A Letter from Ryan Summers on Joining SOM as New 2D Creative Director
Why am I Joining School of Motion?
Would you believe the answer to this Great Big Very Important Career Decision™️ has everything to do with Chad Ashley, Guillermo del Toro, and Camp Mograph?
Stick with me for a second while I tell you how I got to this career crossroads — and I’ll show you how they unknowingly conspired to convince me this is the only step I could take next in my career.
But first, I’ve got a secret to let you in on. Lean in, I’ve got to whisper it to you...
I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in my MoGraph journey that's led me to School of Motion. I've had so much help getting here it almost doesn’t feel right taking credit for it.
Don’t believe me? Let me prove it to you in three simple steps.
- I got my foot in the door at Imaginary Forces thanks to a friend of a friend, who went up and down her Rolodex twice over and ended up at me.
- I got to work on those Pacific Rim title sequences thanks to Miguel Lee, who took a crazy chance including me — not knowing what I was going to bring to the table — in his shot at the big time.
- I was named Creative Director for my hometown-hero studio Digital Kitchen thanks to Chad Ashley, who made it happen (more on him in a second).
And that's why I’m here: to return that favor to you, my MoGraph friends.
No matter who you are, at some point in your career you'll need someone to help you turn the corner, open your eyes, or pick you up off the ground and lift you up to that next level. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had this kind of help many, many times throughout my career.
Meanwhile, I've spent lots of quality time with Joey Korenman, EJ Hassenfratz, and the amazing crew at School of Motion, who've been the spark, the spotlight and the agent of change for many of you on your motion graphics journeys.
I want in on that, too... and, well, Joey is damn persuasive.
I AM A TEACHER
So, what does Chad Ashley have to do with all this?
He broke the mold, and proved it could be done — a high-powered creative director with a hand-picked team working on top-tier projects for one of the Original Big Shops. And then he walks away from it all to join Greyscalegorilla. Outstanding.
Yes, Chad and I have been mistaken for each other at NAB and SIGGRAPH more than once.
Whether it was in school, at Somersault, or leading Digital Kitchen, Chad was always the technical wizard that pushed tools in directions the motion design industry had never seen before — a highly coveted artist sought after by studios and clients alike, who never needed to share anything with anyone.
But he did, and he does.
I’ve said it on podcast after podcast, but Chad leaving the studio game to push Greyscalegorilla to the next level was a monumental move for the entire industry.
His relaxed tutorials, expert-level shader knowledge across every render engine and unyielding efforts to push photorealism came at precisely the time we all needed him.
Chad gives me courage to make a decision like this.
The biggest difference we can make in our industry isn’t with mega-budget commercials, title sequences or brand campaigns; it's by sharing with you what we’ve learned and what we love.
I AM A STUDENT
So, Guillermo del Toro?
There was no shortage of lessons to be learned from my biggest filmmaking hero in the short time I worked alongside him:
- He showed me how many times it takes to say no just to get to the right yes.
- He proved to that, while not everyone can become a great artist, a great artist can come from anywhere.
- He taught me how to motivate a team to move mountains — without ever having to ask.
But the biggest lesson GdT taught me?
No matter where you are in your career, you can never, ever stop learning.
After years of releasing fantastic films, Guillermo finally won an Oscar for The Shape of Water. So what did he do to follow it up?
Did he sign on to direct a big-budget Marvel movie? Did he leverage his awards-season afterglow to convince a studio to take on a dream project? Did he go on a classic movie monster prop-buying spending spree? Nope.
Guillermo stepped away from the director's chair to study filmmaking from no less than movie masters George Miller and Michael Mann.
What an example to live by!
Just think about the humility and vulnerability in being at the top of your game, with some well-earned clout, and leaving to learn more.
Guillermo's humble example is a key factor into why I’m joining School of Motion — to be surrounded by the best in the business: Sarah Beth Morgan; Nol Honig and Zack Lovatt; Sander van Dijk... and the extraordinary set of instructors we have lined up for future courses, which Joey made me take a blood oath not to tell you about just yet.
It's like the Avengers sent me an invitation to try out for the team. You don't say no to Tony Stark.
I AM AN ARTIST
That leaves Camp Mograph.
Did you make the trip out to Vermont last year? You surely felt the disturbance in the Force for at least a week after.
I can vouch that the frothy Twitter buzz was the real deal. (Psst — you’ll want to be there this year.)
What was it that brought the buzz? A perfect alchemy of the right people, the perfect place and the magnetism of motion design unfettered by the pressures of deadlines, clients and Instagram hype.
What Mark Cernosia, Dave Koss, Matt Milstead, Liam Clisham and crew created was responsible for re-sparking my love for animation and the people who animate.
Camp Mograph reminded me I can offer more than pitch decks for clients and pipelines for studios.
Erin Sarofsky showed me how much we can share at a high level with her Sarofsky Labs.
Barton Damer convinced me that grinding at someone else’s idea of a studio isn’t the only way.
Caitlin Cadieux simply sat down and sketched with me late into the night.
