Check out my follow-up post after reading this one: More About Working at an Animation Company in South Korea
From 2010 to 2011, I was a 3D Artist at Digital eMation, an animation company in Seoul, South Korea. From the time, I started, people have wondered how I got the job; what job board or website did you use? Well, I definitely took the road less traveled.
When I came to South Korea, I came as a native English teacher and worked in Gwangju (Jeollanamdo) which is the sixth largest city in Korea. It was coming up on the time where you decide if you're going to renew your teaching contract. Being a teacher in Korea is kind of like being in a dream world. You have four classes a day and weekends off. With the cost of living, you can save half of your income and still eating out every day. It's easy to forget your actual dreams when your life is relatively easy and money is aplenty. Considering all of this, I was seriously thinking about doing a second year of teaching.
I went to visit a friend and while talking to him about it, he reminded me, "Don't you have a degree in animation?" And I responded, "Oh yeah!" It was kind of a wake up call. I was almost sucked into the black hole of the Korea dreamland. I had to remember and realize that no matter what industry you're in, the longer you stay away, the harder it will be to get your big break. And you ultimately get further behind your peers that are "doing it". At that moment, I decided that I wasn't going to renew my contract and I was moving back to America.
Since I was going to be trying to give it another go as far as finding a job in animation in America, I thought that it would be cool to see what an animation studio actually looked like before I left Korea. I Googled a bunch of Korean animation companies all across the country and waited for responses. Only two companies responded. An incubator in Gwangju that housed several animation companies and Digital eMation in Seoul. I got the opportunity to tour the incubator and see all the animation companies that were housed there, but my tour guide, "Key", told me that I would have to be fluent in Korean if I were to try and work at one of the companies.
At the end of February (2010), I visited Digital eMation to meet the president, Steven Yoon and Youngah Choi, the Vice President. I remember visiting multiple departments, the translators who translated all of the material from Fox into Korean, the background department, the 3D department, etc. Then Youngah told me that I should meet Carl, the producer for The Cleveland Show. I remember entering a room full of cubicles on the left and the right, leaving an aisle down the middle. We walked all the way to the end of the aisle and in the last cubicle on the right, I got the biggest surprise! Boom! A black person! When I set out to visit Korean animation companies, honestly, the last thing I thought I would see is a foreigner and definitely not someone who looks like me.
At the end of the tour, Youngah asked me if I had a demo reel, which is a portfolio that 3D artists use to get jobs in the animation industry. I told her that I did not, but that I would work on it. I headed back to Gwangju and for the next four months, I spent the time between teaching classes, after school and on the weekends working on my demo reel. In June, I sent it off to Digital eMation and Youngah invited me back up to Seoul.
Now, she wasn't specific about her invite, so I was thinking, "If I'm going to be taking the time to make another 3 hour bus ride up to Seoul, she better be offering me a job!" By mid-July, I was making my way back up to Seoul to meet with Youngah and Steven. They offered me a position as a 3D Artist and it was both an exciting and frightening moment. When you're working as a native English teacher, all of your housing arrangements are taken care of and sometimes your utilities. So while I'm sitting there, I'm wondering where am I going to live and how am I going to go about it. I pushed all of that out of my mind and accepted the offer. I was able to secure a room with a Korean woman who usually rented to foreign students. Luckily, the timing of everything was perfect, so as my teaching contract was ending, my animation contract was beginning.
So I got the job by (accidentally) creating my own path. I try to remember that experience and purposefully build my future as I trudge through life setting goals for my career and my personal life.
Deborah A. Anderson
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