Somehow or another you've managed to get an interview at a studio.
Impossible! You might say.
Well, it might be unlikely but stranger things happen every day.
Before going into how to conduct yourself on an interview, first some tips on how to get an interview.
1) Follow the advice from here and here.
2) Find a mutual acquaintance or notable reference to recommend you. People will almost always take meetings with friends of friends or children of friends or friends of friends' children. Even the most tenuous connection will usually work. If we get a call from the British Embassy or from Bill Clinton's office to meet with an artist, we will.
3) Even if you don't have a connection, all you have to do is ask. Like all things, this is a roll of the dice, whether I make an unsolicited appointment depends on a number of things. That number is 1. The one thing is my mood. If we're not looking for artists and I feel like meeting, I will. If I don't feel like it, I'll say "We're not looking for anybody, but send your work." If we are looking, no matter how pissy I feel, I will meet.
People rarely ask to come in.
Two related asides:
1) Don't ask for an "informational interview". Say you want to show your work. The only exception is if you're a student who is considering animation as a field of study.
2) If a studio contacts you out-of-the-blue don't ignore them. Yes, starving artists, I have contacted students/recent graduates after seeing their work and they didn't even bother to reply. In some of these cases we didn't have a specific job at the time, but their inability to reply makes it fairly certain we won't have on for them in the future.
Now on to the interview.
But not so fast. There's important work to do before you sit down with your potential employer.
1) Do some research on them. Before I meet with anyone, I'll look them up -whether its a potential client or artist.
2) Prepare for the interview. Like going in for a college interview, think of what you want to get out of the experience of working for X company. Think of the things that brought you to that point. Have a few questions for them.
3) Don't dress like a freaking slob. Other people may disagree with this and encourage slovenly dress code in an effort to "promote creative freedom" or some nonsense. We're in a visual field, and a field which relies on character study. Draw your own conclusions.
That's not to say wear your funeral jacket or your Chanel suit, just dress like you mean it.
Now you're at the studio. A lot of different things can happen. You could be ignored, brushed aside and made to empty the trash on your way out. Your appointment could have been completely forgotten or superseded at the last moment. The company could've gone out of business (this has actually happened to at least one person I've met). Be prepared for anything.
You could also be introduced to some of your animation heroes.
Assuming you've made it into the interview, make sure you have:
1) a working DVD. Test it on multiple players and computers.
2) a portfolio
3) a business card
4) a resume
The interview is not a date. You are not there to be charming and to lie about your test results. There's business to take care of. The portfolio gives you a pretense to talk business. Be prepared to discuss the work -how long it took to create, what tools you used, et c.
The card and resume are "leave behind" reminders.
There have been studies which claim the more an interview speaks the better they think the interview has gone. Maybe that's true for other people, for me as an interview, I'm interested in hearing not saying.
Even so, it is a conversation. Be prepared to discuss your work. Have a list of questions -even if they're questions about how the sausage is made.
Know what you want. "I want to do everything" is not a constructive answer. If you want to animate on feature films, say so. If you want to do Aqua Teen Hunger Force, be upfront. It's unlikely that you'll be hired to do the job you want, but a person with a goal is more interesting than someone who just wants to be around.
Some people have modest and specific ambitions. They want to paint backgrounds. They want to do special effects compositing. We like people who have broad, general interests and are more likely to bring a staff artist in who's a polymath. Like all studios, we rely on specialists per project.
Don't expect the interview to last more than five minutes. A brief interview isn't necessarily bad.