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The Art of Collaboration: Seth Eckert

By Adam Korenman

Kentucky-based studio The Furrow teamed up with an amazing assortment of top artists to create a video aimed at raising awareness during COVID-19

There is no industry unaffected by the global pandemic of COVID-19. No matter where you are in the world, life has changed to a measurable degree. In order to share some of the challenges faced, as well as much-needed information, Kentucky-based studio The Furrow put together one incredible collaboration, all under Creative Director Seth Eckert.
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Seth Eckert found his passion for motion design early on, finding the creative freedom incredibly appealing after the strict structure of his early career. Now, as the Creative Director of The Furrow, he has the opportunity to work with incredible artists, huge clients, and projects that speak to him on a personal level as well as professional.
The Furrow aims to "give brands a voice," and they certainly deliver. With a style all their own, their projects capture the energy and imagination of companies from Facebook and Uber to Microsoft. Their latest collaboration, COVID-19, is a brilliant piece that explores the shared challenges we all face, as well as offering helpful information.
If you want to know more about the project, we've got three project breakdowns for you, along with free files so you can follow along!
Now grab a cold drink, hop onto your hammocks, and let's talk shop with Creative Director Seth Eckert!

The Art of Collaboration with Seth Eckert

Show Notes

Artists

Studios

Pieces

Resources

Transcript

Joey Korenman:
Seth, it's awesome to meet you, man, you've been on my radar for a while. Man, I know we've communicated over email, but I want to say thank you for coming on the podcast and I'm excited to dig into your career and what you've been up to.
Seth Eckert:
Yeah, absolutely, man. Thank you so much for having me. I'm super appreciative of what you do and the way that you invest back in our community, the school is amazing. I don't know how you do it, you guys have a ridiculous amount of students, it is exciting to hear about.
Joey Korenman:
Well, thanks for saying that. I mean, it's really, at this point, I just try to get out of the way of the amazing team behind everything. I'm just the spokesperson at this point.
Seth Eckert:
Well, you're doing a great job.
Joey Korenman:
And the podcast host, I guess, so I can take that credit. So let's start at the beginning. Right now, I think a lot of our listeners are going to be aware of your studio, The Furrow, you just put out some amazing piece that was sort of a collaboration with a dream team that sort of gave a bunch of information and messaging around COVID-19. But I did my Google stalking that I normally do for guests and I'm on your LinkedIn right now, actually. And you have a very interesting kind of path to sort of the... you've been recently featured on Motionographer for the COVID-19 piece. I guess like in a way you've sort of made it, but you started getting a bachelor's degree in Kentucky in media studies. So I want to know how you ended up where you are. So why don't we start at the beginning, man? What are some of the milestones that you hit on your way to getting here?
Seth Eckert:
Totally, no, it's fun. I've had such an interesting career that doesn't seem like it's followed any sort of real formula which is a blessing and a curse, I guess. So I went to a small school here in a town called Wilmore, Kentucky, which is about 30-45 minutes from Lexington, Kentucky, which is about dead center of the state. It's a very small town. I think there's like a Subway, a Dollar General and that's about it. It's a pretty innovative school for where it is and what it's doing, their focus is primarily on production, at least now, I haven't checked back in with anything there for quite some time, but I know right as I left, they upgraded their entire media program. And they're building, they built a new building. It's beautiful. I thankfully I've got to take a tour of that down there, but it's something that I'm hopeful that I get to go back to for.
Seth Eckert:
Back in the day I went into school kind of just willy-nilly thinking, "Hey, I'll kind of figure this out as I'm here at school. It's crazy seeing kids coming out of schools, like The School of Motion or even Ringling, or some of these other large schools. I mean, these are fully developed people that are building work that's way better, leagues better than what I did back in the day. We were working on like Mac G5s with like 1.6 gigahertz with 16 of RAM, maybe like a dual processor and then whatever they had back then so it was not much.
Seth Eckert:
So getting into animation, I mean, I thought that I wanted to do production and I took some multimedia classes where I started to see some graphic design type stuff. I was like, "Man, that stuff's super cool." And I started to meet a lot of really, really neat people that I started to build relationships with. I have a buddy, Justin, who I live with, who he's out in the world, he works for CBS now, I've got a friend, Tim Pachulia, he's one of the owners of We Are Remade. And those two dudes I'd say influenced me quite a bit when it comes to getting into animation and design as both of them were really pushing the envelope in those areas back in the day. So we were using a program called Apple Motion, which I don't think any of your students will be familiar with. I think it was discontinued.
Joey Korenman:
I think it's still actually a thing by the way. Every once in a while, we'll get a random email asking if we're going to teach a Motion class, there's still like diehard Motion fans out there and it's kind of underground now, but it's still there, man.
Seth Eckert:
Well, it's time for them to graduate from that. I will remember the program being very counterintuitive, it crashed on us all the time, but we did this the short, which it's funny seeing the end of it. Being students, I don't even think that the plot really ended up working out too great, just because of the nature of production and it kind of being like a first pass of things.
