With the on-going cinematic war between Marvel and DC Comics graphic novels – and their on-screen potential – are in the spotlight more than ever before. But what’s the appeal? Is it simply brand recognition? Or is it perhaps the ability to create a rich universe for your (multiple) stories to unfold in? Additional marketing and revenue possibilities? Whatever it is, it’s worth taking a closer look.
Federico Ponce may not yet be a household name outside a tight-knit Motion Graphics circle in Los Angeles, but chances are you know his work nevertheless. As a visual artist and creative director, he has designed the title art for movies like Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, District 9, The Twilight Saga and many more. He has also designed a handful of your favorite movie trailers and directed numerous commercials. And now he’s working on his narrative directorial debut, Sebastian: The Slumberland Odyssey – all of which he’ll be telling you more about in the video below.
In this video – part of a series with Federico and other filmmakers – he talks about how his elaborate Sebastian story came about – and why he decided to create a graphic novel for the story as well. Something many first-time filmmakers could take a cue from.
Read Transcript “How Do You Find Work as a Freelancer?”
Federico: For motion graphics it’s been sort of a wild, a wild experience because there’s no set system, you know, there’s not unified board, just a few blogs here and there, and there’s some major blogs that do a service of, you know, offering the job posts. But, you know, you’ve got to think that there’s around two, three thousand artists in LA and then maybe like six, seven thousand artists in the US, or ten thousand. And they’re all going to these blogs, so, you know, producers get bombarded with this kind of stuff.
Federico: So it’s not really like I’ve very viable. And a lot of finding jobs in the industry is like dating. It’s very hard to get a first day, you know, because if they don’t, if the company know you, it’s very hard to get in there. Even, your work may be brilliant, but what I’ve seen in my experience is that people are willing to compromise quality a little bit if you’re easy to work with and you’re a nice person. Nobody wants to deal with a diva and nobody wants to deal with a diva at three o’clock in the morning when the project’s due.
Federico: So as far as finding work, yeah, there’s the job posts and there’s the blogs and that’s good, but I think the most powerful tool that you have as a freelancer is your reputation. Just be a good person, be extremely professional, help as many people as you can on your way and it all comes back to you.
Federico: I haven’t, you know, keep a good reel, which is something very hypocritical of me to say because I have a terrible reel. I have barely update it, it’s just I don’t have time. That’s the deal, but, usually what happens is, you know, if I have a really good friend, and I know he’s really good at something, I’ll refer him to a job. And then he’ll go there and he’ll perform really well and then they’ll remember him and they’ll remember me. So then they’ll say, “Hey, your friend was really great, you know, we’re done with what he was doing but would you like to come in and do something else?” That sort of passes on.
Federico: I’d say, yeah, like, just have a very strong network of friends and like I said, I think if I can say that again, just, reputation. Just be very professional. Be very good at what you’re doing. It’s almost like, too, like being a professional athlete in a way, because there is a lot of mental, there’s taxing on your brain and it’s very easy to be a good artist and a good person at three o’clock when you’re rested and the project’s going well, that’s fine.
Federico: But how do you behave when you haven’t eaten and the computer’s crashing and it’s five o’clock in the morning and you’ve got to deliver the next day? That’s, that’s the real test. So, if you’re able to keep your cool, if you’re able to keep your professionalism, if you, the questions that you’re always answering inside your brain are, “How can I help my team?” “How can I solve?” “Can I stay later and help somebody else?” I think that that makes it. Because everybody’s talented. Talent, talent is a minimum requirement.
Federico: It’s how you behave with your team that really sets you apart. So if you do that I think enough, I think I’ve done that enough where I haven’t looked for a job on a post in fifteen years. So I think I’m doing okay. It’s all been referrals by friends. And sometimes I’ll hear somebody that I’ve never ever met say, like, they’ve heard wonderful things about me, they saw my reel, it was a marriage of both things and they want to bring me in and then I’ll go in and work with them.
Interviewer: What about, I mean, you may not know, because you haven’t done it in fifteen years, but if someone is just starting out and wants to like pursue this as a career, like, how do you, how do you get started as a freelance mograph designer?
Federico: That’s a great question. And I’m very glad that you asked that because it’s also a very difficult question. And here’s what happens, is, our market is saturated. There are so many good people already working. And then on top of that you have kids graduating from school that want to be a part of it. And it’s a ruthless industry, man, and if somebody can do the work that you can do for cheaper they’ll get them.
Federico: But if they’re not professional enough it’ll come, it’ll bite that company in the butt, right, nip in the butt. So, anyway, it’s back to your question, if you’re a student, or if you want to dedicate yourself to this, there are schools that are really good schools that offer very powerful motion graphics programs, like Otis, like the Art Center of Design in Pasadena, Savannah School of Design. There’s a lot of art schools that offer a powerful program.
Federico: I would steer away from the for-profit colleges, smaller colleges that offer you an express program, because the design and the though process behind them might not leave you as prepared as some of these schools where you have to go through four years of art education and you get a much more rounded education.
Federico: They’re not, I’m not saying that they’re bad or wimps, I’m just saying that if you had the choice go to the other colleges. But, anyways, these colleges, they have their own network of companies and they have their job events and their job fairs, so that’s like a good way to do it, to get your first job.
Federico: But I think the difficulty, and right now, you know, this might change by the time you guys post this, but, economy might change, but right now it’s a pretty good time. It wasn’t so good a few years ago. It was very difficult to find a job. But what I would say if I was a student and I was looking for a job, do not, don’t, I know that you have a lot of pressure and I know that you have to make your loans, and I know that you have to, you know, go out there and make some money quick.
Federico: But if you approach your job searching with that mentality you’re going to put yourself in a situation of abuse. You’re going to be abused by your employer. Because you’re work’s not going to be respected, your hours are not going to be respected and you’re just going to end up burning yourself pretty quick.
Federico: So, my advice, if you want to get into it, be passionate about it, go to school, create a strong network before you graduate, get to know the companies, contact them, you know, follow them, see what they’re doing, see their work and cold call. Sometimes just cold call or an email. Just go to the website and email them and say, like, “Hey, I’m looking for a job. This is my reel.” Ask about money. Like, ask your friends about money, ask you colleagues, ask your peers, ask the companies. Don’t ever be shy about asking for finances.
Federico: It might seem brash, it might seem rude, but it doesn’t matter. You have to ask. Because if you don’t ask, you might be underselling yourself, you might be overbidding and losing jobs because of that so just always ask. And like I said, don’t put yourself in a position where you say, “I’ll do anything for work.”
Federico: Because not only does that damage you as an artist and as a professional, it damages the entire industry. Because if a lot of people do that it devalues the work. So, best advice I can give you is know your worth, be fair with your own pricing. Even if you’re a student, or even if you’re a new person in the industry, always think of yourself as a professional. Think of yourself as a company, you know. Don’t ever behave like you behave at home if you’re just chilling out, because you’re not going to your friend’s house. You’re offering a professional service. So behave like a company and operate like a company.
Federico: So that’s what I would advise them to do, is just always have a professional mindset from the moment they graduate, or from the moment they get their first job. Have a contract, it’s very important, always have a booking confirmation or a contract or a deal memo or whatever. But have it in writing. Always outline everything that is required of you, what software’s going to be required of you, how many hours are going to be required, what your rate’s going to be and always have that on paper because you never know.