School of Motion

Teaching Motion Design with Jake Bartlett

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We sit down with Jake Bartlett to discuss what it takes to be an online Motion Design teacher.

If you’re anything like the normal Motion Designer than chances are you probably learned most of what you know online. Maybe you learned by watching tutorials on YouTube or maybe you took an online bootcamp like the one’s here at School of Motion. But you may have never thought about the process of creating tutorials…

This week we’re talking to the Motion Design Education extraordinaire, Jake Bartlett. To say that Jake Bartlett is just a tutorial creator would be an understatement. From creating classes for Skillshare to Explainer Camp at School of Motion Jake has mastered the art of educating Motion Designers.

On this week’s episode we sit down with Jake to talk about his work in the industry. Along the way Jake shares insights into how he creates his courses and talks about Explainer Camp here at School of Motion. It’s a great interview with a great guy.  

  • Teaching Motion Design with Jake Bartlett
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Show Notes

Jake

Jake's Explainer Camp
Jake on Skillshare
ARTISTS/STUDIOS
Jr Canest
PIECES
Crazy Enough
Stranger Than Fiction Titles
RESOURCES
Skillshare
Video Copilot
LA Film Studies Center
Sequence Layers
Background Renderer
Rift
Udemy
Lynda
Digital Tutors
JR Canest Course
Mograph Mentor
Blend
Explainer Camp

Transcript

Joey Korenman: The world of online education is expanding at pretty ridiculous pace. Back in my day we only had Creative Cow, or, if you were really brave, mograph.net. But now you've got YouTube, School of Motion, Greyscalegorilla, and larger sites, like Lynda.com, Udemy and Skillshare. The opportunities for learning new skills are everywhere and the opportunities for earning some extra income by teaching online are also growing rapidly. 

Our guest today is the man, the myth, Jake Bartlett. Jake is a fantastic motion designer who has made a name for himself on the Skillshare platform, creating a whole bunch of courses and earning a ton of fans along the way.

Jake is also teaching a brand new course for us, Explainer Camp, which will be ready for the Winter 2018 session. Jake is part of a new and exciting trend of motions designers who are actually able to pay their bills exclusively through teaching online. 

In this interview we talk about Jake's path through the industry and how he ended up becoming such a successful online teacher. We also talk about Explainer Camp, which is a course unlike any other and something we are incredibly excited about.

So that's it. Let's jump in.

Jake Bartlett, buddy, it is awesome to have you on the School of Motion podcast. Thanks for doing this, man.

Jake Bartlett: Awesome. Hey, man. Thanks for having me. I feel like I walked in the back door down a dark alley. I don't belong here. What's going on?

Joey Korenman: It's the vibe that we try to portray here at School of Motion. We want to be, basically, the drug dealers of the MoGraph industry. Jake, I think a lot of people listening to this are gonna have heard your name because you've kinda made a really good name for yourself on the Skillshare platform as an after effects trainer. I've gotten to know you over the past several months, and you have a very interesting story about how you ended up in this industry. 

I'm wondering if we could start just by talking a little bit about how you got into motion design. 

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, sure. It was pretty early age for me that I got into computers. I was homeschooled my whole life so I was home all the time. Obviously I had friends and a social life but the computer part of it ... I had access to lots of software, which I'm assuming at this point in my life, it must have been pirated by somebody. I have two older brothers. I got into Photoshop very early, probably like 10 or 11 I was messing around with all the effects. The Twirls effect I remember being my favorite.

Joey Korenman: That's classic.

Jake Bartlett: Because I was exposed to that, my oldest brother's 8 years older than me, he's also into design and 3D animation, so he was always bringing stuff home and showing me how to do fun things on the computer. One summer during his college he brought back After Effects and Premier and we were just shooting some silly videos and he showed me how to put lightsabers on them and that was like, the defining moment for me of like, this is what I want to do.

Joey Korenman: Yup.

Jake Bartlett: I just dove head first into After Effects and eventually Video Copilot came along and I was completely self taught online but that's how I got into it. Eventually I decided I wanted to be more animation based rather than special effects but, yeah. Video Copilot, I mean, that's like everybody's story, right?

Joey Korenman: I know. It's almost a cliché at this point. Like, "So, what was the first video copilot tutorial you watched." 

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: It must have been the lightbsaber one.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: How did you end up getting your first job in the industry.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, that was also interesting because I went to this one semester film program in Los Angeles called the Los Angeles film study center and that was, let's see, my junior year. I graduated a semester early, so I was out in January of college and on my way to Los Angeles. I knew that's where I wanted to live after being out there for a while. One of my friends that I was going to be moving in with, on the drive out there ... I'm from Michigan, so it's a long drive. He said that he caught wind they needed an After Effects artist at the company that he was working at and so I sent him my made up reel, that basically had video copilot tutorials and other things that I made up myself. That ended up getting me my first job, which was actually the only full time real job I ever had. It lasted almost five years before I decided to go freelance.

Joey Korenman: What kind of stuff were you doing there?

Jake Bartlett: I was doing all kinds of ... Well, I mean I did all different types of roles. My first job was on a show called Who knew for Yahoo News. It was purely After Effects. It was like a trivia show kind of, like on this day in history the Big Mac was invented and it was related to these ten different things and at the end of the episode came back to the Big Mac. 

