School of Motion

Overworked and Underpaid? SOM Alum Erin Bradley on Making It in Motion Design

  • By Ryan Plummer
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Los Angeles-Based Motion Designer Erin Bradley Talks Life-Changing School of Motion Courses, Assistant Teaching, and Growing Up in the MoGraph Industry

Erin Bradley says School of Motion "completely changed" her life. Not long ago, she was overworked and underpaid in an industry she didn't love — and then she remembered that time she tinkered with After Effects in college, and took the leap.
Erin completed four School of Motion courses (and is now on her fifth), signed on to help guide other students as an SOM Teaching Assistant, and dove in to personal passion projects. She compiled a creative, compelling reel, and landed a big gig with Truth, the youth-oriented anti-smoking organization known for its provocative and effective TV ads.
In this interview, we talk to Erin about how she ended up in motion design, why she's taken so many SOM courses, how assistant teaching helps the students and the TAs, the best ways to stay inspired and motivated, and where she's headed next.

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An Interview with Motion Designer Erin Bradley

1. Hey, Erin, thanks for joining us. Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself, and how you ended up in motion design?
I grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania — yes, home of the chocolate bar.
I went to school in Philadelphia and lived there a few years before I moved to LA in 2017. 
I did not go to art school, and while may I regret that sometimes I’m still happy with where I ended up. I studied television production in Philadelphia, and at the end of my senior year I needed to make a title sequence for a pilot episode I had filmed for a class assignment.
I decided to open this program called After Effects and try to make something. I had no clue what I was doing, but I loved it... although didn’t think I would ever be able to work in it.
Erin Bradley Drawings Sample 1.png
I got a job in television after I graduated and realized it was not what I wanted to be doing. The hours were bad, the pay was bad, and it wasn’t bringing me any joy.
I had always done art on the side, and I wanted something that would mix in my love of art, while still allowing me to be connected to the entertainment industry in some way.
I remembered how much I enjoyed making that title sequence in college, and I decided to see if I could really learn motion graphics.
Through a lot of work — and a lot of help from School of Motion — that eventually happened.
2. That's great! We love having something to do with a talented artist entering and excelling in the MoGraph industry. Which SOM courses have you taken and what has your experience been?
Honestly, School of Motion has completely changed my career and my life.
That sounds dramatic, but it’s true.
Before I discovered School of Motion, I was trying to teach myself After Effects. On top of that, I was working full time with awful hours at a job in a different field that I really didn’t enjoy.
I was able to learn a lot about After Effects and motion graphics on my own, but nowhere near the level to try and get a job; then, I found School of Motion.
Erin Bradley Advanced Motion Methods Final Example.gif
I took Animation Bootcamp first, and worked my butt off to get every assignment in and really absorb the information. The community and alumni network was really important to me because, since I didn’t go to school for it, I didn’t know a single person who did motion graphics.
Then I started applying the principles of what I learned in class to make my own short animations, gifs and things, and eventually had enough for a reel.
I moved to LA shortly after with no idea what I was going to do. I got my first gig the day I got there, and I've had steady work since.
Erin's Final Project for Explainer Camp
I have also taken Explainer Camp, Character Animation Bootcamp, and Advanced Motion Methods... and I’m now taking Cinema 4D Basecamp — my first dive into 3D!
These classes all tie together nicely but also have distinct learning principles. I think it’s really important that I took Animation Bootcamp first, for example, as it provides a good foundation... and that was probably my favorite course — at least in part — because it's how I got my start and learned the fundamentals.
3. What about being on the other side of the process? Would you please describe your experience as an SOM Teaching Assistant, guiding other students through these courses?
I’ve wanted to become a TA since my first class! I loved the feedback I got and knew I wanted to be involved in School of Motion, eventually, in some way.
I love being there to help push students to use what they’re learning in the class and see it impact their work. They may not have the most technical skills or experience, but those who take critiques from their TAs and other students and then apply that to their work are the ones who really seem to thrive.
Plus, critiquing students has taught me a ton. I now have a sharper eye when watching anything; and seeing students approach assignments in all different ways is exciting and helps me be more creative.
4. Yeah, we hear that a lot — not only do the students benefit, the TAs do as well! So, with that in mind, tell us about your non-SOM, creative work experience, once you entered the motion design field.
It’s great when you get the chance to get paid to work on something that can really show off your style and skills, but when you’re still getting established that isn’t always the case. A lot of the client projects I've worked on have involved creating small bits of graphics, or stuff I haven't been dying to show off.
But, this year I had the opportunity to work with 72andSunny and Hecho Studios on a spot for Truth. I worked on it remotely and did all the design and animation!
It was a great experience making a schedule on my own, working within a smaller budget, and still having a fair amount of creativity...
And I used a lot of what I learned in Explainer Camp, starting with an animatic and working up from there until we got to the final product.
My initial animatic and boards changed a bit from the beginning, but the whole process went smoothly because I managed to stay organized and on schedule.
A snippet of the final Truth video, with Erin's original animatic for comparison on the bottom right

