School of Motion

SOM Alumni Paris : A casual chat with Rod Macey, Brendan Cox, and Iman Aznoune

  • By Anne Saint-Louis
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These Parisian artists share how School of Motion led them to meeting each other and creating strong friendships.

One of the big advantages of being a School of Motion Alumni is meeting a myriad of like minded people from around the world via the internet.
Today, there are over 4000 members in the SOM Alumni group! And it turns out these online friendships can become personal ones, not just professional, and I was pleased to learn that this was the case for this group from very diverse backgrounds.
I was in “The City of Lights” this past March for a family vacation and took advantage of the situation to reach out to Rod Macey, a fellow SOM alumni from Australia now living in Paris, France. It was a delight to meet his “Paris School of Motion Club” in a typical Parisian bistro on their first warm Spring evening of the year. It seemed like every Parisian in the city was outside filling up all the patios! So bathed in that mellow, happy urban vibe, we got to know each other a bit more.
This 'interview' is a quick snapshot of our conversation. Hopefully it'll inspire you to form your own SOM meetups, whether they are small or large.

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From left to right: Brendan, Iman, Rod and Anne

Rod Macey – Graphic Designer

Where are you from and why have you made Paris your home?
Originally I was from Sydney, I moved to Paris with my French wife and first daughter in 2004.
How was it for you to adapt to a new culture and to learn to speak French fluently?
It took a while to adapt to the culture when moving to a new country. You're not on holiday, so the differences that you might find interesting whilst you're just passing through become something that is permanent, something that you have to accept and live with. After 15 years here I'm still learning to speak French fluently - or at least without an accent. ;)
You have studied graphic design for print and have been working in that field for over 20 years. How did you learn about School of Motion and what convinced you to take the Animation Bootcamp?
I have been into 3D for a long time, I used a program called Imagine back in the day on an Amiga. Since then I've been using Cinema 4D, but mainly making static work. For a long time I avoided After Effects, but in the few years I have been doing more and more small motion pieces for work; shooting people on green screen to integrate into architectural visualizations, animating logos, and pitch presentations for the branding company I was working for. But after 8 years there as a studio manager, they closed down my department and I got a package, part of which was some money towards training. I had gone through quite a few of Joey's 30 Days of After Effects and discovered Animation Bootcamp on his School of Motion site. So because I was newly unemployed I had plenty of time to dive into the course.
What did you find the most challenging in the course?
I think the motion design workflow in general is something that I find challenging, but this was something that bootcamp helped me to understand. It also helped me to think about how things could move based on the design and purpose of the animation.
Do you find that the skills learned in Animation Bootcamp are useful in your present work? What would you say where the most important things you have learned?
For sure, although I don't do as much animation as I would like. If anything, I think it has helped me develop a critical eye for motion design.
Rod's Pong Challenge from Animation Bootcamp
How did your friendships flourish with the other members of your SOM group? I recall you saying that you regularly organize “themed” movie nights?
I think one of the major benefits of any education is the alumni and friendships that you develop. What is interesting is that although design is a profession, it is also a passion, something we continue to engage with in our free time. So although the training aspect of Animation Bootcamp was helpful, the alumni group became the most important benefit of School of Motion for me. I'm an introvert, but I'm able to open up much more easily when I find like minded people. The Facebook Alumni Group is great, and through it I've been able to meet and develop relationships with alumni in Paris, around Europe, and North America. I started a European alumni group specifically to have local online and real-life meetups.
In Paris we have a tight gang. Iman, Brendan, and Riccardo regularly get together to have dinner, play ping pong and other games, watch movies and series, discuss crazy multi-million dollar ideas, and collaborate on projects.
Any specific goals for the future?
To have a holiday. ;)

See more of Rod's work

Brendan Cox – Animator

You are an English Animator based in Paris. Tell us about your friendship with the other Paris SOM members, How did this group come to be? How does it continues to flourish?
Straight after I finished Animation Bootcamp a few years ago, I was added to the Euro Alumni Group by Rod Macey who as it turned out literally lived over the road from me in Paris! We had a meetup with a few others including Iman Aznoune and Riccardo Malgrado and we’ve all been friends ever since. We have regular movie and games nights, picnics and ping pong and have work on a few client projects together too. We’re all on the same wavelength and laugh at the same stupid stuff, so I’ve no doubt we’ll be friends for a long time.
How did you first hear about School of Motion and what motivated you to try it out?
I was trying to do some presentation animation using powerpoint some years ago and a friend kindly pointed out I should ‘ stop that shit right away and go try After Effects’. I wandered YouTube, watching tutorials for a year, and then I stalked some animators in my home town of Brighton and asked them what they recommended I do as I wanted to really get my head around the animation part. A guy called Andy Tomkinson (cheers dude!) put me onto School of Motion and the rest is history.
You took the Animation Bootcamp and Rigging Academy courses. What would you say were the most important things you learned?
Definitely the theory of why certain movement feels so good – Once I understood that, I could go off and apply it to everything. Focus on the why first then on the how. On a personal level, I also learned that I’m on the right path. I played with lego technic a lot as a kid, making action movie vehicles and robots. So without realizing it I’ve always leaned towards construction and movement based story-telling. Doing Rigging Academy and Animation Bootcamp put me in the same feeling of flow I used to get when I sat on my lounge floor for 5 hours building a batmobile as a kid.
What has been your most visually or technically challenging motion design project? Why?
A very random personal project called Green Screen Heroes - I built a green screen booth for comic con in the UK that took 6 photos and then integrated them into an after effects template so I could render out a 3 minute mini movie on site. I based it on Predator and I spent about a year of my spare time making everything on my own, including drawing a 2 metre tall predator and rigging his dreadlocks to move automatically when he attacks in Ae. I’d never done a full project like this with this much in it before and as I was on my own, I did a massive amount of things the hard/wrong way, haha. The bonus is I learnt a ton by the end of it.
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Steven Seagull Rig
Any specific goals for the future?
I’m making a cartoon. It’s called Steven Seagull - A deadpan crime series set in Brighton, but completely populated by animals (including a seagull detective with a ponytail and a penchant for Karate). It’s like Spongebob Squarepants meets L.A. Confidential meets The Tick. I started writing it 7 years ago before ever doing any animation and realized I had none of the skills to actually make any of it. So since then I’ve set it as my end goal, and bit-by-bit I’ve been learning all the various production stages by doing School of Motion courses and practicing everything on live client jobs.
A nice side effect is clients actually ask for the energetic cartoony style now so it’s slowly snowballing. I’ve still got a ton to learn though and it’ll be a looooong time to make it all, but it’s a fun way spend my spare time. Eventually I’d like to make a pilot and build a team of SOM alumni to work on it with me, that’s the dream! For now though the script and character designs/rigging are done so I’m going start sharing content and behind the scenes stuff.

