Week 2 – January 22 Recruiters/Demo Reel Panel

  • Sony Imageworks – Ken Maruyama
  • Disney – Dawn Rivera-Ernst
  • LMU professor (formerly Rhythm & Hues Outreach) – Shish Aikat
  • Mirada – Andy Cochrane

By special request of P.O.V., we will have a distinguished panel of experts covering the “do’s and don’ts” of demo reels, websites, hiring, and internships. They will answer such questions as:

  • How common is it that you hire people from their reels?  What other avenues are you hiring people from?
  • What advice would you offer for portfolio websites?
  • Do you give internships to out-of-state and international students? Do you offer paid internships?
  • Is your studio looking for entry-level generalists or specialists with one or two highly-refined skills?

 Shish Aikat


Shish Aikat was the Manager-Education and head of Global Learning at Rhythm & Hues (R&H) Studios in Los Angeles where he oversaw the knowledge management/dissemination and global learning for the studio’s operations in the U.S., Canada, India, Malaysia, and Taiwan. While at R&H, he co-founded Rhythm & Hues University (RHU) to create and foster a global learning eco-system for R&H.

Originally trained as a mechanical engineer from Jadavpur University (JU), Calcutta, Shish received his M.F.A. from the Division of Animation and Digital Arts, School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), University of Southern California (USC) in 2002. He was a Nickelodeon Fellow from 2001-2002 at SCA. He also earned an M.A. in Communication Management from the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism in 1990.

During the period, 2005-present, Shish has taught as Lecturer in the Master of Professional Writing (MPW)Program at USC and in the School of Film and Television (SFTV), Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.

Here are Shish’s tips on a public site:


Andrew Cochrane


Andrew is a Special Projects Lead and Digital Creative Director at Mirada. In addition to leading post teams, he also has extensive experience in computer graphics and developing fluid simulations.

Andrew serves as a key leader of New Media and Special Projects at Mirada. His interest and experience in the use of technology in new media narrative experiences makes him uniquely suited for discovering new interactive and nonlinear storytelling techniques.  Andy was the VFX Lead on the THINK experiential project as well as the App.  He was the Mirada lead on the ro.me project (a real time interactive music video),  for Google and Chris Milk, and a key Creative leader of the Mirrorwold App project here at Mirada, as well as the upcoming Dragon Rider App.Joining the YouTube Partners program in 2007, Andrew was one of its founding 100 directors, and has since directed web series and ad campaigns for 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Geffen Records, Fox TVS, and Babelgum.

Before Mirada, Andy served as a CG artist and 3D animator at Asylum, Digiscope, and Pixel Playground. His production credits include Friday the 13th, directed by Marcus Nispel, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by David Fincher, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, directed by Jon Turteltaub, and Spider-Man 3, directed by Sam Raimi.

Andrew holds a BA in Film Production from the University of Southern California. In 2002, Andrew  founded The AV Club Productions, a collaborative venture to advance the art of improv comedy using technology, and create new media content, web videos, and interactive and large-scale transmedia projects. He’s also worked with the Fluid Dynamics team and consulted for Real Flow development.

 Dawn Rivera-Ernster


Dawn Rivera-Ernster, Director of Talent Development and Outreach, works closely with the filmmakers to source and identify creative talent for Walt Disney AnimationStudios. Dawn leads outreach efforts and the studio’s production student programs including Summer Internships and the Apprentice Program, a new opportunity for graduates of film, art and computer science. The Talent Development programs have supported Frozen, Wreck-it Ralph, Paperman, Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, Princess and the Frog, Bolt, Prep and Landing, Tick Tock Tale and future films in development.

Rivera-Ernster majored in Advertising and Design from the American Academy of Art, Chicago, Illinois.

