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How to Skip School and Find Success as a Director - Reece Parker

By Adam Korenman

Do you need a fancy degree to forge a worthwhile career? Short answer, no!

Do you need to go to school in order to build a lasting, fulfilling career as an artist? There are plenty of things to learn at institutions around the world. You'll certainly pick up some great techniques and meet a lot of cool people. But does that mean you can't find success unless you have a piece of paper on your wall?
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Reece Parker is a freelance animation director and illustrator...and he didn't need a fancy degree to get there. Anyone who has seen his work considers him a stellar artist...but high praise can't always drown out that internal monologue. Reece thought his career had stalled, and he wasn't sure where he was supposed to go next. Without a direction, he worried that he hadn't built a stable foundation for his future.
We all have moments of doubt. Motion Graphics as an industry is young, and there are few long-in-the-tooth designers out there to show what your career should look like in twenty, thirty, or forty years. We're all pioneers forging a path and defining what success means in our particular niche. Reece learned, after a viral IG post, that he was in the company of a large swath of the motion design community.
Since turning his gaze inward, Reece has learned a lot about finding direction with his career. The doubt still gnaws, and will likely never go away, but that's not the defining aspect of a career. He still has passion, still has art to share, and now he has a clearer path toward his future.
Grab your compass, a map, and a protractor. We're scouting out the wilds and breaking trail with Reece Parker.

How to Skip School and Find Success as a Director - Reece Parker

Show Notes

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Transcript

Motioneers, a lot of times we start these podcasts already in the conversation. But today, just to give a little bit of context to what I think is maybe one of the most important conversations we could have as working motion designers. For people listening, I bet you felt this way before. Before I announce the guest, I just want to read a post from Instagram that really caught my attention, mostly because this artist has, if not the best, one of the best working office spaces you could possibly dream of.
Ryan Summers:
But two, the text that was attached to this really stuck with me. From the moment I read it, I've been thinking about it and I'm so happy to finally have Reece Parker on the podcast. But before we start talking to him, I'll do my best job of trying to read it in his voice. But I just want to read this post. And while you hear this, think if you've gone through something similar.
Ryan Summers:
Now, you can go to reeceparkerco on Instagram and look at this as well. You'll see an awesome office space with tons of really cool decorations on the wall. I think what I'm going to now kind of adopt as my life model to just draw shit. I love that. But let me read what was attached to this post that really stuck with me. It said, "I've been reflecting a lot on where I go from here. I work a lot and I notice I get lazy when I'm not really passionate about a project. I don't think of myself as very emotional, but as an artist, my best work is fueled by my emotional connection to the job."
Ryan Summers:
"As I've gotten more comfortable in this small thing I've built and reflect on goals and milestones along the way, I feel more and more lost. The path isn't as clear from here. So I think maybe I'm where I was always wanting to be. And now I don't have to grind as hard. In theory, that's comforting and sounds healthy, but for me it feels limiting to my growth and that gets me bummed out. Maybe it's time to depart from a solo venture, or maybe that's not appreciating what I have right now. Maybe I should focus on teaching what I've learned or maybe that's just adding noise to an increasingly saturated market and my own ego. Maybe I should just apply to Walmart. I hear they have great benefits. I don't have answers, but I'll get there." Reece Parker, welcome to the podcast.
Reece Parker:
Thank you. You did a great job reading that.
Ryan Summers:
Oh, thanks. I think it's probably because I have felt like this many times in my career. I may or may not have felt that a couple of times during this pandemic. But I think it is enigmatic of the state that we are just in, in motion design. There are so many people who are making their way through this career arc, through this journey for the first time. And I don't know about you, but to be honest, I don't have any mentors to see how to stick the landing, I guess, is the best way to say it.
Ryan Summers:
No one's really finished a career in motion design because we're all kind of like first generation passing through. That's just a long way of saying let's talk about like figuring out how to get there and where there actually is. Maybe first off you could just tell me, like, where was your head when you wrote this? What caused you to post this? Because this is pretty vulnerable.
Ryan Summers:
I think a lot of people look to you as like an amazing illustrator, a great animator, a director, someone who's, as it says here, got their shit together. But this is like a really, really vulnerable insight from you. Where was your head when you posted this?
Reece Parker:
It's interesting. I try as authentic to be vulnerable. We just had another baby, so I think that that's probably kind of where my head space was. Whenever big life milestones happen, at least for me, it's more elective. Yeah. And so I think just in that week or two or three, I was just kind of thinking about where I am and where I was going and where I started. And yeah, I noticed that my goals have been passed and I don't know where I'm... As I wrote in the post, I look forward and it's not as less trotted. The path isn't as carved. Yeah. And so I wrote that and posted it just on a Saturday. And it's funny because I don't post on Saturdays. The post was just because I had a thought and then it resonated with a lot more people than I thought it would, honestly.
Ryan Summers:
Yeah, it has almost 2,800 likes, which is a not insignificant number in terms of people probably like raising their hand and, if you're listening to this, saying, "Yeah, me too. I have no idea where to go." They may not be at the same place in their career as you or I, but there are all these questions. The landscape has changed so much in I guess the last 12 to 18 months, anyway. The options have gotten even more. There's more options and more places to go, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's liberating for everybody. It can also mean that it's either confusing or stultifying. It actually stops you. You don't know what to do.
Reece Parker:
Yeah. And that's a really interesting thing too. From my perspective, after having maybe hit some certain milestones, you start to go, oh, okay. I never thought about where I would be when I'm here. I never thought about where to go from here. I don't feel like I'm done. So it really is interesting. And so many perspectives sprouting from it, too. And not that everyone necessarily interpreted my situation 100%, which wasn't my intention anyway. But it was interesting to hear from so many other people's perspectives kind of their solution to their thing at their point in their career.
