Entering the Rookie Awards, Connecting With Professionals and Forging Careers in the Creative Industries

Entering the Rookie Awards, Connecting With Professionals and Forging Careers in the Creative Industries

In this article we interview five PIXL VISN graduates on their journey into the creative industries and they share with us how entering the Rookie Awards has helped them forge their way.

There is no better way to share your student work, get noticed, and make connections, than by entering the Rookie Awards.

In this article we interview five PIXL VISN graduates on their journey into the creative industries and they share with us how entering the Rookie Awards has helped them forge their way.

Why did you enter The Rookie Awards and what were you hoping to achieve?

Ivan Pechalin: I entered the Rookie Awards because I saw a great opportunity to get a picture of which level of  skills I have compared to different artist all over the world. Also it was important for me to get feedback from industry professionals, and in general it's a great chance to share your work with other people.

Dominik Benz: Since I have been following the Rookie Awards for a few years now, I knew that it was a great platform to show off your work and get recognised by the industry. I was still hesitant to enter the Rookie Awards 2022 because my demo reel was not ready at that time, but one of my instructors at PIXL VISN convinced me to enter with the projects I had already completed at that time. So, I decided to create my entry anyway because it's a great opportunity to get possible job offers and connect with recruiters and many other great artists.

CG Still Life Assignment by Dominik Benz for his advanced compositing course at PIXL VISN.

Maksym Osmolovskyi: To be honest, I had never heard about The Rookies before. Last year, I was encouraged by PIXL VISN to submit an entry. Only after I did so, did I understood what The Rookies is, and why it’s a cool way to be noticed for anyone. If you are talented and enter the Rookies Awards, it may already be enough to get a job in industry. Because all the Judges are from industry, you may be contacted by them without even needing to officially apply for a job.

Jacob Doehner: On one hand, I wanted to enter the Rookies Awards to be able to present my work and have the possibility to be recognised by companies, recruiters and of course other artist in the 3D Animation and Visual Effects industry. On the other hand, entering The Rookie Awards is a great opportunity to receive feedback by industry professionals and being ranked with other 3D graduates gives you a better understanding of your own skill level.

Sascha Bähr: The Rookie Awards is a great way to compare yourself with other 3D students and find out how good your chances are of getting into a big studio. It also allowed me to find new contacts and get feedback from other students or professionals. Each feedback helped me a lot to expand my horizon a little bit or to get a different perspective on my own work.

What advice do you have for other students looking to enter next year?

Ivan Pechalin: If you are gonna enter the rookie awards in 2023 my advice would be to start thinking about it now, don’t delay it to the point where there are only a few weeks before final submission.

Study  the entries from past years, get inspired, ask yourself why the particular entries won, what is  special about them?

Another important thing is to decide in which categories you want to  participate: is it 3D Animation, VFX, Concept art etc.; focus on the field you are most skilled in. Ask you  mentors/teachers or some people from the industry for advice how to pick the right projects for  the discipline you want to focus.

"Night Cafe"(2021 May). Collaborative Project by Ivan Pechalin made together with a very talented animator Jean Motta. Ivan was responsible for Lighting, texturing, shading, rendering and compositing.

Dominik Benz: If you want to enter the Rookie Awards the most important piece of advice I can give you is that I would recommend publishing your entry as soon as possible, as your entry will get a lot more attention that way. Also, don't hesitate to enter the Awards just because you haven’t finished your demo reel yet. Even if you participate with only a few projects, it is beneficial for you.

Maksym Osmolovskyi: It’s not enough to be a good technical artist in 2023. Strong technical skills should be combined in a duet with creativity. You need to stand out in 2023 if you want to be noticed. You need to show you creative side too. You can make extremely realistic explosion in Houdini, but if you rendered this explosion on a usual grey background – it’s not a creative way of presenting your work.

Creativity + technical skills = SUCCESS!

Jacob Doehner: Give the reader a detailed breakdown of your projects, so the reader can see exactly what and how you did it. This can help so many artists to evolve, students or already working artists. It can also assist anyone involved in the hiring process like Leads and Supervisors, get better insight into your style and how you work, such as your techniques and workflow. Check out my latest article on The Rookies for a good example of this.

Sascha Bähr: Winning is a great thing, but not everything! It‘s about the experience and self-reflection!