Seth Eckert:
But it was also fun, it was one of the first behind the scenes videos that we ever did, I think that's the only video that I still have. I don't know if I'll ever share that but maybe one day to maybe get somewhere, I'll boost to students seeing how bad things were. No, I mean, back then, it was wild. I mean, we worked in Flash. I mean, I remember Flash was going to be like the next big thing, at least that's what people thought. I even built like a website in Flash. And I thought like, "Hey, web involvement to be cool, this code stuff is kind of cool." And little did I know, a lot of these pieces would be threaded into my future knowledge and abilities.
Seth Eckert:
So yeah, and I mean, I focused a lot on live production. And even when I was the near the end of my graduation, I was starting to intern at... gosh, I forget the name of this. It was like a sports broadcasting thing then I started to realize, "Wow, I really hate this." It's kind of not my vibe, I don't like this, it's long hours, lots of setup. Anyway, we produce this film at the end of, I think it was like my last semester actually of school. And when I graduated from there, I thought, where can I go from there. I had this media degree and production and multimedia, there's not a whole lot I can do with that. So I'd actually started working at Starbucks, which has formed a very unhealthy habit, I drink so much Starbucks it's shameful. But once you've worked there and you've got the juice, man, you just got to keep going back for it.
Seth Eckert:
But I was working there and I was doing just personal projects, just trying to learn. And then just quite honestly, I remember hitting up the Craigslist, anybody that needed anything, I'd be like, "Could I be hired for this job?" I was taking jobs like 100 bucks, 200 bucks. Because I knew in Kentucky, obviously this isn't LA, this isn't New York, this is very different strokes of people here as far as animation is concerned, we're very behind the curve. So most of the projects that I would get that I was excited about were not in Kentucky.
Seth Eckert:
That led to, I think it was early because I graduated in 2010, I think it was 2011 or late 2010. I had an offer from a healthcare company. It's funny because it's a corporate office that owns nursing, it's not a kind of place you think that you were down for work. But the bosses there, I mean, looking back, my goodness, they were some of the most innovative for the roles in which they served.
Seth Eckert:
I worked for this guy, Joe, he just incredible vision for wanting to produce educational content in a space that's not innovative really whatsoever. I mean, we're building these modules that were basically just him talking. I was adding like full transitions and stuff and he even bought me Cinema 4D to play with. And it's funny because I think I went to Apple Motion, Final Cut, then I learned Cinema 4D. And once I learned Cinema 4D I was like, "Hey, this program is the coolest thing." So I mean, I spent countless hours, I feel like, learning and playing with Cinema, just getting my head around like 3D space, the amount of Grayscale Gorilla tutorials that I followed back then is daunting. I mean, guys like Andrew Kramer, I started following those, Mattrunks, dudes like that, just anything I could find online.
Joey Korenman:
Mattrunks, that's a name you don't hear very often. I wonder how many listeners are familiar with Mattrunks? Mattrunks had some of the best tutorials I've ever seen in my entire life. He's an amazing designer animator too, I think he runs his own studio in France.
Seth Eckert:
Does he really? That's great to hear.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, incredible stuff, incredible stuff. I don't know if they're still around, but yeah, he had a subscription model and it was really cheap. It was incredible, I was a member for a while, that's funny.
Seth Eckert:
Me as well, me and you were probably some of the few supporters maybe. I remember it wasn't a large following, but the stuff he'd put out, he would have explained the logic behind stuff. And it was those foundational principles that I felt like made some of his teachings so powerful. I mean, I see you guys capitalize on that as well. I mean, I wish School of Motion existed 10 years ago that would have been great.
Joey Korenman:
Well, I mean, that was the thing I noticed about Mattrunk stuff and even, I mean, I think Nick was really good at this too when he was still doing a lot of tutorials for Grayscale Gorilla, not just click this button, click this button, click this button, but explaining the principles behind, I kind of want to ask you about that. So your story is very similar to mine and a lot of other people I've talked to you that sort of find their way through this weird twisting path to get into motion design. You start, like most people thinking, "Oh, I want to be in production." And so, I want to pick your brain on that a little bit because you said you didn't really like production, the long hours and stuff like that. And it's interesting because I have friends who are directors and I mean, they live to be on shoots, they love the lifestyle of it. I never really liked it, I've done a lot of shoots. I'm curious, talk a little bit about that. What was it that didn't resonate with you?
Seth Eckert:
I don't really know necessarily if it was just like my interests at the time were different, but I mean, we were incredibly blessed at Asbury and the professor that led the production course, I think he was a director on Gilmore Girls. So I mean he had some serious experience in the realms of all of that. And we did a live production with the drama class where we were camera operators or we didn't really direct, but we helped with editing and some of the behind the scenes of that, where we throw laugh tracks in, trying to basically echo what Gilmore Girls did.
Seth Eckert:
So I kind of saw that and thought looking into the jobs that you have out of that. And I knew something that I really wanted was, my whole family lives within 45 minutes in my house. My wife, her whole family lives within an hour of our house. So we knew we really wanted to stay in Kentucky. And to me, it's like I thought, "Why doesn't this exist here, what I was kind of wanting?" And I knew like I just didn't want to have a job where I traveled all the time.
Seth Eckert:
So those were probably like the two biggest turnoffs for me, but creatively also, it just kind of felt like it didn't change up enough, if you know what I mean. When you're shooting live-action to me and I know like live-action directors would 100% disagree with me on those, but I just feel like you're just kind of doing the same thing over and over again, you're capturing live-action, you, obviously go out and shoot nature or you can shoot people. And there's a huge need for that kind of stuff but it just wasn't what I was as excited about. So I guess that, to me, that would probably be like some of the biggest turnoffs.
