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Growing a MoGraph Studio with Michelle Ouellette

School of Motion

Michelle Ouellette shares how she's helping grow Yeah Haus into a fun MoGraph powerhouse one illustration at a time.

For most of us the thought of owning a studio sounds like a dream come true, but what is it actually like to grow an emerging studio? And how are you to compete when you're somewhere between Buck and a freelancer?

Today's guest is one of the kindest people we've ever had on the podcast. Michelle Ouellette is an illustrator, artist, and all around great human. She's also the co-owner of Yeah Haus, a MoGraph studio based out of Detroit along with her husband Chad.

Yeah Haus's fun and colorful style is instantly recognizable and it is certainly a reflection of the studio's owners. In the podcast, Michelle talks about the process of creating and maintaining the studio. Along the way we'll learn about Michelle's background in Graphic Design and Illustration. You're going to love this one.


Here's Yeah Haus's most recent reel. Michelle's illustration work is all over this thing.





Podcast Transcript Below 👇:

Intro (00:00:01):

He's about 455 yards. He's going to hit a button.

Joey Korenman (00:00:07):

This is the school of motion podcast. Come for the MoGraph stay for the puns.

Michelle Oulette (00:00:15):

Nobody can deny you what you deserve. If you have the skills and anybody can have these skills, you know, I mean, it's just like anybody can do this. I really think that it's for everyone. And if you work really hard, you get your reps in and, and you get better. And maybe, you know, you can, you can be that freelancer that you want to be, or that artists that you want to be, or that studio owner that you want to be, because it doesn't, it's, I'm certainly not a rocket scientist. You know, I just, I worked really hard and I think that anybody can do this from anywhere.

Joey Korenman (00:00:50):

Back in November of last year, school of motion took a field trip to Detroit, Michigan to check out a few studios and to shoot some video for our upcoming free course, the path to MoGraph. One of those studios was yeah. House. And as soon as we walked in, I was struck by the friendly chill, like almost family, like vibe that the studio had. And to my pleasant surprise, the studio was mostly female, a total anomaly in motion design, which look it's no secret is something of a sausage party. Now, in this episode of the podcast, we are going to talk about the gender gap in our industry. So yeah, house has been on a roll lately, putting out amazing piece after amazing piece all with their own unique style. And a decent portion of that style comes from Michelle will let an illustrator extraordinary. And one of the co-founders of your house, along with her husband, Chad, Michelle runs a studio that handles small jobs, big jobs, cell animation, 2d, explainer videos, a little 3d, and even some live action in this interview.

Joey Korenman (00:01:52):

Michelle talks about how the studio formed what it's like to run a motion design shop out of Detroit, Michigan, which in case you didn't know is not New York or Los Angeles. We dig into her incredible illustration chops. And then we talk about the elephant in the room, the gender gap, Michelle was incredibly open and honest about her thoughts and experiences. And it's my sincere hope that this episode gets you thinking a little bit, especially you dudes out there. So get ready for a huge dose of inspiration and wisdom from Michelle. We'll let of your house, but first check out this story from one of our alumni.

Speaker 4 (00:02:28):

Hello, my name is John Shea. I live in New York city and I took the after effects, kickstart class from school of motion. I think the Kickstarter class is awesome because it's basically just a professional walk through of all the most important things that you'll need to do. I'm just jumping into the world motion graphics, but I can already tell how it's added a little Polish to the work that I do giving me a more refined look. You can build that confidence very quickly and that's, that's rewarding. Of course, I would totally recommend this course, anybody out there learning, trying to learn how to [inaudible] because it makes you feel like you're part of a community because you are, even if you're just a student just starting out, there's other people out there just like you,

Joey Korenman (00:03:07):

Michelle. It is awesome to talk with you again. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Thank

Michelle Oulette (00:03:12):

You for having me. This has been a lifelong dream. I'm sure

Joey Korenman (00:03:15):

It has as it for most people. So why don't we start with this? Uh, you know, yeah. House has, it feels like it from the outside, um, has been starting to get noticed more and more. Uh, I've seen your work shared on Twitter and places like that. And, and, um, you know, we've, we've shared some of your work on, in our newsletter and stuff like that. Um, and so from the outside, it sometimes feels like, whoa, this awesome studio just sprung up from nowhere and they're doing this amazing work, but I'm sure that's not what actually happened. So I'm wondering if you can give us like the quick history of your house, how did you and Chad end up running this amazing studio?

Michelle Oulette (00:03:52):

Thank you for those compliments is really nice. Um, well, uh, well, you know, Chad, we, we, um, we worked at like agencies locally. I had worked at a bunch of places and, and he had, and then I was working at a three 3d house being kind of unfulfilled. And so I had like said, oh, I'm going to go freelance. And I worked for about a year. I saved up money. And, and eventually when he did the same thing, he went freelance a year before me. And he saved up for a year. And which kind of gives you a year to be like, man, maybe I don't want to do this, but we both eventually went freelance and he got a job with like a startup because there was like this tech startup boom around five years ago where all these tech startups were like, we need an explainer video. And so we're like, yeah, we'll team up, we'll do this. And so we essentially created yeah. House to, just to like operate under. And we're like, yeah, we'll just stop doing this whenever, you know, the jobs stop coming in and they haven't stopped coming in. So you have

Joey Korenman (00:04:53):

Pretty much how it goes. Yeah. Yeah. I want to ask you about something. Cause you mentioned you were working at a 3d studio and I saw on your LinkedIn profile that you got some sort of one-year degree or something from, from, uh, sounds like a 3d program. Uh, and yet yeah. House is sort of overall look and especially the kind of illustration that you do. I don't see any signs of that. So I'm wondering if you could talk about like, you know, your you're dabbling in 3d and where that went.

Michelle Oulette (00:05:21):

So I did like, uh, I did graphic design for a few years and then that was like a post a post-grad at, uh, Sheridan, which is near Toronto. It was like a 3d and I'd always wanted to work in animation because I love animation. And I went there and I was like, man, after doing a whole year of animation, I hate animation. Like personally it's it was like not my thing. And also at the time, which was 2005, everything was a lot more difficult than it is now. And so it was just like, I just hated it. Like I hated what came out. I hated that you had to have a team of, you know, 75 to 200 people just to create anything. And, and so I was, I'm glad that I did it. It was, it was an extremely difficult year. I had to learn Maya and eight months and my teachers took like a four week break during the middle cause they, um, they went on strike.

Michelle Oulette (00:06:19):

So I had to learn a lot of it myself and it was really good discipline and it was really good learning how to work like that. And I met so many nice people and because I am a Canadian person, um, my visa to work in the United States, I needed to have a four year program like degree. And because I just happened to have that fourth year, I was able to come over here and work in graphic design. So, um, I have used that portion of my education in different ways, but I did not enjoy it. So I don't do it.

Joey Korenman (00:06:52):

And was, was the thing you, I mean, you mentioned that you didn't like that you needed these giant teams to, to do things, which obviously if you're working in, you know, sort of the big budget world of like Pixar movies or Dreamworks yeah. That's, that's what it takes to do that kind of stuff. But was there anything you mentioned that, um, you know, animation, wasn't your thing? And it's interesting because I'm, I have tried VR like many, many times to get into drawing and into illustration and that seems to be your thing. And I just, I, it's never managed to hook me and I'm an animation has I love animation. So I'm wondering, um, I'm just curious, like what was it about animation that you didn't like compared to what year you really do? You know, a lot of which is drawing

Michelle Oulette (00:07:35):

Well, um, here's a tip animation or not tip a thought. Animation is really hard. It's like really, really hard. I found this out and I was like, wow, this is hard. And I just didn't have a love for it. It was the 3d side of it was no drawing at all. So I was not a fan of that. It was just like the whole reason I want to be doing anything is because I want to be able to use my hands and create something. So there's no drawing. And then, um, with the ne the traditional that we did, which was like nothing, it was like a couple of weeks to learn how to do a bouncing ball or whatever. I just, it was just very difficult and it was drawing the same thing over and over again. And I've met people who do sell and when I see them create something, you just see this like fire in this like thought process and the way that they, they like go through, you know, just this creation period. I just don't have that. Like, I just don't have that love. Like I want to create something and then I kind of want to create something else.