Ryan Summers:
Well, I think somebody... Who was it? I think Steph Curry said something that I thought was really interesting as a response. Let me see if I can find it. Because it stuck with me too when I went through. And maybe we'll get to this eventually, because this is one of those things where I think we're guilty of this at School of Motion and all the other... I don't think of myself as a thought leader, but somebody talks about this a lot.
Ryan Summers:
That we're really guilty of what I've started calling star gazing. We really do sell the dream of, oh man, you want to get to Buck, you want to get to Gunner, you want to get to Golden Wolf, Odd Fellows, Ordinary Folk. You want to be a director. You want to be an art director. You want to work with the clients. You want to start your own shop. And I think everything kind of stops at that point.
Ryan Summers:
Because there's so much work, at least in motions, on just to be accepted and to be recognized, to be able to get to those kinds of places. But like you said, great, maybe you get there. What next? That happens. But I think Steph said, "Dude, you are missing the point. The exciting part starts when you don't know what to do." And maybe we can dive more into that a little bit.
Ryan Summers:
But I think before we get much further, you've talked a lot about like where you're at in your career and what you've accomplished, but maybe we can give context to people. I never like asking people how old they are. But I'd rather ask people, how long have you been working in the industry? Because I think that might help people kind of understand like where you're coming from. And maybe if you want to, just give people a little elevator pitch of like where you started and how you got to like today.
Reece Parker:
Yeah. So I started in 2016. That was the first time I learned about after effects. Previous to that, I had experience in what was called Flash at the time is now Adobe Animate. And I was animating on sticky notes with my friends and kind of drawing my whole life. So I guess maybe five coming up on six years, which isn't long. I understand that. But also, I don't know, I attribute a lot of my success to my practicing previous to entering into like calling myself a professional.
Reece Parker:
And so growing up, I was just creative minded. And that came out in a lot of different mediums, dance music, piano. I played piano for a long time. But mostly drawing and skateboarding. I just used what I had and what I had was pencils at school. So I would fail a math test and then flip it over and draw a portrait of the teacher on the back. And she would hang it up on the wall, even though I failed it.
Reece Parker:
I remember that happening a lot growing up. That was always kind of my thing. My creative output was like graphite illustration, anywhere from like really sketchy kind of cartoony, all the way up to photo, real portrait work. And then how I got to this industry was interesting. I mean, I didn't go to school. I didn't go to the SCADs or any other higher education. I graduated high school kind of barely. I was sort of unfocused student.
Reece Parker:
I wasn't necessarily bad at it. I got by pretty easily, but I just didn't care. And I think that was because I was disconnected from the expectation at the time of where I was supposed to go. I didn't understand that there were careers that were suited for people like me. The only thing I knew was graphic design. And I tried it. I had a shadowing. In high school, you do job shadowing.
Reece Parker:
And so I did one for a graphic designer who worked for the city of Bellevue, which is close to Seattle. And I just remember it being so horribly boring. And looking back now, I understand the value of it obviously. And I think he was doing type work. And I was an illustrator at heart. I wanted to draw dragons and Spider-Man and all this cool stuff. And he was like working with fonts and I just didn't get it.
Reece Parker:
So that was like enough for me to not do that. So I didn't want to go to school because that was the only thing I knew. So I'm kind of floating around a lot of years after high school, maybe three, four years. And I'm really focusing on skateboarding. And I get pretty good. But in skateboarding, if you're not pro by the time you're 23, then you kind of missed it.
Ryan Summers:
Whew. 23. Really?
Reece Parker:
Yeah. Early. I mean, kids are 13 and they're like breaking records and it's insane.
Ryan Summers:
It's crazy. The rubber knees don't last much past like 23 or 25.
Reece Parker:
Yeah. And if you have a career into your late thirties, early forties, you're like kind of an icon just for that. It's crazy. I was 22 and I was flying out to California to compete. I competed in an immature contest. And this was like the big one, because I knew I was coming up, kind of like I'm getting old. I don't really have any other prospects. In terms of a resume for like a professional career, I didn't have anything going for me.
Reece Parker:
So right before this big conscious that was like maybe I could start something up in skateboarding. I remember I broke my heel. I was jumping down a big thing. So that was like really earth shattering because it meant that... I did try to compete, but I couldn't do it well, obviously.
Ryan Summers:
Yeah. It's like drawing with your left hand.
Reece Parker:
Yeah, exactly. So that was big. And when I got back from that, I really, really had to readjust my entire life. Because up until that point, that was who I was. That's who I identified as. So I just said to myself, like I love this thing, but I know that it can't carry me into my future successfully. I want a family. I want to be able to provide. Milestone goals. I'm I'm not 18 anymore. I want to kind of mature out of this phase of life. And I had older friends that really hit that home.
Reece Parker:
I was still young at the time. I mean, 22, you're not old. But I had 30-year-old friends that were kind of doing the same thing. And I was like, "I don't want to be that." So I kind of just hit the pavement and I was like, all right. I like drawing. I can kind of animate. I can kind of use a computer. Let's figure something out. I ended up finding an internship at a creative startup for free, meaning unpaid. And they wanted me to basically do anything creative.
Reece Parker:
So I was doing t-shirt designs, logo animation. And then eventually that led to they needed an explainer. I didn't know what that was. And so once I figured out kind of that that was a thing, I just started studying it like crazy because I thought it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. And some of my earliest influences were Seth Eckert. He runs The Furrow, the studio.
