What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is James Nethery and I’m a freelance Flash/Toon Boom Harmony animator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, the craziest was probably working at the Magic Kingdom park in Orlando as a “Custodial Host” (aka a janitor in Disney Park-speak) for a few years. I could probably start a series of blog posts on all the crazy stuff that went down on that job… from “how the heck did it get on the ceiling??!” restroom cleaning stories, to rude/angry park guests, to employees getting fired for coming in drunk/high, to insane employee policies that parks put in place. That was a fun job (and the free park admission was a major perk) but it could certainly be tough sometimes.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Three words: Cyanide and Happiness. That show is a lot of fun to work on and it’s great working with the guys over at Lowbrow Studios and Explosm who are a really talented bunch. I love seeing how much I can get out of such simple designs. So far, I’ve worked on about 11 shorts, two of which haven’t been posted online yet. Some of I’m animated fully, so I’ve just helped out a bit on doing animation revisions and such. I’m also working on another project right now that’s really cool that I can’t really talk about… all I can say is that its being animated in Toon Boom Harmony and that’s its based on another very popular web comic.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Orlando, Florida. I got into the freelance animation business basically by working my butt off on my demo reel and applying to every job I could. It was tough starting out, but I guess the effort paid off in the end!
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Well, right now I’m a freelancer so it varies. Usually I try to be at my Cintiq animating by around 9 or 10 in the morning and then finish up by 6 or 7 in the evening. That can be more or less depending on how many projects I’m working on and how tight the deadlines are. Most of the time I’m animating or laying out/posing shots, but a good chunk of the day can also be spent talking to clients and waiting for work to come in.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The independence. I love being able to set my own schedule and pick my own clients/projects. Being my own boss is fun!
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Telling people I’m a freelancer. Most people don’t see freelancing, especially in an artistic field, as “a real job” or “real work”. A lot of people seem to think that I just sit at home and doodle all day. If I hear “well, at least you’re doing what you love!” one more time after telling someone I’m a freelance animator, I’m going to throw something.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I animate in Flash and Toon Boom Harmony and I draw right into the software on my Cintiq 12wx. I haven’t worked in the industry for very long, but I think the biggest change is the attitude people have towards pre-built “puppet” or “symbol” animation done in Flash and Toon Boom. Just a few years ago, Flash animation was seen as the lowest of the low type of animation by “real” animators and it was always put down as “cheap” and “lazy”. Detractors said that puppet animation would never look as good as hand-drawn or CGI… and puppet animators said “challenge accepted”. Now there is stuff being done in Flash and Toon Boom that rivals the best hand-drawn TV animation (and even features sometimes). Check out the works of studios like Mercury Filmworks and Titmouse Animation to see what I mean. There’s some really impressive stuff being done.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
As a freelancer, the most difficult part going through the dry periods where not a lot of work is coming in. Save your money, freelancers!
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I would try and bring animation back to North America instead of outsourcing overseas.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I go to the CTN Animation Expo every year and meet lots of talented people… so brushes with greatness is a yearly thing now!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Dealing with money is always tough. Again, save your money, animators!
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m working on a couple of animation projects that I plan to submit to festivals this year. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?This isn’t really unusual but over the last few years I’ve become a huge craft-beer snob. I love tasting beers from around the world.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Yeah, my biggest bit of advice is that the big studios like Pixar and Dreamworks are not the only places to find animation work. There are a lot of smaller studios that are doing great work. Most of my jobs have been with TINY studios where I’ve collaborated via internet on short term projects. Keep your demo reel up to date and send it out to everyone you can. Websites like AWN, Cold Hard Flash, and Toon Boom have job boards where you can apply for jobs, check those AT LEAST once every couple of days. You never know what may pop up.