Joey Korenman (00:08:35):

That's it bringing up like a really interesting point. One of the questions I w I definitely want to talk about your illustration specifically and your style and all that, but one of the things I wanted to ask you and sort of like, just for my own personal benefit is, you know, to get really good at something, do you have to love it? Um, you know, there there's a lot of our students I'd say most of them are trying to be generalists, you know, who can like design and animate and maybe edit a little bit and put the whole thing together by themselves because there's like, that's, that can be very lucrative. And then you're very marketable if you can do that. But you know, like I can design, I don't love it though. So I, I, and I'm not amazing at it either. Do you think that, like, that LA you didn't love animation, so do you think you could have been really, really good at it? Like if you'd force yourself?

Michelle Oulette (00:09:25):

I don't think I could force myself. I mean, I mean, I guess if I lived somewhere where that was my only way of eating, you know, it, but I just, I don't think that I could, I think I would be bored and unless I found something where I found the challenge worked for me, and maybe I was drawing differently and maybe I had a different experience and I, if I Ted taken traditional animation, maybe I would've felt differently, but I, I don't know. You know, I, I think it would be very difficult to be like a super expert at something that you just don't enjoy at all. You know? I mean, I think you, if you find small things that you like really love and you add that in, then I think that's really exciting, but if you just hate it every day, it's like, I don't know, life's too short. You go do what you love. If it's like, maybe it's investment banking, you know?

Joey Korenman (00:10:16):

Right. I think there's some really good advice in there about, you know, it's kind of a cliche, just what you love, you know, and if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. And you know, that, that sounds kind of idealistic. But I think that you've made a good point, which is like, if you're, if you don't love what you're doing, you're probably not going to become obsessed with it, which means you're not going to become really, really proficient at it just because it takes the word.

Michelle Oulette (00:10:43):

Yeah. And, you know, and I, I mean, I really would want to add that. Like, I don't love drawing all the time. I love like 15% of it. Are there certain things I love about it. And that's what keeps me, that's my drive. But like, most of it is like, this is hard, this sucks. Like I'm getting it to a place. Like the drawing's not in the right place. Like I want to check my Twitter. Like, you know what I mean? Like you're just not there. And you're just like, Ugh. I mean, I wish man, it'd be nice if I just sat down and like, like butterflies came out of my screen and I was just like, oh, I just, everything's so great. I just love every part of this process. Oh, you want me to do it again? Because the colors don't match what the client asked for. I would love to do that. That would be amazing. I wish that was, I don't, I don't know if that exists. Maybe it does. I would like to meet that person and mentor under them.

Joey Korenman (00:11:33):

Yeah. I suspect it doesn't, but I suspect that it does help if, you know, at least like to get to a high level with anything, if you enjoy it. So, okay. So I would, I definitely want to come back to this drawing thing cause I'm fascinated by it, but let's talk a little bit more about, about the studio. So, uh, so it sounds like you and Chad, you were both sort of freelancing and then all of a sudden this big job came in. And so you said, all right, let's take two words. That sound cool together. Yeah. House perfect. Let's spell house kind of like the German way and, and confuse everybody. And, and what happened next? Like how did you get from that one job to where you are now with this portfolio filled with work and, and you know, this really cool, like small studio?

Michelle Oulette (00:12:15):

Um, well, there was, so I had mentioned there were a lot of explainer, there were a lot of tech companies that were coming out in, in Detroit. There was like a, um, oh, what's it called? It's like, uh, they like invest and like buy little companies of, uh, venture capitalists. So they would buy, there were tons of little tech places and they all needed explainer videos because they were like, you know, you couldn't understand what they did. And so we did one and they happened to be in this building that was like an incubator. And they're just like, Hey, look at this cool video, you know, and we did it for really cheap because that's what, you know, we didn't know what to charge for it. We didn't know how much time it was going to take. And then we did the next one and kind of doubled it to make it like a decent price.

Michelle Oulette (00:12:57):

And then we did a few more. And then because we had this sort of small portfolio and it was a little different than, you know, a lot of what was out there because it wasn't just an animator. It was animator and illustrator coming together and bringing these two different skills. Um, and Chad has a whole background in audio and like, just things that like you need, but you don't know you need. And like now it's a lot easier to freelance, but anyways, um, so we had gotten, we had built up a small portfolio and then people from other places would be contacting us. They would see it on Vimeo. And then we had gotten a couple of like steady agency clients. And then as those agencies grew, our jobs grew and eventually it just, we were, we were working like, I don't know, like half the year, like we do a job and then take some time off and I would do like a book and Chad would do like an album. And, and that was really wonderful. And then we're married. Um, so, and we had a child and so having kids is wonderful, but it's very expensive.

Michelle Oulette (00:14:01):

It was like, we, we, we sat down and we talked about it and we're like, are we going to do this or not? Because we could go work at an agency and it would be a lot easier. It's very difficult to, I mean, to, to manage all the aspects of a business, you know, if I just want to do the creative, I could go do that. And so he said, no, we'll give it a real shot. And that happened to be the year that we ended up doing a lot more bigger jobs. We worked with a lot more people. We moved into a space and we hired, um, Kaylee who is like, kind of like a producer. And she also has a brain to be organized, which I don't have. Um, and so it's, it's sort of grown into this, this really cool thing that we're, you know, we started and we're part of, and we're able to work with people. Does that answer your question? I think I got lost.

Joey Korenman (00:14:48):

Well, I mean, it's funny because every studio owner that I talked to that has grown a studio from zero to something, it, it, it's one of those things where it only makes sense looking back on it, like, you know, at the time when you're, when you're trying to just hold onto the ball and not fall off it, there's not really a rhyme or reason to it. It's like, oh, we got that job. All right. Well, I guess we need another computer. So here's the credit card, go get it. And kind of like apply. And then in hindsight you can sort of say like, well, this job enabled this to happen. And then that job enabled that to happen. Um, and so I want to say to everyone listening, um, you know, I've, I've been to a bunch of studios and walking into yeah. House. It had a very distinct, like chillness to it.

Joey Korenman (00:15:30):

I think a lot of that has to do Michelle with your personality and Chad's personality. Like, you're just super nice warm, chill people. Um, but I'm curious too, because as you build a studio and a lot of studio owners, there's like a conscious effort to create some sort of studio culture or a Viber of feel because it really influences like how fun it is to work there, you know? And, and when inevitably you have those late nights, like you kind of don't feel so bad and, and it attracts a certain type of artist and the work reflects it. How much of that kind of small group of friends feeling is intentional and how much has just sort of, it just happened?

Michelle Oulette (00:16:09):

You know, I I'd say, well, I don't, I think that it's kind of like process of elimination, you know, like you work with somebody and we've worked with some people that are like amazing, but maybe like not the perfect personality type or for us, you know, or maybe a little bit more high strung or maybe they, you know, but we ended up keeping, we keep going back to the same people. We keep working with the same people, because it's like, you find people that you just click with and that, that work like you do. And I think that's kind of, you know, I mean, it's, I think what's really important as we work. I'm an honest person. I try to be fair. And I really hope that the people that we work with are the same, you know, and that they're nice because I would just rather work with somebody nice than somebody who's like super talented and not as nice.

Joey Korenman (00:16:55):

Yeah. I, I w I want to dig into that a little bit, because that's something that I don't think is as obvious, um, w you know, to someone new to the industry, this, a lot of times it looks like a meritocracy. If you're good, you're good. And you'll be beating, you know, you'll be turning away, work in no time. Um, but you just brought up a good point in that, you know, like you have to be talented to work with you guys, but that's not enough. And I'm wondering if you can talk about, like, what are, I dunno, without naming names or anything, like, what are some things that have just happened or that lessons you've learned like, oh, shoot, we'll never do that again.

Michelle Oulette (00:17:30):

There's so many, um, cause a lot of things that, you know, I'm, we're learning as we go as well. And so it's kind of like you, you make mistakes, you know, I think like when we worked with people, sometimes we find like certain people work better as a team. Like we'll work on these jobs. We, we finished one in December and that took about 35 to 40 people involved in it, which is a lot for us to manage. And, um, and cause there was a live, there was a live video shoot, it was a commercial. And then there were, there was a giant animation component. So we work with slack. So there are just some people that work really well as a team. And they're really collaborative. It's just like, they're, they're good at, you know, like they share their dailies and they're just, and there are some people that work, um, better by themselves and they, you know, like you can hand off a whole, the whole animation portion of a project to them and they would work better like that.

