How James Boyle used Animation Trainee Finder to start a new career

How James Boyle used Animation Trainee Finder to start a new career

How did you hear about Trainee Finder?
I have been a follower and subscriber to ScreenSkills for years - even back when it was called Creative Skillset. The Trainee Finder programme was advertised in your email newsletter. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to apply.

What made you want to get into animation?
The decision to finally step into animation has quite a few facets but mainly stemmed from a point in late 2019 when I was unhappy and felt lost career wise. I had spent the past twenty years working in various jobs. I’ve worked as an actor, graphic designer, film producer, comic creator, and screenwriter. Despite having an interest in and affection for all of those areas, none seemed to sit quite right with me as a career. You know, that feeling that something is missing, but you cannot put your finger on what that something is?

After spending the next few months trying to work out my place and direction, I realised that the only job and career I ever truly wanted was to be an animator. As a kid, you couldn’t tear me away from my drawing board trying to recreate Don Bluth, Walt Disney, and Warner Bros.’ characters and sequences, and to this day seeing drawings and animation come to life enraptures me.

For various reasons, studying animation wasn’t an option for me as a kid, and after that, life and adulting took hold, and my path seemed to be set, albeit on what I would come to realise was the wrong trajectory. Changing careers later in life and retraining towards something you have always wanted to do requires personal sacrifice and renewed focus. The Trainee Finder opportunity came at the right time to allow me to continue on this new path.

Had you always wanted to work in the screen industries?
The majority of the jobs I have had over the years have been in the screen industries. As the non-sporting type who grew up watching animation, movies, and TV, it was inevitable that my career path was going to be glued to the screen. In terms of the trainee role, that could have only been as a character animator - it’s the only role I think I have ever wanted. Working as a 3D animator marries my technical brain and performer heart perfectly.

What were you doing before you joined the Trainee Finder programme?
I had recently completed a diploma in 3D animation at the online school CG Spectrum. This was my retraining to change careers. I was also undertaking character posing and animation career workshops. Additionally, I was being mentored by a working animator via the Access VFX platform. Alongside that, I was also working freelance jobs to pay the bills.

Had you had any previous experience of animation production?
I had no direct experience of working in animation, but I had two decades of screen production experience, both in front of and behind the camera. Working on long-form TV and feature production, and the many facets that come together to make that happen, was not new to me. It has definitely helped in transitioning into this new role.

What were your highlights of the Trainee Finder programme?
The biggest highlight was learning from animation professionals with many years and decades of experience. Nuggets of information that can only be learned from people doing the job week in, week out. Another highlight during my time as a trainee was the chance to work as an animator on two different VFX projects: Matilda and The Woman King. These opportunities were fantastic ways to work on fast-paced projects and apply all that I had learned so far.

How did Trainee Finder help you develop your career?
It helped solidify the decisions I had made up to that point: choosing to change careers, to retrain. It also helped in finding a great studio to work at for my first role. Somewhere that valued my contributions but was also willing to push me further.

What have you got lined up next? Will you look to stay in animation – or other screen industry roles?
I was lucky enough to be offered a full animator role at the studio where the Trainee Finder programme placed me. Since then, I have been working as an animator on a CG animated television series. Now that I am in, I will be staying in animation.

Why do you think programmes like this are important for the industry?
Programmes like this are very important. A return to entry-level apprenticeship type roles gives people the chance to learn the job they intend to do directly from colleagues doing that role. There are so many things you don’t and can’t learn in education: how to work in a professional environment, working as part of a larger team, and understanding your place within that team and project, to name a few. Programmes like this provide hands-on experience that is hard to teach elsewhere.

Why would you recommend Trainee Finder?
Starting a new career can be hard enough, whatever age and life stage you are at. Programmes like this help make that transition and first step much less daunting. I would definitely recommend Trainee Finder.

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