Searching for a new job? Learn how to stand out from the pack.
Do you ever wonder why you don't hear back when you send a demo reel or a resume for a prospective job? Did you ever consider the person on the other side of the equation might be looking at 500 other reels at the same time? How are you supposed to stand out in a crowded market to land that dream gig?
While there isn’t a secret sauce for separating from the pack, there are some tried and true methods for putting your work front and center. Actually, that happened here at School of Motion, which is why we’re bringing Frank Suarez on today to talk about what he thinks makes for standout work.
What are the tips and tricks you can use to make sure that someone you're sending your work to really remembers you? How do you take your best projects and turn them into resume gold? If you’ve been on the hunt for a new gig with no bites, this is the podcast you’ve been waiting for. So add another worm to that hook and cast your lines. Welcome Frank to the fishin’ hole.
How to Stand Out in Your Job Search
Ryan: You spend a lot of time making good work, don't you? But how much time do you spend showcasing that good work? Do you ever wonder why you don't hear back when you send a demo reel or a resume for a prospective job? Do you ever wonder what it must be like for the person on the other side of the equation who's looking at your reel? They might be looking at 500 other reels at the same in time. Actually, that happened here, at School of Motion, which is why I'm bringing Frank Suarez on today to talk about what he thinks makes for standout work. And what are the tips and tricks you can use to make sure that someone you're sending your work to really remembers you? Let's dive into that. But before we do that, let's hear from one of our alumni at School of Motion.
RC.Nelson: I was working at a number of agencies throughout my career, but in 2008, I decided to go full-time freelance and I was learning, but a lot of the tutorials that I would run into, they would be one-offs. And so what I love about School of Motion and their course is that you got experts giving you everything right there for you. Your courses have built confidence and assurance that I wasn't alone, and I had all these people I made connections with in the industry. It's been five years since I've been on my own. I'm in a studio space and juggling 10 projects right now, but it has been amazing. This is RC Nelson, and I am a School of Motion alumni.
Ryan: Motioneers, we're going to do something a little different today. I'm bringing on one of my favorite School of Motion people, and yes, I have favorites. But Frank Suarez is here today. He is a motion designer, extraordinary. And he's the head TA at School of Motion, which means a lot of you have probably interacted with him before, whether it's in class or with any basic questions for the classes themselves. Frank is amazing, but he also found himself recently in a situation that I'm used to finding myself in.
Now at School of Motion, we teach you how to do the work, but often, do you wonder about how to make the work you're already doing stand out? Well, again, Frank ran into this and this is something that when I've been in industry and I've had to hire people in the past, I'm confronted with this all the time in the sea of potential artists to hire, what is it that makes a single reel or a single piece stand out? What makes me want to pay attention and lean forward and start writing an email or giving someone a call? Frank recently had to go through this because we had a really great sign up this session at School of Motion. And it came with an unexpected challenge. We need to find more TAs and we need to find them pretty quick. So Frank, thank you so much for joining the podcast. We want to talk about how to make work stand out. And I feel like you might have the best experience of anyone recently about going through a sea of applicants. What did you learn from this process?
Frank Suarez: Hey Ryan. Thanks for the very kind intro. Yeah. So recently we had to hire some new TAs, teaching assistants for our courses. And the cool thing is that a lot of people were very interested, which is always very cool to see people wanting to join School of Motion. So I found myself going through about 500 applications and [crosstalk].
Ryan: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Did you say 500?
Frank Suarez: Yes. We had about 500 applicants.
Ryan: That's ridiculous.
Frank Suarez: So we're peeling the curtain back a little bit. Yeah, it's overwhelming. But I thought, "This would be a great opportunity to peel the curtain back and talk to our students and just our industry, the way the sausage is made. Reveal a little bit of the secrets of what happens behind the curtain." Because I think it's a great learning opportunity for our students to hear from people that are actually potentially going to hire them, what could be some of the pitfalls of what could be happening? Why do I send my resume out? Why do I send my reel out and I'm not getting any calls or I'm not getting any traction? And so I thought this could be a good teaching moment for students, for us to just talk and share what could be happening.
And this is just like your collective input from years of doing this and me doing it recently and going to you and saying, "Hey, have you noticed this?" And you're like, "Yep. I've been noticing the same thing for years. It's actually patterns that repeat." And so the cool thing about it is if we can put our heads together and recognize some of those patterns, there might be a lot of people that can benefit from that and hopefully fix those things and be able to have a better opportunity to find work.
Ryan: That sounds awesome. I mean, to set the stage here, just in general, how many TAs did you end up hiring out of that 500? What's the hit ratio? What's the success ratio for just this one time you had to find new people?
Frank Suarez: Yeah. So that's a great question. Actually, so 500 is a pool of applicants that we had over the past, I believe year. So about over 100 were brand new. And some of them were just folks that had applied over time. But we ended up hiring about six or seven new TAs out of that group.
Ryan: I'm not good at math, but that's a very small percentage.
Frank Suarez: It is. And one of the first things that I actually want to say is that there were a lot of great candidates in there that for some reason or another, maybe geographically or maybe their skillset, I thought, "Wow, this person is really good at what they do. They're great motion designers, but I'll keep a little check mark next to their name," and I made notes, "but at the moment they may not be a great fit, but they may be in the future." So actually the first thing that I want to encourage everyone with is that it may not even be your fault. So we're going to talk about a lot of the things that are probably things you can fix. But there are cases where I got great resumes, great reel, great people that I'd seen before. And I was like, "Okay, I'll keep a check box next to their name, but this is not the right moment." Maybe because they had a 3D reel and I needed a 2D person. But it may not even be your fault at this moment.
Ryan: I think it's a good thing to remind people because there's more than just sending out your demo reel, what was that word you used? I haven't heard that word. It starts with an R, I think. What was that you mentioned, another word?
Frank Suarez: Resume.
Ryan: Resume. That's right. I haven't thought or made one of those in a quite a long time, but, well, it's important to understand, there's a wide range of things that happen when you do these and there's a wide range of reactions you can have to it as well. But sometimes these situations are very reactive. You heard something and, "Oh, man, I don't have a new demo reel, I'll just send my old one. And I haven't done a resume in three or four years. I'll send that out as well." These situations come up fast, or you don't know where they're coming from.
It's interesting to see and to just think about that when you send off that reel to your dream job or to a place like School of Motion, you may not necessarily have something that disqualifies you and you may not necessarily get what you want, but if you handle it the right way, if you react correctly, you might be building the relationship to one day get to the place you want to go to as well, right?
Frank Suarez: Absolutely.
Ryan: I wonder, did anybody apply in that pool of 100 people who reached out afterwards to see, "Oh, cool. I didn't hear back. Or I sent this, could you give me some feedback why wasn't I considered." Did anybody reach out?
Frank Suarez: I had a few people that actually reached out through other channels and said, "Hey, I put my name on the hat." I don't even know if that's the right expression. But I threw my name out there and I would love to be considered. And I usually respond somewhere along the lines of, "Hey, we actually look at every applicant and we'll get back to you and let you know." But answer your question specifically it's actually a very small number of people that reach out afterwards. And I think that may be out of courtesy, they don't want to bug people, which it's definitely appreciated. But I just think it's one of those where you send it out there and then you hope that you get a positive answer.