Ken Maruyama


Ken Maruyama is the Vice President of Recruiting and Academic Relations at Sony Imageworks

In this role, Maruyama oversees the management of Imageworks’ recruiting efforts in  sourcing, attracting, assessing and hiring the talent needed to work on highly regarded  films as The Amazing Spiderman, Hotel Transylvania and Oz: The Great and Powerful. Maruyama and his team also strengthens SPIs stature as an Industry leader through “evangelizing” SPDP’s achievements, initiatives and successes through presentations, presence at festivals and conferences, school visits and industry events

Maruyama also guides the Academic Relations program by building strong  relationships with participating schools to nurture the next generations of digital talent. Academic Relations emphasizes training standards developed from real-world production issues and helps member schools better prepare their graduates for potential employment both at Imageworks and the industry at large. Key components of the Academic Relations program are the Internship program, Fellowships, Scholarships and on campus visits. +

Prior to Imageworks, Maruyama was the Director of Digital Animation and Creature Development group at Industrial Light & Magic. This department was comprised of animators and artists who created and brought to life the digital creatures and characters featured in CASPER, DRAGONHEART, MEN IN BLACK, MARS ATTACKS!, THE LOST WORLD, JURASSIC PARK, and STARWARS: EPISODE I.

Maruyama also served as manager of special projects where he oversaw CG recruiting activities and was the principal organizer of the ILM Education Symposium. He also founded ILM’s Diversity Outreach Program. Prior to ILM, Maruyama was the vice president and executive producer at Interface Video in Washington, D.C, where he managed the graphics and animation division.  Interface was one of the few post-production facilities with in-house capabilities of  producing 35mm motion control combined with 3D and 2D digital effects.Maruyama has a master’s degree in graphic design from the University of California Los Angeles and is on the Board of Directors of the Visual Effects Society.

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43 Responses to Week 2 – January 22 Recruiters/Demo Reel Panel

  1. Ruthie says:

    One of my big takeaways from the panel was that researching and sifting through these companies to find the place you as an individual can contribute the most is the name of the game. I think what Shish Aikat said about work being appropriate or not appropriate instead of good or bad was helpful because it highlights that finding the right place to work is as important as being good at what you do. It was nice to have a really diverse panel among the four speakers even with the overlap here and there. The personality of the companies and different approaches came through in the reels they chose to show as good examples. I do wish there had been some commentary on the three student reels that were submitted from DADA, but I was glad to hear the breakdown of the example reels and what stood out. That was extremely helpful because it gave me an idea of what goes on in the room when reels are being screened and what precisely grabs a studio’s attention. Thanks for putting this together POV 🙂

  2. Yizhou Li says:

    I felt there was some useful things talked about tonight. It was great to hear how even though these people were all from different size studios, they had a lot of common things they looked for. Also, there was a lot of good information about how to get into specific jobs.

  3. Dustin Reno says:

    It’s always nice to have a reminder about some of the basics for reels/resumes/etc. since it can sometimes be a rushed affair. I probably overlook more of what the speakers mentioned in their recommendations than I realize. I feel I took the most away from Andrew’s talk, as it was the closest to my personal interests in animation, and Mirada does a lot of work that really appeals to me. I have never felt especially effective in one area, so it’s comforting to hear people looking for a jack of all trades once in a while. That said, I felt all of the speakers left me with things to think about, and it was great to have this type of seminar class before studio day happens later this semester.

  4. Ryan Gillis says:

    Today’s seminar was really informative. Nothing like having industry professional come to talk about jobs to put the fire back in ya.
    Most of the points were repeated across all 4 speakers, and I think that really helped drive home the importance of keeping reels short and sweet. I also appreciated the speakers’ candor about the state of the industry in Los Angeles, and compartmentalization within massive studio systems. If I could have changed one thing, it would be less time for presentations, more time for questions. Besides that – It feels good to be back in 104.

  5. My feelings about this seminar are best expressed by this drawing I made during the session http://25.media.tumblr.com/7ec88e7d1f05632e5016a70985d351e4/tumblr_mzuhwjejbV1qzy0nto1_1280.jpg

    it is good to be be reminded so close to graduation and that I need to start trimming down my reel and editing my portfolio. Also, it was good to hear that companies will sponsor visas and that my visa will not play against a potential job opportunity!

  6. Joanna Barondess says:

    Last night’s seminar was incredibly eye-opening. I loved the variation of companies represented and what they were looking for. This seminar was very useful. It was also a pleasure to speak with Dawn!

