SAE Industry Insight: Ubisoft Studio Art Manager, Phil Bale

14 May 2020

Phil Bale is Studio Art Manager at Ubisoft, who has previously worked at games companies including Codemasters and Rebellion as a Senior Artist. He worked as Lead Environment Artist at Freestyle Games (Guitar Hero Live, DJ Hero, DJ Hero 2, Sing Party) for eight and a half years before becoming Art Manager. 

On 18 January 2017, Ubisoft acquired the studio from Activision and renamed it Ubisoft Leamington. Phil continued to work as Art Manager at Ubisoft Leamington, with his job title eventually changing to Studio Art Manager to reflect the scope of his work with the company’s Newcastle-upon-Tyne-based partner studio, Ubisoft Reflections. 

Phil enjoys working with lots of great people across multiple studios, using his experience and problem-solving skills. 

What are Phil’s day-to-day responsibilities and duties? 

His role involves managing Art Leads in two studios across multiple projects, supporting HR teams at a studio level, being able to represent artists and speak on their behalf with senior managers, as well as ensuring developers’ needs and questions are followed up. He supports the Lead Artists with their work, working to create and maintain consistency across the Art department, as well as introducing processes to make their jobs easier, helping move artists between teams or projects, as well as reviewing promotion cases and representing these for approval. 

How did he acquire this position at Ubisoft? 

Phil said: “I originally became an Art Manager after I applied for an internal position and was successful, and have since been able to use my experience of games production and team creation to good effect. I joined Ubisoft as an Art Manager and have been given more responsibility making it a 'studio' role resulting in a change of job title to recognise the work in multiple studios.” 

What is Phil’s greatest professional accomplishment to date? 

For Phil, his greatest achievement is having successfully played a key role in facilitating and supporting the transition in terms of mindset, company culture and process from Freestyle Games to Ubisoft ones.

Phil said that the transition from one studio ownership to another was also the biggest challenge he faced in his career. He said: “I had to be able to react quickly to changes and consider many different people to make sure it was a smooth process.” 

In terms of his long-term goals, Phil wants to continue to work with people and apply his experience in supporting studio needs.

What professional advice would Phil give his younger self? 

He would say: “Relax! You’re working with great people and you can work through the problems as they occur together.” 

What are the most important things that SAE students can do to ensure they are industry-ready by the time they graduate? 

Phil said: “Work hard! Listen to your lecturers, they actually know what they’re talking about as much as people who work in the industry. Research the companies you are interested in joining, find out what sorts of projects they do and have done in the past. Know what sort of studio you are trying to join by talking to developers there (via LinkedIn for example), try and meet people at industry events and make the most of any visits to your university by industry professionals.” 

When it comes to that all-important first job interview, make sure you have done as much preparation as possible. Phil said: “Practice your interview technique with professionals or friends (the more relevant experience of the industry or interviewing the better). Don't lose hope if your first attempt to get a job isn't successful - keep learning from each experience and interview and tweak your work examples, showreel, portfolio as well as the way you approach the interview. Have a favourite piece of work and be prepared to talk about how amazing you are, the 'added value' you'll bring. Relax, you are talking about the two things you know better than anyone else in the world - you and your work.” 

Note: SAE Industry Insight is an interview feature where we talk to people working within the creative industries about their roles and how they got there, with the intention of providing SAE students with career advice. The people we interview are not necessarily affiliated with SAE in any way.