Ryan: It is appreciated that we don't have five applicants and then 500 emails every two or three days. But I will say, just if I was sitting on the other side, if we're talking about how to make your work stand out, one of the ways to do that is that you make standout work. You make work amazing. Make amazing work and then make sure that your story is told through that work and everything associated with it. The other way is just making sure that it gets seen. So even though it's nice that we don't get a ton of emails, sometimes being able to have a way to... I always call it a dual approach. You can approach from the top down and from the bottom up. Having different channels to speak to or talk to or introduce people to you.
That's why I feel like this whole thing, making your work stand out, it's not just a one time option or a one time action. It's how you prep for it and it's how you react to it afterwards to build. And over time, the same exact piece of work, the same reel, the same job can start to stand out if there's a story that's being built around it. And we can talk more strategy later, but I was interested to hear if anybody ever just was like, fill the boxes, submitted the two things, resume, demo reel and then emailed or called or DMed or anything. Because I didn't see much of anything besides just the pile of things that were coming in. So I was wondering. It sounds like it's a pretty small portion of the people that actually followed up afterwards.
Frank Suarez: Yeah. And actually that's actually a very insightful question that you're asking because I think part of the reason that I reached out to you and I wanted to talk more about this and the genesis for this podcast was there are probably a lot of people that submit their resume or their demo reel, they don't hear back, but maybe they're like, "Okay, I don't want to bug people in the company. I don't want to be a nuisance, but what happened?" So there's this black box of, "I sent it, I don't hear back. And is it because it wasn't good? Was there something wrong with it or was there something good and I wasn't a good fit?"
So part of us and having this conversation is we just want to share the experience we have as someone that is receiving a lot of resumes and we have to sort through them. I can tell you that I look at every single, I open every single one and I know that there's a person we behind that. And just like I've sent resumes in the past I value that someone took the time and looked through it. So I opened every single one of them, but there is a pattern that quickly became evident to me as I was opening these that as I talk to you, you're like, "Yep, I've experienced that year after year when I've had to hire people." And so maybe we can talk through those patterns.
Ryan: Yeah. Let's set the stage a little bit. As a listener imagine you're on the other side of the equation. Frank just asked for people to send submissions because we need to hire, let's say 10 people. And between the previous ones, the current ones that were getting, he wakes up the next day and he as 500 links to 500 demo reels. Let's say they're all a minute long on average, that's 500 minutes worth of material. If you're faced with that, as much as Frank, you're gracious enough to understand that there's a person attached to that work with hopes and dreams and desires to be part of School of Motion, or if it's me and the real world work at the studio that I'm at, but at the same time, that's 500 minutes and you had a very specific tick clock, right?
Frank Suarez: Yep.
Ryan: The session was getting ready to start and we needed to train people up and get them into the system. So there's a very finite amount of time. I don't know if you felt this way, but in these situations where we need to hire somebody, the job is there, the money's coming in, the clock is ticking, you don't necessarily look for reasons to keep watching a reel when you watch the first 10 seconds. I find myself looking for reasons to turn the reel off and go to the next one, which is a very strange place to be, especially at School of Motion, because we're rooting for every person. It'd be awesome if we could have 500 more TAs, but there's a finite amount of spots.
Where did you start, when you had that many and how soon into the process did you start saying, "Okay, I've watched the first 15 seconds. I've seen enough."? And then when do you make the decision to move onto the next one or say, "No, that goes into the not this time pile."? Are there any signs or anything that as you start going through the process, was like, "Okay, cool. This is when I move on."?
Frank Suarez: Yeah. So at first I was super excited. I'm like, "Oh, cool. I get to watch demo reels all day long. How fun is that?" As motion designers, we enjoy looking at demo reels and looking at other people's work. But it's quickly when you, like you said, there is a deadline coming up and that's when our artist hat has to be taken off and our business hat has to come on and say, "Okay, I need to be able to deliver and be able to find the right people for the job." Because obviously a lot of students are dependent upon having a great pool of TAs. So I did find myself in that place where I need a system of elimination because I know out of 500-
Frank Suarez: ... applications, there's going to be a number that... First of all, there are people that are applying that have no motion design experience at all. We're talking completely different industries and maybe they misunderstood the job title or what it entailed. Teaching assistant sounds like you have a teaching degree or something like that. So there is a small percentage, not huge, but there's a small percentage that just gets weighted out that way where I look at it and there's no experience in motion design, period. So those are the easy, low hanging fruit that I'm like, "Okay, this is nice. This person went to school for education, but that's not what we're looking for."
Ryan: Right. Yeah. There's the immediate disqualifiers. They don't fit the requirements.
Frank Suarez: Right. So I did find myself looking, like you said in a weird way, and not in a mean way, but it's, how can I expedite this process so that I only spend time looking at those that are the most qualified? And so by thinking that way, it became very apparent to me that I need to go through these as quickly as possible so that I can just start making a list of who I need to continue looking. So the first thing that I noticed was in the resume process and in looking at a resume, I would open it. And there's two things that I'm looking for really, right off the bat before I even read anything else. It's the name, obviously. I need to know the name and then I need to see a link to their portfolio.
Ryan: Right. So you're trying to get out of the resume as fast as possible. Give me the information so I can view the work and understand what you do.
Frank Suarez: Yes. And the resume is not completely unusable in our case. I mean, it's only usable once I see the reel. So once I see the reel, if there's interest there, then I can go back and look at certain experience. In our case, because we're looking for teaching assistants, I'm looking for things that might be of interest to us like have they ever worked in an academic setting or have they ever had people under them because those kind of things are helpful when you're a TA. Apart from your motion design experience. But what I noticed was that there were a ton of submissions where I was trying to fish the website or the link to the demo reel in a very convoluted document.
Ryan: Yeah. Can you describe how it was convoluted? Was it just hard to find the link or was it, I know my answer to this, but I'm interested to hear what your experience was like.
Frank Suarez: To me it was like if you put yourself in the other person's shoe and the first and most important thing is the name and the website of your portfolio, then that should be at the top of your resume. It's that simple. I should not have to go on a hunting expedition to find it because most of the time I would just close the resume and move on to the next one. I have 500 other options.
Ryan: So you mean there's people who sent in submissions that you never even got to their demo reel?
Frank Suarez: Well, see, this is where the other side of me comes in. I actually hunted down on all the resumes. I wanted to give everyone a chance, but it came at the expense of me having to spend more time looking for it. And part of the reason that, again, the genesis for this podcast is it makes such sense to me that that would be the first thing I put, but maybe for a lot of people, they think that whenever they're sending their resume or a document to show a potential studio or a place where they want to get hired, they may not think that that's the first thing that people are looking for. And so that's an easy one, that's an easy thing to fix. If you're sending in your resume, make sure your name and your reel is the first thing people see. If it's not there, chances are it's going to get skipped over.
Ryan: Yeah. I mean, all of this stuff, all the collateral, the reel, the website, your social media, the resume, all of those things are just trying to tell a story. And they're like a teaser trailer for a movie. Not even the actual trailer. But they're just there to get enough awareness and interest that someone follows up with another action. At the end of the day, you want them to call you or email you, but you've got to get them into this story first. And if there's that big of a barrier...
I mean, I don't know about you, but I don't like looking at resumes at all because, especially for some reason, in motion design immediately, they almost always disqualify people because the design is always either overdone and overproduced or too cute or there isn't a good information hierarchy or a system. And it automatically gets me in the mood of like, "Well, if you can't design your resume so that it's legible," not even making it interesting, "but that it's legible and is communicating the core information, how can I trust you to design a style frame? How can I trust you to have the details of all the different delivery types in terms of dimensions and formats, if you can't even format your resume well?"