That was a daily show, so every day me and one other animator had to animate forty five seconds of content that would be posted the next day and that, like I said, lasted a year and a half. I got very fast at making stuff in After Effects over that year and a half and then I kind of just established myself there and I became like a jack of all trades. I knew how to design stuff, because my minor was graphic design so I was making pitch material, I was editing because I knew how to edit. I was just tossed around all different kinds of projects at the company.

Joey Korenman: You were sort of a Swiss Army Knife at that point doing a little bit of everything. It's interesting because having seen a bunch of the work that you've done since then, especially the work that you've been doing for us, which we're gonna get to in a minute, you've kind of developed a little bit of a style and it's kind of like illustrative and fun, and your animation skills have gotten really good. Did any of that develop at this gig? Or was it mainly just your technical chops?

Jake Bartlett: I would say it was more technical chops because I never had any education in animation at all. Like I said, I was just self-taught online, so everything that I knew how to do I found through YouTube or Video Copilot or whatever I taught myself. I never felt like I knew what I was doing as an animator. I was looking at people like [inaudible 00:07:00] who did that crazy enough piece when he was in school and that just blew my mind. That was the moment where I knew that's what I wanted to do but I had no idea how I could ever do something that looked like that. I watched that video at work, I specifically remember the moment when I saw that I was like, "Compared to what I'm making, I am crap. This is awful."

I think the usefulness of me being at that company to my boss and the producers I was working with was what kept me around for almost five years because I could get the job done. I was quick, I was reliable so I just did whatever people asked me to. In terms of like my artistic ability and especially in terms of animation, that job didn't really contribute much.

Joey Korenman: Yeah, I remember my first Jorge moment when I think I saw the same piece or I saw something you did for Buck and I realized I will never be that good. Everyone listening, you should never compare yourself to Jorge.

Jake Bartlett: Never.

Joey Korenman: And if you don't know who we're talking about, Jorge ... He's got four names, but it's Jorge Estrada, he used to work at Giant Ant, he's freelance now, he's possibly the best After Effects animator out there right now, at least in the top five for sure.

Jake Bartlett: Absolutely.

Joey Korenman: Incredible. I'm a big fan, big fan. Anyway. You get into the industry and it sounds like you kind landed in the perfect spot. You were exposed to a lot of different things, you had to work really fast so I'm sure the quality ... I'm sure nothing from that time period is on your reel, to put it that way.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, not really. 

Joey Korenman: Yeah. Yeah. But, you got really fast, which is actually ... I mean, I don't think it's like an underrated skill to have to be really fast at After Effects. I think people know that it's important but I don't think they realize just how important it is.

I worked on a TV show for a season and a half and it was the same kinda thing. I'd have a day to make 14 animations and you gotta ... I mean ... So you have to get fast, not just in terms of, like, knowing the hotkeys and being able to move around fast, but being able to come up with an idea and design it and execute it fast. You kinda develop this bag of tricks, like, "Well, I know that if I scale something from 0 to 110 and then down to 100 and I ease it like this it's gonna look good no matter what it is, I'm just gonna do that over and over again." 

Jake Bartlett: Exactly.

Joey Korenman: Yeah. What are some of the tricks to get fast that you picked up during that time?

Jake Bartlett: Oh, man. I started making my own presets. I'm sure everybody's aware of that hinge swinging text effect that, I think, MK12 is the one who originally did that for a movie with Will Ferrell. It just looks the text is swinging. I use that all the time in that first show that I was making at that company and to animate that by hand every single time, it took way too long for a daily show, so I was like, "How can I do this kind of an animation quicker," and that's when I learned about presets.

I just started making my own ... These are my animations, but I can apply them to whatever I want, and I just had a whole library of presets.

Joey Korenman: That's awesome. You're talking about the Stranger Than Fiction title.

Jake Bartlett: Yes. Stranger Than Fiction.

Joey Korenman: Yeah, yeah.

Jake Bartlett: Presets were a big thing. Scripts, you know like ... There was a really ... This was like seven years ago now, but it was called like sequence layers and I know that there's way more robust scripts now, but it just simply offset a selection of layers, the number of frames, that you want them to.

Joey Korenman: Yes.

Jake Bartlett: Efficiency stuff like that. It was all kinds of just corner cutting basically.

Joey Korenman: Yeah. I'm trying to think back when I was on the show, background renderer to After Effects, that was like-

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: A big time saver. Now, the script you're talking about, now there's one called Rift that I use-

Jake Bartlett: Yes.

Joey Korenman: All the time that it gets really really powerful. Awesome. Okay. Then what happened from there? Did you ... Because now, and we'll get into this, but you actually pay your bills by teaching motion design.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: Far more than actually doing it, which is kinda unique in this industry. What was the next step after that job?

Jake Bartlett: Like I said, I was there for almost five years so I had worked with lots of producers and at that company we had a different client every month so we had different teams coming in every month, basically. So when a producer came in and out and they worked with me sometimes they would like me and they want to pull me on to a job that they're doing for somebody else. My name basically just got passed around and I started picking up side work. This was probably three years into that career and I just started working nights and weekends and enjoyed the extra income and then, at the same time, I discovered this website called Skillshare through my wife who's a graphic designer hand letterer. She found it because of the hand lettering course that was going to be released.