5. That's an important job — congrats! But, it didn't make the reel, which by the way, has a super-cool soundtrack! What did make the reel, and why?
My reel is comprised mostly of small personal projects and my playing around, wanting to show off the kind of work that I want to get hired to do.
My reel intro is one of my favorite small personal things I've worked on — simple, but effective!...
Actually, I’m kind of obsessed with reel introductions.
4. Interesting. Why? And are there any other reel intros that have especially excited you.
Well, it’s the first thing someone sees when they see your reel and are thinking about hiring you, and it’s completely up to you what you want to do with it. It’s a great way to show off — in just a few seconds — the style of work you want to get hired for and love doing.
One of my favorites is the reel intro for Hue and Cry. It’s amazing!
5. Anything else to add on inspiration, motivation or excitement?
Well, staying motivated can be hard, especially seeing all the amazing work that other motion designers are cranking out. A big problem that I’ve been working on overcoming is imposter syndrome.
I see it getting talked about a lot, which is great because it happens to everyone.
I think I feel it mostly because I didn’t have ‘formal’ training from an art school. I might feel like a fraud when I get booked by a new studio, like I somehow snuck in and tricked everyone that I know how to do motion graphics when I really don’t... But I do!
Really focusing on my skills and making personal work to put out in the world has upped my confidence and helped me combat this feeling. 
Right now I’m working on a longer-form personal project that I hope to finish in the next few months!
6. Awesome! And you're right. We hear this often, too; but, our latest industry survey tells us that most of the motion designers who did go to art school did not find it helpful, whereas more than 99% of those who've taken School of Motion courses, like you did, would recommend it to their peers!
It's so true! If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there isn’t one right way to get into the industry.
You can go to art school, learn online, teach yourself, start working in a studio first, start as a freelancer first... Do whatever works for you. But it’s important to always keep learning.
There’s always new software and new styles that clients want you to know, and I think it’s important to keep up with all that.
I love that part of my job. I could spend hours on Vimeo and Motionographer, seeing what other people are coming up with. It makes you a better artist. 
7. Indeed. So, what's next for you?
I’m in the process of practicing and learning illustration, and focusing on my basic drawing skills. I’m trying to draw daily, and that’s a lot of what’s on my social media.
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I also decided to start my venture into 3D, beginning with learning Cinema 4D, and that's why I'm taking Cinema 4D Basecamp this session.
I love seeing collaborations like "Plant Lamp Glass" on Reece Parker's channel. That piece is an interesting combination of 3D and 2D, and I hope to get to do some fun stuff like that next year.
I also love the idea of being my own boss and am hoping to take the lead on more client work and move more into art directing.
There are so many awesome studios in LA and beyond, and I want to keep expanding my network and working with more people.
A big part of what I love about our industry is this potential for flexibility. I’ve been able to travel, focus on personal projects and take classes, all while working!

Follow in Her Footsteps, and Pave Your Own Path

Erin's right:
You can go to art school, learn online, teach yourself, start working in a studio first, start as a freelancer first... Do whatever works for you. But it’s important to always keep learning.
Ongoing education is essential to continued growth — and that's why we offer a huge library of free video tutorials and articles, as well as one-of-a-kind courses taught by the top motion designers in the world.
And these courses work, but don't take our word for it: greater than 99% of our alumni recommend School of Motion as a great way to learn motion design.
Indeed, MoGraph Mastery starts here.

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