So to me, it's almost like a minefield, if you're worried about putting together a resume, making it as clean and clear and as simple as possible with the fewest amount of things seems to be the counter instinct to most people. They like to stuff it full of things. We were talking before this, there's so many things that people put in a demo reel that, or I mean in a resume that I feel like it hurts them. What were some of the things you saw over and over? You're talking about signals or patterns. I can imagine some of them, but what were the different things that you saw that were just like, "You just don't do that." They're almost like a signal to someone reading it that they're like, "Oh, have you even worked in the industry if you put this in here?"
Frank Suarez: Yeah. Yeah. And you call these speed bumps. I love that. I'm stealing that term because they are speed bumps. They're like, as soon as I open the page and I see some of these things, I am almost 95% sure of what I'm going to get on the other end when I open the demo reel site. And that's scary, but also your brain trains to see these patterns so that you save time. So for example, one of the things that I highly recommend people not to do is to stay away from these cutesy pie chart. 90% after effects, 75% Photoshop. It may have been cute at some point, it may have worked. But it's very difficult to read or find information in that sense. And so it's very weird. What is 90% after effects? That's-
Ryan: What does that mean? Yeah.
Frank Suarez: It doesn't mean anything.
Ryan: I mean, they read like skill charts for a Dungeons & Dragons character when I see those. Where I'm like, "I don't even know what it's supposed to mean, even if I took the time to try to decipher it."
Frank Suarez: Yeah. I mean, it's fun, don't get me wrong. And I'll caveat by saying this, the only demo reel out of the 500 that I saw that I remember was, I don't remember the person's name, but there was only one resume that I remember was one out of the 500.
Ryan: I mean, that's an amazing stat. I mean, the whole point is to try to be memorable and be exciting and create a call to action.
Frank Suarez: Yes.
Ryan: And there's only one you remember and you don't remember the name. That's astounding.
Frank Suarez: Yeah. I don't remember the name, but to their credit, I'll say this, it's one of those that has a check mark next to their name because we might go back to that person later on. It's just at this particular junction, it wasn't a good fit. But they actually tailored the resume with School of Motion colors. They had handwritten notes on it. So it was the only one that I was like, "Oh, okay. This person and took the time to go through our branding and like..." Because I see our branding the entire day and I'm working with files with our branding, it was the only one that I was like, "I remember this one demo reel that had our brand on it. So that was a standout moment. And if I need to go back and look for it, I don't even know how I'll find it. But I'll know when I see it.
Ryan: So I think the note behind that note to me is there's two really important things besides just your work and the tools you might use or your experience, is that you somehow demonstrate an understanding of your audience, whether it's a demo reel or a resume or an email or a website.
Frank Suarez: Yes.
Ryan: And that you also are trying to explain your character, who you are. It's one thing to know that you could use Houdini or that you know some plugins and after effects or you're a great designer. It's another thing to know what it's going to be like to sit next to you for 10 hours a day. And if you can convey those things, like, "Oh, my gosh, this person understands me as an audience. I work at School of Motion I react to those colors. I deal with those all day. And you're applying for a job here where you'd have to use those," I don't think a lot of people customize their reel or their resume, or even honestly their intro email. It's probably just boilerplate for most people and they copy and paste it.
But just that level of attention and that little of just little bit of extra detail in what you send it automatically makes someone stand up in their seat and makes them start to lean forward and be like, "Oh, out of 500 only one person thought about me as an audience or a viewer." That can be all it takes to make the difference to just stick in someone's memory, which is what you're trying to cut through 500 other people, you want people to remember you, at least that.
Frank Suarez: Yeah. No, absolutely. Absolutely. So I mean, so essentially keep it very simple in terms of design, your name and your reel, or your portfolio should be at the top, like Ryan said. It is a story, so I guess the next step after that was after I copy and pasted the link to their portfolio site, it was literally within seconds that I can tell again, it's one of those things where your brain starts to adapt and tries to find shortcuts, which I'm not saying is good or bad. I'm just saying you're ticking against the clock, you have a whole bunch of these to go through. So you're like, "Okay. I've opened already 20 or 30 sites that look like this and the outcome was this." And so you start to make those connections. So you start to see things like, for example, if you have a cutesy resume where you have this 90% after effects, 75% Photoshop, I almost know that that person, when I opened their reel, it's not going to be a reel that's going to work for our needs.
Now, that doesn't mean necessarily that your reel is bad or that you are at a level as an artist that that's where you are. That's okay. But I already know, if this person is making these design decisions for the resume, then it's possible that they're making some of those design decisions or animation decisions in their work. And so I have an expectation built, but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and I'm going to hit play in their reel.
Ryan: So now once you're watching the reel, you've crossed the barrier that some people have not even made it. You made it to the bridge, to their site. You've seen the reel, you've hit play. At what point, when you're watching these, do you say, "Okay, I don't need to see anymore."?
Frank Suarez: So actually, before I even hit play, there's another little side note there because not everyone puts the link directly to the reel, which is okay. It's part of that story telling that you were mentioning before. So some people have their website. And here's where another big speed bump came up. Believe it or not, a lot of people didn't have a clear path to their reel. So it was like, "Wait. I landed on this site and there is photography and there is design and there is some other talents that this person has which is totally awesome, but I'm looking for a reel. I'm looking for motion design reel." And if you're going to send me to a website where I have to, again, spend energy and brain power trying to figure out where to go, I already know that the outcome of me watching that reel is probably going to be a no. Because that has happened in the past, and I don't think you're hiding your reel, but if you're just putting a whole bunch of things before it, then maybe the reel isn't your greatest showcase.
So that's another thing. If you're sending people to your site, make sure when people land there, there is your best work on that page, on your homepage. Whether it be recent work, whether it be your reel right away for people to look at, whether it be something about you that's interesting, maybe... Those are the places where I would stay for a while. I find myself actually like, "Okay, I need to get out of this page now." Because the opposite thing happened where I landed on a page, I was like, "Oh, this is awesome. I want to spend here an hour just watching their work." So that happens as well. We get excited about people's work and there were people that had cross skills and they would do stop motion or they would do super cool things in physical design. But I was able to see their reel right away so I stayed.
Frank Suarez: Right.
Ryan: So pretty much everything you're saying so far is you made it easy for someone to accomplish the task that they had to achieve, right?
Frank Suarez: Yep.
Ryan: So we're there, we're watching the demo reel, you hit play, you hear the music, you see the screen. It's pretty obvious what you'd want, but what is it that is a signal that it's time to move on?
Frank Suarez: So we get to this point where you actually talk a lot about this in Demo Reel Dash. And we've talked with our students about this in our lunch hours and in our conversations before, but it's, again, the brain is looking for shortcuts. I've already seen a ton of reels. So I have an expectation built. And usually within the first three to four seconds of animation, I know where this reel's going to go.
Frank Suarez: For the most part. I watch a little bit more than that. I try to not just judge based on the very first seconds, but I usually know it's the title card that gives it away. The title card, if there's animation that is very linear, that is out of date, 2018 reel and it's 2022, I'm like, "Okay, this is old work."