By creating my submissions, I was able to find out a lot about my past and existing work structure - what I did well, but also, what could I do better on the next project.
Sascha received an Excellence Award for his RA2022 entry

What would you tell others about pursuing a creative career?

Ivan Pechalin: It is a great choice to enter the creative world, but it’s not only about fun. In my opinion success in a creative career is the same for any other: be passionate about it, hungry to learn new things, don't  give up, put a lot of hard work and you will achieve your goals. You are also not alone here, the creative industries are full of great people you can learn a lot from. Just open yourself, be  patient and treat people with respect.

Maksym Osmolovskyi: I would strongly suggest to surround yourself with cool stuff on a daily basis. Take inspiration from everywhere. Behance, Vimeo, ArtStation, watch movies, series. You should follow the best VFX, Advertising, Gaming studios, and companies. And don't forget to keep up with the times. In 2022 we got cool stuff like AI MidJourney, DALL-E 2. We don’t know what we will get in 2023, but a lot of things are changing all the time.

Maksym Osmolovskyi is a Lighting Artist/CG Generalist at Cinesite London. Maksym is a recent graduate of PIXL VISN and Rookie Awards 2022 Finalist in the Visual Effects category. Read Maksym's article about his journey and advice to aspiring artists looking for an exciting and challenging start to their careers in the creative industries.

Dominik Benz: A creative career can be fun and exciting, but it also requires a lot of work and discipline. And while it's possible to do all the work yourself, I'd still recommend reaching out to other artists in your field and trying to get feedback on your work. In my opinion, feedback is one of the greatest resources an artist can get. Therefore, you need to learn how to deal with the feedback you receive and decide for yourself which feedback is valuable and which is not.

Jacob Doehner:  Working in the Visual Effects industry is amazing but scary at the same time. Learning 3D Animation and visual effects can be really exciting and interesting but there is so much to learn which can be quite overwhelming, especially in the beginning. When people ask me, if I have any advice what they should learn before they start visiting a 3D school or course, I always recommend having a look at cinematography, composition theory and cameras in general. In is very common, that even though people have created beautiful projects, the way they present their work is lacking in the understanding of camera motion and composition.

Additionally, working in the Visual Effects industry is like a team sport: It is important to be a team player and be able to communicate well with other people and departments, accepting and working on feedback, tackle problems and help out other artists if needed.

The "Scorpions in the Desert” was the first project Jacob worked on for his demo reel and Rookies portfolio, in collaboration with Laura Ludwig,

Sascha Bähr: There are so many out there who have the same desires and goals as you. Be passionate and organized and learn to present your projects in the best possible way to stand out from the crowd.

Tell us more about the skills you have developed during your studies and why you think they'll be useful on your journey?

Ivan Pechalin: The most valuable skill I learned during my studies is to be able to work independently. Maybe at  school you have teachers/mentors who are helping you to fix problems and supporting you, but later, in your first job you have to able to get your work done and your leads and supervisors are not  gonna have a lot time to support you; you will be expected to get your tasks finished, because they also have a lot of things to do.

Luckily I worked a lot in teams during my school projects and it helped me to develop the ability  to work and communicate with people, it is very important because our industry is all about the  teamwork.

At PIXL VISN you learn a lot about every discipline (animation, lighting, texturing etc.) and after that at some point you  can decide where you want to focus. But without knowing how the whole mechanism works it could be difficult to communicate with other departments in future job.

I also had strict deadlines at PIXL VISN during our projects which helped me to learn how to plan and organise things. It is very important to work efficient  and have an idea about the time management.

Dominik Benz:  Studying at PIXL VISN you learn a very broad spectrum of technical skills. The way PIXL VISN is structured every student learns at least the basics of Modeling, Animation, Texturing, Lighting, Compositing and Dynamics. This ensures that each student has a basic understanding of each area and can therefore identify what steps are necessary to create a project from start to finish.

Aside from all the technical skills you learn at PIXL VISN, you also have to learn how to handle stressful situations that come with many deadlines and a variety of projects. I think that's a valuable skill you need to learn if you want to be an artist in this industry.

The Fantasy Environment project was Dominik's first demo reel project at PIXL VISN. Concept by Lok Du.

