You wave your friend goodbye as he pulls out of your compound in his brand new saloon car. He was earlier engaged with your mum in a conversation about his new job at an oil servicing firm and how proud his parents are of him. Soon as you are done bidding him farewell, you make your way back into the house to pick up where you left off on a cartoon you were watching, only to meet your mum on the couch with the TV off and the remote control in her hand just waitingfor you to step in. She clears her throat and asks “henhen, what is that thing you say you are learning again?” Your response: “Animation.” Then you foolishly go ahead to elaborate on how you plan to make cartoons for a living in a frantic attempt to get anything more than a blank stare from her. Trust me, that stare ain’t blank. So you want to be the next Walt Disney or John Lasseter or maybe the next Hayao Miyazaki. You want to build the next Pixar or Disney studios. All that is fine and good, but you have your work cut out for you.
Let’s look at the facts. You live in a country with barely any animation industry meaning there are little or no animation jobs out there. Learning animation is almost an impossible task because universities around here don’t offer it as a degree neither can you find any reasonable animation courses around, courses abroad cost a fortune, not to mention the high cost of living and plane tickets or even the unlikely chance of you getting a visa. These are what the voices in your head tell you, as you face the odds of becoming a Nigerian animator.
That those voices haven’t told you is that there has never been a better time to get into the field of animation in Nigeria. There is a fledgling fast growing animation industry in the country and animation is quickly becoming a very lucrative business. There is an increasing demand for animation by brands looking to effectively engage the short attention span of their growing online audience. Learning animation has never been easier, thanks to the internet and its increasing accessibility in the country. You can learn almost anything online these days; there are tons of free learning resources all over the internet with YouTube being a major source. There is an increasing number of accomplished self-thought animators and CG (Computer Graphics) artists in the country who are creating their own opportunities. Though one thing you need to keep in mind is that it takes a lot of self-discipline, time and dedication to be a self-taught artist, but really it takes all these qualities to do anything worth doing at all. “Brands are looking for cost effective digital content solutions for marketing their brands and achieving organisational goals. The demand for professional and timely animation services is growing sharply and is expected to rise.” Says Richard Oboh the founder of Orange VFX, an animation studio based in Lagos with list of clients including MTN, Forte oil, Oando Plc and Diamond Bank.
Ok you’ve practiced and studied and worked your butt off and now you have God-like CG skills. Great, but that doesn’t mean everyone will come, bowing at your feet and handing you their wallets and cheques. It doesn’t qualify you to be a CEO (I really get tired of hearing those three alphabet strung together in that order). Being an artist and running a business are two separate things, and they don’t often go well together. You have worked hard and spent time on becoming a skillful artist and you need to do the same on being an entrepreneur. You also need to learn to switch between being either when making decisions or your business is doomed from the very start. Building a business takes time so you need to understand that the money wouldn’t just come flooding in once you get started. You also need to know that you can’t build an animation business around just your talent. For instance, it takes a small army of artists and a minimum of 3 years to make a typical Pixar movie.
Not everyone is built to run their own businesses so you might want to consider being a freelancer even if you will eventually run your own business. The first step to being a freelancer in the animation industry is putting together a good demo-reel and if you have difficulty sourcing for jobs, there are a number of online tools to help you do so. Your work is cut out for you, but really nothing good comes easy so get off your mums couch and make your some cartoons.