Seth Eckert:
But I knew it was something that was cool. And what I got out of, it was a lot of like the compositional knowledge and some of those foundational principles you find live-action production, I think transitioned really well, like use of light, talking to the school and they're blank on all of these, use of light, there's tons of stuff that you can pull over like foundational knowledge that's super helpful in what we do in animation and design. Animation and design was just more exciting to me because you almost can live in a fantasy, not that that's what I'm after, but it's just, you could really create whatever, the possibilities are really endless. I'm not limited by someone else's creative abilities either, it's just endless possibility.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, I started out as an editor and I still really like editing but I sort of fell in love with exactly what you just said, the blank page of motion design, you can make whatever you want. There's an alternate universe where I went into production. Actually, there was like this moment in time where I think I was an assistant editor and my first job, or I was an intern. I don't even think they'd hired me yet. And I kept trying to get them to hire me so I could get paid and pay for things, of course, but I got a job offer through someone I met, I would have had to move to New York, I think, upstate New York. And I would be able to work on the TV show, Orange County Chopper, or whatever the show was with the father-son team that built custom motorcycles. And it was really big for 10 years. And I would have been a cameraman on that shooting for basically 15 hours a day and living with the crew out in New York for three weeks.
Seth Eckert:
It sounds like a sick gig.
Joey Korenman:
Well, I almost took it, but I had just met my girlfriend who's now my wife. And so, I didn't want to leave. And so, who knows, it's really funny.
Seth Eckert:
I know how it goes, man.
Joey Korenman:
Things could have been different. Okay, so let's talk about your job at the healthcare company a little bit. So the stuff you're doing now, I mean, the COVID piece was just featured on Motionographer. I know Motionographer's changed a lot, it's a little different now, but that used to be sort of the... that's what everybody aims at. You want to do work, that's that good. But you have to start somewhere and you're starting at a healthcare company. So talk a little bit about what kind of work you were doing there, were you aware of like the amazing stuff out there, the Bucks and the Shiloh's and the Royales? Were you trying to bootstrap yourself into being able to do that stuff?
Seth Eckert:
Absolutely, I mean, while I was working there, I started something that I continue to this day is where I feel like I just scrap the internet daily for just whatever's the best work out there. I mean, I'm watching every studio I can, every creative that I can find, trying to look under rocks where people aren't looking for stuff, that was something that I felt like really drives a lot of my like passion and excitement for stuff. And maybe it's just, I echoed in the fact that I'm really interested in what other people are doing.
Seth Eckert:
But I mean, while there what was nice was that I had lots of, I guess, I don't know if it was necessarily free time, but the productions that were required of me, day to day didn't require such a heavy lift that they would fill my entire schedule so that we would be working on, I think every year, I think that was... The first year that I was there, I think I produced like 70 or 80 videos in a year, where we were cranking out one or two per week. And most of the time, it followed a formula and we were trying to be innovative in how we could change up the format, so people would actually be engaged and watch. So we were doing things like adding really pretty transitions or title slides, which, back then, were exciting, nowadays, probably not as exciting. But two to three-minute-long videos we were doing these Grayscale Gorillas transitions. I remember I was doing, I'm sure you've seen it where you've got a cloner that has a hand full of rectangles. And then when they turn the texture of what's on the-
Joey Korenman:
That was the Discovery Channel rip off one. You know something, I worked on the original. Because I worked on the Discovery rerun. Yeah, I know exactly the trick, you take the ambient inclusion pass you lay it out, I know exactly what you're talking about, yeah.
Seth Eckert:
Oh, 100%, you're hitting the nail on the head. And I took that and did 20 different versions, we created all these little packages that we can apply to different types of learning. And the content was obviously very boring, but I was getting excited about the process and they were letting me do this stuff, which was, looking back, I don't feel like I can appreciate that enough. I mean, I was not making very much money.
Seth Eckert:
I remember when I got the job I was, "Man, this is a lot of money every year. I didn't know you could make this much money." And then when you get the paycheck and you start seeing the taxes taken out, you're like, "Oh yeah, this isn't as great." But the thing that was really paying me was the knowledge and the time to get to invest back into myself. So I can't speak to the nature of how huge that is, just that childlike wonder of wanting to learn these things. And I'm so glad that people like Andrew Kramer and Grayscale Gorilla and those guys exist out there and that they made this stuff. I feel like I'm trailing off here from kind of forgetting sort of [crosstalk 00:16:34].
Joey Korenman:
Let me ask you a question to ask a lot of people. So Grayscale Gorilla, Video Copilot, Mattrunks, I'm trying to think who else was out there at the time you had Mt. MoGraph I mean, there was a few. And that's how I learned too, I was the same as you. I was looking for tutorials constantly, I was doing FX Ph.D. classes, I was doing Tim Clapham classes, I was absorbing everything I could. But what wasn't out there, at least I didn't know where to look, was design knowledge or animation knowledge and I learned all of that stuff from other artists. I was very fortunate when I was freelancing to be able to work at some really cool studios in Boston that had some real talent in it. And that's where I picked all of that stuff up, it was basically learned on the job. Now, looking at your work, you clearly have the chops. You've got a good eye, you can design, you can animate. Where did that come from? Was that picked up the same way or did you learn some of that in school or at your first job, how did that happen?