For those who don't know, Skillshare is just an online teaching platform, learning platform, where you can ... Anyone can make a class and you can learn basically any kind of topic, there's probably a class on it. At the time there were not nearly as many as there are now, but this one specific hand lettering class got my wife's attention and she took it and then she said, "Jake, you should look at this and see if there's anything that you could potentially do for teaching," because she knew that I enjoyed teaching. When I was in college and stuff I enjoyed helping my friends but I never thought the teaching was going to be like a reliable source of income so I never pursued it, but she told me to check it out and there were probably three After Effects classes on the platform at the time. 

I was interested and I was like maybe this is a chance to try teaching but I kind of put it off until Skillshare ran this promotion, a teach challenge, where you just had to submit a class proposal and they were going to pick their favorite and whoever their favorite was one of the MacBook Air. 

Joey Korenman: Oh.

Jake Bartlett: That was like ... This is my shameless confession of that was my number one motivation into teaching on Skillshare, was I wanted to win a laptop. And I did.

Joey Korenman: That's amazing.

Jake Bartlett: It was a big surprise to me. I thought there was going to be a lot of competition, and for all I know there was, I never saw any other submissions. I just wrote out this big long proposal for a full class on animating kinetic text. I chose that because ... Time I was like, "Who am I to teach?" Obviously I know how to do stuff in After Effects but I'm not like as a professional animator. I don't feel like I have the credentials to be teaching but I was like, "If there's one thing I'm going to teach, it's going to be kinetic text," because I did that for like three years straight.

That's what I outlined my class after, they loved it, and they helped me produce it and now, yeah, I mean that class lived for like a year on its own. At the time Skillshare was  a la cart model so like you would pay for the classes you wanted to take and I got to determine the pricing. Now it's a subscription base just like Netflix, so you're paying a monthly subscription you get access to everything.

Joey Korenman: Yep.

Jake Bartlett: But yeah, after a year of that class the enrollments had died down. I made probably 2 or $3000 over a year plus the laptop, so I was basically approaching it like, "It was nice while it lasted. I got a laptop out of it. I'm not at all upset that people aren't enrolling in it after a year." On the day that I told my boss I was going to go freelance, that I was leaving the company, and this was because I had enough side work that my day job was actually taking away from it, on that same day, probably twenty minutes after I told him, I got an e-mail from Skillshare asking me if I would be willing to make another class and they offered me all kinds of support. They said they were going to start this new creators club with some of their top teachers and they wanted me to be a part of it. It was really affirming that I left my job and then suddenly they're like, "Hey, we want to make you a really successful teacher on Skillshare."

I had a lot of support from them, but that's when I decided that I was going to start trying to teach more regularly. I made my second class, which ended up doubling my following in a month, that was the moment that I was like, "Okay. I think this might be a valuable source of income and something worth pursuing."

Yeah, since then I think I've got over 20 classes now and it's literally become my largest source of income. On top of that, I got my wife to start teaching on it as well, because she's a very talented designer, hand letterer, so she does Photoshop and lettering. Yeah. Teaching has just really big part of my family. 

Joey Korenman: That's amazing man. I want to dig into ... You brought up a whole bunch of things there-

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: Kinda wanna unpack, but first let's start with, at the time, because Skillshare was on my radar, too, obviously, and Udemy and there's other ones out there. I'm wondering what about Skillshare attracted you to the platform? Was it literally just the opportunity to win a MacBook Air, or was there something about them that drew you in as opposed to Lynda.com or Digital Tutors or Udemy or even just making tutorials on YouTube.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, so my initial attraction to Skillshare was ... I did enroll in one of those After Effects classes and it was on character animation, and I was just very impressed with the teacher's ability to communicate. I, like everyone, have watched horrible YouTube tutorials where they're way more concerned with you smashing the like button than actually learning anything. It was just very well thought out, very well presented so I really liked that about it.

Obviously the teacher had nothing to do with Skillshare, but the idea that Skillshare had attracted teachers who were presenting quality material, that was attractive to me. Part of it was I just wasn't really aware of other online learning platforms. And, like I said, I wasn't really looking for them. My wife just said, "You should check this out." So I did.

I wasn't even aware of Udemy. I knew about Lynda, but I didn't think that was a platform that I could just approach and say, "Hey, I wanna teach for you." Then the other part of it is literally the challenge of winning the Mac Book Air, like that was ... I feel terrible saying it, but that was literally the motivating factor that made me actually go through with making my first class.

Joey Korenman: THat's hysterical. You also mentioned that you felt some imposter syndrome. You said, "Who am I to teach? I'm not Jorge, I can't animate like that. He should be making classes." Which he has, now, finally.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: Do you still ... After having made a couple dozen classes and now you're working on a really big class for School of Motion, has that imposter syndrome gone away to some extent or do you still feel it?

Jake Bartlett: It depends on what I'm teaching but it is definitely gone away. I think with that first class I was just so terrified that ... People are gonna be paying me to take this class and what if they don't like it.

