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    Question Seeking advice on career juncture! Freelance vs. Studio. Animation vs. VideoGames

    Hey Folks!

    Hope this is a good place to post this. Got a bit of a 'Cake or Pie' situation on my hands and I'm aware it's a fortunate place to be, but it makes this decision no less difficult. Thought other artists out there might be able to offer some insight.

    I'm a visual artist with a bit of a nomadic background. 29 years old, studied illustration, bounced around a bit, lived/worked abroad and neglected a traditional career path in favor of exploring the boundaries of my creative interests. Eventually came to NY and been here for a few years now, supported myself as an Art Handler while pursuing various creative projects. Done lots of fun stuff, been in a few exhibitions, and had many small jobs along the way but nothing permanent. Over time I've managed to cobble together a portfolio featuring mostly Animation, Art Direction and Production Art for Film/TV/Video.

    Lately I've found my work opportunities have been improving. Got a break about a year ago when I was hired to lead a small animation department at a web start up and was able to stop Art Handling. Loved the job but it only lasted for about 9 months til the budget ran out. Around the same time I got a new gig doing an animated music video for an increasingly popular indie rock act. The video is nearly finished and my clients are pleased - so pleased that they want to commission a short film featuring their tunes. Other interesting freelance opportunities are coming forward as well. With the new work I've been doing it seems I'm entering a new professional tier and hit some sort of knee in the curve... but now I have a new option to consider.

    While searching for new gigs, I shot a resume to a reputable video game company in another city applying for a temp summer job. My brother and some friends work there and really love it. The position was filled but they liked my work and kept me on file, this past week they offered me another position - this one not so temporary. It's entry level but still creative, decent pay, benefits, etc. Taking this job would mean lots of change - entering a different industry, moving to a new city, and beginning an ascent on the corporate ladder. I'd be learning new skills, working around other creative people (atm I just work out of a home studio) and have the comfort of a steady paycheck. Feels like I've been aiming for something like this to happen but now that my freelance has become increasingly interesting, it's become a difficult choice.

    People respect my creative vision and I'm getting projects with more responsibility. I've developed a network here and feel very lucky to have survived as an independent artist and have reached this point. Feels like hanging in there might lead to even more unique opportunities. But in the face of this 'real job', continuing this track seems like a gamble. I'm not opposed to eventually committing myself to a studio but ideally I would be 'in between projects'. I know life rarely times things like that...

    I am trying to rationalize that there will be other 'real job' opportunities in the future (this is sort of my first one...) and how often does a rad electro band ask you to direct and animate a short film for them? Plus I venture my job opportunities will improve by completing this and other projects... I could try doing both, moonlighting as a freelancer on my off hours but I have no idea how that would impact my passion / production / free time. Or I could stay here, capitalize on my current situation, amp up my studio output with some assistants and see what happens.

    Any other professionals gone through something similar? Working in a studio vs. freelancing? Video Games vs. Animation industry? Anything I'm not recognizing? All advice is appreciated, Thanks peeps.

    TL;DR - I have a job opportunity at a sweet video game company but it would mean giving up the momentum and projects I've worked hard to obtain as a freelance artist over the past 5 years.


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    I would do both...for now. It sounds like there isn't a conflict of interest and you can just tell the VG company you have some things you need to finish for clients. The position at the VG company sounds pretty nice, with your brother and friends already there - it doesn't get much better. Video games are a lot of fun, if you're at the right studio and with a good team - and it never really slowed or hindered my own creative path. To be honest I'm sure it enhanced it because it allowed me to invest in equipment, books, materials, classes, travel and technology I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. This seemed to be the same for many of my friends and peers as well.

    Just my two cents.
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    With the advent of the Internet, there's really no reason why you can't do both, except maybe time management. But that's more on your preference and if you have the discipline to do so.

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    Yeah been considering doing both. Won't be giving up this short film opportunity, but there are other jobs which I'd only have the opportunity to do in NYC. For example I'm looking at an opportunity to co-develop a kid's show pilot! Arg.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DouglasEinar View Post
    Yeah been considering doing both. Won't be giving up this short film opportunity, but there are other jobs which I'd only have the opportunity to do in NYC. For example I'm looking at an opportunity to co-develop a kid's show pilot! Arg.
    99% chance the videogame company contract will state that any and all work done while in the employ of the company will become the property of the company, including personal projects. The contract will also state a period of time after you leave the company where everything you do becomes theirs (usually six months to a year).