Michelle Oulette (00:18:28):

And they'll just send you when something's complete. So it's, it's sort of like how someone works and ha cause they're just, and certain people are appropriate for certain jobs and certain people aren't and, and then also you'll work with people that you're just like, this person was super nice. And, but we just didn't feel like we were ever on the same page, which, you know, happens. Like, I mean, we're not perfect. We try to do the best we can, but we get overwhelmed and you know, you just, I think everybody feels the same, you know? And, and we've had like situations that didn't go really well. And it really was no one's fault. Like maybe the client was really stressed and they were like really pressuring us. And then we had to in turn kind of pressure the artist. And so it was like, it would just didn't work out, but it wasn't anybody's fault, you know, it was a bad job and often that's in those situations, we'll work with them again and it'll be a totally different situation or situation. But

Joey Korenman (00:19:24):

Yeah, so I, you know, I always like to try and for everyone listening, I try to, I try to dig out like, what's the takeaway here? And I can tell you from my experience, um, you know, the, the thing that has made me decide not to work with someone again, like when I used to run a studio in Boston and, and it like, there's a lot of reasons and you just listed a lot of them, but one core one was learning how to take feedback. Well, and it sounds like maybe that, that is an issue that, that you've dealt with. And so when you, when, when somebody, uh, you know, is, is animating or designing something for you and you look at it and you're like, it's just not right. And you tell them, you know, like what, how do you think someone should approach? Like, if they're, if you're given feedback that hurts and you know, that it means I'm redoing it, how do you think about that? So that it doesn't come across as like you're pissy because now you have to do more work, you know?

Michelle Oulette (00:20:22):

Okay. So part of it, like, I don't like the thing they think that, that everybody thinks about. And in most situations is we all walk around. We're sort of thinking about ourselves and like, when I'm, I don't want to give that feedback, you know, I want everything to come to me and look amazing so that I can be like, this is amazing. This was an amazing time. We're all amazing together. You know, I think like when you have to give negative feedback, I think sometimes it's like, I try to find like a nice way to say it. So like, this is something I've learned in terms of working with people a couple years ago, I would work really hard to try to find the nicest, most Canadian way to say like, ah, this isn't quite right. But I would like sugarcoat. It was so much language and like that, that they would walk away and be like, oh, I barely have to change anything.

Michelle Oulette (00:21:09):

And you know what, that, that worked really not in our favor and a non-artist favor either because they'd be, they think it was fine and I'd be like fuming. And so it would, it would not really work. So I'm working more on being straightforward. But, um, you know, I think that like, nobody wants to give that feedback and sometimes, you know, I don't get things right all the time. So if somebody in clients, aren't nice when they see my work and they're just like, this illustration is not right. It's kind of, you know, I don't like any of the colors. I don't know what you're thinking. And I have to hear that. Um, and so when, when we get work, that's not right. You have to, you know, you say like, well, this isn't working because a, B, C, and D, and sometimes it takes more time.

Michelle Oulette (00:21:53):

And I don't know, there's just, there's no good way. If somebody gets really upset with your feedback or just kind of like says starts hammering back reasons why it's the way it is. It's like, it almost doesn't even matter. You know, why it is the way it is, it's wrong. So it has to be fixed, you know, and, and either they're going to fix it or we're going to fix it. And when we fix it, we're never working with them again, because it's just like, oh, great. This took twice as much work and we paid for it.

Joey Korenman (00:22:21):

Yeah. And you had to deal with, with attitude and pushback. And I think everyone listening, you know, it, it, it seems pretty obvious when you listen to this, like, yeah, you shouldn't do that, but when you're in the moment and you just spent two days animating something and then you show it and you're like, oh, this is the best thing I've done. And it it's, uh, no, that's, it's just not working. Let's try again. Uh, and you have to eat that. You just got to like, learn, learn to deal with that. Um, I want to talk about, um, Detroit, Michelle. I want to, I want to pivot here talking about Detroit. So when we visited yeah. House, um, and a few other studios gunner and lunar north in vector form, that was my first time ever in Detroit. And I was blown away by just how, how neat the city is.

Joey Korenman (00:23:01):

And there's like this cool scene for motion design. And what I was, what I was thinking was, you know, I get told, I've interviewed a lot of studio owners and artists, and there is still sort of this lingering perception that there's something about New York and Los Angeles that allows those two cities to produce the best work. However, I look at the work that you guys are doing, and it's just as good. And so I'm curious if, uh, if you feel any challenge being in Detroit, um, being able to compete with those studios in terms of getting work, but also just in terms of like keeping the bar really high.

Michelle Oulette (00:23:39):

Well, I think that, um, I've heard that the reason, like I have friends who work out in New York and then I've heard that a lot of them say the same thing. Like, oh, there's just so much work that you, and there's so much good work that you are like, well, I can just kind of choose whatever. And because we're sort of further away and it's like, we almost have to work harder to compensate. Like, like, no, no, no, we're, we're in the Midwest, but we're still really good. Like here, we're just going to work. Like, I know this was just like, I don't know, like say it was just like a explainer that no one's ever going to see, but I'm going to put my all into it because like, that's what we do here. And I feel like we, I mean, I don't know, you know, I think that like being somewhere like this, you, you get a few, you know, it's not as expensive. So you're able to do a little bit more. Maybe you can spend more money, you can take more time, whatever. But, um, yeah, I, I have a lot of thoughts on that.

Joey Korenman (00:24:40):

Well, let's start with this. So let's first talk about like the challenges, if there are any, and one that I would imagine is a real challenge is just finding talent, because, you know, in New York city or Los Angeles, you probably, you know, can't throw, you can't throw a Wacom pen without hitting an animator, but in Detroit, there's not that many people who are like, you know, really good at designing explainer videos and animating them in after effects. Um, so in terms of finding talent to work on these things and, you know, a 35 or 40 person project, is that been a challenge and how do you manage that?

Michelle Oulette (00:25:15):

Okay, well, yeah, so there are a lot of people here that are really talented. Um, but sometimes you do need a specific skillset and, and if you can't find it, or it's not like to the level that that we needed to be, or they don't have the exact skills, you know, or there's only certain people who do that, there's like five people who do that. And you're just like, man, I wish there were more, but we we've had a lot of luck working with people online. And I think the internet is amazing. And it's like, I just think I, it makes me sound so old, but I really think the Internet's amazing. Like we can work with the best people in the world at any time and people are available and they're reasonable. So it's kind of like, yes, it's, you know, maybe we can't have people in house as much as we would love or, you know, because we need this certain 3d, that's just, as, you know, only so many people can do it, but people work online. They're on our slack. And like, we have this like whole group of people that like, we've never met in person, but like, we have a really good relationship with like, one of them just had a baby and they moved and we sent them something, they send us something back. It's just like, I don't know. I just think it's incredible. It's like, here's this whole it's, it feels like the motion design community is, is everywhere and you're just connected to people. And I just think that's incredible.

Joey Korenman (00:26:34):

I think I'm really happy to hear you kind of, you know, say that you guys are on board with the remote working thing. I mean, school of motion is a totally remote company that currently we have, including me five full-time people and the five of us have never actually all met in person as crazy as that sounds. Um, and, and, but we, but it's the same kind of thing. Like I feel I've met everybody, but like there's certain members of the team that have never met in person. And, but we know each other really well. Um, I'm curious, you know, what are the, what are the hardest skills to hire for? You mentioned that, you know, sometimes there's only five people that can do a certain thing. You wish there were more, what are the things that are hard to find people to do?

Michelle Oulette (00:27:12):

I think that there are people for everything, but I th I think that it depends on how clued into each network you are and the problem with working in so many different, you know, we, we work 3d and cell and, uh, we have a lot of illustration and, you know, it's, you can't be in every one of those Twitter groups, you know, and knowing who's available. I find it very difficult. Like we have some people that we work with that do traditional animation and they're incredible. Um, but they, you know, there, there's not a ton because a lot of times the people who work in traditional, even if they are freelancers, like, let's say they're in Atlanta or something, they, they have four months contracts with like adult swim and then they they're off. And then they have another four month contract. So we have, it's a little bit difficult to find that.

Michelle Oulette (00:28:00):

Um, and then also finding like you, I mean, we, we talk to people all the time. Like, we'll have somebody email us and it's like, oh, we really like our, their work. And then we'll talk to them to see if it's a good personality fit, because it is, if you are working remote with someone, they have to be, it's like, they have to be a really good communicator, you know? And so that's also like, I feel like that skill is just as important as your portfolio, if you're gonna work remote, because, you know, it's just, it's so difficult to, to read people if, if you don't know them, you know, instantly. Yeah.