  7. Erin Shea says:

    The biggest take-aways I got from last night were:
    (1) personal connections are the best way to get a job
    (2) you have 15 seconds to make an impression, so your best work obviously goes first
    (3) know what you want to do and tailor your reel/portfolio to that role – or just be amazing at some diverse skills

    Even though Ken and Dawn gave great presentations, and I loved seeing the beautiful examples of work they showed, I didn’t relate to a lot of what they were saying since their companies are so specialist oriented and I don’t think I’m ever going to become that singularly focused. Then when Andy got up, I felt like he was speaking my language. I’m hoping to end up at a place like Mirada where I get to do a lot of different things and have a role that evolves and always pushes me to learn new skills. Andy’s presentation was a great reminder for me about what kinds of positions I’d like to focus on pursuing after school, and it reinforced my feeling that DADA is the right place for me right now to build a wider range of skills.

    I hope you guys all got something helpful out of last night’s Seminar too!

  8. Sophie Xing says:

    I’m really appreciated they came to our school and shared much important information. Each company has very different style of works with different requirements from employees. They explained cleanly what they want and what they dislike very well. They gave me many useful messages which helped me thinking of the position in animation industrial.

  9. Maggie Harbaugh says:

    Last weekend I decided to re-do my demo reel. Looks like I’ll be re-re-doing my demo reel this weekend (but I’m looking forward to it.) This seminar was simultaneously informative, terrifying, and inspiring.

    Informative: I think that goes without saying.

    Terrifying: The talk about the current state of LA’s animation industry was a bit unsettling. I was also naturally inclined to compare my own work to the work that was shown in the reel examples, oops.

    Inspiring: ^see above^

    Also, Ken made a comment about the importance of animating a character’s thought process and intentions, which is something that Sito has told us repeatedly. Hearing a big studio recruiter stress the same thing, almost word for word, made me confident in the education I’m receiving here at DADA. I really enjoyed this seminar and took a lot away from it. I would have liked more Q & A time but I did find the questions that POV posed to be great ones. Thank you so much for putting this together everyone!

  10. Christina Brous says:

    I learned so much from this presentation. Before this, I really didn’t know how important reels were to the hiring process, and it was so great to get so much advice from so many different angles. I thought I knew what I wanted to do, and now I’ve sort of had to rethink everything and, ironically, I find myself more open to learning more about every aspect of creating animated films instead of sticking to what I know because it’s comfortable. That being said… I was a little disappointed to learn just HOW specialized big companies are and it kind of puts a damper on things.

  11. Caress Reeves says:

    I’m very happy all of the guests came, and everything came together! I too feel I am better fit for a company like Mirada, since I can’t imagine having all of my skills funneled into one area of focus. It was also nice to have some realistic perspectives on the industry from Andy.

  12. I enjoyed the seminar and found it very informative, if not a little anxiety-producing. It is interesting to see all the different examples of what works and doesn’t work in terms of working at these medium-sized to very large studios, and I especially liked seeing the student animation Ken and Dawn showed us. Still, it does put a little bit of a fire under you to know how much of what you have needs to be changed, or better, or re-ordered.

  13. linhui wang says:

    The talk was not just about tips of Demo reel. It also made me start to think about what kind of job I will be really fit at beginning. That will be a direction I should more prepare in next days.

  14. Evan Harbuck says:

    I personally felt like this was one of the most relevant, applicable, and inspiring seminars I’ve been to to date. It was very refreshing for me to hear insight from the types of companies I’m interested in on what they’re looking for in artists. I think it is valuable to everyone that all four speakers resonated the same advice across the board in regards to reels. I hope to see more seminars like this in the future and I’m thankful to see the program fostering relationships with studios.

    The only thing I wish we had done differently would have been to have a Q&A session with the presenters instead of the moderated questions.

  15. Ivan Sayon says:

    Very helpful. This type of seminar should be included every year. I liked how a number of the speakers gave examples of good reels/portfolios and gave reasons why they accepted them as well as offering some generally helpful do’s and don’ts when selling yourself. It was a pretty good line-up too. However, I would’ve liked to have seen a television based animation studio speak and see what they had to say about their process of recruitment as well as their side of the industry. But maybe for another time.