Ryan: That's my biggest pet peeve is someone's demo reel, and the first thing I see is motion reel 2017. That's the number one thing that gets me in a bad mood. I may not turn it off. If I hear some really awful music, I'm actually will admit now, live to people, I will turn it off sometimes. But the thing that just puts me in a bad mood, which is the opposite of what you want your demo reel to do, which makes me lean back and cross my arms and wonder, question my life, is if someone gives me a demo reel and it says motion reel or demo reel and the year.
Frank Suarez: Yeah. And we're all guilty of that. My first reels were like that, that was a trend when I started motion design, maybe, what? 11, 12 years ago. You would put the year because you wanted to make sure you had one every year or whatever. But you're right, it out dates you right off the bat. If you're watching something today and it's like, maybe it was a reel you in December 21st, it's already 2022 and I'm watching your reel and I'm like, "Oh, this is a year old." And so the date is a speed bump, but most of it is the animation. If you have an amazing animation and it's from 2015 and you did, I don't know, crazy sell animation buck style, then I probably wouldn't even see what date it is.
Ryan: Right. Yeah, exactly.
Frank Suarez: I would just be mesmerized by the animation. But I can tell you that most of the time, that's not the case. So if you're going to have a title card, if you don't catch my attention within the first three to four seconds of animation, the chances of me continuing to watch the reel are very, very low. That's just because I have a pretty good idea of what's coming. Now, that being said, there were very, very small cases where the reel got better as I watched, which brings up another discussion, which is, this artist needs help in their editing skills. Because they obviously need to be able to self-edit and self-regulate and say, "I'm showing this demo reel that's two minutes long. It could have been 15 seconds and it would've been amazing. But instead I made it two minutes long and had the person not taken the time to watch up until a minute and 45 seconds, I would've probably not gotten a call back." So I know I'm preaching to the choir, this is-
Ryan: That's my number two pet peeve though, so much so that if you take Demo Reel Dash or you ever get a reel review from me specifically, I probably say it so much that people are sick of it, but I honestly think every demo reel, even the best showreel from Industrial Light & Magic or Sander van Dijk's last reel he ever made, I guarantee you can make the demo reel better by cutting it in half. Even if that means you have a 42 second demo reel now, and you make it 15 seconds or 20 seconds, that shorter version is going to be tighter, it's going to tell your story better, it's going to be more memorable, it's going to be more action packed, it'll be more exciting, just by cutting it in half. With no more work, no new things, no new title sequences. I guarantee it'll at least make you question the work and why you're showing it in the order that you're showing it, so much more just by trying to make a half as long version. Even if it's not the one you end up going with, the exercise of cutting a half length demo reel will be incredibly eye opening for people.
Frank Suarez: Yep. I had a director in a I worked in once and usually he would come in towards the end of the project and I'll have a two minute video and he would just say, "Cut in half." I'm like, "What? You're crazy? There's no way I can cut this in half." He's like, "Just ruthlessly cut it in half and take out half of it." And it would be amazing because at first I would be reluctant like, "That's not going to work. I've worked so hard on this. And I need every shot in this." And then I would cut it in half and go, "Wow. This works better."
So it's a process of learning how to edit, which is it's different than animating, but we as animators, we should learn the magic of editing. But it's also a skillset that requires some self, I don't know, self-analysis because we tend to become very personal with our work. We don't want to think that our work is bad or we don't want to criticize. It's hard. It takes maybe a critical eye, which again, it's not just to plug Demo Reel Dash, but this is what you've been doing and helping people for a long time, is sitting down and saying, "Hey, here's your work. How do we take your work and make it better? How do we make sure that whatever you're showing to people is the best work possible?"
Ryan: Yeah. I mean, the question I ask every, everybody whether it's in DRD or if it's just meeting someone in-person or just talking to them over the phone, no matter what, before I'll sit and watch your demo, I'll ask two basic questions. Where are you at currently in your career? And what do you want this demo reel to do for you for your career? And it's amazing how much those two questions really freeze people. It stops them where they're like, "What do you mean? I want to get a job. And this is my work and I'm a junior artist. I want to be a senior." Okay, cool. Senior what? Do you enjoy what you're doing day-to-day? Do you want to be a senior doing the type of work you're already doing? Do you know what that even means? By being senior, does that mean you want to supervise other people or does it mean you've been doing a lot of explainer videos and you want to do character animation?
Because that story is a very different demo reel than the story that says, "Hey, you can trust me to run projects with a team full of people." And I think a lot of people just pick some music that they like off the shelf, throw everything into a timeline and just cut to the beat and then stick some titles on it. And they're like, "There's my demo reel." And then they wonder why it gets to no attention or it doesn't cut through the noise of all the other people applying, or honestly, they just watch it a month later and they're really unhappy with it. Because they don't do the thinking... You almost have to think of your resume and your demo reel and your social media profiles and your intro emails and how you talk about yourself on LinkedIn like it's a job and you're the client.
You don't start a job by just going in a Photoshop and making stuff. You have to ask questions beforehand. You have to know what success would mean. You'd have to know what proclivities the client has, what obsessions, what interest, what things they want to see coming out of it. You have to stop and ask yourself that too. I think because we have to move so fast and because industry changes so quick, but we also, on the other side, we're guilty of this at School of Motion, you even said this studio name, we always point to the same two or three paths as being like, "Oh, you want to go to BUCK, you want to be a remote freelancer working six months out of the year, or you want to work at Apple making cool product videos." That isn't everyone's goal.
And even if it is your goal now, a year from now, it might not be. That's why your demo reel needs to change. That's why you need to go through the process of looking at your work and figuring out, what's your story? What's the teaser trailer you need to make so that someone, whether it's a client or a studio can be like, "Oh, that's exciting. I want to know more. Let me hire this person."
We don't really even give ourselves the ability to do that. Most demo reels and all this collateral, it's very reactive. I'm sure this has happened to you, it's happened to me. You're working somewhere, you may not be that happy with where you're at. You see that there's a job description somewhere, a motionographer or a buddy tells you, "Oh, man, did you see SYOP looking for somebody?" And you just react as fast as you can to take your old reel, slap a new title on it and send it out.
Frank Suarez: Yep.
Ryan: But we feel that. As people who have to view 500, you can watch a demo reel and you can tell which people are confident and know what they want to do and the people who are just like, "Well, here's my reel." And they just send it out. You can almost feel the confidence, just radiating off of the few that have it, but you can feel the imposter syndrome can feel the, "I'm not really sure who I am. So I'll just say motion design generalist. And there's no reason for the shots or the order or the story that they're telling. It's just like here it is, render." You can literally feel that when you start watching 10 of these a day or 100 in a day or 500 in a week.
Frank Suarez: Totally. Yeah. So this brings up another point in which I've already landed on the site and I've looked at the work that the person has, but there is a good amount of people that, because maybe they're starting out or maybe they don't have a clear sense of where they want to go in their career, and that's fine. A lot of us maybe didn't know that when we were starting, but I think that a good rule of thumb in what we're talking about here is that the more simple that you keep your things at first that can actually help you to figure out or maybe even open up more doors than if you expand into a lot of different genres, to call them something.
So to give you an example, just more concrete of what I'm talking about, it's like I land on a website and I see web developer, photographer, illustrator, graphic designer-
Frank Suarez: ... editor, producer, and I'm like, "Okay, I know this is not the person I'm looking for because there is no way that someone..." I mean, there might be someone out there that can do all those and do them amazing. I don't know that many. Maybe Alan Lasseter who can illustrate and animate and produce like a genius, but how many of those do you have around? So it's not very common. And so if you try to oversell yourself, then what that tells me is you're probably okay at some of those things, you're probably a beginner in some of those things, and you're probably just done one project using one piece of software in another one of those things.