Joey Korenman: Right.

Jake Bartlett: The response was overwhelmingly positive so that went away very quickly, but I was just terrified that like ... Why am I selling somebody something when I have absolutely no credentials. I've never taught before, I don't really have much to show for what I'm trying to teach other than just having the experience of working at a production company in Hollywood. That was basically the extent of my credentials. But like I said, once I saw the students responses and Skillshare is also a project based platform, so they can make things and post them. When I started seeing those projects come in and how much fun the students were having, that was super encouraging and made me much more open to teaching more classes for sure.

Joey Korenman: That's awesome. I can totally relate to that, too. That is still my favorite part of our classes at School of Motion is seeing the student work come in. Especially things that the students have designed all by themselves, like came from their brain. Yeah, that is the best part.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: We're gonna like to your Skillshare profile, everyone can go check it out. You have a huge number of classes and the variety is crazy and I'm wondering how do you come up with what you're going to teach. The first thing you taught was what you thought you knew really well, kinetic type, and I think you also got lucky that probably when you taught that class was like the height of the-

Jake Bartlett: Yes.

Joey Korenman: Lyric video, the kinetic type video. 

Jake Bartlett: Absolutely.

Joey Korenman: And it worked out well, but do you ... You know, how much of the equation is, "Well, I think I can sell a lot of this," versus, "I think that this is what students need to learn to be able to be a professional in the industry."

Jake Bartlett: Right, there are a lot of different types of classes, basically, in my head. I start by picking out what kind of class I want to teach. The first year of teaching I knew that I was gonna need a fundamental. Something that was going to give beginners who've never opened After Effects before a quick intro into After Effects and then in animation. So I made a class like that but then I also picked another topic like I did kinetic text but I also knew that I really liked animating with shape layers and, from my own experience online, I felt like, at the time, almost no one was using shape layers. They were all just making solids and masking them and animating them that way. 

I was like, "I'm gonna do a class that covers every single thing you could possibly know about shape layers." And then I came up with another type of class that was ... I call them a looks class. It's way more of a traditional tutorial where you're learning how to apply an effect of a style to a graphic. The knit sweater look in After Effects is one of them that I did where whatever you put into this precomp, all of these effects are built on top of it and it comes out looking like it was a knit holiday sweater.

I start by picking out what kind of class I want to teach. I look at what was the last class I taught, maybe, and say, "Do I want to do another one like that or should I go in a different direction?"

Another factor is just really what I'm excited about because that knit sweater class, that was something that I just came up with in like the beginning of December of last year. I was in the Christmas mood and I was like, "You know what? I want to make this effect and this will be a perfect Skillshare class," so I just did it in a couple of weeks.

Joey Korenman: Lemme ask you something about that Jake. You're getting me thinking here. Skillshare currently, and they may change, because they've changed in the past, but it's a subscription based service, right?

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: You pay, you know, $8 a month, $10 a month something like that. It's pretty inexpensive and you get you access to every class. Initially they weren't like that. They were like School of Motion, right? Our classes are a la carte. You buy the class-

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: You take that session and then you keep the class, but you don't get all the other classes. I'm wondering if that affects your decision to make a class like that. If Skillshare was an a la carte model still and people had to literally fork over $20, $25 to learn how to make something look like a knit sweater, versus it's an interesting thing they're already gonna get because they have the subscription, and if enough people watch it you get paid. Does the model, the revenue model, actually affect those decisions a little bit.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, I absolutely think it does because I determine my cost at the beginning, and then they switched to subscription and then it was determined by the number of enrollments I got.

Joey Korenman: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jake Bartlett: At that point, length didn't matter, it was just quantity. I wanted to make as many classes I possibly could, as quickly as I could, and get as many people to enroll in them. Then some teachers got smart and they realized, "Well, if we just start making these Facebook groups and make these crappy classes and then share enrollments, we'll make money." 

Skillshare caught onto that and they cracked down on it and they implemented some ways of getting rid of that and now it's no longer based on your enrollments, how much I get paid, it's based on how many minutes are watched.

Over the few years that I've been teaching on Skillshare my motivation for teaching these specific types of classes has changed. In my opinion at least, it all just comes down to the quality of the teaching. It doesn't matter how I'm getting paid. My class is going to be successful based on if the students are actually getting something out of it and if they're enjoying it. That's how I've always approached it, even on those simple ... Like the knit sweater tutorial, I'm teaching you to do a very specific look, but I'm also teaching you a lot about specific effects and how to approach precomps and making things ... Oh, what's the word where you put something in and then it spits it out looking like a sweater. I can't think of the word. Andrew Cramer uses this term all the time and I'm drawing a blank.

Joey Korenman: Maybe if you try it. Try speaking like Andrew Cramer, you know, and then it'll come to you.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: But essentially like you have a source and you put in the right place and it comes out the other end-

Jake Bartlett: Right. There's like ten layers of precomps and whatever you put in the main comp at the end everything is based on that original comp.

Joey Korenman: Gotcha. So it's like a reference layer or something.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, yeah. Anyway. I try with any of my classes, I'm trying to teach you things within those tutorials. I'm not just giving you a recipe for how to make a knit sweater. I'm trying to teach you everything you could possibly learn along the way that you could apply to anything. 