Seth Eckert:
The design sense, it's funny you say that you feel I have it. I feel like I'm constantly struggling with design and illustration. I know Justin, who works for us, he would disagree with me on that. But I feel like I'm constantly, that's the area that I feel I need the most improvement. And quite honestly another way that I learned design and try to get better at animating in every style I can possibly touch was I was reaching out to anybody that had... I would be on Dribble and I'd find a cool shot that some designer threw up. And I was like, "Man, that's sick, we could probably animate this." So I'd email them and be like, "Hey, I really like your stuff, what you got here is really cool. Would you mind if I animated it?"
Seth Eckert:
I would say 80% of the time people were like, "Yeah, absolutely, I would love that." Sometimes I bit off a little more than I could chew and I try to have like four or five of those going at once, just because I felt like immersing myself in that would be helpful for furthering my career. But I feel like there was a lot that I started and never finished, but when you get to kind of play with people's files and see the ways in which they structured things, and the ways in which they built their design was super helpful for me in just trying to learn certain techniques, could be like two shapes overlapping and having like a blending mode or something and stuff that like I had never touched before.
Seth Eckert:
You start to try to think, "Okay, that's a skill set that I can now try to add to my repertoire of ability." That was probably the way that I feel like I probably learned design the most. I mean, in school, obviously, you learn some of those baseline principles and I took some art classes and things like that, but I'll be honest, I mean, the approach was very informal, very much on the job type learning.
Seth Eckert:
And I will say, I love hiring designers and collaboration. So as I did freelance projects or any project that I was able to pull in someone else to help me with anything, I would always hire a designer because that was the area, I felt like I was the weakest in and also, I love animating. So to me, when someone would create a file and then I would just get to integrate it, that was the dream back then. So to me, it's really been more of an on the job type learning, very, very informal.
Joey Korenman:
And I want to just second what you said about picking apart designers’ files, that was totally eye-opening to me the first time I got to work with... Actually, I remember one of the studios that I used to freelance at, there was a designer there named Tom Bik. And he now is one of the co-founders of Kill 2 Birds out in LA, they do incredible work. And I was blown away, first of all, by some of the designs he would do where there'd be like 500 layers, and blending modes, and masks and the way it all worked together was brilliant. And then sometimes there'd be three layers, but it looked really good. It was just everything was in the right spot, and it was the right size, and it was the right color and that was enough. And that was also pretty eye-opening.
Joey Korenman:
So one of the cool resources out there now it's called hold frame. And I don't know if everyone listening is aware of it, but it's basically a marketplace for project files. And you can just open up After Effects projects, and Photoshop files and 3D projects from artists like that. That was how I learned, it sounds like that's a lot how you learn, Seth, too, and I think is a really great way of learning.
Seth Eckert:
Yeah, I would second that, anybody listening that's interested in learning that, I would go to resources like that, and also just reach out to people. We have one of the most full industries out there, I would say because of how down to earth, humble and just genuinely kind, I feel like a majority of the people that I meet in this industry are. I couldn't even like list the volume of how many people I've encountered that I'm like, "Wow, it's just like the coolest dude." That's why, I love to events like Blend, because it's just like, I feel like I'm getting to hang out with all the people I admire and we're all such great down to his people. It's a really, really fun industry to be a part of. So I would definitely recommend reaching out to anybody that you possibly can because people are super, super down to do that kind of thing more often than you'd think.
Joey Korenman:
It's totally true. All right, so you're at the healthcare company for looks like just under two years and you're on YouTube, it was probably pretty early YouTube days, but you're on Grayscale Gorilla and you're looking at Andrew Kramer tutorials and then you go freelance after two years. So what was that transition like? First of all, why did you decide to go freelance, why didn't you just get another job? And what was that transition like?
Seth Eckert:
I feel like the decision was kind of made for me, quite honestly. So working at Signature, it was a really innovative company, I felt like. And I loved my bosses that I had there. I had two bosses, they were just some of the like the coolest dudes. But both of them ended up leaving the company for different reasons and I was left kind of in this department that ultimately, they didn't agree with what they had kind of envisioned and the innovation that they had.
Seth Eckert:
My new boss, I just got this vibe she didn't like me. I didn't know why maybe I was just an arrogant kid trying to animate stuff maybe, I don't know, being youthful, you make bad decisions sometimes, I don't know if that's what it was but I just kind of felt like there was a little bit of a falling out. They started to not let me do animation or anything cool anymore, it had to be like very informational. I started making just PowerPoints basically and I was like, this is not what I'm going to be doing for my life. At the time, gosh, I can't remember how old this was about 10 years ago. So I was like 23 maybe, but I was just like this isn't for me.
Seth Eckert:
And I remember I had been working with... shoot, I forget the name of that studio. I was working with a handful of studios that had kind of hired me for a handful of jobs, but I'd been working at night and it didn't feel like there was like enough work out there. And I was like, "Man, I just bought a house. I just got married, what's going on with this job." And so then I just one day I thought this is it, I'm done. And I went into my boss's office and said I'm going to have to put in my two weeks' notice. And I kind of got the impression that that was received very well.