Joey Korenman (00:28:37):

I have actually written a book about freelancing and that is like a huge, um, a huge part of it is that people hire people that they like and trust, and that trust, especially when you're freelancing and especially when you're freelancing for a small studio that, you know, I don't know what kind of budgets you're dealing with, but either probably you're probably in situations oftentimes where if someone works for two weeks freelance and they can't get it done, you're kind of screwed. And so there's this, it kinda, you ha you kind of hesitate to try somebody new unless they really make you feel like, um, you know, like you can trust them.

Michelle Oulette (00:29:12):

Yeah. I mean, honestly, I hate trying out new people. I mean, I love meeting people and if there was like a magical place that we all met and I could just like meet somebody, that would be the best thing ever. But whenever you work with somebody new, you just like, and I don't know how to commute, how do they take feedback? But like, it's like, you're on a job interview every single time. So if we find somebody we work well with, I want to work with them forever. You know, they can't be our employee because we can't have say like a 3d in here all the time, because we just don't have a need for it that often. But like, I'm going to keep going back to them. Cause like, oh, they're such a good communicator. And they're really nice. And they do great work I want to work with.

Joey Korenman (00:29:53):

Yeah. I mean, and that, that's the way to get ahead as a freelancer. Do you, do you think that you guys will, we'll try to stay like a small studio the way you are now and just keep hiring freelancers as you need? Or do you ever feel like it would just be so much easier if we had a full-time cell animator and sort of envision a day when there's 15 people at your house?

Michelle Oulette (00:30:18):

You know? So I just took a business class and like they had like, every time I would say something like I have an idea, I think it would be perfect to have about five to seven people here because, um, Chad is like, he's a director and I think he wants to pursue other, like, we, we both, I mean, we're all artists, so we kind of want to pursue our art things if I totally lost that. And I just became a manager, which is kind of what the business class is like, you know, stop working in the business or on the business work in the, or essentially don't do the work, you know, be a man.

Michelle Oulette (00:30:54):

And, and like, that's what they really want. And it's like, you know, I can't hire somebody with my skillset, so I should like manage people. It just doesn't make any sense to me. So I see us like maybe having like an executive producer would be nice to have somebody who could do sales because I'm not very good at that. And also whenever we need to take time off, like right now, I'm four months pregnant. And so I'm looking at like, I'd like to take off a few months and it's really, really difficult because it's like, how, how are we going to do that? You could make it find a freelance art director, but like, it's just gotta be the right person. They gotta come in house. They gotta want to come to Detroit. It's going to be fall. It gets cold. You know what I mean? So if you can't step away from the business, that's a problem because then you're just working all the time. You can't even go on vacation.

Joey Korenman (00:31:44):

Yeah. See the, those business classes. I mean, Lord knows, I've read, I've read a hundred business books and I've, I have a business coach and, and you know, there's a lot of, um, there's a lot of wisdom to that, to be an owner, not an operator because of what you just said. Like, if you're, if the business relies on you being conscious and in a certain place, then you know, it only operates as long as you're there. Um, but it's difficult when it's a creative business and it's built around the thing you love to do, uh, because then to grow it, you have to stop doing that thing. This is like a topic that's come up quite a bit. There there's, uh, an art, like a guest post. I did for Motionographer a while back that talked about the same thing where, you know, I love being an after-effects make it things move.

Joey Korenman (00:32:30):

And all of a sudden I became a creative director and I was not doing that as much. I was doing conference calls and dog and pony shows and, uh, and it kind of sucked. So, um, so yeah, I, I wish I had an answer for you and for everybody, but, um, I mean, th th the good thing is now you started yet house at a time when working remotely is just such an easy thing to do, and you've built up your network and I'm pretty confident you'll figure out how to, uh, how to take a few months off. Um, let's talk, let's talk about the drawing thing, because, you know, one of the things we did while we were visiting your house, uh, was I asked you to just draw something and let us film it. And you sort of like, ah, okay, you put me on the spot or I find, and then you just sort of effortlessly drew this little character in shaded her in. And it was just really cool. And you were talking the whole time, um, and you know, I'm sure to you, it was probably no big deal, but like, to, to someone who feels like I can't draw, I wish I could draw. It's kind of magic. Um, so I, I, I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about how you got to be proficient at illustrating and specifically characters, which I think are a little trickier than just sort of like shapes, you know, like normal MoGraph stuff.

Michelle Oulette (00:33:45):

Yeah. Well, I always, I always have loved to draw. I wanted to go into illustration, but I come from kind of a working class town, and that was not an option. So I was lucky enough to go into graphic design. And I was like, this is cool, you know, whatever. And I was like, oh, I've got this animation thing. That'll do the animation for a year. And I was like, oh, it's still, isn't really what I wanted to do. So I moved back to the Detroit area and worked in graphic design and, and, uh, kind of, it was fine, but everything I would work on, it's like, I would try to turn it into an illustration project and they'd be like, this is nice, but Audi doesn't need this. Like, and, you know, um, and then I worked at another place and it was kind of the same thing.

Michelle Oulette (00:34:27):

And then I worked at this 3d place and that was a whole other thing. Um, and so I went to this, uh, this like illustration masterclass thing on the east coast. And it wasn't exactly what I, what I do was for like fantasy artists, but it was like a week. And it was sort of like a retreat, like a, like a retreat where you go and you stay in a dorm and you paint for a week. And, and, um, and I saw Ian McKagan. He spoke he's, um, he, he did the art for star wars. I don't know if you're familiar, but he's,

Joey Korenman (00:34:58):

I've heard of star wars. I don't know if you've heard of

Michelle Oulette (00:35:03):

Their movies. Uh, anyway, um, but he had said something and he said, you know, if you want to do this, like anybody can do this. You just need to, he said, he said, sit down and work for an hour every day for six months and you'll get way better. And I also saw another artist speak, and he said like, talent, his work, you know, how much work you put into it, you get it back. And so I was so inspired by that simple thing that I was like, I went home and every night after work, and then most of the time, I didn't feel like I would just sit and draw something and it wouldn't have to be, you know, it was, I was always really interested in characters and, um, I worked really hard at it. And then after six months or a year, I was like, okay, I'm going to do freelance.

Michelle Oulette (00:35:46):

And so there was this awesome program online, which they just stopped doing, which is too bad, but, um, it was called motive already. And you would apply and there would be the possibility that you could be paired with an artist in like the animation industry. And I applied to be mentored by Mark McDonald, who is like this incredible character artist. He works and he teaches at Disney. And, um, I put so much work into this application. I built like a website. I made like a PDF comic. Like I wanted to be chosen really bad. Um, and he picked me and he taught me basically, like, it wasn't like rocket science. It was like, he would give me like a little assignment, you know, do like kind of something that you would see if you've ever seen the art of like Disney character books. Like here's a 360 of a character, you know, but his like main lesson was like, you need to draw on a sketchbook. You need to draw every day and you need to go out and draw. And like, that's, I got way, way better. And by like picking this up and making it a habit by drawing all the time, I got so much better at drawing.

Joey Korenman (00:36:56):

So, okay. So once again, there's not like a magic bullet, unfortunately, to get better, you just have to drive day now, now, you know, when you draw every day, there's a lot of things that happen that make you better, right? Like you get probably better control, like fine motor skills. And, and, and you're, you're better able to like, have that vision in your head end up on a piece of paper, but, you know, looking at your work specifically and, and, you know, a lot of the characters and just like the gestures and the, and the, you know, the poses and the expressions, like there's so much movement in the way you draw. And I'm curious if there's any sort of mechanics that you picked up that you're conscious of, that, that sort of help give your drawings that character, or is that just intuitively?

Michelle Oulette (00:37:43):

I think it's based on, I learned a lot by going to coffee shops and drawing people. And like a lot of times I would be really stiff. So, cause you know, it'd be really nice to be able to tell you, like, you just need to do this little thing or, you know, I mean, it's, it's, it's where you, it's working at something for a long period of time and looking at your progress after a month, you know, not after a day or something. And I mean, I had, I took online classes, I'd take like one a year and I'd really put my all into it and I would improve an incredible kind of amount. I wish there was like something I could tell you that was like, just read this book and like, or, you know, I, I copied a lot of things. I would see something and I would be like, I want to draw like this person, how does this person draw? And I would copy. And I would look through the books and I would copy the books. And, and that really helped me improve, you know, like just finding things that I was really, really excited about them made me want to do it. And I don't know, like putting that on paper that made me better by just kind of taking something and doing it. I wish there was an easier answer.