Reece Parker:
Back before that, he was doing jobs for Facebook and Coca-Cola. I was so inspired by like this guy's a solo kind of an artist and he's doing what I've perceived as ginormous jobs for big brands. And he was doing cool transitions and smooth moves and all that stuff. So that was where I started. Sorry. That was so long.
Ryan Summers:
I love it though. No, I think it's great. It gives me a lot of context. It would be very easy for us to just go to your website and be like, okay, let's look at who you... Oh, whoa, look who this guy's worked for. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google. But even like the studios, like Hornet, BUK, APFEL, Giant Ant, Ivy, Furrow. It goes on and on.
Ryan Summers:
But I think there's a lot of people who are looking, I guess like metaphorically, up at someone like you and said like, oh man, if have you done all this and you've only been working now for not that long, you're still really young in terms of the grand scheme of things and you're questioning it. I feel like there's a really interesting connection to what you were saying, like looking at skateboarders that were in their thirties when you're 22.
Ryan Summers:
At some point, do you start questioning like, okay, well, if he's already... I don't think the word is burnt out because I don't think that matches to what... There's a lot of discussion burnout, but I don't think that's it. It's in some ways a better and sometimes a harder question. It feels like it's a more existential question of like great. So you've hit a pinnacle and no one knows what the pinnacle is after that.
Ryan Summers:
And you know you can go a lot of different ways. Like you said, you can teach, you can give back, which you already are doing. You're already doing like Q&A's You're already teaching SkillShare. You're doing giveaways. You're already doing a lot of that. But I feel like in our industry, there's still even like a stigma to that of like, oh, they're teaching. They're halfway towards retirement or they're in that can't do. So they teach.
Ryan Summers:
Which that whole notion I feel like needs to be put to rest in general, but specifically in motion design. I think there's probably a lot of people sitting here like, "Whoa, what do I do? If this guy's this good and he's working with this many people and he's kind of questioning what to do next, what's in it for me?" Like you said, they may be doing their first explainer right now.
Ryan Summers:
They may be the only motion designer at a company doing a bunch of other things. There's a lot of questions to ask. But I go back to, I was at the first camp mograph and I got to do the fireside chat. I kind of threw away what I was going to talk about. I had a whole presentation. And then I changed my mind like right before, because I had a lot of good conversations during that day.
Ryan Summers:
I was going to talk about my career and stuff I've learned and I decided I just wanted it to be a conversation. And I asked three questions. And people may be sick of hearing me say this, but I kind of almost want to ask you the same three. Is that okay?
Reece Parker:
Yeah.
Ryan Summers:
And we didn't plan this, but I want to just toss them at you. First off I ask people kind of just the general sense of like, do you feel imposter syndrome? Like Reece Parker, worked for all these people, one of the best character animators in motion design working today. Great illustrator, amazing branding for what you do. Do you feel imposter syndrome?
Reece Parker:
I have in specific roles, but not others. As an animator, no. But only because it always felt so natural. I think in illustrator a little bit because I started as an animator, so that's how people saw me. So when I tried to illustrate, even though that's where my real roots are, it felt a little bit more like I was like, oh, kind of just pretending here. And then I got hired and it solidified a little bit more.
Reece Parker:
And then I think the most it's been is for directing, only because I do see myself as a director, but I've had an interesting path to that. I don't have any studio experience. I don't have any agency experience. I've never been repped. I'm not anyone's roster. Nobody's marketing me. My own marketing has gotten me here. So it's sort of an independent route.
Reece Parker:
But that being said, I've led jobs for Microsoft and Amazon, like real things. And I've had to staff up and expand when I need to. And really interesting. I've learned a lot from things like that. But I think that would be the biggest... Because you hear up these other names that are repped and they're on Hornet or they're elsewhere. And they've kind of always been the director or they've been a creative director at Buck or Art Fellows. You know what I mean? It just sort of solidifies them based on their work history. But that's not something that I had.
Ryan Summers:
Right. In some ways, there's kind of a promoted natural progression of what you're supposed to do. You go to the school, you do something, you get known for it. You double down on it. You work for a "famous creative director." You either stay at that place. You go to another shop, you get your shot, and then you're off to the races.
Reece Parker:
Exactly. Yeah.
Ryan Summers:
I want to follow back up on that later because I think you said something really interesting. I always call it branding, but also I think just the way you've marketed yourself is very novel. I don't know if other people really have noticed, if they haven't been in that sphere of discovering you and then following you and then seeing you doing things and then giving you shots and stuff.
Ryan Summers:
But the second question, the camp mograph question. Because I think it's interesting that you... In a lot of ways, I feel like this is what musicians go through too, right? Like when you said imposter syndrome, that you didn't feel it with a thing that was like your natural kind of love or thing that just came intuitively to you. But the moment you stepped out of whatever kind of like story that you crafted for yourself, you started feeling that.
Ryan Summers:
I think there's probably a lot of people who feel that way. There's something they dig and it's just the thing they find flow or they love it or they'd be doing it if they weren't getting paid for it. But the moment they start... Because in my mind, to be totally honest, I always think of you as an illustrator first. I mean, I know you're an amazing animator. As a creative director I think of people first for, a lot of times it's I think of them as what they do that I can't find anywhere else.
Ryan Summers:
I think you're a great animator. But I always go back to your illustration style feels super unique and that I would cast you for projects, if I could, because of your illustration style first. So in my mind, just top of mind, I'm like, "Man, he's just got this look that doesn't feel like anyone else. If I had the right project, he would be the perfect person for."
Reece Parker:
That's really nice.
