I’m starting to see questions about the CTN Animation Expo pop up on Facebook so thought I’d share some quick tips from the perspective of someone who has been there twice, both as a recent graduate and again as a ‘working professional’.
Getting in and out
– CTN is hosted next to Burbank airport and is a short walk away, if possible book your flights through that airport. What a lot of people don’t realise is how far CTN is from LAX. If you’re flying in or out on one of the days of the conference, be sure to factor in travel time. I’ve traveled by both shuttle bus and Uber, both taking a little under an hour.
– Staying at the Marriott is a big plus, if you’re tired you can easily pop upstairs for a break, drop bags off, etc. It does sell out fast (most probably months ago) and is expensive, but there is a facebook group for people looking for rooms to share.
– Nearby hotels are fine options too. I would suggest to load up Uber or Lyft on your phone so you can leave and go back when you want and not wait for the CTN shuttle bus. If you take group ride share options, you’ll most probably end up with other CTN attendees, another way to meet people and cut costs.
What to bring
– If you’re job hunting it’s best to bring your reel on a tablet and possibly even headphones. Lugging around a computer will be heavy and cumbersome over the course of the event. Don’t rely on having wi-fi, be sure to keep a link you can pass to recruiters, but keep your reel as a file on your tablet that you can instantly open up.
– Business cards are a big plus. Companies like Moo allow you to set up and print your cards easily over the internet. If a recruiter likes your reel, they’ll ask for one and also when chatting with people around the event, it’s easy to whip them out and follow up later. I would toss up between having 50 or 100 cards printed.
– You’ll be on your feet a lot, so comfortable shoes are also a plus.
What to do
– If possible pick up your pass on the night before, otherwise go early on the opening day. I remember the official kick for CTN 2016 being around 12pm on the Friday, but there were still hundreds of people waiting in line to pick up their passes to enter.
– For talks, book the ones you absolutely want to go to. I’d recommend max of 3 per day and then see on the day which extra talks you might want to squeeze into. Anything by well known animators fills up fast and probably won’t have extra room for those who haven’t reserved entry.
– Visit studio booths early on the first day, if you’re looking for a reel review they’ll often hand out tickets with times for you to come back. Saturday is the busiest day of the conference and Sunday things start to slow down/wrap up as people start catching flights.
– Be sociable. If you’re standing in line, say hello to the person behind you. Everyone has something in common and are hoping to meet like-minded people.
– If you had mentors or know people in LA, let them know you’ll be at CTN. Some will be open to having a drink or doing studio tours. When going in my graduation year, I met up with 3 of my 6 mentors during my first CTN trip.
– Party. Friday and Saturday are the nights to have a drink and meet a few people. The hotel bars are safe options, but would keep an ear out for any other events. By Sunday everyone is exhausted or leaving. I’m a big believer in not going to events with the intention to ‘network’, but just to have a good time and meet others irrespective of their position in the industry. I also think building honest friendships with those around you is the real key to growing your network.
– Follow up. When you get home, go through the cards you’ve collected, facebook/linkedin connections you’ve made, recruiters you’ve met and send them a quick message. Say where you met, that you enjoyed the opportunity and maybe follow up with a question for more info on what you discussed.
VIP or regular pass?
– I’ve had both and would say for an animation graduate there’s no reason to splash out on a VIP pass. Anyone you would like to meet is accessible on the floors or after their talks. I would suggest taking the savings from the cheaper pass and put it into more studies, you’ll get more out of it.
What to expect
Expect chaos. : )
It is a fairly large event, probably held in an event space not best suited for its size and is filled with recent graduates trying to get any kind of leg up in the industry. A lot of the people helping out at the event are volunteers who may not be fully aware of everything that will be happening. Keep respectful, get to events you want to attend early, don’t expect to come away with a job offer, but do expect to have fun and meet some like-minded people.
What if I can’t go
One thing I do like about CTN is they record their talks in the bigger rooms. Some are freely available online, others are on their CTN TV web site as part of a yearly membership. Currently the site is charging $5.99 for a year long access. I do have access to this and while it doesn’t have every talk you might have wanted to see, I would say it is worth that small amount. I’d just be sure to check if it is a recurring yearly payment or if it’s a one off payment for a year.
Feel free to throw any other questions or tips in the comments.