Seth Eckert:
So the transition actually happened very quickly and it was kind of just like shook hands said goodbye. And I was kind of thankful because, I mean, I was living in Lexington at the time, this work was in Louisville, which is about an hour and 15-minute drive for me every day, there and back. So I was kind of done with that anyway. But I lucked out in the fact that I had a few things lined up, but it just seemed like the flood gates opened at that moment. I started just taking on as much work as I possibly could. And they weren't like huge projects or anything they were just like little explainer videos or doing logo animations or the whole logo animation things, that's the thing in its own. I feel like. But it was a fun opportunity to get to start diving into doing my own thing only for animation.
Seth Eckert:
So I started putting together like reel I continued to do that, emailing people of all different kinds and like Dribble and Vinyl at around that time was making lots of just online friends because I knew in Kentucky, there's not a lot of support for the industry that we're in and what I'm wanting to do. I know I made a pretty good relationship at the time with like David Stanfield, Adam Plouff, I still talk to those guys almost once a week, if not every other couple of days, it feels like. It's guys like, shoot, Andrew Vuko. I remember early on, I saw like Chris Anderson's work out there. I was like the guy is like a God to me as far as his ability, he can design, animate, direct, he can do it all.
Seth Eckert:
And I remember just reaching out to him being like, "Is there any way we could work together?" And then we finally ended up aligning on a project, which was pretty exciting. Same for like guys like Jorge and then even like trying to branch out in to do stuff with guys that aren't in our direct industry, guys like Wesley Slover under the Sono Sanctus. Back in his early stages, I remember emailing him thinking like, "This guy's got like the coolest work out there. I'd love to just be able to like work with this guy." And we've gotten to do like a handful of projects together since which is so cool.
Seth Eckert:
The principle of almost like these guys that go to motion design schools, I mean, leverage the talent and abilities of your classmates. I mean, having that group of people that are creatively-minded are probably rock stars, just like you might be, is huge. That's little support system, being able to bounce ideas off each other, share jobs, share work, share all that, it's huge. So I kind of lucked out on the fact that I met a community of people that were getting into this industry and were hungry for it and it's pretty cool, that was a very exciting start to freelancing for me.
Joey Korenman:
I want to get a little tactical here because earlier this year, in the before time there was a panel I was part of at Sarofsky Studio and we talked about freelancing and we got a lot of questions about how to make the transition from a full-time gig to freelancing and it's sort of like my experience, it sounds like your experience and a lot of people I talked to the experiences, once you are a freelance, it's shocking how quickly it can ramp up, but there's that weird period where you're like, you want to quit your job, but you're like they're not paying you enough where you have a ton of savings. So were you basically moonlighting the whole time, how much freelance work were you doing while at your full-time job and how did you juggle that? How much were you sacrificing sleep? How were you making that work?
Seth Eckert:
No, that's funny. The work-life balance is something I'm never going to be good at, I guess or at least that's not necessarily true. I'm hopeful that I will be better at it in future years, but no, back then, I mean, just like any business, I mean, you got to put in the time. I mean, I definitely was moonlighting. I mean, I remember there were a couple of projects where I moved a mattress next to my computer and I would work until I couldn't work anymore and then I'd sleep and do it again the next day. I wouldn't recommend that for anybody. It's very unhealthy way to live, but I think I had two or three projects going at once that all had deadlines within a week. So you make ends meet kind of thing.
Seth Eckert:
And with freelance, it feels like sometimes when it rains, it pours. So it's like if you have a dead period, you're like, "Man, I make some money." And then the flood gates will open, you'll get like five or six jobs and you're just like, "Yes, yes, yes, yes." Which I highly wouldn't recommend as saying yes is you're actually saying no to other things as well. And that's something that's taken me a longer time to learn is just that every time you say yes to, say a project, or if you take on an extra thing or if it's moonlight, especially if you have a family and kids, you can effectively-being almost saying no to them.
Seth Eckert:
So trying to figure out that work-life balance is a struggle, but diving into to freelance. If you have the opportunity, if you have the life space to do so, I mean, you just kind of have to take the plunge to be quite honest. It's one of those things that it's like, you'll never know if it's for you, unless you kind of do it kind of thing. And I think some people think it's just going to be this really easy thing. I mean, it is like you are running a business. I mean, you are the boss, you're the accountant, you're the tax guy, you're doing it all. And it's important to set those things up well. I mean, there's so much good stuff out there. I'm blanking there's a book. Oh man, I should remember what this is. Maybe I can send this to you after, Joey, or something that we can maybe-
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, sure, we can throw in the show notes.
Seth Eckert:
Yeah, it's like freelance business or something. The book cover's red. It's an incredible book that I wish I had read when I was getting ready to go freelance. I mean, it's like, gosh, a day long read, it's pretty short, But it's incredible some of the knowledge and some answers. There's resources out there that can make that transition a lot easier. And if you have a job where you have time to be able to build those relationships with others before you kind of make that plunge, that's always wise too. I mean, we get emails quite often that are like, "Hey, I'm getting ready to go freelance." We might not necessarily have a job at that moment in time, but, if it's somebody's work that I've been following or someone that I know about them bleeping up on the radar's like, "Hey, this person's available, we should consider that," kind of thing.