Joey Korenman: It's interesting. When I started making tutorials for School of Motion, that was the exact ... I almost said those exact words, I think. In sort of having that inner monologue, "Why am I doing this?" It's because I feel like that's where the value is and it's really smart that you did that. The hook is learn how to make a knit sweater.

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: But the actual meat of it is you're learning about precomps, you're learning about probably using the displacement effect and reference layers and luminance and all this kinda stuff. 

You're a very good teacher. A lot of people have said this to me. When you started making content for us they were like, "Oh my gosh you got Jake, he's so great." You are also a really good motion designer. You've got a really good sense of design, you've got this great illustrative style and you're a great animator. You could do really well as a freelance motion designer. I think you're good enough to go get hired at a studio if you wanted to. Why not just do that? Why do you want to teach now as opposed to-

Jake Bartlett: You're making me blush over here.

Here's the way that I see it. At the beginning I was freelancing and I saw teaching as kind of supplemental income. At the beginning I wasn't making enough to live off of, so I just saw it as bonus income. I was going to try and make a class a month, but my main income was coming from freelance. I quit my job so I said yes to absolutely every job that I possibly could find so that I knew that ... My wife had just gotten pregnant when I quit too, so we were preparing over the next nine months to have our first child.

Joey Korenman: Oh, boy.

Jake Bartlett: I wanted to be secure so I did that work. My goal with quitting my job was to have more time to be with my wife and I ended up, because I said yes to everything, I ended up working weekends, which was something I didn't want to do anymore. I was already doing that and I quit my job so I wouldn't have to but I just didn't know how to say no at that beginning part of my freelance career. Over that first year of freelancing I learned a lot about how to deal with clients, how to say no, and what I wanted to do with my career. 

As my Skillshare audience built I realized, like, on Skillshare I'm in charge of everything that I do. There's no approval process, no client to make happy, I just make what I think's interesting to me and what I think people are going to like and then I get paid for it. It's kind of an insane concept. I never thought the teaching would be something that could provide income like that but once I started building a big enough audience I was making a couple thousand dollars a month and I was like, "This might actually be better than freelancing." 

Over the last three years it's just slowly become this, like, basically a balance between freelance and teaching and the teaching side just kept getting heavier and heavier and I wasn't leaning on the freelancing anymore and now here I am. Basically it all comes down to I enjoy making stuff that I am excited about working on and not having to answer to anyone. As adolescent as that sounds, really. I basically just want to have fun and that's what's led me to becoming, pretty much, full time teaching.

Joey Korenman: Yeah. You brought up ... This makes me think of two things I kinda want to point out to people listening, because all of this, I'm nodding my head like, I also teach for a living and I intuitively get what you're saying but I just wanna spell it out for everybody.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: One, and this is ... I think what's unique about your situation is that you're pretty young to be having all of these realizations, Jake. So how old are you right now?

Jake Bartlett: I'm turning 29 tomorrow.

Joey Korenman: Turning 29, okay. And you have an almost 3 year old son, correct?

Jake Bartlett: Almost 2.

Joey Korenman: Almost 2. Okay, cool. Jake and I both have little boys named Elliot. Pretty close in age, by the way. All right. You're 26, I'm guessing, when your wife got pregnant-

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: And you're thinking, "Okay. Why am I working? Am I working because," as some motion designers feel, "We love doing this and we wanna have national clients and get on Motionographer and get recognized and become 'successful MoGraph artists.'" Or, "Do I wanna spend more time with my family."

That's a place I got to in my 30s, you got there a little bit earlier, and teaching is just a great, great way to do that. But you also arrived on the teaching scene at a really interesting time where, you know, if you had come in five years earlier there would not have been a way for you to do what you're doing. The whole idea that teachers now, talented one, ones that are good at teaching, can actually pay their bills by making, essentially, polished tutorials. That's madness, right?

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: And the idea that you can make way more as a teacher than you can as a doer, it's kinda flipping the whole thing on it's head. 

Everyone listening, I know there's ... I've gotten tons of emails from people who have asked about teaching because deep down, a lot of artists, I think, you know, in the back of their head they're like, "I wanna do this until I'm burned out and then I wanna teach." I think Jake and I are both proof that teaching actually ... It's not the low end of the equation anymore in terms of income, even in terms of creative possibility, you know.

Jake Bartlett: Absolutely.

Joey Korenman: Yeah.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, that's exactly how I see it, too. I quit my I quit my job because I wanted to have a lifestyle where I got to be with my wife all the time. When I started teaching and saw that that was a viable source of income I was like, "Well I wanna start really pursuing that because not only will I get to be with my wife all the time, but if I decide I want to take a three month vacation no one's going to stop me. I don't have to answer to anyone."

Yeah. That was the appeal, for sure.

Joey Korenman: That's amazing. At what point were you able to fully pay your bills with teaching? How long did it take you to get to that point? 

Jake Bartlett: I'd say when my wife started teaching, which was like a year and a half into my teaching on Skillshare's when I got her to start. Because when she started teaching Photoshop was her category and the illustration design topic on Skillshare was way way bigger than After Effects. She became very successful a lot quicker than I did. In her first two weeks of her first class she got 1,000 enrollments.