Ryan Summers:
You'd also know how to animate it and you could lead a team of animators. But first and foremost. So it's funny hearing those disconnects between where you feel the imposter syndrome or insecurity and then where the world around you views you. The second question I asked everybody there was, at whatever time you found motion design and you got into it, you probably had an expectation or a goal or a hope. Are you where you thought you would be when you got into motion design? Did you have any kind of preconceived notion and have you connected to that?
Reece Parker:
I'm way past where I ever thought I'd be. Yeah. Way, way beyond it. I'm past what I even thought was possible. And still kind of feel that way based on just talking to peers. But when I first started, I was so naive and so young and so just disconnected from anything real. So I was like, "I just need to pay my bills." At the time, my wife was covering the bills. And she was so supportive and really sweet. I couldn't have done it without her. But yeah, that was it.
Reece Parker:
It was like, if I could just pay the bills, then fine. I didn't know how to charge. I didn't know anything. And then since then, obviously as the years went on, my goals changed. And as I met more people in the industry... That's what's so cool about this industry, too, is like, for the most part, I've been like arms open, everybody's ready to give me advice and hugs and support. And they really have led the way for me to understand what is possible. And then from there I can set the goal and then go hit it. Yeah. So it was ever changing. But at the beginning, I had no perception of what was even doable at all.
Ryan Summers:
There's a big group of people to say first generation motion designers, because there's people who are 15 years older than me and probably people who are 10 years younger than me that I still lump into that group because they haven't made it. I mean, there were no like degree programs for motion design. There were barely classes that taught like after effects or illustration in the sense that it could be set up for commercial projects or for animation, for motion design.
Ryan Summers:
But there's also I think a huge disconnect on the other direction for people who are living in the world where everything is codified. Motion design equals cinema 4D plus after effects. You're either an animator or you're a designer. You can go freelance, you can go staff. You can do one a day. You can do NFT. It feels like there are very well-trodden paths at the starting point for people who are listening now that getting started.
Ryan Summers:
If you're listening to the School of Motion podcast, odds are that you're probably in that earlier part of your career. And there are ways to go, right? There's order and structure. But there is that point where everybody catches up really quickly to us, I think. I'm lumping you in with us, Reece. But people just starting now, because the way the industry is now, because there's so much work, because it's global and there are so many screens, there are so many needs for what we do, you can catch up to where Reece is right now or where I'm at now probably much faster than either of us got there.
Ryan Summers:
Because there are so many more channels to learn and there are so many places to try stuff out. It's easier to network. People know what motion design is when you explain it, for the most part. So I feel like there's a lot of people catching up to us are also like at their own personal pinnacles that are like, "Okay, cool. What next?" And that goes to the third question I asked at camp mograph.
Ryan Summers:
So just to set the stage, right? So I'm sitting in the middle of this room. There's probably, I don't know, 60, 70, 80 people in it. Instead of talking for an hour and a half, I just started asking these questions. So that first one imposter syndrome, almost everybody put their hands up, which was great to see. Then I asked like, are you where you thought you'd be? Probably like 20% other people, maybe 30% of the people put their hands up. But I asked them this last question and it was actually shocking to me.
Ryan Summers:
I asked everybody, so cool. It's fine. You just saw that everybody can be impostors. We're all imposters in some way because no one's ever done this. No one's where they necessarily want to be or thought they could be. But my big question is, are you happy right now in motion design? And before you answer that, almost no one put their hands up in like a room of 60, 70 people. And maybe people at first were kind of confused about it.
Ryan Summers:
And people would be like, "Well, what do you mean by happy?" And I'm like, "I think the fact that you even have to ask 'What do you mean by happy?' is a very eyeopening thing." So I ask you, I think I know the answers, but are you happy with where you're at in motion design right now?
Reece Parker:
Yeah. I would say conclusively that I am happy. And I think my wife would back me up on that, too. I don't mean to like sound contrarian or anything either. It's interesting to hear their responses. I think generally my attitude in terms of happiness comes from I always remember my roots, which for me wasn't school and kind of linear. For me, it was I'm shoveling sand eight hours a day. I'm cleaning Taco Bell bathrooms.
Reece Parker:
I'm working retail and I'm terrible at it. My bosses all hate me. I'm lazy. That was my reality and it was very, very real. And so knowing where I'm at now, it's an impossibility. My closest family are people that know me from my past life. They don't even know how to interpret where I'm at now in terms of like success outwardly, but inwardly as well as an artist. They don't get what I do and they don't know how I did it. So they just call it luck, which in some ways it probably was. But I always remember kind of where I was and that keeps me happy even through questions and thoughts. And when things aren't always as clear, I'm still always super, super grateful.
Ryan Summers:
Right. It was kind of a charged question to ask a crowd, but I think it also was just to open people's eyes. Thank you for that. Because I think I have a big difference between like two or three different words. I feel like I'm almost always happy in the industry because I understand where I could be otherwise. And I think there's also the idea of being satisfied. And maybe that's the difference where you're at as well. Happy to be where I'm at. Grateful for the opportunities.
Ryan Summers:
I can see that there's a lot of things to do. It's not like VFX, where the industry is... Not that it's shutting down, but it's very limited what you can do and the future for a lot of people. Maybe this is me. Maybe this isn't you. I'm just projecting. But I feel like I'm eternally, to some degree, unsatisfied because I know there's more to be done and I don't know exactly which way to go. And I think that might be the clue to what a lot of people were feeling, was that they were like...
Ryan Summers:
Technically, if I thought about it, I fit the definition of happy. But there's still something ticking in the back of my head that it's not enough. And maybe that's just like, you're not satisfied. You can be one or the other. You can be both. But it's okay. And just having the word to describe it. Where you're feeling that you described on Instagram, do you think it has a certain amount of like, all right, the fire's not out. Because you said, "I'm not over. I'm not done." Are you fighting to try to find a way to be more satisfied with what you get back from the work or what you're doing day to day?