    I think you are nuts to work at a videogame company with all of the cool shit you have going on. Videogames are a creative dead end.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    99% chance the videogame company contract will state that any and all work done while in the employ of the company will become the property of the company, including personal projects. The contract will also state a period of time after you leave the company where everything you do becomes theirs (usually six months to a year).
    Wha? We have a contract kinda like that, but that only refers to stuff done for the projects, and absolutely nothing done as personal projects. As in, if you do work for the company project at your free time and present it as such, that will be seen as part of the company stuff, but they won't claim your personal pet projects or freelance stuff. What would a videogame company even do with a bunch of unrelated stuff?

    And what the hell for the second part? That's generally related that you can't work for a straight competitor (especially if you're aware of the future releases etc that the competitor can use for their advantage), not that you'd have to give your actual work.
    Sorry to say but what a load of bullshit you just wrote.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    99% chance the videogame company contract will state that any and all work done while in the employ of the company will become the property of the company, including personal projects. The contract will also state a period of time after you leave the company where everything you do becomes theirs (usually six months to a year).

    I think you are nuts to work at a videogame company with all of the cool shit you have going on. Videogames are a creative dead end.
    Those contracts have been proven invalid; they were challenged in CA ten years ago and lost. You can't take work that someone creates on their own time for non-related work. Just do what you want and don't tell anybody your business.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    99% chance the videogame company contract will state that any and all work done while in the employ of the company will become the property of the company, including personal projects. The contract will also state a period of time after you leave the company where everything you do becomes theirs (usually six months to a year).

    I think you are nuts to work at a videogame company with all of the cool shit you have going on. Videogames are a creative dead end.
    Nope. Not only is this incorrect, your contract is negotiable. You own all IP rights for anything previous to your employment there, or currently in development, as long as there is no conflict of interest (obviously you wouldn't go to work in house at a company while doing a bunch of concept stuff for Blizzard for example). You also own all IP rights to other creative endeavors (that are yours to own of course) not related to the video game industry; ie: illustration, fine art, and I would say an animated film for a band.

    Edit: When negotiating a contract you simply line through the stuff you don't agree to. Yes, you usually get to meet the head of legal counsel at that point and discuss the contract thoroughly, come to an understanding that is often spelled out as an appendix item, sign it and everyone is then very clear. This is all a good thing. It also tends to earn respect.

    @Ryan: I think you'd be nuts for not going to work for a steady paycheck and benefits at a solid company with your brother and friends. Allowing you to still do side projects as your time and energy allow.

    And since when did video games become a creative dead end Ryan? I loved making them and found the career to be full of interesting creative opportunities and energy. Far more than film or animation in my experience for sure.
    Last edited by JeffX99; July 11th, 2011 at 03:49 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Nope. Not only is this incorrect, your contract is negotiable. You own all IP rights for anything previous to your employment there, or currently in development, as long as there is no conflict of interest (obviously you wouldn't go to work in house at a company while doing a bunch of concept stuff for Blizzard for example). You also own all IP rights to other creative endeavors (that are yours to own of course) not related to the video game industry; ie: illustration, fine art, and I would say an animated film for a band.

    Edit: When negotiating a contract you simply line through the stuff you don't agree to. Yes, you usually get to meet the head of legal counsel at that point and discuss the contract thoroughly, come to an understanding that is often spelled out as an appendix item, sign it and everyone is then very clear. This is all a good thing. It also tends to earn respect.

    @Ryan: I think you'd be nuts for not going to work for a steady paycheck and benefits at a solid company with your brother and friends. Allowing you to still do side projects as your time and energy allow.

    And since when did video games become a creative dead end Ryan? I loved making them and found the career to be full of interesting creative opportunities and energy. Far more than film or animation in my experience for sure.
    I DID work for a steady paycheck in the games industry for ten years. Yaaaawwwwwnnnnnn. Boring.

    I have four contracts that I signed over a ten year period. All of them contain a clause that all work done in my spare time is property of the company. These companies were two major publishers, one well known RPG developer, and one shitty budget developer.

    There is a section on each contract for claims to previously developed IP and patents. I didn't say previous work would belong to the company.

    I also had to sign non-compete agreements at each company. One required me not to work on any form of digital media within a 50 km radius of the city. Another required that I not work on any racing games for six months after I left.