So it's probably better if you just say, "I'm a motion designer, I'm an animator," and then show your work. And then in your work, show some of your photography or in your Instagram, or in your about page, talk about some of your interests. That can help you if you're looking to be an animator to keep yourself within the animation sphere, because that is one thing that will deter me from continuing. When I see all those titles up there, again, that shortcut that my brain has taken is like, "Okay, I've seen this before. And usually these reels are not the ones that I pick." So that's another speed bump.
Ryan: Yeah. It goes back to just titles. It goes back to those two things of titles, what do you call yourself? I'm not saying the title that your company gives you to say what pay grade you are. I'm just saying the title you want people to remember you by and understanding your audience. I feel like we have an epidemic in motion design of people mistakenly using the phrase generalist, when what they're really saying, but they're afraid to say it is junior. I run into this all the time where people will be like, I'm like, "So what do you do?" I'm like, "I'm a generalist." I'm like, "Okay, well, what do you do?" And they'll be like, "Well, I can design a little bit, but I can't design characters. And I love animating and okay in after effects, but I don't know Cinema 4D and I would love to learn cell. So I I'm a generalist." And what they're really saying is that they're a junior without a specialty that they want to aim for. But that comes through really quickly. Like I said, when you watch a demo reel, you can feel that confidence.
I also really believe that being a generalist, at least in terms of the way motion design studios are looking for people to fill that role, being a generalist is actually a specialty, especially when you're working out of the junior level to a middle weight or senior, in the sense that a good generalist can fit any hole that I may have in my pipeline. If I have five artists in-house and I have to rely on the same five to eight other freelancers, if those freelancers aren't available, my person that's staff, that's the generalist, I know I can put them in there. And that's why I think there's a big difference between being a generalist versus being a junior.
But the other thing, like we said about it, a demo reel is like the faster you can get to specific, the faster I can know if you're the right person for the job, or know if you're someone I want to invest time in learning or bringing on to help with something, instead of saying generalist, you can start saying, I have this idea all the time that when you say motion design generalist, or you even just say animator or just designer, you're treating yourself as a commodity. You're presenting to the world that you're a commodity to just be brought in, to stick into the assembly line for when I need that commodity. And then you get popped back out.
And it really, this sounds weird to say it, but it comes down to the difference between saying, I am something, versus saying, I do something. If you can say, "I do animation," that just sounds like you're a, nothing against plumbers, but you're like, "I do plumbing. Whatever you need, I'll do a plumbing. That's just what I do. That's my job." But if you can say, "I am a badass character animator that loves X, loves Arcane." Or, "I am an amazing designer who is a student of Saul Bass." That's not disqualifying you from anything that isn't Saul Bass, that's just saying, "By the way, here's something to remember me by. I love this stuff. And whenever I do anything I look for places to put my influence into that. And if you have a job where the client has made mention of Saul Bass, just remember me, please." That's a big difference between I am and I do.
And if we're talking about how to make your work stand out, when I see someone whose job title, when it says their name and then it doesn't say demo reel or 2021, it says something about what they do, when something sticks out like that, I met somebody recently who said they had their name and they said, screen artist. And I was like, "You know what? I'm not entirely sure what a screen artist is, but I also have never seen that job title. I'm going to keep watching this reel to figure out what do they mean by screen artist. That can mean anything." But it was at least specific enough that it peaked my curiosity and it made their demo reel stand out to me. I'm remembering their face and their name and their demo right now in my own head, as I'm telling you about it, just because of the choice of word that they gave themselves.
Now, if that person would've said animator and then the next 50 shots or 20 shots in their demo reel, were all just UI, UX for on set film production, I may not have remembered it as much as, I'm a screen artist. That's really interesting. And that's not a lie. That's not a stretch. You don't have to do just fit into the same categories that the places you work at give you. You can be more creative and more poetic and more specific than I think what we give ourselves the opportunity to do.
Frank Suarez: Yep. And actually what you're bringing up as you're saying it is, it's almost like the opposite of a speed bump. In this case for you-
Ryan: It's a turbo boost.
Frank Suarez: ... it's like a hook.
Ryan: Yep. That's a really good word.
Frank Suarez: It's a hook, and this is the part where we have to take our artist hat off for a second and think, "Yes, I am trying to market myself. I am trying to make sure that I'm presenting myself, not selling out or not thinking in those earns, but I do have to present myself amongst my peers. And in this particular moment, how do I stand out? How do I keep someone that is trying to meet a deadline, has 500 emails to go through and on top of that has to continue doing an animation and then has to walk their dogs. And then has a ton of things going on in their life. How do I keep someone like that from continuing to watch?" If you think of it in that term, then you're thinking about, "How do I eliminate the speed bumps?" But then the next step is, "Not only do I eliminate the speed bumps, but how do I create a hook? The story, screen artist." You're like, "Wait, what the heck is that?"
And so it's probably meaningless, but I'm not saying that this person said something meaningless, but they found a way to say, "I'm going to do something different that is unexpected." And so that created a moment where you're like, huh, it peaked your interest. There was mystery involved. Like what happened with this resume that I saw, you're seeing a white resume with black text for 499 emails. And all of a sudden you see a resume that has the School of Motion gradient in the background. And you're like, "Whoa, okay, this is memorable."
Ryan: Yeah. I mean, that's amazing how much that small design choice and understanding of your audience can make the difference.
Frank Suarez: Yeah. And I'm not even judging on merits, whether it was well designed. That's not the point. The point is that here I am, three weeks later and I'm still remembering that reel. I keep saying reel. And I'm still remembering that resume versus there were other people that I hired that I don't remember their resume. And I may not even remember their reel honestly, at this point.
Ryan: Well, I mean, but that goes back to, I'm trying to think of all the common things I've heard people say when they're trying to get where they want to be in the industry, but they can't figure out how to do it. And it's like a mystery to them how others have. And a lot of times I'll hear things like, "Well, I don't know enough people in the industry. And I feel like if it just gets the job because someone else helps them get it." But if you, again, go to the note behind the note, someone's recommendation is one strategy to being memorable. If I trust someone and that person is going to take enough time to tell me, "Hey, guess what I vouch for this person, check out their reel, and this piece of work," that instantly becomes memorable to me.
But there's other ways to do that if you don't have that. We can talk for a whole nother podcast about branding and marketing and strategies on social media, how you warm up cold leads into someone that wants to root for you and become a fan and become a patron. And if you're interested in hearing that, let us know, we'll do that. But I think about, if you don't have that, if you don't have access, if you don't know a ton of people in the industry, how do you make your stuff have the same advantage that having somebody give a recommendation? I go to these things that I think about that really has nothing to do with the work, the individual pieces, you cut on the demo reel. But I think about how you package that up. We've talked about having a smart, interesting, specific, memorable job title. That's great.
But I think people also forget that humor is a huge thing. How many times have you watched a demo reel and actually laughed? Like three times in my entire career. I've been working for 20 years in the industry. I remember the three reels specifically that actually made me chuckle or laugh out loud. That's so rare.
Frank Suarez: It is. It is rare. Yeah.
Ryan: It's alliteration, but I think humor is an easy, not easy, but it's a way to do it that doesn't require to make another 10 second piece. Humility, just saying and admitting to being transparent about like, "I'm starting, but I have a goal." I saw a really cool demo reel in a resume where someone animated, in between all their work, they animated themselves as if they were a character in a 2D side scrolling game. And they were just moving through a Mario Brothers type game.