Reece Parker:
Absolutely. Yeah. I'm plotting, for sure. And I've got a little bit more resources now. So it's, where can I channel my creative energy and where can I use these skills that I've developed to not always be on client work? Which I still love. I love client work. I love my clients and I love the community and industry wholeheartedly. But when you reduce it down to its worst description, it's we make commercials, right? And I hate that because I'm an artist.
Reece Parker:
I'm not editing the random medical new thing that's out, blah, blah, blah. I don't want people to skip past my work. But in reality that... I don't know. In some cases, not all cases. But that's the easiest way for people to understand what we do. So we kind of always circle back to it. So yeah, from here, it's like, how do I keep pushing and growing? And as an artist, it's subjective.
Reece Parker:
And I also think there's no cap. So that you can go up and up and up. I plan to continue to refine. But in terms of satisfaction, yeah, I definitely wouldn't say I'm always satisfied. When I have something I'm really invested in, it's easier to be. And then that ends and then you move on, right?
Ryan Summers:
Exactly. It's almost like you were in the room that I'm talking about. Because that's where the conversation led to, to be honest. After I asked people, are you happy? And everybody kind of had their kind of like maybe not, or what does happy mean? All that. One of the things I asked was like, well, how do you tell people what motion design is? And almost everyone to a point struggled or was embarrassed or disappointed with what you just said of like, well, we make stuff for other people to sell stuff.
Ryan Summers:
That's one of the reasons why I joined School of Motion, to be honest, because I feel like that is ultimately going to always put us into the position that you find yourself in or I found myself in before I joined School of Motion, is that I think there's a lot of heavy lifting to be done to explain or to agree or to understand that motion design in like a bigger picture in my mind. What I responded to when someone said, "Oh, we make commercials," or, "We make stuff for other people."
Ryan Summers:
What is different between what we do and we feel kind of bummed out or disappointed about it in the grand scheme of things compared to someone who sits and animates all day for TV shows or for film or for somebody who gets up on a stage and shoots stuff and makes visual effects for it? And this is probably crazy, but in my mind, I think that instead of motion design being, like in a college catalog, there's like three classes called motion design. And they're like subset of a subset of a subset in a degree program.
Ryan Summers:
In my mind, I think motion design is actually the umbrella that everything else fits under in terms of like gaming, that could be motion design; film, that could be motion design; animation, photography, type, color painting, and any of that stuff still sits underneath what motion designers do. I challenge and I think motion design is more a way of thinking about solving things creatively than it is we make stuff for other people.
Ryan Summers:
And I've done this, right? I've worked at jobs where I've hired the best Houdini artist, the best visual effects compositor while they're in a break between jobs to work on a project. And they worked for two weeks and they could barely get anything done because they work and think in a very specific niche way. And this has happened more times than I can count to where I stopped doing it.
Ryan Summers:
But then if I would bring in two motion design generalists, like a great animator who can also design, and somebody who understands story and they can get in a premier and cut, but they can also do some storyboards and maybe even like do some audio because they're just interested in everything. I saw in your in your studio, you have a keyboard off to the side, right next to you. Motion designers for some reason have a way of thinking that you can put two or three of them in a room and they can outpace like an entire department for most projects.
Ryan Summers:
And that to me is what motion design is. It's a way of thinking where you're like, what can I do to get this done in a way... Because we have to. Because we never have the biggest teams, we never have enough time, but we know lots of different ways to approach problems.
Reece Parker:
I love that.
Ryan Summers:
I wish we talked about motion design in a proud way to say, look... And then that opens the door to being like, well, what is a motion designer who makes their own animated short? What does that look like? Versus five animators from Pixar getting together to do something. Or you know what? I'm going to make a toy line. What does that look like? I wish we could get more motion designers out of the restraints that we put on ourselves.
Ryan Summers:
Because I feel like there's a lot of shame in what we do. We don't feel good about it. Maybe we're making stuff for companies we don't believe in. I don't know if you feel this way, Reece, but one of the hardest things is the stuff you make disappears faster than it took you to make it most of the time.
Reece Parker:
That's one of the biggest things for me. Yeah. Less so like, "Oh, it's commercials." Because I agree with that sentiment, but I don't necessarily like 100% believe that. I mean, there's avenues, short film and whatever. But regardless, kind of what you put out is the internet. And so yeah, it's like dead in a day. Something like a game or a movie can live on for years or generations.
Reece Parker:
It's interesting to see our work months at a time, just like, hey, move on to the next. I remember early on in my career, that was one of the hardest... I remember having cycles of depression after I would finish a job because I was so invested in the quality of it. And then when it dropped, it was like maybe a naive expectation on my end like this is going to blow up. I'm going to get respect or blah, blah, blah. And maybe it would happen kind of. And maybe not. But the reality was time to move on to the next one. And it wasn't something I was familiar with and it was really hard at the time. Since then, it's gotten easier.
Ryan Summers:
That risk versus reward ratio. There's probably a better word than risk, but that's the first thing I think about, is when you put in the 60, 70 hours or you do the last weekend push to get something out and then it's out there. And probably what you're talking about is before there was like social media and Instagram and Twitter and metrics to literally put whether or not your stuff moved the needle.
Ryan Summers:
Before it was just kind of like, well, if my friend group saw it and said something, that feels good. Now there's like a literal meter on your work and it can be completely depressing to think. And then add in NFTs as well, where the world just... There's not a one to one for this was so difficult. Look how difficult it was. And then look how many people responded to it. There's not a correlation to what we think of as good work necessarily to what succeeds out there, for better or worse.