Joey Korenman (00:38:52):

Yeah. Well, I want to ask you about something that you brought up something interesting, which is, um, you know, you got better by looking at things you liked and copying them. Um, and there's a lot of people doing that. There's this sort of trend, I'm sure you're aware of it of every days and there, and a lot of people do it and what they do is every day they'll share what they did on Instagram or something like that. Um, and, and it seems like there's kind of this built-in expectation of, oh, I hope everybody likes it. I hope I get some attention for this to not just showing that I'm practicing, but that I'll get like, you know, likes for practicing or I'll get like maybe notice cause maybe something, some practice ideas is really good. Did you share any of this stuff when you were, um, you know, drawing every day for an hour and copying things? Or was this just for you?

Michelle Oulette (00:39:43):

I shared it with Chad. My dogs just loved it. I have an opinion on that and I don't know if it's a popular opinion, but like I, so I, I still try to draw every day. Um, and I, I used to post my work on Instagram. I used to have like a blog and, um, that I found, made me want to, like, I would copy more, I would think less and there would be a lot of pressure and it would be very unenjoyable and I wouldn't want to do it the next day. So now I have my sketchbooks and maybe if like I make something, it turns out really well, I'll post like a Twitter thing on it or something. But for the most part there for me, like, I don't feel because then I feel like every time I sit down, I need to make this masterpiece and that's just not going to happen.

Michelle Oulette (00:40:29):

Like most of the time I sit down and I draw something and it's crap and I'm just like, well, I don't feel bad cause nobody else is seeing it and it's practice, you know? Um, but like, I don't know. I just, I don't want to sit down and feel like this is something that I have to do and it's not fun. And it has to be amazing because I'm going to post it and people have to like, you know, it's, it's just not fair to compare myself to someone who like draws say like all day and they're in there in like, like maybe I draw character and I like drawing characters, but there are people who just draw characters and they don't have to do anything else. And they whip out 15 and I'm just like, these people are amazing. And those people are probably looking at other people saying like this guy's amazing. He does 47. You know, I just, I don't know. I like the idea of, um, keeping it for me and like not being judged on everything that I do because I don't know. I, 15 years ago there wasn't the same internet sharing that there is now.

Joey Korenman (00:41:27):

Yeah. I think there's a lot of, there's a lot of interesting things about this topic. You know, I think one thing is that if you're sharing everything, even your practice sketches, right. Um, then you're not really practicing the art of self curation, I guess. And if you're going to just be a hobbyist and you like to draw and it's fun for you, then that doesn't really matter. But if you're trying to do this professionally, I think that's really important. It's the same way, you know, when you're starting out and is an animator and you don't have a lot of stuff for your real, you just put everything on it. But then once you've been going for a few years, you really need to learn to trim the fat and put your best foot forward. So, um, and there's also the thing, you know, if you're an illustrator and you see some amazing thing, you know, that like some Steadman illustration or something, and you copy it to kind of just learn the mechanics of what it's like to draw like that, but then you share it. You can get accused of, of plagiarizing stuff, which, which has happened in our industry. Um, so I think it's really, I don't know if it was intentional or not, but you doing this every day thing, but not sharing it, I think is, is a pretty powerful lesson to anyone thinking that you have to share these things that it needs to be public, or it didn't happen picks or didn't happen.

Joey Korenman (00:42:45):

Um, okay. So I want to, um, all right. I wanna talk a little bit more about drawing. Um, everyone listening is probably like enough with the drawing, but I really am fascinated. I am fascinated by drawing. And I think too, like, you know, the, the, the, the style that your house has established is your style more or less. And it's, uh, it's cool because it moves away from what was really popular for awhile, uh, which was like these sort of flat victory looking things, which I know you're, you're not a huge fan of. Um, and, and so I want to, I just want to, like, I think that this style, the yeah, house style is going to be around and going to be more and more popular. Um, so first of all, when you draw now, you're still drawing every day. Are you doing any specific exercises or practicing certain things, or do you just kind of sketch whatever's in your,

Michelle Oulette (00:43:38):

Well, I do want to say our work here while a lot of it is my illustration. Chad directs a lot of like the direction, like we work together. So it's not totally my style. I would say that it's really like, kind of a culmination. Um, well, uh, a lot of times it depends on why I'm drawing. Um, I don't have a lot of times, I mean, I know nobody has a lot of time, but like I have, um, my son is a, not a good sleeper he's two and a half. And he wakes up like after an hour and cries. And so like, I get from 8:00 PM to like 8 45, 9 o'clock, maybe nine 30, if I'm really lucky if I want to sit down. So in like draw something and usually I have like a show on or something. Um, so it depends on how tired I am.

Michelle Oulette (00:44:25):

I like to just kind of draw to unwind. Um, I'm really into the Olympics. And so lately I've been drawing like, you know, Olympic, uh, athletes and they're opposed and it's, and, um, which is a really great way to look at the body. Cause they're rarely wearing like tight, tight things. That's what I'm into right now. But sometimes, sometimes I'll work on things most of the time, if I'm going to sit down and draw, it's always in the evening, it's, it's always, um, something that's by hand. Uh, sometimes I'll work on ink. I really like water color, but generally it's just whatever I kind of want to do that. That is fun. Sometimes I'm looking on Instagram. I'm like, man, I love this. And then I want to do something like that. Cause I'm excited about it. And hopefully I have enough time, but yeah, I used to do exercises, but now I'm not, I just it's like my time to myself. So I just try to do something that I enjoy.

Joey Korenman (00:45:21):

And who are some of the illustrators that you admire now that, you know, you kind of look up to and like, man, they're way better than me.

Michelle Oulette (00:45:28):

Oh, I'd have to look at my Instagram. There's just like so many people that are creating like really, really amazing work. You know, I like a lot of, um, there's like a lot of background. I know you're looking for names. I'm not very good at like recalling things at the drop of a hat. Um, cause I can't remember anything anymore. Um,

Joey Korenman (00:45:48):

Are there any style or like, you know, are there any techniques or styles or any kind of trends you're seeing that are cool?

Michelle Oulette (00:45:54):

So, you know, I love, um, a lot of the people that I love following, um, are really like comics, comic artists. Um, there's Dennis Salvatore or he's, he's at an LA. He does like a lot of, he does a lot of hands, like pencil on paper and then he finishes them and makes these stickers. I love, I mean, Rafiel Mariani from giant is like, he's incredible. I mean, everything he makes is incredible. I'm like, man, he's just like a magic person. Uh, and then there's a lot of artists that I follow that like, like Nicholas Illich, um, just like people that work at, they work out west, they work in like Disney studios, a lot of the, or like Disney or Pixar Dreamworks or they're um, they, uh, they work in the studios as visual development artists because that's what I'm really into. So I seek out, I just, I follow so many of those people cause I'm just like so amazing. They like, and, and when I look at them, I'm like, wow, I wish I could draw. Cause it's incredible. But there, there are just so many people out there right now. That's not a very specific answer.

Joey Korenman (00:47:02):

Well, I guess like anyone could just go to your Instagram and look at who you're following. [inaudible]

Joey Korenman (00:47:10):

Awesome. Awesome. Okay. So now let's, uh, let's move into something that I'm really curious to get your take on and that's um, so when we walked into your house, one of the first things I noticed was that it was very different from, I think every other studio I've been in in that there were mostly females working. Um, and it's no secret. We've, we've done a survey there's been other surveys done. It's no secret that motion design is a very male heavy just in terms of the there's more males working in it than female. There's been a lot of conversation about that. Um, and I I'd love to hear from you. I mean, you and Chad, you know, you're, you're still only a few years into this thing. Um, but you know, you're a, a female studio owner and there was mostly females there working artists as well, not just, you know, the traditional thing is that females, there's more female producers than male producers. There's more male animators than female animators, but that's not how it is at your house. And I'm curious if, if that's like a conscious effort, you know, or if it's just sort of the way things have worked out. And, um, you know, if you just kind of get your thoughts on that,

Michelle Oulette (00:48:20):

I would say that it's conscious. Uh, we, when we look at people, I just think that there's, I think that if you have like, I've worked at places and, and I would, so I worked as a motion designer for a couple of years and I worked with all men and I worked in a 3d house and I worked with a lot of people and they were all men, unless they were like a secretary or HR kind of position or producer. Um, and that was a lot of people, all men. Um, and I just thought like, that's not what I want. And I think that having only one type of person, like mostly, you know, very little diversity, if any, at all, um, and all men is only going to have, there's only gonna be one story, you know, like one way to tell a story, there's a style and there's a color palette.