Frank Suarez: Oh, I remember that one. Yeah.
Ryan: But the bosses, there were different challenges, but the challenges were all the things that you have to fight as a student who's getting into the industry, and there was a humbleness and a humility to, "I just want to get my first shot and this is how the challenge is. And can you be the person that helps me get through this level?" There's a lot of ways you could do that. You could just show, own the fact that, one, you're learning this new stuff or own the fact that you feel imposter syndrome.
I saw a really great demo reel that was all about, it was a 3D character animation reel, and they were fighting all the characters of the things that are in their head, keeping them from the job they want. So they literally, they modeled and animated themselves as a character fighting imposter syndrome. Or fighting the fear of the blank page. And those were just little, three or four second interstitials cut in between the rest of the work that just showing your humility.
And then just humanity. If people do work that isn't necessarily for a commercial thing, if you do personal work, lots of people will do spec stuff like a commercial for Nike or whatever. But if you go and actually do pro bono work and you do something for someone else and you put that into your reel, that you may not even think it's the best work, but it's an explainer video for a good cause, those express your story and who you are and what you want out of a career so much more than just another piece.
I feel like those are three... They're little things that maybe don't fit into what we were just talking about for conversation. But what you were saying made me think, I've heard so many people just like, "Oh, I don't know anybody. How do I stand out?" "I don't have any good work. How do I stand out?" "I haven't learned what I need to know to know I want. How do I know?" Those three things I think are just other ways to think about what a reel actually could be.
Frank Suarez: Yep. And actually this might be a little bit of hot water for us, but part of the reason that we wanted to take a peak behind the curtain is the motion design industry is actually probably smaller than some people think. And names do get around. And that is something that as a student, you have to be mindful of. Now, we have a great community of people. We have the Square, we talk, we see students and their reactions, but just be mindful that your behavior in the Square, your behavior in the industry to this point that Ryan is talking about of, I don't know that many people, you are probably interacting with people already right now, maybe in the community, online and your reactions online get, "Hey, have you heard?" "Yeah, I've seen this person and they're always saying this," or, "they're always saying that."
And people take note of those kind of things. And particularly when you're applying for a position where you might be a fit, but you're like, "Okay, their skill level is at an eight out of 10 that I need, but heard that this person is problematic." And this does happen. So that is definitely something that could be holding you back if you are creating situations where you're in the community or where you're talking in a certain way, or you're saying certain things.
And the opposite is also true. We've had people that say, "Man, that person is always helping out in the community. That person is always lending a hand and talking and helping and writing back." That's definitely a spirit of helping other people that even though their skill may not be... Maybe their skill is a six out of 10 versus that person that's an eight or nine out of 10, I'd rather hire the person that has a skillset of six that has a great attitude because I know that's a person that's going to be humble, that's going to learn, that's going to want to get better at what they do versus having to pull teeth with somebody else that may create more problems.
Ryan: Yeah. I want to double down on that, because I feel like I can put numbers to this if that's okay.
Frank Suarez: Yeah.
Ryan: I would say we joked about a Dungeons & Dragons character sheet. And if you're going to put like specific things to it, like categories, and there's obviously skill. But I think there's also reputation and then there's probably visibility as another one. You have to cross a certain threshold in terms of your visibility score, if you're going to think of it that way, for people to even know that they're on someone's radar. But if you're looking at skill and just reputation between the two of them, if I'm talking about hiring someone's staff, not just freelance for a week long on booking.
But if you're talking about going staff at a company or at a brand somewhere, I feel like skills, probably 51% of the equation for everybody I've ever hired. But very quickly, 49% of the decision making matrix is personality. It's, is this person humble? Does this person communicate well? Does this person look like they want to learn? Do they want to collaborate? Do they want to teach someone else? Do they just have positive energy? Are they really good at connecting people together? You can make so much ground against anyone else that you think you're competing with by not necessarily just doubling down on that skill section, not just adding another piece of software or another technique, but if you focus a little bit of your time on the soft skills, the reputation and personality, that can make the biggest difference when you're looking to try to get hired staff somewhere.
Because everybody passes the first test of do they have the requirements to do the job? Great. Now I want to talk to them. Whether it's in-person or over Zoom or whatever it is, I want them to meet my team. I want the rest of the team to sit and talk to them without me in the room. And then I want to get all the feedback coming back from everybody. Whenever I have somebody who's like, they're equal in terms of skills. They're very close or maybe one person's like, like you said, for numbers, one's an eight and the other person's a seven, I don't go to their demo reel and put their demo reels and watch them back to back to compare them, I go to like, what would it feel like when I was talking to them? Could I imagine sitting next to them in a room and we have a tight deadline? If I went to lunch with this person, what would they add to the conversation? You want your demo reel to find a way to express a little bit of that, just as much as if you were there in-person, right?
Frank Suarez: Yep.
Ryan: And that's why we talk about things like humor or showing that you're humble or showing that you have an interest in humanity besides just getting the work done and getting a cool job on your demo reel. I think we spend a lot of time focusing on what we make and how we make it. We don't spend a lot of time trying to communicate how we think about the work we do and how we think about out how we work with each other. If you can find that, I guarantee that will help your work stand out.
Frank Suarez: Absolutely. Man, we've covered a lot in this time.
Ryan: We were going to go 30 minutes, if everybody's listening, we said, "I'll do this in a fast 30," but I should have known better. This is one of my favorite things to talk about because I feel like it's so scary, it's almost always done as a reaction. It's rare that you will book yourself two weeks to just work on a demo reel. If you're a freelancer and you're looking for a job, it's very rare that you'd pass a paint job down to spend a week or two investing yourself and doing the demo reel. And that's part of the reason why we made Demo Reel Dash to force yourself to actually do it. You put some skin in the game to do it.
Is it okay, Frank, if you don't mind, before we finish this, I found a blog post I wrote seven years ago called 7 Simple Things To Remember About Your Demo Reel. Could I do a speed run through these seven things and see if you agree with them seven years after the fact? Are they still relevant or are they old? It would be fun to go through those.
Frank Suarez: Go for it. How many demo reels do you think you've seen in those seven years?
Ryan: Oh, my God. I mean, I can tell you I've done over 600 open office hours and probably 70 to 80% of those are demo reel reviews. So besides the fact that I had to hire people at Digital Kitchen or looking at reels here for School of Motion, at least 500, let's just say 500. I've watched 500, and decided whether or not to move forward with them.
Frank Suarez: Wow.
Ryan: So okay. I'll do this quick. Number one, your demo reel is your story. It's not a story of Greyscale Gorilla or Video Copilot or Patreon or honestly, even School of Motion. You should show me who you are and what you're interested to do, not the tutorials you watch. I hate to say this, but lots of times, just me personally, if I see a tutorial, a lot of times I'll turn it off. Especially if I see four or five or six of them or 30 or 40% of your reels are tutorials. What do you think about that, Frank?
Frank Suarez: Yep. 100% agree.
Ryan: Okay. Your demo reel tells me why I should hire you instead of everyone else that's competing. That means you're going against every intern, every close friend and honestly, every single piece of media I've ever seen. This repeats a lot of stuff we were saying, you got to be good, you need to be specific and need to be quick. Really quick. I think I even said in here anything longer than 30 seconds is too much. That might be a little bit pushing it, but I still feel that way to be honest.