Ryan Summers:
But there are so many, even more limiting factors on like, why did I do that? I spent all this time and money and effort and energy and maybe compromised time with my family or time out on my own to just make this thing. And then in the end, what does it do? Maybe it helps your day rate. Maybe you get enough of those jobs and you can say I'm $50 a day more. I feel like there's natural stopping points in people's careers where they get to a place and they can either get comfortable or just keep doing it. And it's just rinse and repeat.
Ryan Summers:
I did this job. Cool. What's the next one? I did this job. Cool. What's the next one? Or you know what? I'm going to try to take a year to figure out how to become a director. And that time is exciting, that hockey stick growth. But then you hit it. And I don't know if you feel this way, but at some point, after you direct four or five things, regardless of how many different clients, at some point you're like, "This is starting to feel the same. I'm hitting the same roadblocks. I'm hitting the same limitations."
Ryan Summers:
Maybe you could talk a little bit. I'm really interested in... And I think this goes into my fascination with your branding and your marketing. But like you said, you weren't necessarily picked up by a rep or you weren't at a studio that said, "Oh, you know what? You can design and animate. Maybe we can have you direct this little piece." And then you move up the charts. How did you get to the position to actually be thought of as a director?
Reece Parker:
Good question. Before I jump into that, just a little note on what you were saying previously. I think things coming and going so quickly is one of the reasons why I pay so close attention to my branding and my website specifically. You get questions a lot these days that are, do we even need a website anymore? Do we even blah, blah, blah? And I always get put off by it, to be honest.
Reece Parker:
Because for me, that's my time capsule. Okay. There might not be that many people going there anymore. I understand that. And there are platforms now where everybody's eyes are and those are great, but they're not the same. It's not as thorough or as thoughtful. And when I'm hiring somebody personally, I always go to the website every time because it tells me that that artist cares.
Reece Parker:
And if they don't have one, then where am I supposed to look? Just this little loop, this little loop? It's riskier for me as somebody who's hiring. But again, on a more of a personal note, it's where I look back and kind of remember where I was. Things go so quick. They come and go, come and go. So a year later, two years later, I'll go to my site and, "Oh, I remember that project." I'll look at it and be like, "Oh, this was cool. This wasn't whatever." But that's something that's really, really valuable to me that I think is dying. And that makes me sad.
Ryan Summers:
Yeah. I think it is, too. And just for the audience to understand, I don't remember where I first encountered you, Reece. But I do remember the times when through your marketing and your branding, you connected with me. I'm technically wearing my Time Lord t-shirt right now. For anybody who doesn't know what that is, Battle Axe.
Reece Parker:
Shout out Adam.
Ryan Summers:
Adam Plouff. I think I was in the same situation as you. I've been talking to him forever. Yeah. It's so cool that you bring illustrator into after effects easily. But what about us, people who hate illustrator and want to do the same thing with Photoshop and frame by frame? And he was working on what became Time Lord for a long time. And I know I was testing. And then there was one day where he is like, "Hey, I think it's almost ready. Take a look at this." And it was the promo video you made.
Ryan Summers:
And immediately I was like, "Oh my God, A, that has to be Reece." There's no one else that does that. But I was like, this should be like a TV series. There should be a way to take this tone and this vibe and this animation style and do something more with it. I have a blank black hat that I'm about to put the Time Lord logo and patch on, so I can wear that with my shirt. And I can't tell you how many times people stop me like, what the heck is Time Lord? They don't know anything about after effects. They think it's like a heavy metal band. I feel like between what you and Adam did, Adam sent out a gift package of like, oh, here's a cool T-shirt. And here's the logo as like a patch.
Ryan Summers:
But that has always been in like the Reece Parker game plan. One of my favorite things I've ever received, and I'm looking at them on my bookshelf right now, is that you send out postcards with really dope illustrations and these really cool enamel pins. Can you just talk a little bit about where you got the idea you to kind of like do this stuff and how you approach that? Because that stuff, it sounds small.
Ryan Summers:
But you are one of the few people that's ever sent me like, "Hey man, I just want to say thanks." Cool, little message. And here's the stuff. I know some people do it, but I feel like I get it a lot from like graphic designers or photographers or editors or studios I've worked with. But I don't see artists that want to be top of mind that have a style or a tone or vibe they want to tell people. Where did that come from? Did you see someone else do it? Did it come from outside of motion design and you were like, wow, this would be super cool? How did that happen?
Reece Parker:
My dad at the time had owned a tile and grout construction company and he sent out things to his clients. He's also been my generic kind of mentor in terms of business. Not necessarily anything creative. But I think I got it from there. Oh, that's cool. He did that. And then it's like, you forget and it doesn't happen. I mean, you really have to stay on top of it in order to get it out every year. You'd be surprised how quick it goes.
Reece Parker:
But for me, it's another one of those, like, I just don't take this for granted. I'm thankful for every client that wants to pay me sometimes tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars. The least I can do is send them a card that I paid $1200 for all these cards and pins and send them out and just say, "Hey, I'm thinking about you guys. Thank you so much. It's been a great year. Maybe next year or maybe not." And that's okay, too.
Reece Parker:
I don't ever want it to feel like, "Oh, I need your work and I need you as a client," and blah, blah, blah. It's more so thanks so much. Here's my family. Here's a real life thing, a real life pin. That's another thing, too, is like digital is so fun, but something different about a physical thing. And a pin is an easy version of that, right? A postcard and a pin. So yeah, that's where it came from. And then I just kept doing it. I also started giving them away to... I do like a giveaway at the end of the year for followers on Instagram as well.