Jacob Doehner:  Practice and patience are the most valuable skills I learned during my time at PIXL VISN. Learning 3D Animation is hard and can become very frustrating from time to time but it's important to keep pushing yourself and try to practice as much as possible. Especially as an animator, it is important to take your time to watch a lot of references, practice and sometimes also start all over again to achieve the result you want. This will not change later in the industry, as you will always have to improve and push yourself and the learning process never stops.

Sascha Bähr: During my 3D education I realized how fascinating simple objects are that you see every day. Since I studied every detail in order to simulate a realistic implementation in 3D, I look at objects, nature and the  weather much more closely. In the meantime, I automatically think about how this could be implemented  in the 3D program. I think that such a sensitization for details will help me a lot, e.g. to adjust the surface behavior of assets better and to avoid unbelievable lighting.

What is the most valuable lesson learned at PIXL VISN? What would you say to students  looking to start there?

Ivan Pechalin: At PIXL VISN I learned a very simple lesson: ”Hard work always pays off”. As it's a very practice oriented school which is great, make sure you are ready to put enough effort and without any  doubt you will get your dream job after you finished the studies.

Ivan's entry to the Rookies' Substance Texturing Challenge - Kombi. There are always challenges to be able to show off your artistic prowess like Ivan has done on The Rookies platform.

Dominik Benz The most valuable lesson I learned at PIXL VISN is that you have to find a balance between not being too harsh with your work and still trying to create the best work possible. This is definitely something I had to learn while working on my mid-term and end-term projects where we only had a week to create a project from start to finish.

The same goes for recognising when you need a break and taking it, rather than working until you get mental and/or physical problems. When you start at PIXL VISN, I would recommend not focusing too much on your grades, but instead focus on the area you want to specialise in and try to become as good as you can in that area. That being said, I would encourage you to learn as much as you can in the short time you have at PIXL VISN.

Studying at PIXL VISN is a great opportunity to learn directly from industry experts who can provide you with a lot of valuable information.

Sascha Bähr: Be brave! At the beginning, it took a lot of effort to approach professionals from the industry, to make contacts and to get feedback on the unfinished work of my demo reel. The feedback, even if it was often short,  helped me a lot to gain a foothold in the industry.

What opportunities have presented themselves to you after entering The Rookie Awards?

Ivan Pechalin: After entering the Rookie Awards I got contacted by a lot of studios who offered me to work with  them. I also had an opportunity to write an article about my entry to the Rookies blog. And finally, I got  to know a lot of new people.

Dominik Benz: Since publishing my entry in the Rookie Awards, and publishing an article about one of my latest projects in my Rookies Portfolio, I have come into contact with many new people in the industry and have also received job offers directly related to my entry.

Sascha Bähr: I used The Rookie Award submissions beyond the demo reel as detailed insight into my work processes for my industry applications. The responses have been great and constructive. Interest in my profile and job offer requests have increased.

"Neon Synth", portfolio project by Sascha Bähr.

How did you land your current position?

Ivan Pechalin: I thinks it was a combination of different steps. First I posted on LinkedIn my Rookie Awards entry, which resulted in message from recruiters. I then finished my demoreel, uploaded to LinkedIn and again, got message from people in the industry. At the the same time I also applied by myself at all studios I was interested in; I tried to knock at every possible door.

Ultimately, I saw a post from a recruiter on  LinkedIn, she was searching for lighting artists. I did not even know for which studio and I sent her my demo reel just for fun and after couple of days I got contacted by her and she told me that  “SEHSUCHT” studio would like to have a chat with me and I was very happy about it because it was one my favourite studios on the list! Now, I am already one year working here and very happy be the part of this team.

Jacob Doehner: When I started to work on my demo reel, I contacted Philipp Willer, Lead Animator at Pixomondo, and asked him how to start with my reel and how to structure it. Working on my projects, Philipp was taking a lot of his time to give me intensive feedback. As I was about to finish my reel, I was offered the opportunity to have an interview with Pixomondo and after a couple weeks I was very happy to officially sign the contract with Pixomondo!

What are your next steps?

Dominik Benz: I am currently in the process of applying for a Junior Lighting position and am excited to get my first job in the industry to learn even more skills and new tools. That said I'm very excited to see what comes next on my journey to becoming a VFX artist.

Sascha Bähr: Arrived in a big VFX studio, the most important thing for me right now is to keep learning and gaining experience!

Learn more about creating your portfolio on The Rookies, and visit the contest page to find yourself a challenge and see how you go!