Michelle Oulette (00:49:07):

And and so we, when we look at bringing someone on, um, especially like intern or, or like designer or whatever, we, we do really, uh, think about that because I, I don't know. I just, I never, ever, ever want to work at a studio. That's just all one kind of person, because it doesn't make for good work. I don't think, I mean, there's, there's a lot of great work that happens, but I just think that if it's, if everyone's the same, how can you, you know, tell any story that hasn't been told before or something like that?

Joey Korenman (00:49:42):

That's a, that's a really good point. And there's, I mean, there's been tons and tons of studies, like scientific studies about the positive effects of having, you know, a diverse staff, a diverse team. And I think you're right. I think we all, you know, we all have a blind spot to that sometimes, you know, we sort of think like, oh, well I'm a, I'm a progressive minded person. I can imagine what it's like to be, you know, a minority female. Well, no, I can't really. And so it's, it's great. I think that, that, that's a conscious effort, um, on the part of you and Chad and another thing that is interesting to me. So when you look at yeah, house's work and I'm gonna, I'm gonna try to, I'm gonna try to avoid stepping in landmines here. Like, let me, I'll tell you a quick story.

Joey Korenman (00:50:24):

So at my old studio in Boston, we once had to do a project for progressive insurance and their spokesperson is Flo. I'm sure you're familiar with flow, right? The cookie lady that that's on all the commercials and we were going to make an animated version of her for this spot and my art director, Mike, um, who's male, obviously he's a trained illustrator. He's like amazing at illustrating. And he drew some character designs for this and they just didn't look right. It wasn't right. And he, he said, you know, I think we need to hire a female illustrator for this. I'm not going to be able to get this. And it was the first time that, um, you know, a professional artist had said something like that. And it kind of got me thinking like, it, it makes sense male and females were different. Right. And I'm curious if, if you agree with that in terms of like the artistic output has a different flavor to it, and if that's something that, that you're conscious of it. Yeah. How's it makes your work look different?

Michelle Oulette (00:51:23):

Well, I think, um, yeah, I mean, I think that it does it who's creating the work. Like, I mean, especially when it's like the last project we had was really illustrative. So it's kind of like, who's creating it as kind of, they're like, that's, who's in the work, the color scheme, like what appeals to them, what sort of situation where, where it's viewed from like in terms of height and where someone's sitting and how they see things, it's, it's going to be totally different depending on who created it. And, um, Jojo, she was, uh, from China, she interned here and she had to go back to school sadly, but she, um, you know, comes from a totally different background. She would paint these things that like, you know, I would say like, okay, here we need this kind of background and what you would come out with.

Michelle Oulette (00:52:10):

She would pick these colors that like, I could never choose. They were just like, you could tell they just had a different flavor to them. And I just, I loved it. It was so incredible. It was like, I would never put these things together and they look amazing and, and, you know, having somebody else who can do that and like can bring that with them and say like, you know, it's, it's, she's essentially bringing, you know, all the things she's seen and, and putting it into the work that we're, that we have. So by having people who think differently or who are different, I think you get different work.

Joey Korenman (00:52:43):

Yeah. I've said the same thing, uh, about, you know, there's so many amazing designers and animators from south America, you know, Brazil and Argentina and, and, and the, the look and the, and the vibe and the colors that come out of those artists are things that just they're like thoughts that I've never had. Um, and, and, and I think for a lot of people, it's obvious how that would happen if you grew up in, you know, when I sat is versus Fort worth Texas versus Canada versus China. Um, but if you have two designers who both grew up in Detroit, Michigan, one's male, one's female. I think that there is a tendency to say, oh, well it given equal levels of talent there, their work output will be, you know, comparable. Um, so I'm curious if you ever find situations where you, you know, uh, you and chatter talking about a job that just came in, there's a brief, do you, do you make decisions like, you know what, I think that having a female illustrator design these characters makes more sense, because that makes sense for this brand versus, you know, sort of more stereotypical, maybe this is more techie, maybe a male designer is gonna get there quicker.

Joey Korenman (00:53:52):

Do you, does that, is any of that true or is it really a personal thing and, and gender doesn't matter?

Michelle Oulette (00:54:02):

Well, um, I don't think we've ever had that conversation, although it is a really interesting point. We, we, I mean, you, you want to find who the best person for the job is that maybe, and on top of that, who's also available to you. You know? So I think like, yeah, if, if, I mean, if it's super, like, there are just certain things that I'm not good at that I'm not gonna be a good, like, if I was to illustrate it, it's like, well, it's just going to turn out kind of girly, you know, and it's for like, men's deodorant with Superman things. And it would be like, you know, not, maybe not be the right flavor. Um, but when we, when we do think about a project, we do think about like, who would be the best person for it, you know? And also like you try to choose people.

Michelle Oulette (00:54:50):

I mean, a lot of times we go back to the same people because we love them. And once you work with somebody, you're just like, oh, I love this person. I want to work with them on every job. Let's see how we can make it work. And when you're talking about our direction, it, it really is specific to what the product is. So maybe I wouldn't necessarily think, like, I'm going to look for, um, like the demographics, like a male who's in this age group, who's doing this, but it probably would be something that I would find without like, putting that together. You know what I mean? Like it's like what the flavor profile is. So like, that's kind of what I'm looking for. Even if I'm not like putting it on paper and saying, this is exactly what we need.

Joey Korenman (00:55:30):

Right. You're not sort of picking the ingredients, the right ingredients for the correct art director, but th there is some truth to these, I guess, stereotypes. Yeah. Yeah. And, and you brought up another good point, which is a big part of this is who's available. And, you know, uh, it, it, it's interesting because, um, it seems like every time I hear a number, uh, you know, male versus female talent in this industry, it's getting more and more equal. It's still not equal. And so I'm imagining that that also makes it harder to hire female artists just because there are less of them. Um, you know, and since you have sort of made this conscious choice to have, you know, not have the traditional Sasha's party that the most studios turned into, um, has that been a challenge, like to, to find female? I would imagine like animators probably that's where there's.

Michelle Oulette (00:56:26):

Yeah. Um, I mean, I'm going to be honest. If I look at, like, we, we have worked with several female seller to sell animators, there are lots of like, really great sell people we've been able to work with. Um, but as far as like, after effects, animators, I don't think we've worked with it. Uh, we worked with one there's just, you know, you have to, like, we are a small studio, we do have a budget, there are business concerns. So it's like, well, you know, what can we do if I'm going to choose between this person and this person and one's male and one's female, it probably will also come down to like, who do I like more who's willing who, who has the availability? I mean, you know, it, it would be nice to be able to choose like X, but there's only so many people who are working freelance and are available and are in the price range and are, you know, like maybe we have a time difference kind of thing that we need to work at. There's just so many factors.

Joey Korenman (00:57:22):

Right, right. Yeah. You, so you just kind of do the best you can. And, and I think, you know, it, it seems like everyone in the industry is sort of working towards the same thing, which is getting to a point where there's, there's just enough male artists, there's enough female artists. Everyone has the same equality of opportunity. And then companies like, yeah, how's can, you know, can, can pick the best, most appropriate person for each job. So, so thank you for being honest about all that stuff, another issue that I'd like to get your take on and, and it's, uh, by the way, congratulations on, uh, impending baby, number two. Definitely. It definitely doesn't, it doesn't make it easier, but, um, I, I've heard a lot of stories and, and, you know, I've sat on this podcast before. Like, I, it's very hard for me, um, to talk about this stuff. I just have no experience. I'm a white dude. I'm like, as, you know, as vanilla as it comes in the United States, you know, I it's obvious though that, that females have a very different experience than males in this industry currently, hopefully that'll change, but I'm curious if you've had experiences. And it sounds like you had, um, as you were coming up in the industry that kind of left a bad taste in your mouth that maybe led to this decision to not have, you know, an 80% male studio. Yes,

Michelle Oulette (00:58:40):

I could. I, well, I've had, um, Nerf things, uh, aimed at my head, uh, no shot at me when everybody had Nerf guns. Cause that was a really fun time. People have played porn at work. Oh my God. I've had people totally ignore my opinion. And it was like, obvious, like you would look like other person, like guy who's saying like this, this and this. And then I would say, but that might not work because, you know, because I was, uh, at the one place, I was the only person who used aftereffects and I said, this would be so much easier. And I was totally ignored. I've been yelled at, I've been, oh, I worked at a job. And, uh, I worked with this guy. He was older and he, um, he didn't, they're just a lot of people that don't like females to have an opinion or to have a voice.

