- 
Listen To The Story
Marketplace

Everyone has a dream job growing up: doctor, vet, ice cream taste tester. But how do you actually get the gig? Marketplace is looking into how with the occasional series How to be a ...


Shannon O'Connor had a job doing airbrush art at a theme park when an animator discovered her and wrote her a letter of recommendation. She used the letter to get a job as a production assistant for the movie "Space Jam," and the rest is history. Here's her story: 

I met a bunch of people there, and they helped me learn how to do what they call "character in-betweens," which is all the drawings that go in between. You know, like, "Whoa, who does that?" There's a person who does it.

I just went home every single night, and I practiced after my PA job, and I showed it to my boss, and I just kind of talked my way into a job as an artist by the end of the movie. I got to draw the "Looney Tunes." And mostly, I just sat at a desk and thought it was the coolest thing ever, is getting paid to do something like that. And I didn't go to art school or anything.

Eventually, I got hired on "The Simpsons." I did character to layout on "The Simpsons." You kind of have to put the characters in their environment, make sure they are in this space correctly, and they do keep poses of the animation. 

I think it's important to know how to draw. I didn't go to art school, so I guess it's proven that you don't have to go to art school. But if you don't go to art school, you have to want to do this, because you're going to have to work really hard and draw every day. Get an Instagram account. Post your art. Get to know other artists. I feel like so much of what happens is who you know or just somebody else knowing that you're capable of doing something and wanting to give you the opportunity to do it.

There's so many more opportunities now for people with their own individual styles. I don't feel like that was as big of a thing back when I started. Now, developing your own style I think is important. It kind of sets you apart from everybody else.

Right now, I'm a story artist, so I'm thinking differently now than I was thinking as a character designer. Now I'm thinking cinematic. I'm thinking storytelling. I'm thinking about the shots or the acting, the important main acting of the characters. So where is this character going to be? What's going to best sell this moment?

I can look at entire sections of certain shows that I worked on like, yeah I was there late that night. I came up with that. I drew that animation or that acting came from my point of view. Or something where when you see a character that you've designed, you see actually walking and talking is pretty cool because somebody else brought it to light. Just came up with a design and now there it is, walking around.

As a nonprofit news organization, Marketplace is on a mission that drives what we do every day: to increase economic intelligence across the country. But we can’t do it alone. Become a Marketplace Investor today, in whatever amount you choose, and your donation will go twice as far, thanks to a dollar-for-dollar match from The Kendeda Fund.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.