  16. Einar says:

    I found the presentation to be interesting and useful. The tips on the demo reels were particularly good, at least for these particular types of jobs that require specialization to that degree. It was also fun to get the different perspective from Andy who I felt made a good connection with the audience with his enthusiasm and dynamic presentation style. I also love my Disney sketchbook.

  17. Andrew Malek says:

    It was a good thing to be reminded to update my reel last week. While working on one’s thesis it is easy to forget about the need to look for work as well. The presentation brought together a good mix of potential employers and in particular Andrew’s presentation regarding Mirada was refreshing in that there is a company that is looking for generalists and is learning to thrive amidst a time of upheaval in the VFX industry. Also it is extremely helpful to see good reels from recent graduates and realize working for such companies is an attainable goal.

  18. Amelia says:

    It was great to hear all of the recruiters speak and even more fantastic that they all agreed with one another. I had heard the advice before about not putting sound on your reel, but I loved the advice of creating a pattern in your reel by color or mood. I also like that your reel can JUST be your best piece of work, even if it’s one piece. I only wish that there had been someone from TV there as opposed to VFX or big production houses since that is what I’m more interested in doing. I know that TV looks for the same things, but I would have loved to see examples of good reels of animators/concept designers on TV shows.

  19. Jiexi Wang says:

    I think all of those presentations are very useful for us. There were a couple of tips that I didn’t know before that I found very interesting and reasonable, like ‘don’t put irrelevant work on your reel’. Also, seeing all those fantastic work in the ‘good reels’ makes me feel nervous since I haven’t got enough good work to show…

  20. Catalina says:

    This seminar was very helpful. Just as Amelia says, I also like the advice of color pattern or find a small story to tell in your reel. I think now I have to go over my animations and build my reel.
    I have no more excuses to procrastinate it.

  21. Li,Xia says:

    This seminar was very helpful. But prerequisite is that I need a brilliant animation first. After watching too much good showreels, I decided that I will put all my focus on my production1.

  22. Great experience to listen to these enterprises. Definitely crucial to get to know those details. They’ve shown specially strong portfolios, creating a challenge for people that would like to apply for internships. Although it seems difficult, there’s a good amount of hope given we still have more two years. Mirada, was one of my main favorites because it blends multimedia projects and demands diversity in knowledge, also teaching a lot to the new comer. I would like to go on that direction, in order to be able to work for other people and direct my own films as well.

  23. Yawen says:

    last week is really amazing, They gave us a lot of useful advice on how to make reel, very help. it also give us many formation about how to find a job and how to interview, and show these fantastic works from their company. It’s very good for us to prepare for our the future.

  24. Jake Zhang says:

    The seminar is great and for me personally I really like that POV not only invited Disney, Sony, Dreamworks kind of same type of big studios mainly focus on feature films, but the other types of companies like Mirada, whose requirement is totally different. The point is it makes me know the possibilities of “what we can be” and what we should do to reach that.

  25. Tim says:

    All four recruiters seemed to offer the same advice about showreels, which is great because until this seminar I really had no idea of what to include or how to structure my own. This direction is very valuable.
    The state of the VFX industry seems to be as dire as Cartoon Brew and other blogs have been saying, which is really quite disheartening for anyone hoping to move into that world I would imagine. The real take away for me was, it’s really important to build connections and get as many placements/as much exposure as you can while you’re at school, because otherwise you don’t stand a snowball in hell’s chance of getting a VFX job in LA! I understand that there is quite a strong industry in Canada and the UK for this, though.
    I would love to have a similar panel, with network studio recruiters (CN, Disney, Nick etc) as this is the field I would love to move into. At least, for now it is – maybe I’d feel differently after their panel..?!!

  26. Jason Ronzani says:

    This, in my mind, was the most useful and informative seminar we have ever had. One of the biggest things on my mind right now is “what am I going to do when I get out of school?” I know not everyone wants to get these specific companies, but the advice they shared is universal for most jobs in the industry. It was really great seeing what they thought were examples of good work so we have an idea of what to strive for. It somewhat demystified what is needed to make a good demo reel/website.