Frank Suarez: Yeah. And sometimes it's okay to have a very short reel that you can send out to people for them to watch in these situations where you just have the cream of the crop or you just have what you want to show. And then if you need to make a longer reel to put on your website, let's say for example, you want to be able to showcase that you can do architectural renderings or those kind of things, then yeah, you can have a separate reel just on your architectural stuff so that a firm can hire you for that. But don't make me sit through two minutes of architectural renders when I just need one really cool one to show me, oh, you can do that.
Ryan: Right. I mean, I will say the way to avoid that is I don't like a lot of callbacks in demo reels. I don't like showing 10 seconds from a cool piece and then 30 seconds later another 10 seconds that's from a separate section of the piece. I'd rather just see it all together. And then I also like to think about how you're giving me stacks of information. If you have a minute long demo reel and there's four categories of work you're showing, don't show me anything that's redundant. If you show me one really awesome bit of type animation, at the end of the reel, don't show me two more pieces of so, so type animation. It's surprising to understand this, but you'd think one good piece of work lifts all the boats of the other work, but to me, it's the opposite. One average to bad piece of work makes me question anything I saw that was good. And that's where I always go to show off your strengths, hide your weaknesses, keep it as tight as possible.
Okay. Number three, your demo reel is made for a specific audience, the one person who's going to hire you. It's not for your parents, it's not for your school, not the people you hang out with on Slack or in Discord servers. You can also customize your reel to the role you're applying for or the shop that you're sending it off to. I feel like people spend so much time making a reel that lasts three years that they don't realize you could make a reel and then premier. You could just make a copy of that and say, "Oh, here's the reel that's got the basic storytelling, the basic structure, but I'm going to drop in these three character animation shots that didn't make the cut last time. Oh, and there's somebody who needs a design reel, I'm going to take four of these shots out and I'm going to put the designs for the pieces of the animation that's still left in the demo reel." It can be a skeleton with structure that you can hang different clothes on.
The big thing about it though, is that it shouldn't just be this just one size fits all two minute long piece that could be for anybody. That's why there's a difference between showreels and demo reels.
Frank Suarez: Totally. Totally.
Ryan: Number four, your demo reel is not a compilation of everything you've ever done in your life. It's a sales tool and it's really a snapshot of what you can do today, right now. What can you do right now? It needs to be up-to-date and focused. Again, that goes to that whole generalist idea of just one shot but 50 different shots in different categories. A lot of times it makes it really hard to know what I can use you for.
Frank Suarez: Yeah. And this was a tough one too, because again, it goes back to that idea that we fall in love with certain shots that we've done and that is because we accomplished something great in the shot. Maybe it's the first time we used 3D, right?
Ryan: Yes. Very true.
Frank Suarez: And so it's like, "Man, but I really want to showcase this 3D work." And it's not bad, but it's okay. And like you said, it might bring the entire reel down. But you're like, "But I really want to showcase because I'm so proud of that moment." You can make a case for it where you put it on your site and then you can have a little explainer of the process of how you got there.
Frank Suarez: And that's fun and cool, someone that goes through your site can see that you have personality and that you want to grow as an artist. So that's totally cool to put there, but if it's an okay shot, that is your first time doing 3D, it's probably going to bring the entire reel down rather than lift it up. Unless it's an amazing shot, then yeah, put it by all means.
Ryan: Yeah. And then you use that as your opener or your closer, just to make sure that people are reminded of you. I think this goes with this one, number five, is the idea that if your demo reel is the teaser, then your website is the actual movie. You want to use the same tactics people use when they make teaser trailers. You can be surprised, you can be seduced, you can be impressed.
But the one thing the trailer can never do is it can never be boring. Your demo reel can never be boring. And I do so many reel reviews and I won't watch them before I do the review, because I want to do the review live because I want the person that I'm on Zoom with to watch me watch it. And invariably, almost every single time, if it's more than 30 seconds, there'll be a point where you can see my mouse cursor and it hits the screen and I roll up to the playback bar and I look just to see what time I'm at. Because as soon as I'm done, I'll say, "Hey, did you see my mouse moved?" And they're like, "Yeah." I'm like, "That's when I would've stopped watching because I was bored." Or, "I felt like I got all the information I was going to get and everything was redundant."
So that's why I think it's really good to not make a demo reel in a vacuum. It's good to do a rough cut. And before you get everything polished, share that with your five closest friends and tell them to be honest. Tell them to be brutal, tell them to watch it like they had to hire you and get the feedback from them.
Frank Suarez: Yep. That's a great advice. That's hard. You just reminded me of my kids when we're watching documentaries and they click to see it's like, "Oh, it's got 30 minutes left."
Ryan: Yeah, I'm done. I'm out. I mean, that's never what you want to see. You never want to see somebody halfway through your demo reel look and be like, "How much more is there till I can go to the next one?" And it's sobering to see that when someone's watching. So it's good to know that.
Number six, your demo reel is a scientific hypothesis that will be proven during your first booking. Don't include what you cannot do. Don't include what you haven't done or what you don't want to do. I think that's really, really important is that people will just, out of a sense of desperation or a fear of not being considered for a job, they think they have to put a little bit of everything. Even if that's what they never want to do again in their life. That also contributes to not feeling confident in the reel or in the work, and you can feel it the moment you watch it.
Always attribute other people's work and delineate when you have the body copy in Vimeo or YouTube, wherever you put it. If you can say where you did the piece, what studio it was for, and if you can say what your responsibility was, you would actually be surprised. You'd think that that might hurt you because somebody will be like, "Well, you didn't design it." And, "Oh, you just modeled that." The fact that you actually do goes back to that idea of humility.
Most people don't do this because of fear. When I do it, I love it because I really understand that somebody A, wants to be honest about what they do, but B, values the rest of their team. And that's something that's very hard to understand from watching the demo reel, but that simple act of just saying, "Hey, I did this at blur." And, "Oh, I did this at Apple." And, "Oh, I did this at BUCK and I was responsible for this." That's just a little cue to the person watching like, "Oh, I bet this person's a good team player."
Frank Suarez: Yeah. You just brought up a huge point actually, because there were some demo reels where there was a mix and match of quality of work.
Frank Suarez: And this is another huge red flag that usually starts to give me doubts that the person is not being honest. And so the first thing I do is look for the credits and if the credits are not there, that to me is grounds for closing the website and moving on because it may not be out of a bad intention, but that just signals to me that A, you're not being transparent about the work that you're doing, but B, that you, again, like you said, you're not valuing the fact that you did this with another studio. It's totally okay if... Or C, even worse, that you're trying to deceive me into, "Oh, I actually just designed this one line in this 30 minute film that is amazing. And I just did the one line." And then you put the entire film.
Ryan: I mean, I, oh, my God, Frank, this is triggering me because I've had more times than I care to admit, watched demo reels where I actually knew explicitly that person had not done the work they said they were doing, because I knew the person who did it, or I worked on the project with someone that did something that they were taking credit for. I mean, that's the most extreme version of it.
But I've also made the mistake of hiring people in the past where I didn't double down and do my research where they said they worked on a title sequence, but they didn't say what. And I wasn't skeptical enough to ask them or to look further, but all they did was set the type on the screen, but the rest of the animation, beautiful Cinema 4D work with particles and crazy camera moves and really beautiful composing that looked like it was all filmed, they had zero to do with it. But the top line item on their website was, "I worked on movie X and here it is. And here's my shots." It was so upfront that I would never have even guessed that they weren't lying, but they're very duplicitous about their involvements. And it hurt, man. I've actually had to hire someone and then six months later had to let them go because what they said they could do and what they vouched for, actually was something really different.
