It's been eleven years since Alwyn Hunt and myself (Andrew McDonald) started helping talented artists launch careers in visual effects, animation and game development.
At this point in time our journey has reached a pivotal cross-road and we'd like to share some news with everyone about the future of The Rookies. Before I do this, I feel it's important to revisit a few key milestones of our journey to help provide some context and reasoning behind our decisions for the future.
2007 - Where it all began
While working at MPC in London, a faculty member from Bournemouth University approached me to come up with a solution to teach industry based skills to their students. Commuting from London to teach classes was not an option, so I suggested their student's upload projects and questions to a cutting edge web platform at the time - Blogger.
After a successful first round collaborating with students, Bournemouth University asked if I knew other industry people that would be interested to help out. This is when Alwyn Hunt jumped on-board and we decided to ditch Blogger and start building our own platform.
2008 - The Planning Phase
We continued to work with local educational facilities but our mission was to reach a larger audience and push the collaboration idea as far as we could. Our vision was to create a web-based platform where industry experts could provide relevant and honest feedback similar to what an artist would expect to receive in a professional studio environment.
2009 - The Coach
24th April to be exact. We launched CgCoach.com with a small team of industry experts and started beta testing with students and their friends.
2009 - Contests for Students
We needed to attract new members so we decided to create a contest - Creatures and Critters - with the help of Moddler (3D printing company) and Pixologic. The response was overwhelming and resulted in a new business direction for us. Massive shout out to Sinzalot, Jonas Skoog, Adrien Debos, Andrei Szasz, CGRamblings, Maxinkuk, Angels and all the others early members who contributed so much amazing artwork and support.
2010 - Contests for Schools
With experience running monthly contests, and a growing list of happy sponsors, we pitched the idea to launch a much more ambitious initiative that would showcase talent from schools around the world. This was the beginning of the Computer Graphics Student Awards.
Our first contest received 150 entries across 10 categories. Not big numbers, but it was the start of something pretty epic.
2012 - Failure becomes Motivation
With a growing online community and a network of influential partners, we saw an opportunity to build something special. A custom-built applicant tracking platform that would connect a community of aspiring artists with studios around the world. The idea was solid and the industry was begging for it so we took a chance.
We secured a contract with a super talented full-stack developer to round-out the dream team. Alwyn quit his job at Weta Digital, I quit my job at Animal Logic and we setup shop in my garage. Two months later our dream team collapsed as our newest member was head-hunted (think gold briefcase Pulp-Fiction style) and left us picking up the pieces. The product crumbled in the hands of an overseas development team and Tyroe.com never saw the light of day.
The failure still hurts more than it should, but we learnt an incredible amount about ourselves and the complexities of building software products. With the support of our families we pushed through and realised people still believed in what we were doing, so we pushed on with our strongest product - the CG Student Awards.
2013 - Coach Retirement
We made the decision to close down CgCoach which allowed us to focus our energy on the CG Student Awards. This was not an easy decision as we practically ripped our community in half, but for survival it was the right decision. We launched a new site, new brand and introduced new sponsors. The immediate growth to our community reinforced our decision to consolidate.
Over the next few years, the CG Student Awards established itself as the largest online Awards for creative students having awarded over US$900,000 in prizes and 74 paid studio internships.
2015 - Another Re-brand
As you can see, we like to remain agile and try new things. So in 2015 we did it again and re-branded as The Rookies. The goal was to widen our reach and invite more students to the community. We opened the gates and invited artists learning graphic design, photography, film-making and traditional skills to become a part of our community.
Our sponsors loved it and so did we, except for one big problem. We were so distracted listening to new members that we forgot the most important aspect of our business - our existing community.
The reality was that we had diluted something special by inviting too many other industries to take part. So after much deliberation with our advisory board we decided to re-target our focus once again towards digital media and entertainment industries. A big shout-out to all the passionate community members who voiced their concerns and helped us redirect this ship.
2018 - Solid Growth
The decision to consolidate was correct. As a result, The Rookies has grown to become the benchmark contest for students aspiring to get a job working in visual effects, animation and game development. We receive an average of 3,000 entries and 50,000 media uploads each year and have managed to attract some of the most prominent partners and industry professionals to our brand.
Next Phase for The Rookies
The Rookies is going to focus on the journey of an artist.
We will no longer simply find and showcase the best student's each year by hosting a contest. We will no longer churn-and-burn amazing talent from our community to make room for new graduates.
Students will remain a strong focus for our brand, but we are excited to announce that we are going to support self-taught artists who lack financial means to receive an education or are simply more suited to self-paced learning. We are going to mentor the countless recent graduates that still need more time to hone their skills. We are even going to make our community accessible to all the enthusiasts that are just discovering this amazing world we are all so passionate about.
Our goal is to create a community that supports all artists during their journey from novice through to the early stages of their professional career - when they officially become a Rookie!
Just like in sports, a Rookie in our world is a person in the first years of their chosen profession. A Rookie is a title to be respected, not one that is associated with lack of skill. The title needs to be celebrated as the Rookies' we've had the pleasure of meeting are talented, highly motivated and just need a little direction and support to truly make an impact on the industries we cherish so much.
From now on, if you have a passion for creative media & entertainment and are working hard to break into the industry, then The Rookies is going to have your back - no matter how long your journey takes.
What about the Rookie Awards?
Don't worry, the Rookie Awards will still be a major part of our business model.
We understand the importance of education and have a strong legacy of showcasing student talent from around the world. This will not change. The Rookie Awards will continue to provide an exciting environment for students to represent their schools and compete for School of the Year. We will continue to share ranking reports and offer informed research about facilities that deserve your attention.
Sounds great, but what's the plan?
To help achieve our vision we are partnering with one of the most exciting digital agencies in the world – Envy Labs. The process started back in June 2018 and we could not be more excited and confident in what the team will help us deliver.
The decision to work with Envy Labs was easy. Not only are they friendly and professional, they completely understand our legacy and the challenges with our evolution. The great news is that the team has extensive experience building educational based software and they are also the creators of Code School which is pretty damn impressive and worth reading about if you have the time.
Our new site will start private Beta testing late 2018 with a small invite-only team – please contact us if you'd like to be involved. We are planning to crack open the site at the beginning of next year and roll straight into the Rookie Awards 2019 which will kick off March 7th 2019.
To help compliment our new business direction and to truly help support people trying to break into creative media & entertainment industries we are going to start hosting more meetups around the world.
Rookies meetups will come in all sizes and varieties. We will be hosting larger meetups like our first ever SIGGIES event in Vancouver, but we will also support more self-organized events that range from the casual, five-person pub catch-up to the 200-person studio hosted extravaganza—it’s up to you.
Please make sure to reach out to us if you would like to host a meetup. We have plenty of swag to throw your way and can connect you with industry superstars, recruiters and other genuinely awesome people.
More Coming Soon
I will be announcing more updates right here on our new blog over the next few months. We are working hard to build something special and believe we are on the right track.
Make sure to share your opinions and ideas with us. Most importantly, keep pushing hard towards your own career goals and don't give up. We all share the same passion and are in this together. We truly do enjoy meeting everyone around the world and will keep pushing forward if you do. So keep motivating each other, keep sharing your knowledge and know that we've got your back.
On behalf of everyone here at The Rookies, thanks for being awesome.