Michelle Oulette (00:59:25):

Like they shouldn't, you should just be sitting there and be nice. And that's your job. And, uh, I worked at this place and I can't work in like a pitch black room. Like I need a little bit of light, even a lamp. It just gives me a migraine to like, look at a screen. And I don't, I don't know if I'm alone, but whatever. Um, and this guy had said like, I would go in in the morning, cause I was always earlier than everybody. And I would just kind of crack the window, like just a little bit, just a little bit of light. Like it was not, it was not like it was blinding and he complained and they moved me out of the area, away from everyone and into a corner. I was literally like in a different section of the building. Like we're nobody sat because you know, it, yeah.

Michelle Oulette (01:00:17):

It sucks. And like, there's like certainly a bias and there's, and I think there's a lot of people that mean well, and they don't really know that they're kind of sort of treating people like that. But I think that part of the problem is having only one voice and you have an overwhelming tight kind of like sort of person. And so you don't even see everybody else. And how can you, you know, I, I don't think they were bad people. I just think, you know, I don't want to go to work in a place like that.

Joey Korenman (01:00:50):

Um, do, do you have any thoughts on whether that kind of, I mean, it's obviously like bad behavior, is it, is, is it a generational thing? I mean, was it sort of like, you know, the, the older, the older people, the older artists were different than the younger artists, or do you think it's any, any deeper than that, you know, just sort of like the culture of this industry. I'm curious if you have any thoughts where, where that comes from.

Michelle Oulette (01:01:18):

Okay. So I have a tendency to put my foot in my mouth, try to not do that. But, um, I think that, I think that certain, I think that sometimes some people get more opportunities than other people. And I don't think that, I mean, that's what they call, like, if you look at say like, like the issue of white privilege and what privileges and privilege is invisible, like you can't see it, you know? And, and I am a white female, so I am certainly like not seeing everything that is happening to everyone else. So, but like, I know how I've been treated at places. And it wasn't like what that guy who had me moved to the corner. He was older, but the people I worked with, weren't another job that I worked on. I worked with this creative director and he wanted me to do their website, like to design it.

Michelle Oulette (01:02:07):

And I literally made 87 designs, 87 different website designs, which is a lot, you know, and, and he just like, sort of like I just had, so I really tried to make what he wanted. He would come and give me different direction every time. And then at the end he just sort of gave up and he's like, well, this is just isn't working. So he gave it to another guy and the other guy made something that I did, like on the first round. And, and he's like, this is what we were looking for. And it was just like, you know, I don't think anybody meant it. They weren't bad people, but like, you know, it just,

Joey Korenman (01:02:43):

Yeah. And, and, and in, in that situation too, it's, it must be hard to kind of like to figure out what's actually happening. Cause it's such a subtle form of, of kind of, I guess, discrimination is the word. I don't know what the right word is, but it's more subtle than like, you know, oh, like, you know, you're, you're being loud. Like I'm going to move you to, I'm gonna move you across the room. Cause you like light and you don't want to be in the

Michelle Oulette (01:03:09):

Like, you know, I, I think that, I think what happens in that situation is like, I wasn't going to complain because I always thought the problem was maybe I was too vocal. Maybe I was too young, you know? Um, because at the first job where they had me do like 87 website designs, I was 23. Um, and maybe it was like an age thing or, and I don't really think it was, I think it was a female thing, but, um, uh, you know, I just think, I think what people do is they leave, I left, I left the next job. I left the next job and it was like, I'd stay there. And then, you know, I, I didn't know how to handle it. And part of it I'm sure is my fault and how I dealt with things where like, I was just going to be like, well, if you're going to act like that, then I'm going to cross my arms, you know, which is not very an adult adult way to look at things. But like, I just, I don't know, you know, none of us are perfect and I'm sure that they weren't perfect and they didn't mean it, but like, it was just like crappy. I didn't want to leave. Then I just had to, cause it was like, well, this isn't going to work out. It's just gonna be the same problem. But they all closed. I went,

Joey Korenman (01:04:14):

You got the last laugh. Well, you know, you, you brought up a really good point in that. I think. I mean, and again, I don't really have any like real experience with this, but just from sort of observing and having some conversations, it seems like there is of course, like overt, straight up discrimination like that happens. But I think that most of it is, is more insidious than that. It's like, it's these, it's these blind spots that we have where we don't realize. Um, and when I say we, I mean, I'm, I'm speaking from, we, you know, it's, it's easy to, you know, it's like the mansplaining thing. Like you feel like you're helping somebody out and really you've been condescending. Um, and so I'm curious, you know, um, you know, as, as a male artists in this industry and I really, I, you know, I love seeing studios like, yeah, I was, I love what you guys are doing. Like what can male colleagues have female colleagues like, just be aware of? And, and, you know, I'm sure like 95% of people are doing everything correctly and are not discriminating at all, but there's these unconscious biases we all have in these blind spots. I'm curious, Michelle, if, if there's any, you know, any things that you see that like, you feel like, you know what, I don't think they are meaning to be kind of discriminating, but they kind of are. Maybe it'd be nice if that was different.

Michelle Oulette (01:05:34):

You know, I think that like, so the, in the places I had worked before were not like this. And I think a lot of the people that I meet in, in like the motion design kind of thing, like everybody is super nice and they mean, well, and I think everybody's really trying kind of like you had said, you know, I don't think anybody means to be whatever, but I think that like paying a T like if you, if you have say like, if you only have one female employee or if you only have a couple, you know, making sure that everybody gets equal time to speak, and I know it's kind of a pain in the, you know, it's just like, oh, do I have to do more work for this? But like, I, I just, I don't know how, you know, if, and if people, I think that if people leave, you know, if you look at who stays and who leaves and you're just like, oh, this is some kind of problem that I have that, or that we have, how do we address this?

Michelle Oulette (01:06:26):

Like, what are we doing to maybe make people uncomfortable, you know, more comfortable or whatever, you know, you don't want a sterile work environment where nobody can make any jokes and nobody can say anything, but the other side of that is making people uncomfortable or whatever. So I don't know what a S like a specific thing is, but I suppose, you know, making sure people have equal time to speak, deciding, like, am I giving this project to like the right person? You know, I'm not sure. I don't know what the answer I wish I did.

Joey Korenman (01:06:58):

Well, it kinda sounds like just being aware of it maybe is kind of a good first step, because, you know, I mean, when, when you have a studio, I mean, you had a really good example of like, you know, you, you said something and, and then 87 versions later, a man said the same thing basically. And oh, yeah, that's brilliant. That's exactly what we need. Yeah. And, and, you know, it, it, it's like just being aware of it hopefully can prevent, um, that, that situation from coming up. I think that studio owners, uh, you know, now, as they think about studio culture, this is like way more on the radar than it was a few years ago, especially with like, you know, that the me too movement and everything going on now, like, there's just, this, it's kind of like, it's in the zeitgeists right now. Like everyone's aware of this. And, um, and I really appreciate you being honest about your, um, you know, your experiences. I'm curious. So as a, as a studio owner, um, and you're in a unique position too, because it's, it's you and Chad. And so you've got, you know, like a male, female power, couple running a studio. And do you, have you seen, you know, clients treat you differently than shad? Have you seen anything like that?

Michelle Oulette (01:08:11):

Yeah. Um, yeah, I, we have, sometimes I don't think sometimes, or sometimes they don't think that it's personal. Like, it's not like I don't like women, but I think sometimes like, I work, we work with these people and like one it's like a team and one of them seems like they both like talking to me, but like the, the female, she calls me all the time. And, and I think that that's just because we sort of relate to each other really well, you know, and also we're around the same age and we've also had a lot of similar experiences and, you know, and so I don't think it's all bad. And sometimes it's easier. Like we've worked with agencies before and they just sort of defer to Chad and it's like, you know, sometimes it's annoying and I it's just like, you're like looking at them and they're looking at, like, they're asking about something that maybe I do or that I handle. And then, but you just don't think it's in a lot of times it's not on purpose. And it's just like, well, if they're more comfortable with him than less work for me.