  27. Fan Feng says:

    I was very inspired by this presentation. Dream looks always far away from you, but we still need to dream everyday. Disney company is my dream. I will fight on my dream.
    Although a lot of showreels are about 3d, but I am especially interested in the Art Development department which includes a lot of concept designers. I like painting and drawing in different style, I will do more and more this kind of practices in the future, without any doubt , it will be helpful.

  28. Zheng Kang says:

    I’m really appreciated they could come to our school and shared such important information. Each company has different style of works with different requirements from employees. It is very useful for my reel working. After watching so many excellent reels, I will try my best to do my P1 and focus on the reel making in the near future.

  29. Joseph Yeh says:

    What a helpful seminar! I learned a lot and am more pumped to bust out a good reel and get out there to find a good job. Whenever I can’t find a solution to something like not being able to find a job, my best answer is work hard! Les do this guys!

  30. emily says:

    It was great to hear from all these company about what kind people they are looking for. They gave us great examples for good demoreel v.s bad demoreel. I felt that’s what i need for this point. Thank you for all this important and useful information.

  31. Tristan says:

    If you can count on one thing in life as a media/art student, it’s panels like this leaving you confused. That is, if you can’t really choose a side. I found Andy’s advice to be most helpful, mostly because it reinforces what is taught here. I think the best advice I pulled from it was that there is power is having a brief reel. I was really surprised to hear that DD had hired people in the past based upon 2 shot reels.

  32. Lanzhu Jian says:

    I think Andy is the best for giving us great advice.

  33. Yifu Zhou says:

    This seminar is very helpful because it helps me learn more about those studios. Ken’s speech is very inspiring because I am always looking for information about Sony Studios. I think I know how to prepare for different studios when I applying for jobs since each studio has their own different needs.

  34. Brian Rhodes says:

    Very informative! Thankful they got a chance to speak on what makes a good reel and that they echoed each other on much of it. It really reinforces the fact that you should not have bad music on it. jk.

  35. Simo Lliu says:

    It was one of the most helpful seminar so far. People coming from different studios, sat down to talk with us face to face, which is more directly to get the exactly suggestions from them and clearly found out what they need for their different kinds of studios. It was very helpful.

  36. Fernando Rabelo says:

    This was a very important seminar. This seminar is vital for us students since it brings us a chance to deal and listen to real recruiters that have plenty experience and different point of views. This seminar was an incredible chance to understand a bit more of what small and big companies are looking for while looking for new employees. It gives us a chance to better prepare ourselves when it comes to looking for a job as an animator in the competitive animation field. This is a must have seminar that we should have every semester.

  37. Reggie says:

    This seminar was very helpful. I appreciated tips and knowledge provided by Dawn, Ken, Andrew Cochrane, and Shish. It was great to see various reels and portfolios of hired post-graduates because one can understand what various studios look for in candidates. In addition, one can tailor his reel too meet the standards and rise above the pool.

    Dawn and Ken were great at pointing out their Disney’s and Sony’s specific needs from the candidate, and Shish was great highlighting the importance of the showreel’s content. At the end, all the guest speakers echo the same things.

    The various portfolios and showreels intimidated me, but they also aspire me to improve and take my work to next level. Hopefully these guests can return and drop the knowledge to future undergrads and graduates.

  38. Sijia Huang says:

    Their advises on how to build a good reel is very helpful! The methord is here~What we need to do is go over and updated our portfolio and reel!

  39. Eric Cheng says:

    A very very useful seminar, help me know the different culture of different company. Also, let me understand what level I should reach to work for them. Everyone gave some fresh and great knowledge. I really like Andrew and Dawn.

  40. Ning Xu says:

    Their advice are so good and useful, I m thinking about to adapt into my stop-motion career. this is such a small industry.

  41. Frank Gu says:

    Today’s seminar is one of the most cool seminar that i am looking for in this semester. All their advice and tips are really helpful. It is cool to watch the demoreel that they bring to us to see what is work or what is not work.

  42. Chaoqi Zhang says:

    After listening to the industry people’s advises, I learned I should specify and specialize my demo.thanks to all of them.

  43. This seminar was incredibly helpful with all the tips concerning the reels etc, and reminded me that its the highest time to start thinking about it. It was interesting to hear that it is good to have different kinds of demo depending to what job I apply for. I am very grateful they took some time to come to the seminar

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