The magic flows at Camp Mograph — and it's the same magic that flows through School of Motion.
WHERE TO NOW?
In the last decade, I’ve worked with my heroes, collaborated with preeminent studios and helped create incredible works on canvases more colossal than I ever thought possible.
I could have put that experience to work for a tech company or an agency, but I'm better suited for this: investing my time in you, us, and this amazing community that keeps pushing the industry forward.
Why School of Motion?
I’ve taught online and I’ve taught brick and mortar, and I can confidently say SOM is the best teaching platform out there — bar none.
At SOM I can be a student and teacher, learning from our students, our instructors, and the incredible team working behind the scenes.
I’ve worked with many producers in my career, and I count our executive producer Amy Sundin as one of the best; the remote-first infrastructure managed by our COO Alaena Vandermost rivals that of the best studios in the industry; and I can’t wait to collaborate more with the content team and the original SOM Ryan, Ryan Plummer.
So what am I going to be doing?
I see my role as serving you, my MoGraph friends, in four specific ways:
- Classes. EJ, Joey and I are already brainstorming where to take SOM next, but we want to hear from you — in this world full of YouTube tutorials, Patreon subscriptions and new apps filling up pipelines every day, on what are you struggling?
- Community. The School of Motion community is strong, but I think there’s more we could do to foster further communication. There are people everywhere who aren’t being heard or seen but want and deserve to be part of this exciting industry — and I want to explore how we can use our platform to elevate more motion designers and help fellow artists, potential employers and future clients discover you.
- Connections. I think we do a great job training you — but we can do a better job facilitating your professional growth. Whether you're first starting your career, looking to level up or wondering about your next step as an industry veteran, we can connect you. Looking to collaborate? Need an introduction to a creative director at your dream studio? Want advice on how to expand your own studio? We can help.
- Futureproofing. The industry is growing exponentially, with new screens, software and systems for collaboration; we're real time, experiential and interactive — and I’m on a mission to do our industry's due diligence, identifying and sharing new tools, canvases, and opportunities.
And how can I be reached?
If you have questions about getting your next gig, want me to take a look at your reel, or need advice on what to learn next, I'm here for you.
Tag me in your post in the Alumni Group on Facebook; slide into my Twitter DMs; or, schedule some time during my open office hours.
More Advice from the Best
Our 250-page Experiment. Fail. Repeat. ebook features insights from 86 of the world's most prominent motion designers, answering key questions like:
- What advice do you wish you had known when you first started in motion design?
- What is a common mistake that new motion designers make?
- What’s the difference between a good motion design project and a great one?
- What’s the most useful tool, product or service you use that’s not obvious to motion designers?
- Are there any books or films that have influenced your career or mindset?
- In five years, what’s one thing that will be different about the industry?
Get the insider's scoop from Chad Ashley compatriot and Greyscalegorilla Founder and Partner Nick Campbell, Ariel Costa, Lilian Darmono, Bee Grandinetti, Jenny Ko (Buck), Andrew Kramer (Video Copilot), Raoul Marks (Antibody), the aforementioned industry icon and SOM instructor Sarah Beth Morgan, my fellow Camp Mographer and motion graphics genius Erin Sarofsky (Sarofsky), Ash Thorp (ALT Creative, Inc.), Beeple (aka Mike Winkelmann), and others:
Produce Your Own Remarkable MoGraph Projects
Excited and inspired, but unsure if you have the experience and knowhow? That's where School of Motion comes in.
There's no better way to position yourself for further success than investing in your education, like our 5,000-plus alumni.
Our classes aren't easy, and they're not free. They're interactive and intensive, and that's why they're effective.
By enrolling, you'll gain access to our private student community/networking groups; receive personalized, comprehensive critiques from professional artists; and grow faster than you ever thought possible.
Plus, we're entirely online, so wherever you are we're there too!
THE STARTER COURSE
The Path To MoGraph is a free 10-day course that will provide you an in-depth look into what it's like to be a professional motion designer. We'll kick things off by giving you a glimpse into the average day at four very different motion design studios. Then you'll be ready to check out the process of creating an entire real world project from start to finish, so we'll show you the software, tools and techniques you'll need to break into this thriving, competitive industry.
INVEST IN YOURSELF
There's no magical formula for creating animations to rival the projects that made our Best of 2019 list; success in the MoGraph industry takes artistic prowess, dedication, and a fundamental understanding of visual storytelling.
Fortunately, all of this can be taught and, if you've ever dreamt of creating world-class motion designs through real-world projects, in-depth lessons and critiques from industry pros, we highly recommend School of Motion.
We're the world's number-one online school for motion design.
Our courses will not only help make motion graphics more approachable they'll inspire and empower you to transform your creative concepts into tangible, beautiful products.
Peruse our course catalog; if you're unsure which course is right for you, or even whether SOM is the right school, use this handy guide — or click the chat bubble at the bottom of your screen.
Like I said, we're here to help.
And, who knows, maybe next year you'll be on our best-of list!