Seth Eckert:
So there's that idea that people were only going to really know about you as much as you put yourself out there. So if you put yourself out there enough and then you can kind of ease some of the pain of that transition, that would be probably wise. But I mean, like I said, I mean, in a day I think just kind of taking the plunge is something I feel like all of us freelancers could agree that it's scary, but I wouldn't change it for anything.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, that's awesome. I think a lot of people are going to resonate with that. And also I've heard that story a lot too, that getting as much as I have a love, hate relationship with Twitter, MoGraph Twitter is actually pretty amazing community and a lot of people have gotten work and made buddies and networked just through that. And you live in Kentucky that you know it's not LA, it's not New York, it's not Chicago, that's really the only way you can connect with that caliber of talent. I'm sure there's like an amazing artist community where you live, but it's probably like a dozen people that are using After Effects or something like that. It's not LA where there's like literally thousands of people.
Joey Korenman:
And so, on that note you went freelance I guess in 2012, it looks like when you went full time freelance. Now, and your client roster during that period is pretty impressive. It says you work with Facebook, Google, Samsung, Pfizer, a lot of big companies. And 2012 is pretty early in the scheme of things when it comes to remote freelancing. I mean, now everyone's remote freelancing, but even a year ago, there are studios that really don't like remote freelancing. So how did you manage that? Was that a challenge?
Seth Eckert:
To be quite honest, I feel I kind of was ignorant to that being a thing. I remember getting emails back from students being like, "Well, could you come in the office?" And I'd be like, "What?" But there were a handful that I did. I mean, there's a studio in Tennessee called Firestone. Ah, shoot. It's been a while since I've spoken with them good; incredible group of dudes. Taylor Woodall, I think the studio owners name, good guy. I had gone down there, I think we had talked about doing some in-house stuff but I think the drive was a little too far. There's a studio in San Francisco is like an architecture firm that I flew out and I did a couple of weeks of work there.
Seth Eckert:
And I was always kind of down to do the in-house thing, but quite honestly, when push came to shove, the toss to get me from where I am to those studios was almost comparable to what the project rate was sometimes. So it didn't make a lot of sense for them to do so. So I'm wondering if that was potentially part of the incentive for me to be remote when I did a lot of this work, but I think I really lucked out with a lot of my clientele at the time. Most of the people I was working with preferred that. I'd worked for a company in Canada that I did a lot of work with and they had random jobs from all over the globe for startups in France, where it was we were animating like French type. And I was like, "I can't even speak French, I hope this is correct," stuff like that.
Seth Eckert:
So a lot of the stuff that I did, I mean, I think I lucked out in the fact that that was just kind of the nature of the beast, but if you live in a place like New York or Los Angeles, it makes a lot of sense if a client's working on a larger production that they own, like the machines you're on for security purposes. And I mean, I understand all of that stuff, but there's a little bit of that trying to supplement your staff to be a freelance staff in-house, I don't know necessarily how much that translates to what you might want or might improve the end quality product. So, to me, I don't know if the freelance in-house thing is that the way that I would ever want to go, but I know lots of people that do it. Quite honestly, I don't have the experience to really speak to that very much because I haven't done it very often.
Seth Eckert:
I know a lot of Motion designers work that way on a consistent basis day to day and that's their norm. So it's kind of a different world to me that that exists. But it's interesting the fact that we can do this nowadays and that's kind of like the expectation is that everybody's remote. I mean, when you look at what's in the news, Google saying everybody's remote until next year. A lot of the tech companies are saying that kind of stuff. So it's interesting how the things are transitioning with the wave of video calls. I remember we were at the time using Google Hangouts and some of the people we were clients were like, "What the hell is Google Hangouts? What is that? You can meet with somebody over a video online, what?"
Seth Eckert:
So it's a different time now. And I remember like having this discussion with a lot of other people a few years back, what does it look like to have a staff that's all remote. And it sounds very interesting in theory, but I think you miss some of that comradery of having that in-house face to face relationship that I think creatives thrive on to a certain degree. And there's some things to be said about just when I have to communicate with somebody over a video chat, it's scheduled, you've got that few minutes of time where it's like trying to figure out the technology or you're finding feedback, or talking over the other person, and lag or whatever it might be. Those things do take away some time and efficiency. So I don't know, it's a double edged sword. I don't know if there's really a good answer for that, but I know, I think Motionographer did an article on that or maybe somebody did; very interesting stuff out there [inaudible 00:35:34] to working from home.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, I mean, I'm all in on the remote thing, School of Motion's fully remote and we have currently 20 full-time staff and then probably 40 teaching assistants all over the planet and-
Seth Eckert:
Maybe we should turn the question around on you. How did you do-
Joey Korenman:
Well, so the thing is what I tell people, because I actually talked to a lot of business owners now about how we do it. And the thing is, there's trade offs. It's like anything you do, you're exactly right. You lose out on the ease of just spinning your chair around and seeing what the artist behind you is doing. And, "Oh, wow. That's cool. Hey, how'd you do that?" You lose the spontaneity of it. And frankly, the whole thing about, the challenge of having Zoom calls and the awkwardness of it's still not a seamless process. Basically, the solution to that is to just try and do everything asynchronously, unless you have to have a meeting and you have to talk to somebody face to face and if you can get used to that, things actually, I mean, I don't know if it's more efficient than being in person, but I don't think you're really losing any efficiency.
