, things have slowed down a bit. Team sizes are smaller than in the past." Whereas previously a project team might consist of 70 or 80 people, now an average number is closer to 50, he points out. Debra Blanchard, president of Fringe Talent, an agency focusing on visual effects and animation artists for the film industry, notes that although many animated films are being made, "it's harder and harder to find a film like a Lion King or Shrek [that is a huge box-office success]. Because studios are receiving more modest returns on animated films, "they work to keep the budget low so there's a better return on investment." In talking with recruiters both inside and outside of studios, Computer Graphics World/Post observed the following trends: Should They Stay or Go? Perhaps the biggest change that the new economy has wrought is an increase in contract, rather than permanent, hiring. Although studios Double Negative in the UK has been busier than usual, with a range of projects, including last year's Hellboy II. ©2008 Universal Studios have for years ramped up hires for big projects and ramped down in between, that tendency is now more pronounced. "In the past," explains Day, "it was more cost-effective to keep artists between projects, but now it's less so. We work hard to retain people between projects," she continues, "but in this economy, we have to remain competitive." "Lately, there are fewer and fewer places where you can hang your hat for the rest of your career," says Blanchard. "More and more people are coming in on a project basis." Although, she stresses, "staff still does happen." And, she was seeing this trend even before the economy took a nosedive. The other side of the coin, she notes, is that it's good to hang onto people. If you don't retain a certain number of staff, continuity suffers. In general, studios are eager to retain staff insomuch as that is possible. At ILM, freelancers and per-project employees are hired for specific undertakings to supplement staff as needed. The situation is the same at EA, says Nicola. Freelancers are brought in to augment, rather than replace, staff. Pixar does not tend to use freelancers, according to Pam Harbidge, senior recruiter at the studio. "We work with a set staff and typically hire for full-time staff positions." On 15

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