Many people and professions were hit hard in 2020, but anyone privileged enough to have a job through the last year can take 2021 to pause and reflect on its lessons.
We’ve already passed pandemic Kindergarten, where there was chaos. We graduated from pandemic high school, where we prepared to deal with a new reality in terms of time, personal space, companionship, social dilemmas, and how to pack your own lunch every day. Now, it’s time to begin rebuilding our business models and our processes. This is Pandemic University. Forget about your SAT score—you’re in.
As an animation director for LOBO, I’ve seen a lot of young artists express this feeling throughout quarantine. Picture yourself as a twenty-something. You are eager to conquer and learn, but suddenly you’re living without bars, shopping malls, or friends’ houses to occupy your downtime...and you're stuck at home with your parents. In response—because asking an artist not to create is an impossible task—you, the young professional turn to online courses to rescue yourself from boredom.
That’s the key lesson of this pandemic: to seek, attract, and combine talent. This creative curation is a crucial element required to deliver any high-level audiovisual work from now on.
Samara, a young concept artist based in Brazil, says, “the course opportunities have grown. I used to have to wait for famous artists to come to town, but now there are live courses with artists from everywhere in the world." The unintended consequence has been a renewed pool of available, digitally-native artists for whom remote work has become a standard operating procedure.
Above: Some of Samara's recent designs
Lorena is part of a Discord group with artists from around the globe. "My artist friends get together on a fixed schedule to do drawing exercises together and talk to people abroad. The group ranges from established artists to beginners; they share information in a cool way, with no hierarchy." By using a professional group to improve her welfare and discuss work issues within a global community Lorena demonstrates how natural remote solutions and collaboration are for her generation. Their only hurdle is to face the industry’s old habit of hiring the same people, from the same places, without using remote work to expand horizons farther. While incredibly talented, artists like Samara and Lorena, all began their careers during the quarantine. Now that they’ve been trained to work remotely, this is what they’ve come to expect and where they professionally excel.
Bzzz—lunchtime! But class isn’t over yet.
If Gen Z is learning how to work through a self-taught approach—with remote mentorships, YouTube videos and the like, experienced school-trained artists are conversely freelancing more than ever. This isn't new, but social distancing measures pushed a migration of talent from companies to independent work, creating a market of fragmented and decentralized nano companies. I have a company with my best friend of six years. Together, we are Alton.
Even the most senior employee has had to learn how to Zoom, making the Pandemic University inexorable.
Like us, there are hundreds of these small nano companies; a 2D animation studio run by two roommates out of their yoga room, three friends in a basement specializing in 3D modeling, After Effects duo masters…you name it. These nano companies rearrange themselves, recombine, and deliver the best work for animation, motion, games, and interactive. People who are passionate about their work, talented, and who work for themselves in their own homes, are more likely to focus on quality. Now, finally, people are central to the creative process—not the elevator, the parking lot, or the beautiful (yet always empty) studio lobby.
Above: Some of Lorena's art and process
Done with Philosophy 101. On to History.
Geography has no impact anymore. What’s the difference between hiring the guy a few blocks away and signing the great concept artist you always admired on Instagram? Artists now have the opportunity to work for their dream company across the globe. With the world undergoing similar lockdowns, we have no boundaries, like we’re all sharing one big couch. All the talent in the world is available to you for your next job, and every great position is available for those talented artists you want to hire. That’s the key lesson of this pandemic: to seek, attract, and combine talent. This creative curation is a crucial element required to deliver any high-level audiovisual work from now on.
If Gen Z is learning how to work through a self-taught approach—with remote mentorships, YouTube videos and the like, experienced school-trained artists are conversely freelancing more than ever.
Back in 2016, we made “Vika’s Dream,” an animated short for Unicef. The character is a real girl from Indonesia. The job was commissioned in The Netherlands, we had a team working fully remote in five different estates in Brazil, and we also employed a team in New York. Back then, this was an insane production pipeline. Nobody understood why we did it. Today, this kind of functionality is the rule.
With this know-how, and while bored in lockdown, we at LOBO started a small side operation to find, talk to, and understand the skills and dreams of artists globally. This approach allowed us to create a more diverse network, internally creating opportunities for individuals and companies to hire individuals from a broader spectrum of races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities, and sexual orientations Soon enough, the groups seated together in our virtual cafeteria became more diverse than ever.
Artists now have the opportunity to work for their dream company across the globe.
Over the past year, the last resistances against remote work have fallen. People that used to refuse the remote process have been thoroughly schooled. Even the most senior employee has had to learn how to Zoom, making the Pandemic University inexorable. Since you can't count on a coffee break, or that corridor pitch, or any casual exchange of information, everyone became obsessed with news and updates, exacerbated by the amount of time people stayed distant from one another. This last year marked a point of no return. The next is graduation. If we embrace this process, we can continue to create and communicate and grow our careers while at home, watching our kids grow, eating lunch with loved ones, and taking care of ourselves.
For me, and for a lot of people, the future is remote. Let me know if you need help with the homework.