Joey Korenman:
You are losing that, a little bit of that culture, a little bit of that human contact, you probably get about 75% of it in other ways. We do an in person retreat once a year. Hopefully we'll be able to do that pretty soon, but there are trade offs. But on the other hand, everybody gets to live where they want to live. We were talking about our editors, John, before we started recording, he just moved to Wyoming with his wife because that's where he's from [crosstalk 00:37:13] Yeah, he was living in LA and he wanted to kind of move back to be close to family and he loves it out there. And so, Wyoming and he can be a full time video editor at a cool company and live where he wants. And he sends pictures of the sky out there. It's insane.
Seth Eckert:
I'm jealous.
Joey Korenman:
I am too actually. All right, so let's get back to you though. I want to hear now about The Furrow and to be honest, I went through your website, I've looked at the work. The work's amazing. I don't know much about the studio. I don't know how big it is. I know it's been around, according to LinkedIn seven years. So tell us about the what's the origin story of The Furrow And what is it like now?
Seth Eckert:
Yeah, so 2013, I think in April was when we were officially started, again, similar to my freelance and even finding this industry, it was kind of something I just kind of stumbled upon. I remember talking to my accountant and he was like, "Dude, you got to get an entity. This is just a mess." Oh man, the accountant I had back then, good dude, but man, it was a disaster. It felt like we were just making it up as we went along.
Seth Eckert:
And finally I was like, "Man, I got to do this right." I met with my financial advisor, which I highly recommend everybody get one, but just, he was kind of saying, you need an entity, you need a bank account, you need all these things that I was just at the time ignorant of. I started to think the future of what I wanted myself with Seth Eckert, 50 years from now, the name doesn't mean anything.
Seth Eckert:
If you want to build something that could be sustainable in that I could maybe hand off to somebody else to carry in the future or whatever, I mean, I wanted to build a team that had similar principles that I had and I just wanted to build something that I could grow. And what's funny is that at the time, I didn't know that I would be so excited about owning a business. And really, like I said earlier, being a freelancer, you do own a business, you are a business owner by default. So transitioning into having an entity name wasn't too much of a transition aside from financially and on paper and taxes, things looked a little differently, but it's opened up the door in a different way that was very interesting.
Seth Eckert:
And right out of the gate, it was literally just myself, all alone, kind of just as The Furrow's is name. So I remember just trying to think of even a name for the company. I had gone through so many different things. I think we originally, I was rushed to register the name because of taxes, as you can see, it was on April 13th taxes, as you know are due very soon thereafter, forget the original name, I think it was bit-something, I'll have to look that up anyways, terrible name. I was just trying to like throw something on there as I was just trying to pray it through and think like what the name of this business could be.
Seth Eckert:
And lo and behold, I wanted something that was true to Kentucky, something that was just a name that felt different. I was thinking through and I remember I was driving out near my father's house, which is out, kind of in the middle of nowhere, but kind of close to civilization, driving past his farm that had just plowed a field and they had all those furrows on the ground. And I remember driving for like a few minutes and just seeing the little curves, and then it occurred to me, those are furrows, that's where you grow things. And I was like, that kind of relates to what I want to do is I want to grow ideas and that kind of stuff. I was like, "Oh shit, that's like a sick name." So I don't know if I should say that.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, absolutely.
Seth Eckert:
Yeah, I was like, "Oh man, that's a that's sick name." So it was really cool. Everything started to kind of come together. And I'll be quite honest out of the gate, I had no idea what I was doing, but it seemingly started to work. And we started getting larger and larger productions and similar to how I reached out to tons of creatives. I'd augment staff for the projects that we'd have. So starting out, I remember we had like a project of like three people and I was like, "Man, it's a lot of management. I don't know, this is hard to do," kind of thing. Because I didn't have any automation in place. I had no processes. I had no way of doing it. I was a full-time producer, full-time animator, full-time director, all the roles. And it was a lot and it was fun though, because it kind of opened my eyes to the needs that I had, but I did struggle with it for like two years before I was like, I got to hire somebody.
Seth Eckert:
And off the advice of my advisor, he said find somebody that's the exact opposite of you that likes to do all the things that you hate to do. So I went home and I remember I wrote down all the things I hated to do, which are basically funny, it's producing, schedules, yeah, just being... I mean, I do enjoy it now that I run the business and we've got that so fine team, it's actually enjoyable now. But back then, it was such a disaster or a mess that I was like, I need help someone that can structure this. So I think it was 2015, I hired Janet who's our producer, that was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I remember the workload instantly got cut in half.
Seth Eckert:
Her background isn't in producing whatsoever. That's another challenge of Kentucky is that we don't have talent locally that I feel like... Well, I say that and I just, maybe I just don't know anybody here. I would love anybody out there that's in Kentucky, that's listening to this, please hit me up. But yeah, like me, I didn't know anybody, I didn't know how to find a producer. How do you even write a job ad for a producer? I remember thinking that. So I just kind of outlined what I needed and it was funny, my wife, one of her best friends, Janet had just transitioned out of this customer service role and was looking for work. And I remember it felt very fluid and natural. We kind of met, I kind of remember saying like, "This is the job." I mean, I remember thinking there's no way she's going to say yes to this. And she did. And it's been really cool ever since then.