Joey Korenman: Wow.

Jake Bartlett: Which is something I would be lucky to do in a month with a new class. Her classes rose pretty quickly as well, and that opened up lots of possibilities for her.

Once we started both having this supplemental income, this residual income, that's what's so cool about teaching as well, is that I'm doing all this work up front, and then I'm basically just checking in with students as they have questions or they need critique. But it was producing all this income and I'd say, yeah, when she started teaching is when it really became, "I think we can handle paying our bills and just living the way that we want to as long as keep making classes."

Joey Korenman: That's so great. I've seen some of your Skillshare stuff. You've made content for us and now you're making a class for us and I've seen how that's going. You do actually the whole teaching thing look fairly easy. I think good teachers, that's their gift is the ability to just talk about information, explain it in a way that's relatable and it looks effortless.

Was it always like that for you? Have you ever had to consciously work on certain things like, "All right. I need to stop saying um," or, "I need to come up with better metaphors to make things easier," or has it just always been in you to teach.

Jake Bartlett: Well, like I said. I always enjoyed explaining things to people. Because I learned Photoshop so early, I knew how to do all these crazy effects when I was in high school, and I had friends who were like, "How in the world did you do this?" I just enjoyed being able to explain to them and show them how to do fun things. 

Maybe that's what got me into teaching, or at least better at being able to explain things because I did it with people in person like that. 

Kinda my dirty little secret, which everybody's gonna find out now ... You can tell, I'm stumbling over my own words. What I'm trying to say is I'm not that good at speaking. I have a really hard time formulating my thoughts into words. So, on my first class, and honestly, on all of my Skillshare classes, you would not believe the number of edits that I have in all of my recordings. Nothing is done in a one take kind of scenario.

Joey Korenman: Right.

Jake Bartlett: I literally, I sit there and I think about what am I trying to explain and then I say that explanation over and over and over until I'm 100% happy with the way that I delivered the line and the way that it was worded. Sometimes individual sentences have edits in them and I splice together the first half of this one and the second half of that one. 

The editing process of all of my classes is way longer than the production. That was something that was very important to me from the beginning. From my very first class I wanted to make sure that I was delivering 100% content to my students because I hated the tutorials that were talking about their pets or what they ate for dinner that day. I want them to get to the point. I never wanted a student to feel way with my classes so that was my approach. I just wanted to make sure, 100% content, that it was explained as precisely and clearly as I possibly could and that's how I've approached every single thing I've taught since then.

It gets a little bit more difficult when I'm on camera, obviously, because I don't wanna have a thousand edits and jump cuts, but that just means it takes longer because I'm basically rehearing and rerecording that group of lines instead of a single line.

Joey Korenman: Yeah, I think that might be the biggest advantage, I think, about online learning as opposed to going to a class in person, is that you have that luxury of being able to edit the content and make it the best version of that class that you can.

Jake Bartlett: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joey Korenman: In addition to being able to have Jake, who's a great teacher, do that and then you don't need a thousand seat theater to have Jake teach you. You just need wifi-

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: At Starbucks.

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: Yeah, exactly. Okay. What are some other things about teaching that surprised you or that you learned as you started diving into this?

Jake Bartlett: Well, I think what surprised me the most was how students received it. Because, like I said, I was terrified that people were just gonna hate it and that they were gonna feel like they got gypped out of the $18 they paid for my class and I got the opposite response. People really liked it and that wasn't something I expected. Going back to the laptop, that's why I did it. Once I won the laptop and they're like, "Okay you have to make the class," I was like, crap. 

Joey Korenman: Uh-oh.

Jake Bartlett: What if people don't like it. But the response was great and students really liked it and I started building a following and people were asking me, "When are you gonna release your next class?" And I started asking, "What do you want to learn?" And I got 20 ideas. People really affirmed that they enjoyed learning from me and that was just incredibly encouraging. 

Getting over that imposter syndrome was a big learning experience that I took away from teaching but another crazy part about teaching is that ... Let's say you wanted to make a neon sign in After Effects, that's a class that I teach as well but I'll just use it as an example. If you wanted to make a neon sign you'll probably mess around in After Effects until you get something that looks like a neon sign. But if I want to teach you how to make a neon sign, I wanna make sure that I am teaching it in the absolute, most efficient, precisely organized way possibly. I wanna make sure that if you take this you're gonna know from point A to point Z, exactly how to make it and to do it in a controllable way that's really easy to edit and easy to look at and easy to understand.

It makes you think about things in a way that you wouldn't if you were just making it for yourself. I think that made me become a better explainer, basically. I was able to think through things much more detailed and come up with efficiencies that I wouldn't have if I was just making a project for a client. The expressions lessons that I made for School of Motion, another dirty little secret, I knew very little about expressions before teaching those. I forced myself to learn how to make that tapered stroke work through teaching it. The demo that I'm pretty sure you saw in the alumni group, was so hacky the way that I had it set up. It's embarrassing to look back at the way that I had it set up. It functioned, but it was terrible coding and the expressions were just ugly.