See more of Brendan's work

Iman Aznoune - Motion Designer

Iman's final Animation Bootcamp assignment
You are the native Parisienne artist of this group! How has SOM brought you three together and good friends for three years now? (There must be more then just practicing your English)
For sure! But I have to say my English has been getting better because of these meetings. We met after an Animation Bootcamp session: an American student, Sharon Palkowetz, was visiting Paris and proposed we all get together for a meal. We felt right away we had a lot in common, not just an interest in animation. We started to meet regularly for movie nights, at restaurants, dancing, ping pong, and playing Cards Against Humanity!
We also help each other professionally. We show each other our work to get comments and feedback. We collaborate when we need backup. Our long term objective is to land bigger projects and work together to take advantage of our different strengths and specialties.
Before School of Motion, I didn't know any other motion designer, I was kind of like Tom Hanks on his deserted island! It helps so much to have good people around that can help and speaks the same artistic and technical 'language'.
How did you end up working in this visual field? Did you go to school or are you self-taught?
I studied Business Communication. I was destined to become the horrible client! Ha ha. But after a few internships, I realized that it wasn't for me. I was way more interested in being IN the designer's chair, not peaking over their shoulders! While doing a Multimedia Communication Masters, I got the opportunity to work on a film with After Effects, and that was it: I was hooked.
So I am completely self taught in the arts, design, and animation fields, but my studies in communication puts me in a unique position to clearly understand my client's needs and demands.
How did you first hear about School of Motion and what motivated you to try it out?
Mr. Joey Korenman succeeded in catching my attention. His enthusiasm is infectious and gives one the desire to know more! I was then vacuumed into the School of Motion vortex and this changed so much the way I work and understand my craft.
I like that the courses are condensed, to the point, with a clear end goal. The collective way the courses are designed (with teaching assistants and an active online group with other students and professionals) is a really effective learning strategy.
You took Animation Bootcamp and Design Bootcamp. What would you say were the most important things you learned in these courses?
I learned that my creativity wasn't dead!! After a few years of making boring corporate videos, I felt my enthusiasm for motion design wane. My joy came back from the first week of Animation Bootcamp! Before this course, I would always start a project with some sort of template as a base. Now, I feel free to start from my own ideas.
With Design Bootcamp, I finally discovered what I wanted to do "when I grow up"... I want to be Michael Frederick! Jokes aside, I love animation, but I still feel that I can't express myself completely freely because of technical reasons. Learning to create Design Boards made me feel I could create without worrying about that!
I learned tremendously going through these two courses. Of course about technical aspects and workflow, but it also opened up the doors for me to the huge world of design. I learned that I don't have to be a specialist in everything and that surrounding myself with other kind and talented professionals is the way to go.
What advice would you have for newcomers to School of Motion?
Make space in your calendar and get lots of rest beforehand, because you might not get much sleep during the course! But most importantly, don't give up, it's so worth it.
What has been your most visually or technically challenging motion design project? Why?
The first project that comes to mind is the one I did in school at the end of my studies. It was the first time I created a film all by myself. I used the music of a group I admired. I sent the film to them afterwards and got positive feedback, and that was incredibly exciting.
The second important challenging project was the one I did right after I finished Animation Bootcamp, I was able to offer my client an interesting animation concept that would have been impossible for me to create before. This felt so liberating!
Iman's first animation created after Animation Bootcamp
Any specific goals for the future?
I have a hard time imagining what the future could hold for me. I prefer being spontaneous and going with the flow. But for now, I'm really enjoying art directing and delegating the technical animation to other specialized artists.

See more of Iman's work

Want to take on a learning challenge?

Head over to our courses page to find courses that these artists have taken and more. You can learn everything from 3D workflows, animation principles and design. At just about every skill level there's a course waiting for you.
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