    The real test is to ask for a copy of the contract you are required to sign. and take it to a lawyer. But how many people do that?

    I think videogames are a creative dead end. That's just my personal taste. If working on the next FPS or MMORPG or whatever is exciting to you, go for it.

    Douglas is someone with so much more potential than to work on a videogame. He is developing his own independent body of work that he can have ownership over. It's HIS work. People are coming to him for his creative vision. Giving that up to grind away in the videogame industry is just sad. Plus he's in NYC, how cool is that?

    Shoot for the moon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    I DID work for a steady paycheck in the games industry for ten years. Yaaaawwwwwnnnnnn. Boring.
    Me too...only it has been twenty years. I really enjoyed it...tehn again I moved into positions where I was designing and art directing more than just doing production art. Even that wasn't too bad though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    I have four contracts that I signed over a ten year period. All of them contain a clause that all work done in my spare time is property of the company. These companies were two major publishers, one well known RPG developer, and one shitty budget developer.
    Ditto. For me it was EA and then 3DO (founded by Trip Hawkins). They can contain whatever clause they want, and the signee can line through it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    There is a section on each contract for claims to previously developed IP and patents. I didn't say previous work would belong to the company.
    That's correct, and usually you have to provide some additional description of said IP in an addendum or appendix.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    I also had to sign non-compete agreements at each company. One required me not to work on any form of digital media within a 50 km radius of the city. Another required that I not work on any racing games for six months after I left.
    I never had to sign anything like that and wouldn't have. That is absurd.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    The real test is to ask for a copy of the contract you are required to sign. and take it to a lawyer. But how many people do that?
    I certainly had a copy of any contract or NDA I ever signed. Didn't run them by a lawyer but it wasn't that tricky.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    I think videogames are a creative dead end. That's just my personal taste. If working on the next FPS or MMORPG or whatever is exciting to you, go for it.
    Fair enough. What I enjoyed about them is you become involved in a wide variety of creative tasks, research and problem solving: vehicles, weapons systems, architecture, history, future possibility, physics, geology, botany, creature design, etc. Far more than you encounter in film or animation where you tend to work on one thing for the duration of a project. I also enjoy the challenge of the interactivity vs. linear entertainment. Just me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    Douglas is someone with so much more potential than to work on a videogame. He is developing his own independent body of work that he can have ownership over. It's HIS work. People are coming to him for his creative vision. Giving that up to grind away in the videogame industry is just sad. Plus he's in NYC, how cool is that?
    That's great...my point was that he can probably continue that in tandem with the video game career. Which brings us back to the point where you're wrong about them owning anything you do. They have to A) care, and B) prove that what you do on your own directly relates to the company.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan_B View Post
    Shoot for the moon.
    Absolutely...you can always walk away.
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    I feel what Ryan is saying though as far as "creative dead end" goes. I swear, the bigger the developer, the more like shit I felt. I work at a small casual developer now and I actually feel like I can maintain this career. SOME* companies do have a way of destroying people. It's not surprising to me to see someone express that openly.

    Different people equal different experiences.
    To the OP, I'd say try out the game developer! What's the most you could lose to try? I'm sure you'll be able to pick right back up with your freelance if you decide it isn't for you. It's not like if you make this one choice, the rest of your life must continue forth with that choice.


    *Not all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dusty View Post
    I feel what Ryan is saying though as far as "creative dead end" goes. I swear, the bigger the developer, the more like shit I felt. I work at a small casual developer now and I actually feel like I can maintain this career. SOME* companies do have a way of destroying people. It's not surprising to me to see someone express that openly.

    Different people equal different experiences.
    To the OP, I'd say try out the game developer! What's the most you could lose to try? I'm sure you'll be able to pick right back up with your freelance if you decide it isn't for you. It's not like if you make this one choice, the rest of your life must continue forth with that choice.


    *Not all.
    Sure, that has become a problem I know, I was lucky in that I always worked with small, outstanding, hardcore teams on projects I wanted to work on. Four of us did the original Road Rash. About eight of us did Jungle Strike, EA's first 16bit cart. The minute they forced me into something I didn't want to do I walked away. Probably not the smartest career move I ever made but...I couldn't do it any other way.

    The larger the project the less freedom...or the higher you have to be on the totem pole. Which is similar to film and animation which is why I compare them.

    But yeah, last paragraph Dusty is all I was trying to say.

    Edit: Oh, except to point out the misinformation on contracts.
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