I learned so much about expressions because I knew that I was gonna have to teach it. Oh, man. Talk about imposter syndrome. Moving from Skillshare to School of Motion, a website where I went to on a regular basis to learn. I mean, when I got your email, Joey, asking me if I wanted to teach, that was like, I was in heaven. I couldn't believe that you were reaching out to me. 

I knew this has to be perfect. There will be no mistakes and I have to make sure that I know exactly what I'm doing is the best way to do it. It makes you push yourself to basically be better.

Joey Korenman: Well, little did you know what you were signing up for when you agreed to do this, Jake. You know, it's funny. What you just said it's exactly what Nick, from Greyscalegorilla, used to say all the time, which is, like, he's teaching as he's learning. I think if you're starting out and you're thinking of teaching it almost feels like you're cheating. Like, "I can't teach that. I don't even know it. Yeah, I could learn it, and then teach it." It almost feels like cheating, like shouldn't there be some window of time where I learned it and then I waited a year-

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: Because now I've known in for a year. In reality, there's a ... I don't know where this comes from, but I've heard the saying, "If you really wanna learn something, teach it."

Jake Bartlett: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joey Korenman: I think you learn more from teaching something than you can by being taught it, ironically. 

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, I think so, too.

Joey Korenman: We've been sort of alluding to the fact that you are teaching a class for us. Jake has made some tutorials for us, there's content on the site that he's authored for us, but Jake is actually, as of this recording, in the process of creating a brand new School of Motion class with us. Jake, why don't you just tell everybody a little bit about this class.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah. Man, this has been an amazing project. It's called Explainer Camp, and I've pretty much been working on it with you all year. It's going to be a project based course for School of Motion, and it's gonna cover, basically, the entire production process of making an explainer video. We even have a theme song that B. Grandinetti wrote and it's awesome, you have to hear it. In it we say that we go from script to final render and that's true. 

As the teacher, I'm gonna have a client, and I get a script from them and a brief and over the course of the entire class, it's gonna be me making my explainer video from coming up with the budget and the schedule and sketching thumbnails and concepting, all the way through the animation to the very final render with sound design and everything. As students, you're gonna have your own client and you're gonna be following along with me. As I'm teaching you, you're gonna be implementing what I'm teaching and you'll have that one project throughout the entire course and by the end of it you're gonna have a completed professional looking explainer video that you can showcase in your portfolio or your demo reel and it will be a finished piece. 

Joey Korenman: Yeah, you did a great job of explaining it. One of the biggest tenets of our courses at School of Motion is we want to make them real world applicable as much as possible. This is the first course where we really have just gone crazy trying to simulate a real world experience as much as possible. We've got a fake client, we've got ... We actually recorded the initial phone call with the client and then you kinda break it down so students can learn strategies to deflect. You should never talk about budget on the first call, things like that.

It's been so fun to make this with you. I think people are really gonna get a kick out of it and I think we may actually have to play the song on this podcast episode.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah.

Joey Korenman: We'll edit it in. But let me ask you this. I'm super excited about this course, obviously, as I know you are, but what is the whole in the education market that this class is filling. Why did you think that this is the class that you should make.

Jake Bartlett: I think that, with a lot of classes, even on School of Motion, there's lots of fundamental courses and those are super important and that's what drew me to School of Motion in the first place because I didn't have an education in animation principles and I never learned how to do character animation. Those are extremely important courses.

A project based course like this where we're actually doing client simulation and you're getting to see phone calls and e-mail conversations going back and forth, that's something that I'd never seen before online. Being taught how to handle client interaction and how to come up with a budget and things like that, part of the process of making the explainer video that you probably were never educated in.

We're approaching this course as you know how to animate. You know the fundamentals, you know ... You might have even made explainer videos before. It's not gonna be something that's brand new to you but the rest of the process of basically being able to handle a client and knowing how to present things, how to word things, I haven't seen that anywhere online before. I think that this is gonna be a really exciting course to be able to present that material to students.

Joey Korenman: Yeah. I think it'll, you know, like a lot of times, I think most of the time, in this industry you really learn the most once you're out in it doing, right? You can go to school, and you can take School of Motion classes and I think our students do learn a lot in them and really useful stuff. 

Then they go out and they get a client and they're doing a client job and in doing that client job, you learn 10 times as much, because the pressure's on and it's your ass on the line, and there's curve balls being thrown, it's not as controlled. That's, I think, the strongest part about this class is it lets you do all of that without having to go find a client.

Jake Bartlett: Exactly.

Joey Korenman: You basically sign up, and like all of our interactive classes, we have teaching assistants that critique your work, they critique your treatment, they critique your animatic, they critique your designs, your style frames, and then you basically animate and produce a finished thing and you pick music and all this kinda stuff.

We actually, just the other day, recorded a voice over session with a great VO artist for the spot that Jake produces as part of this class, and we recorded the entire session, and that's part of the class. You can actually hear how we directed the talent. We really tried to make it totally comprehensive and I think it's gonna be really fun, too, to go though it.