Ryan Summers:
Your giveaways are pretty intense though. You don't just give away your stuff. You give away significant things, right?
Reece Parker:
Last year I did an iPad.
Ryan Summers:
Yeah. That's like next level.
Reece Parker:
Yeah. And it sent to a girl in Brazil and she's an awesome illustrator. It was like life changing for her. And I don't mean to say that to sound cool. That wasn't my plan. It was just like, hey, I have the means and so many people don't, especially in 2020. Really the iPad was because of 2020. And I was like, dude, what can I do? I'm sitting pretty. I didn't have any hard times. My family's healthy. Just what can I do, basically? And it wasn't a lot.
Reece Parker:
But yeah, it helped somebody less fortunate and that's really, really cool. And I plan to do it again just because I can. That's really it. It's just because I can. And I'm thankful for the support. And these people really do support me. I don't know. That's something that I don't want to take for granted, I guess.
Ryan Summers:
I mean, I have to commend you. Because the cool thing about everything that Reece does, if you're listening to this, is that it doesn't come off as like a marketing game plan or spammy. It feels like it's a natural part of a conversation that you're having with clients or peers or collaborators, or just someone that you enjoy what they put out in the world. That's something that's really hard to capture.
Ryan Summers:
Because you could very easily put this onto an Instagram carousel and be like here's the 10 tips on how to make sure. But it doesn't feel like that. And I feel like it feels like a natural extension of just like the things you're interested in. I love seeing your animations, like you're lacing up your skate shoot or you're doing a kick flip, whatever those things might be.
Ryan Summers:
It just, again, like in a really organic, true. You used this word at the very beginning and it's a shame this word's a buzzword, but it feels true to you. It just feels very authentic to a person's who's like, "I love doing what I do. I feel thankful for it. I want to keep doing it. See if we can do it together."
Reece Parker:
Well, that means a lot. Thank you for saying that. I appreciate it.
Ryan Summers:
It definitely comes off that way. And you know what? It leads to this next question to me. It makes me excited to figure out what excites you as a person or an artist. Maybe there's something I don't know about you that I should be thinking about if I have another job. That, oh man, I didn't realize, somehow it slipped my mind, Reece is in a skateboard and we have a Mountain Dew commercial and they want somebody who knows skateboarding. Like, holy cow. Those are great things to know.
Ryan Summers:
Because I talk about this a little bit in Level Up and the Demo Reel Dash class. But if you don't put out into the world the kinds of work or kinds of people you want to be associated with, there's no way for the world to know that. And it doesn't mean that it couldn't happen. But then you really are just relying on luck and the odds and the dice rolling your way. But if you just do simple things like this, it increases your odds.
Ryan Summers:
It doesn't mean it's going to happen, but it's going to make it a lot easier that the stuff that excites you is going to find their way to you. So I want to ask you now, outside of like... You have a lot of stuff to balance. You're balancing family, you're doing paid work. You have all these outside interests. You're doing all these other things. What excites you right now? What is the stuff that you're like, "Oh man, I want to be involved with," career-wise or just like hobbies or just everyday life?
Reece Parker:
Totally. It sounds silly. But something that's still really exciting is waking up in the morning, getting into the office and just seeing an inbox, like something new. And then maybe that leads to a cool project. Maybe it doesn't. But maybe it's the unknown or the... I don't know. It's like, you never know what's going to happen, especially because I'm not necessarily seeking for these things. These things kind come organically now. And there's just something really cool about that.
Reece Parker:
Most people don't understand how that happened and I don't know that I would even be able to articulate how that's something that happened. So yeah, that's still pretty cool. In terms of actually working, I really enjoy directing. I kind of think of directing as like there's two versions of it. There was the version of directing that I thought was directing when I started and then there's the actual directing.
Ryan Summers:
Yeah. Tell me the differences, because I want to see if they match up with my realizations once I got into that. Because it's very eye opening when you start.
Reece Parker:
Absolutely. So early directing for me was, "Oh, I can do this. Oh, I'm cool. I know how to storyboard. I can do cool transitions. I can execute on kind of all of it." And then you do and you think you're directing. Real directing what I found out later is client calls, client check-ins, articulating creative decisions, organizing kind of schedules and creative talent, managing and resourcing.
Reece Parker:
I mean, that's sort of producer stuff too. But I think from top level, it's sort of all of these things. And then if you're lucky, maybe getting to kind of draw some things here, animate some things here. But at the end of the day, ideally, if you did your job right, you have something that's greater than the sum of one, which is really, really satisfying. And there's so much growth, especially from somebody that doesn't come from an organized background, let's say it that way.
Reece Parker:
I have to figure out how to organize it myself. And that's a lot to learn. But also I'm ambitious in that way so it's something that I like a challenge and I think that rising to it has helped me immensely. Challenges in that way or something that really pushes what I'm capable of is satisfying and is exciting. Outside of work, I'm just hanging on my kids. I skateboard when I can still. I'm kind of lazy and fat now just because that's the nature.
Ryan Summers:
You say that a lot on Instagram. You say that on social media. But the stuff you're able to pull off, well, A, let's talk about the office for a second. You don't have a very far commute to go from your office to being able to skate and do some pretty cool stuff and do you. You pull off some pretty good stuff for what you call yourself. I don't think that's very fair.
Reece Parker:
Thank you, man. I appreciate it. Yeah. I'm grateful that I can still do it. I'm certainly not to the level where I have to like fully retire, which I'm thankful for. But I mean, it's all relative, right? Seven years ago I was like really, really hitting the pavement and kind of going all long every day. That's something I can't do anymore. But maybe that's with age too. I don't know.