Joey Korenman (01:09:16):

So you brought up one of my hobby horses, which is ad agencies. And, you know, the, I, I, most of my career was spent like doing work for ad agencies. And it's really interesting to look at the contrast between the, you know, the, the big city ad agency, world, like Boston, where I came from or New York or something like that, Detroit, I know has a big ad agency scene because of all the car stuff. Um, and that culture, you know, I mean, just watch mad men. I mean, it's not exactly like that anymore, but it's not that different either. Um, and that comes from the top down. Uh, I've, I've seen, he, you know, I've worked with huge agencies and the best ones aren't like that, but there's still some really big names where it's like, it's male dominated and it's not just male dominated, it's alpha male dominated, and you push things through by being the loudest, most aggressive voice. Um, and, and so it kind of creates this scenario like that. Um, so that's frustrating to hear. I mean, so, you know, I can say, I can tell you, like, in the motion design community, there's a huge effort to not do that. Uh, you know, when you talk to people like clients, you know, like this, this woman at this ad agency, is there a version of this conversation happening over there? Do you think,

Michelle Oulette (01:10:38):

You know, I don't know, they're, they seem really overwhelmed.

Michelle Oulette (01:10:44):

Um, you know, a lot of places that we've worked with they've, you know, it is a lot of men and you're working it and it's kind of like, you know, kind of the bro sort of thing. And, but then also sometimes people want to talk to me because they, they think like I do a certain job, which often is correct. Like, like I'll handle say, like billing or whatever. Um, and there'll be in you'll, you'll have a certain, like, they'll defer to me. They like to speak to because of, because of that. But then they'll talk to Chad about certain, I don't know, you know, it is, it is certainly top-down type thing. And, and, and, but I think that there's a lot of new agencies, a lot of smaller, like kind of like, like we're a motion design sort of a production studio, but I think there's a lot of smaller digital agencies that are coming out right now, sort of like the counterpart agency. And they're run by like people who are younger, maybe a more diverse crowd of people. And I think that that's, it's inspiring a lot of hope in me.

Joey Korenman (01:11:48):

Oh yeah. There's, there's definitely change in the air and it, cause it's, sometimes it feels like it, it's not happening fast enough, but I do think you're right about that for sure. Have, you know, sort of, you, you know, as a studio owner, you always have to think about the future of the studio and, and plan ahead. And, um, you know, you mentioned you're pregnant with number two and you want to take a few months off to sort of deal with what's about to happen to you again. Um, and, and I mean, this is one of the areas where truly, you know, men and women have just very different experiences when it comes to the birth of a child. Um, and, and I'm curious if you've thought about like, you know, how to make that work. Um, I talked, I've talked with, uh, Lillian Dharmana, who's another amazing illustrator on this podcast before about this and how it's, it's difficult to be a woman in this position because you are at least in the U S our, our capitalist society is not really set up to just put work on hold for three to four months.

Joey Korenman (01:12:48):

Um, and, and, and I'm curious if you have any thoughts on how you might manage that or how you wish you could manage that?

Michelle Oulette (01:12:54):

Well, uh, for Leo or first, um, I think I took off a couple of days and I had my family help us a lot. And so I'd be in the same house, but like I had to work there really wasn't and we weren't in a position where we could just take off the time, um, this time we're hoping to maybe get like somebody who can come in for a few months because we're in a different position, but like, I mean, it's hard, you know, and, and, um, and like, I'm not a big newborn person. I just, like, it's just very difficult. It's like, once they start to like, do things and like talk or like move around or smile, it's like, oh, you're like a little person in there. It's so incredible. But at first it's just hard and there's a lot of sad tears for me, but, um, I, I think that you just kind of do what you can, you know, and especially when you own a business and I think it's any kind of business. And even if you're a freelancer, you know, that's owning your own business, um, it's just like you do whatever you can, you take off as much time as you can. You try to spend as much time as you can at home. I mean, I was part time with Leo for about six to eight months, but it was still like when something needed to be done, I had to do it. And I, and sometimes it is nice to take a few hour break outside of the house, just, you know,

Joey Korenman (01:14:15):

Yeah. I don't think I've ever taken more than a week off for the, I have three children. And, um, yeah, I think the first one I took a week off, I just started a studio and, uh, and it felt like, gosh, it would really be nice if there was some system in place to like, let me not work for a little bit and not have the entire company fall apart. Um,

Michelle Oulette (01:14:34):

For sure. Well, and I'm, I mean, I'm Canadian, you get a year off, but even if, but if we owned our business in Canada, it wouldn't be any different, like I'm going to show up and be like, I'll do your job.

Joey Korenman (01:14:45):

Right. So there's sort of, there's sort of like two overlapping, like challenges, which is like newborn, you know, the mother of a newborn and entrepreneur or business owner. So you really, I mean, for you, frankly, you're asking for it for those things. Uh, that's so awesome though. Um, all right. So my last question for you, uh, let me gush for a little bit. So like, I really, you know, what I hope comes out of this conversation, and again, thank you for like all your honesty and the stories and everything. I hope that this just is like a one more little push for the industry in the right direction. Just being aware of these things. You know, I think most people are, but it's always good to hear like real experiences that are not like yours at all. Um, and you know, like most of my friends in the industry are male and they can't relate to anything that you said about being discriminated against and stuff like that.

Joey Korenman (01:15:36):

It's really good to, to hear that and know that it exists. And I think that, you know, you're at the point now, I don't know if this is overstating it, I think you probably are something of a role model. Michelle, you running a studio you're super talented in the work that comes out of your house is awesome. And the culture is awesome. So I'm wondering if you have any advice out there for female artists listening to this that, you know, maybe have some stories like yours and are a little discouraged by how male dominated everything still is. What would you tell them in terms of like succeeding in this industry and in accomplishing your goals?

Michelle Oulette (01:16:12):

Wow. Well, thank you. Um, you know, I would, I would say that that anybody can do this. Like I'm not a magician. Um, I just, uh, worked really hard. I didn't go to a fancy school. Um, I got a lot of like my, like the education that I use to do my job right now. I've got it online in classes, kind of like yours and like, yeah, well, and you know, online classes and, and, and I got better by really working at it and nobody can deny you what you deserve, if you, if you have the skills and anybody can have these skills, you know, I mean, within reason I guess, but like, it's just like, anybody can do this. I really think that it's for everyone. And if you work really hard, you know, you can, you can, you can attain, you can, you can get those, you can get your reps in and, and you get better.

Michelle Oulette (01:17:11):

And maybe, you know, you can, you can be that freelancer that you want to be, or that artists that you want to be, or that studio owner that you want to be, because it doesn't, it's, I'm certainly not a rocket scientist. You know, I just, I worked really hard and I think that anybody can do this from anywhere. And what's so amazing about the internet is like, you can work with anybody from anywhere. And I want to work with the best people in the world, because I want to be like them. I want to see what they do. And, and, and I don't think that anything is stopping people right now. You know, there's inexpensive classes, there's, you know, working really hard. There's putting your time in. And I that's, I, I really think it's for everyone and I don't think anybody should feel like, oh, I'm this kind of person. So it's not for me.

Joey Korenman (01:17:59):

You know, it's tough to talk about this stuff sometimes. And you could probably tell that I was trying really hard to choose my words carefully and to treat this topic with the gravity that it deserves. And I'll be honest. I was a little nervous to bring this stuff up, but I really think that honesty in our industry is the key to closing the gender gap. Males and females are different, and we're all gonna have different experiences in life, in our careers, but there is no excuse for the behavior Michelle and probably any female artist has experienced, hopefully being more aware of the issues and the potential for even unintentional bad behavior can push the needle a little bit in the right direction. So thanks again to Michelle for coming on and speaking about this, make sure you check out. Yeah, house's [email protected]. That's white E a H H a U s.com. And you can see her illustration [email protected] and it's awesome. All the stuff we talked about in this episode will be in the show [email protected] and that's it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening and I'd love to know what you think. Uh, hit us up at school emotion on Twitter, or shoot us an email [email protected]. And that's it rock on people.

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