So, Jake, you've created content for Skillshare and now you've created content for school of motion. We're two very different companies. I'm curious, just, if you could talk a little bit about what you've seen, because I've only created content to School of Motion. I don't know what it's like to create for another company. What are some of the different learning options that are out there and how do they differ? How does a Skillshare class differ from a School of Motion class and anything you've seen out there. What are the options for students looking to learn?

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, well. I think it's completely based on the platform that it's presented on because there's incentives for teachers to teach on different websites. On Skillshare, from a business standpoint, my goal is to get as many minutes watched as possible and the way that I'm doing that is by making content that I think people are gonna wanna watch. I found great success through Skillshare in that way. Because they pay me by the minute watched and I'm making content that people are watching, that works for me.

On YouTube, you can find amazing After Effects, Cinema 4D tutorials. All kinds of stuff like that on YouTube, and there's tons of crap. We've all seen it.

Joey Korenman: Yeah.

Jake Bartlett: You just have to basically search until you find a good channel but I think, from a YouTubers perspective, their motivation is to just get as many viewers as possible. Get as many subscribers. I've never tried to teach through YouTube. I don't know how effective the revenue would be for that, but I think that the motivation is very different so the content is gonna be curated towards that type of viewer, basically. Somebody who's gonna subscribe to the channel and wanna see probably consistent, regular content. 

I'm assuming that everybody listening to this podcast knows School of Motion, there's tons of free content on the website and then there's amazing courses that you can pay for that are super in depth. The amount of work that goes into one of those courses is 100 times what goes into a Skillshare class or a YouTube video.

I mean, there are so many different places like Lynda and we talked about Udemy, I think you kinda just need to do a little looking around and seeing what you want to learn. In my opinion, Skillshare has been an awesome place because you do get access to everything without it having to cost you anything more, so you can jump around from one teacher to another and you're not really gonna be out anything if the teacher you land on doesn't deliver. Same thing for YouTube, that's not gonna cost you anything. 

I think School of Motion speaks for itself at this point, the track record is pretty good with your courses. I don't know, Joey, where am I going with this. I'm not answering your question.

Joey Korenman: Well, you're making me think. This is something ... I kind of exist in this bubble where, like, I don't really ... I pay attention, of course, to YouTube and Skillshare and all of ... And honestly, I'm saying this completely truthfully, I don't see any of them as competitors.

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: Even MoGraph Mentor, who I guess would be like the closest thing to a competitor. Mike and I are ... I would say we're buddies. We're on very good terms and we share information with each other and we've hung out a couple times. We've hung out at Blend and we've talked online a bunch. My mentality is that there are ... This is not a zero sum game, this online learning thing. I love it. Everyone listening, go to Skillshare, sign up for Jake's classes. I think the thing that you're making me realize is that the content that you're gonna find and the value behind it, it's all gonna depend on that company's key metric that they're looking at.

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: So you said Skillshare, it's minutes watched. You're incentivized to make videos that will keep people watching. Which is actually a pretty good metric, I think. You can make an hour long video and if it's good, you can pack that thing with content.

Jake Bartlett: Right.

Joey Korenman: Whereas on YouTube, it's kind of a combination of the number of views you've gotten and the number of minutes watched and so you're incentivized to make shorter videos that kinda jump right in. 

If you're trying to teach something like how to approach follow through in After Effects, that's not really a 5 minute video. So certain platforms are gonna cater to making it entertaining and keeping [inaudible 00:48:27] 5 minutes, that's not our metric. Our metric is what are the reviews at the end of the course.

Jake Bartlett: Yeah, yeah. 

Joey Korenman: That's really what we look at the most. That's awesome. I can't wait until this course comes out.

The last question I have for you, and by the way, thank you for being so open about your experiences on Skillshare, on School of Motion. I hope more and more people get into the online teaching thing. Do you think that teaching has made you not just a better teacher, but also a better artist? Has your work improved as you started teaching? Do you think that this could actually be a strategy for people who wanna get better? To try and make tutorials?

Jake Bartlett: Hands down, yes. Absolutely. In the same way that it pushes you to explain things better, you're looking ... Like I said, I was always looking for doing things the best way. Most of the time that turned into me making things that looked better. 

Yeah, the simple answer is yes. Teaching is such a good way of becoming a better artist and I would like to think that's what has increased the quality of my work over the last couple of years, for sure.

Joey Korenman: Awesome. Well, dude. Thank you so much for hanging out. Explainer Camp is gonna be unleashed onto the world very very shortly, if not already by the time you're listening to this. Yeah, you'll be hearing more from Jake if you take that class.

Jake Bartlett: Awesome. Thanks so much, Joey.

Joey Korenman: Check out Explainer Camp on our courses page, schoolofmotion.com/courses, and check out Jake's other classes at Skillshare.

I have to say that one of the most exciting things that I've seen in the past 2 to 4 years is the explosion of online resources to learn just about anything. With that explosion also comes a ton of opportunity for artists who are looking to build a little passive income. We're always looking for new instructors to work on courses with us so if you've got the teaching bug please reach out to us at [email protected] and let us know what you'd like to teach and vice versa also reach out and tell us what you'd like to learn.

We plan on filling as many wholes in the MoGraph training department as possible. 

Thanks so much for tuning in. I hope you got inspired by Jake and I really hope to see you around School of Motion very soon. Take care.