Frank Suarez: Yeah. That's a big one. That's a big one. So make sure to include the team that you work with. That actually brings, to double down on this point, triple down on it, if you've worked with a team, that's actually a plus.
Frank Suarez: Because-
Frank Suarez: ... if you feel like you have to like, "Oh, I can do it all. And I did it all by myself." If that's what you're trying to sell to the person that's hiring you, that's actually very rare. And it's a signal that's going to come across as you're trying to deceive the person that's hiring you because it's actually cool for me to see, "Oh, I worked in a team where we did this together. I had this part to do." And just because you may have had a smaller role doesn't necessarily... I'm not going to judge you and say, "Oh, they only set the type. So that's bad." But I mean, the fact that you got put into a team to set the type for this big project, that's a big deal. That's the-
Ryan: Yeah. If you're a junior artist, that means that someone trusted you enough to work on a project that was really important to whoever was overseeing that whole thing. And I think that's a good tip too. We still live in a world where a lot of people are, they have this imposter syndrome where they feel the weight of always having to be doing personal projects, but there's a huge benefit to even if you're not working at a studio or if you're just a student right now listening, or you're in School of Motion, you're wondering like, "Okay, cool. I took this class, but my lessons, the work I did in here looks like everyone else's."
Putting together a small team of two or three or four other like-minded people at the same stage in your career and doing a little project, but as a team, not only could your work get better because you're with other people, but that gives you one of those team projects that you can put on your reel and have that subtle little heads up like, "Hey, look, I don't just think I'm just going to do it all. I actually enjoy working with the team. And I like seeing what it's like to do one part and hand it off." That's a huge signal to somebody who's trying to figure out who the next person is they should hire, that you would fit in with everything.
Frank Suarez: Totally. Totally. We're quadrupling down on that point because it's important.
Ryan: Yeah. I think it's an important one. Yeah. Number seven, the last one and I think we'll be able to send people off with hopefully some tips on how to make their work stand out. Simply put, your reel is actually your resume. We talked about this earlier how, oh, you know what? I can't stand resumes that don't give me the link. A resume is almost just like a sign to the reel. The demo reel for what we do, whether it's a portfolio or a demo reel, but for most of us in motion science it's a demo reel, it is the thing that signals what you're all about. The demo reel should say what are you the best at? It should hint a little bit to your aspirations about what you want to do in the future.
I think most importantly, it should say, what can I pay you to do today? What can I look at today on this demo reel, give you a call and hire you tomorrow? That may not actually happen, but it should give someone a certain level of excitement and confidence that if I can call this person and book them, if I can reach out to this person and hire them, I now have a new tool in my toolkit as creative director or a shop owner or a brand that I didn't have yesterday. That's why I say memorable and exciting gets you to that path. So those are my seven tips. Do you think they still stand?
Frank Suarez: Oh, man. It sounds like you wrote them yesterday.
Ryan: Well, that's good to hear. Hear. I wrote them a long time ago. I don't even want to think about where I was seven years ago. Frank, thank you so much. This has been awesome. It's so funny how, when you brought this up, I literally almost time traveled back in time to when I had to build a team out of nothing and hire five people in the same month and for all the good reasons and all the twitchy reasons that trigger me still thinking of having to do it. Any last words for anybody who's listening to this they're like, "Oh, man, what else could I do to make my work stand out and reach somebody to hire me?"
Frank Suarez: Yeah, no thanks for taking the time and doing this as well. I think it's crazy that seven years ago you were giving those tips and seven years later we're still giving out those tips. So the good news is that many of these things are easy to fix, make sure that your name and your website or your reel is clearly defined on top, on whatever communication you're going to send out to whoever's potentially hiring you. Make sure that when you send people to your website, your reel is easy to find, there's a story behind your thing. If you have illustration or animation or 3D, make sure that you're clearly defining those things. Define the roles that you're doing for those things.
And then I think the last thing is just be yourself. Don't try to come across as something you're not. Some of the most fun sites and reels that I saw were people, where they were just having about page. And that's probably after the reel, where I went to next, which is something we didn't talk about, was the about page. Just, I wanted to know more about that person, who they are and sure, many of them had accolades, like, "I won this award or that award." And that's always fun to see. But most of it, I just wanted to see a human being. Like, "Oh, I like, I like tacos. And I grew up in this part of the world and I did that or whatever." Because that also signals that you're approachable and you're friendly. And you are not... Avoid saying, "I am obsessed with animation and I don't sleep and I drink 500 cups of coffee a day." That's probably not going to get you hired.
Ryan: Well, and it goes back to the whole thing of being redundant. It's like, of course you love animation. You're applying for an animation job. But the thing is, again, being memorable, being exciting, all that stuff we talked about. You may not be applying for the job that you want today. These things may actually be applying for the job that comes to the studio you love, six months from now, a year from now. And if you can stick yourself in the back of someone's brain, they're like, "Oh, you know what? This person loves Lord of the Rings." Or, "Oh, you know what? This person loves F1 Ferrari racing." Or, "This person loves Supreme DROPS."
Whatever it is that you are obsessed with or you love, that doesn't have anything to do with slinging keys or setting curves or any of that stuff, you want to remind people of that as well. And there's ways to do it with branding, there's ways to do it with messaging. It can be part of your social media, but it can live on your reel as well, because there might be a day where the studio that didn't hire you because they weren't sure knows 1000% that you're the person when Pokemon comes to them as a client, right?
Frank Suarez: Yep.
Ryan: That can make a difference in a career in terms of you getting in the door, are you knocking on the door?
Frank Suarez: Absolutely.
Ryan: Cool. Well Frank, thank you so much as always. This is great. This has been a fun conversation for you and I to have.
Frank Suarez: Yeah.
Ryan: We've been through this pain and excitement at the same time. I hope for everyone listening that this is thing. These kinds of conversations are also getting you excited and adding more questions and more ideas to what you can do with your career. Let us know as always. If this is the kind of conversation you want to hear on top of the interviews and industry topics, we'd love to have more conversations that talk about the thinking that goes into being a motion designer, along with the ways to do the work as well. So as always School of Motion, we are here to educate you. We're here to excite you. We're here to introduce you to new people in the industry and until next time, peace.
Frank Suarez: Take care, everybody.
Ryan: Whew. I got a lot of flashbacks there to the times that I would sit at lunch with a tub full of demo tapes. Actually, yes, we used to call them tapes because they used to be VHS cassettes of five minutes of a demo reel. And I used to get 25 to 30 of those a week that I'd sit and evaluate. I used to actually have a combination TV VCR in the corner of my office and I would pop in a tape during lunch and it wasn't very easy to watch, it was at double speed. So I would watch everything. But I might be dating myself. But whether it's DVDs, VHS cassettes, demo reel links to Vimeo, your Instagram page or website, a lot of time is spent sifting through the reels of the people that we want to hire.
So I hope you got some good tips and tricks and maybe even just a little bit of empathy for the person that you want to watch your work and call you to hire you for that next big job. Oh, as always, we're here at School of Motion to teach you about all the great tips and tricks and techniques that are out there, introduce you to new people and new work. And honestly just keep you inspired and going everyday you wake up. Until next time, peace.