Reece Parker:
The commute just right outside in the backyard, it's kind of a dream come true, honestly. Just the little half pipe and kind of these other little obstacles. I don't know. It's something that I imagined as a kid. And it's just amazing that I was able to do it, honestly.
Ryan Summers:
How did you come into this studio? I mean, I saw the pictures when you moved and I saw what looks like a shipping container show up and then all of a sudden it goes from being kind of generic to looking like the coolest little office of all time. Where did that come from? Did that come from someone else that you saw or you're like, "Man, one day I just want to have this space that I can wake up and roll into?" How did that all happen?
Reece Parker:
That was one of my like long term goals early on was I want to be that guy that people know, but I don't have to be in New York. I don't have to be in California. I don't have to be in studio. And so however really that manifested. And it turns out that it was some weird shipping container conversion. But the actual idea for that was from the builders. I was kind of brainstorming ideas on what I could pull off because I'm suburban born and raised. So I'm not somebody that really does the city thing.
Reece Parker:
I mean, I'm fine with it, but I don't love commuting either. I don't want to get up and drive an hour. So I was trying to figure out how to work out a studio space so that I could get away from the house even just a tiny bit. Just because kids are coming and life was getting more hectic, it just started to make more and more sense. So after learning that there isn't really all that great of space to rent in the suburbs, at least where I was at the time, I called around kind of some construction places and one of them just said, "I have a shipping container."
Reece Parker:
And at the time I had researched or just nonchalantly kind of run into the Netflix show and kind of YouTube series on tiny homes and tiny conversions and kind of all this other stuff. And I was like, that seems like something I could, A, probably afford. And B, it's big enough for just me. I don't have to live in there and I never would.
Reece Parker:
It's commendable, but that's not something I'm interested in. But it's just big enough for my thing, which is like a freelancer solo shop thing. So I was like okay. So I designed it just on Illustrator. I did my best to kind of be accurate with the actual scaling and here's what could fit and here are some ideas. I just knew that it needed to be all black and I'll go from there.
Ryan Summers:
Black and as many skeletons as you can fit. As many skulls as you can fit in one space. It's awesome. I mean, I think it's just like a cool conversation piece for clients if they discover you. They will be like, "Dude, tell me the story. How'd you do it?" I mean, I think everybody wants a space like that. But having that's like such a nicely curated space that you can literally black out or do whatever you want to do in it is awesome. Thank you.
Ryan Summers:
I mean, now I want to get one, too, in my backyard. I have a big pad and now I'm going to research shipping containers. I think all this goes back to we figured out like, cool, you're further along than you wanted to be. You're happy. Maybe not satisfied. Maybe the listener, that applies to you or doesn't. But maybe we've gotten a little bit just about how Reece has approach just his journey and his discovery and how he meets people and how he has become a director. But I think this all goes back to the very beginning where we started, the big question. You're standing at a pinnacle. Where to next? That was a big inhale.
Reece Parker:
I think going back to your umbrella theory of motion design is where my brain is going, Ryan. And I have some plans, but I can't reveal them yet. But a recent collaborator and I are planning something kind of unique and bigger. And what I will say is it's not a studio. Nothing against that. And that may be in my future, just probably not for the next few years. That's probably all I can say for now, but I'm really, really excited about it.
Ryan Summers:
You'll just have to come back on when you're ready to announce it. Bigger swings, collaborative. I love it. Reece, I didn't want to say thank you so much, because just from the beginning, I think this industry needs more of us showing vulnerability, showing true honesty and not just trying to hype up like great clients and cool projects. Those are all true. But that's what studios used to do. And studios weren't explaining at the same time how they were running nearly bankrupt or had to delay paying people.
Ryan Summers:
I've worked in a lot of the shops. I've seen all the horror stories. I've seen all the great things that can happen. Studios, it's not in their vested interest to explain all that stuff. But I think it does a disservice to everyone trying to find their way if we don't do that as people. Because it really easy to get caught up in the bright lights and like I say, star gazing at what everybody talks about you should be. But until you actually hear.
Ryan Summers:
I love talking about failure. It's been very hard for me to get to that point. But now that I've done it a couple times, I love telling people where I totally screwed up and hearing like you where from the outside seems wildly successful, but that's still true. There's still some confusion or consternation or try and understand just, what do you do next? I encourage people listening to this to do that themselves, in whatever small way you can, whether it's like what Reece did, posting a picture and saying something.
Ryan Summers:
All you have to do is look at this post and read the responses. That there's something positive about talking about when you feel like this. And if it's getting on Twitter, if it's going to a meetup, whenever we all can. And just talking to people and seeing that there are a lot of people who feel the same way you do, it is not bad. It is positive to talk about these feelings, these confusions, these failures, whatever they might be. So Reece, I just want to say thank you so much. That we don't necessarily know where we're going, but like you said, I think really well at the very end of this, you don't have the answers, but you know you'll get there. Thank you, Reece. I really appreciate it.
Reece Parker:
Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me, Ryan. I appreciate it.
Ryan Summers:
Well, there you have it Motioneers. In a world full of so many pressures, so many places to post your work, so many new tools to try to learn, you're not alone. Even someone as talented and as storied of a career as someone like Reece Parker, an amazing animator, illustrator, animation director, he doesn't necessarily know where to go next either. And you know what? That's okay. We're all kind of making this up as we go, aren't we? Well, it's just another reason why we're here for you with the School of Motion podcast, to introduce you to new people, to inspire you and to help you on your journey and your career. Until next time. Peace.