Please help a Noobie

Hello all,  
I am currently looking into getting into the special effects work . Just as a hobby for now . I don't know where or how to start . I have some artistic ability but nothing great . Any and all help would be greatly appreciated .

Thank you 



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    Hey Jack,

    Here is a paste of some advice I gave another person here that I think is applicable for pretty much anyone getting started.  This is all supplementary to attending any number of schools that teach makeup/practical effects (Cinema Makeup School, Makeup Designory, The Tom Savini School, etc) which are great if you have the time/money to dedicate to that form of education.

    -- start paste --

    As you are just getting started I would suggest spending some of your own time (outside of school) learning about various tools, materials, and methodologies that are applied in the effects industry. 3d printing, foam/plastic fabrication, material sciences, chemistry, CAD/CAM, machining, woodwork, metalwork, painting, electronics & microcontrollers (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc.), mechanical engineering, sewing, mold making & casting, illustration, sculpting, interpretive dance, etc.

    Why such a broad field of studies? Because you never know which area you will fall in love with or have an aptitude for until you get your hands dirty. And you may find (like many of us do) that you are a generalist that enjoys (and can be proficient) working in a wide variety of disciplines. A wider variety of skills means you are more valuable to any potential employer.

    So where to learn on your own?
    1. Stan Winston School is a great place to start.
    2. The Replica Prop Forum (http://www.therpf.com/) is a large community of people all over the world building all kinds of amazing things. Many industry professionals hang out there in their free time.
    3. The Effects Lab (http://www.theeffectslab.com/) online forum/community of professional and hobby special effects artists.
    4. YouTube has a lot of great free tutorials on a wide variety of subjects. One of my favorite channels is run by Brink in the Yard Mold Supply (https://www.youtube.com/user/brickintheyard/), Stuart Bray has a lot of great makeup tutorials (https://www.youtube.com/user/stuartbray73/). Harrison at Volpin Props is always making something new and exciting (https://www.youtube.com/user/volpin) Search around for any topic you may be interested in and subscribe to a lot of creative channels.
    5. Magazines like CineFex have great articles, and they just released an iPad app that lets you get digital copies of back issues. Other magazines like Fangoria and back issues of Famous Monsters Magazine are great. Make Magazine (http://makezine.com/) and other DIY publications are great too.
    6. Watch every documentary or behind the scenes feature you can find.
    7. Make a list of all your favorite special effects artists (Dick Smith, Steve Johnson, Tom Savini, Stan Winston, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr, Rick Baker, Greg Nicotero, Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger, any of the SWS instructors, etc.) and see what books they have written, what DVDs they have released, if they have a blog or website, etc. Get to know their body of work. Become a bit of a historian for your craft, that knowledge will server you later. (there will be a test)
    8. Get your hands dirty. Find a project that sparks your interest and start building it. Especially if it requires new materials/techniques that you are not familiar with. Learning from a book is one thing, but applying that knowledge gives you something to measure your knowledge/skill by. And nothing motivates learning something new like needing that knowledge to finish up a project. And when trying something new remember safety is your first priority. Read instructions on tools, warnings on products, wear gloves/eye protection/respirators when appropriate, have a fire extinguisher near by, and avoid the temptation to reanimate the dead.
    9. Look for an internship. Nothing beats working beside someone who is willing to share their knowledge with you, or introduce you to others who can help further your education.
    10. Help someone with a student film/independent film/web series/play/haunted house, etc.
    11. Join a hackerspace. The "maker movement" is in full force, and there are a lot of groups of creative people out there sharing their creativity.
    12. Attend any creative events that may surface in your area. You may not be in LA for events like Monsterpalooza, but there are smaller satellite events all over the country like Maker Faire.

    I know "learn everything ever" seems like a bit of a copout, but a big part of working in effects is being a human sponge.

    Even when you find the right school/program to further your education (or have that first job) keep learning and experimenting in your fee time.

    And now is a good time to star building a portfolio that shows off all those great skills.

    -- end paste --

    Hope that helps, and best of luck!

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    Great info Chris, thanks for reposting that advice.
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