Nickelodeon Visits SVA

Nickelodeon Visits SVA

This week Nickelodeon had a recruiting presentation at the School of Visual Arts to talk about how to break into the animation industry, what they look for in talent and what it is like to work at Nickelodeon. Out of all of the studios that visit my alma mater, Nick is definitely one of my top 2 favorites.

The presentation was lead by Eliza Hart, Director of Animation Development; Nathan Schram, Manager of Animation Development and Ariel Goldberg who oversees Nickelodeon Animation’s Recruitment efforts, and is responsible for hiring the studio’s 2D/3D artists, writers, directors, editors, and production crews. The presentation was structured as a conversation so this post will be formatted as an interview. via SVA Career Department

Ariel Goldberg kicked off the discussion by saying

“There’s no straight path into the industry. Nothing is a straight line.” He then expressed that he discovered early that there was a disconnect between the way the executives were approaching what as being done versus the way the artists were approaching what was being done. This made him decide to bridge this communication as someone who has been an artist in the field, he should go over to the executive side and be that person on the executive team who can speak to the artists in their language. This sentiment is the reason why I switched over to the production management side as well.

What advice can you give for a writing trying to craft a portfolio for TV animation?

NS - Create spec scripts with variety. Look at various genres such as 6-11 versus preschool versus a little older than that. Depending on what you want to specialize in, show your voice. Be true to yourself as a writer.

EH - We look for original script samples that showcases your voice and a spec script that is something that you’d want to be working on. For example for a show like Spongebob, can this person actually imitate that style of writing and can they write in the voice of those characters. Two important skills for any writer to have.

AG - It’s important to work on your own stuff but to also showcase that you can work under direction by doing writing specs.

What do you look for in an animation demo reel and portfolio?

NS - your voice and your designs. Action adventure versus comedy versus drama animation styles. We like to see someone that is true to who they are as an artists and are consistent.

EH - Your website should be easy to navigate. Link to specialties separately. Send the exact link to specialty position instead of the general website link. Contact info should be easy to find.

AG - Consistency of quality. Shorter reel with better quality.

NS - Shot composition and  camera direction. Reel should be between 1.5 - 2 mins

Emails & Networking

AG - make your links apart of your email signature. Send emails after connecting on LinkedIn. Connect with junior executives and all recruiters.

EH - Try not to leave a meeting without names of other people hat you could be meeting with.

NS - Go in to a meeting and talk about what you are passionate about and what you want to achieve

What would you like to see on cover letters?


EH - Keep it short and specific. 1. Intro about yourself 2. Here’s all of my work experience that is relevant to why you want to hire me 3. Brief summary. Vary this depending on your audience. Make sure to provide “Why would I be beneficial to you?” and “Here’s the experience that I have that would help me help you”

AG - Address “ Here’s what I hope to contribute…”

How do you translate a comic portfolio for positions in the studio?

AG - Board out your story for storyboard artist positions

The group as a whole expressed that there is a significant overlap between comic artists and storyboard artists. The main thing is with comics, you can say a lot in one panel whereas for storyboards you need more images to tell the story.

What qualities do you look for in an intern?

AG - We look for a great attitudes, the roles you contributed to school projects. Treat your internship as an ongoing interview.

Nickelodeon has the highest rate in the industry for hiring their interns within 2 years of them completing their internship.

Nathan on why fan art is a no no

NS - The people that are reviewing your portfolio have worked on these characters and have gone through training to draw them accurately.  No matter how good your fan art is, their eyes are sensitive and will pick out the shortcomings. Instead do your own take of the characters or create new characters in that show’s style and could live or be a part of that visual world.

Eliza, Nathan and Ariel returned to SVA later in the day thanks to WIA’s SVA student chapter for a more intimate discussion.

How do you do a reboot?

EH - We do a lot of research on the pillars that made those properties beloved.  We ask ourselves are we reinventing this or updating this?


AG - We focus on whether today’s kids are going to receive this. If the nostalgic crowd receives it as well then that’s a bonus. We will not touch a property unless the original creative forces are a part of it in some way. As it gets revolutionized there is still continuity in the reboot.

How do you handle original content  internally versus externally?

NS - We receive both. In-house artists can pitch their ideas at any time.

Nickelodeon outsources all of their animation. The only content that gets animated in house are bumpers and social media elements.

What advice can you give for making your test stand out?

AG -Watch that show. Study how the character acts so that what you create is in alignment with the show.

What do you look for in a Production Assistant?

AG - Organizational skills, software/ hardware proficient and an understanding of the production pipeline.

What do you look for in a storyboard artist?

EH - is there a beginning, middle and an end to your story?

AG - Keep sequences to 100-200 boards. Focus on 3 or 4 really strong stories. Keep it simple.

Final words from Nathan Schram

Be true to yourself. If you try to water yourself down so that you can be as applicable to everybody as possible then you might actually be hurting your chances in getting ahead. Instead, declare your voice and show that you have some range.

This was hands down one of the best Nickelodeon presentations that I have attended in the last 10 years. I say that with ease. It was the most informative and transparent. My only wish is to see their LA and  NYC reps together at these kind of presentations.

This event was co-hosted by SVA Career Development; MFA Computer Arts; BFA Animation; and BFA Computer Art, Computer Animation, and Visual Effects.

You can look for career opportunities with Nickelodeon at their website and on Viacom Careers.

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