Seth Eckert:
We had another guy that went to church with us, Josh Watkins, he's in Atlanta now, super incredible awesome dude. He was also, we were doing some projects together. We had kind of the little friendship where we'd go shoot video and do lots of production stuff, it was really cool. And he said yes to joining us as well. And so we had a little team of three there for about a year, year and a half doing projects between the three of us, topped to like five people, sometimes we'd have projects as large as like 25 people back then. And then we started to just think, okay, we can scale for all kinds of productions. And it really is kind of a unique business model to where we can kind of mold to whatever end product someone might need. So for us, it just felt like very fluid to continue that working style.
Seth Eckert:
And so, our studio even currently is only three of us. It's myself, Janet, and then our designer-animator, Justin. We've had plans to actually grow much earlier in this year, but as you know with COVID and things, that has changed the plans. But for us, it's been a really fun experience. All of us have the same kind of love and attention to aesthetics and also that joy of the functionality of things at the end of that as well. So it's like trying to have that balance of our families and work. And we're all kind of in the same phase of life where we have children and we're all in the same space that love to create visuals with just a lot of polish on them.
Seth Eckert:
And so, I've been real picky in who we bring on. I mean, I feel like the vetting process that I've gone through is like... because to me, it's always been like on par with something about marriage but it feels like it. When you hire someone new, it can change the whole dynamic. And I'll be honest, I might be a little bit of a control freak to the point where it's like, I'm so picky. I'd rather just kind of put off these decisions until someone perfect fits the role, but I've kind of come to find there's no perfect person ever. And once you bring someone into the team, it's so cool how it changes it into like something better. It's that piece of collaboration is so huge and that it's something that I've discovered over time that I love. So my hope is that we'll continue to grow and find clients that love our work and support us as a team.
Joey Korenman:
That's awesome. I want to talk a little bit about the model that you just sort of brought up of, basically having a really small core group. I mean, three is a very small studio and it's you as creative director and I'm assuming sort of lead animator. I see you have an illustrator-animator who lives in Atlanta and you've got Janet, your producer. But you mentioned that you've scaled up as big as 25 for certain projects. So that's three full time and 22 freelancers. A lot of people listening are probably thinking, "Wow, I love the idea of starting my own studio, but it's really small. So the overhead is low and we can be lean and we can scale." But how do you scale to 25 from three? And I mean, nevermind, operationally, how do you manage that? But just how do you pay for all those freelancers, you know what I mean? If you're a small studio, finances are usually a challenge at the best of times. How have you managed to be able to scale up and down like that and manage cashflow basically.
Seth Eckert:
Well, I mean, it all ultimately comes down to your profit margins and how they operate at the business level. So for us, we wouldn't hire 25 people unless we had the project to support it. So will obviously have that back and forth with the client trying to scope a project. The project that I'm thinking of, I mean, we had a pretty large budget. I mean, I know it was like six figures. We started to think logistically versus the deliverables, you just kind of outline how much time it will take to produce the work by one individual. And then you see, okay, if I only have this much time, then that equals, I need this many people to get it done.
Seth Eckert:
So basically, you kind of reverse engineer how many people you needed. And then ultimately, it's the good business practice that you have a healthy profit margin of 50%. So that means that if I hired you at $500, I would need to charge a client $1000 to offset those costs in order for us to make money on the work that they're doing. So you multiply that times 25 people, then you make sure that that echoes what the budget is. And then you've also got expenses on top of that, there's all kinds of layers that go into scoping a project.
Seth Eckert:
But as far as managing, gosh, I remember, I think the first one we did, we didn't have Slack back then. I think we just did it over email and Google Spreadsheets, lots of spreadsheets. It's funny, I was thinking this the other day, as I've gotten more and more into a directing role, I find myself on Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets more than I do in After Effects.
Joey Korenman:
Yes, been there.
Seth Eckert:
I love it, but I also hate it. There's something so satisfying about automating a process, doing it beautifully and doing it in a way that brings clarity to everybody. There's a payoff there that's very exciting. I'd say that's the side of producing that I do love. But yeah, I mean, so as far as managing, what's interesting is that when you get into that many unique interactions, especially if you don't have something like Slack, I think we'd use Google Hangouts. And I remember the amount of chat windows that I had open. You start to feel a little bit impersonal with some people just because of the scale and the time of day you have.
Seth Eckert:
So I remember, we would have calls where we would have a handful of people on the call and you kind of talked to all of them at once and you, killing five, six birds at once kind of thing. And then some people, it worked more autonomously. And I mean, I know with you and your business it's finding people that have that professionalism and that ability to work autonomously is huge. I feel like sometimes that is equally important to the creative ability. I mean, a good example of this is we had an animator that we hired. The work is incredible. The dude is great, produces great work, but the structure and format and function of everything that was put into it was kind of messy. And it actually added more time and management for me than I thought I needed to have. So the payoff for using someone like that is that you get what you pay for, you know what you're going into. And we would definitely still hire and work with that person.
Seth Eckert:
But there was another animator that we work with that their work isn't as good as theirs, but their structure, the end of day, they would send me like, "Hey, this is this where I'm at with this piece. This is kind of what I'm thinking I'll do next." Almost like doing the bullet point note list of the things that I would send to them. And it's like, they showed me that they were thinking critically about the work that they were doing in almost auditing and critiquing their own work as they were working, which what a value prop for me, I mean, I thought, "Wow, this is how everyone should." So the professionalism was at a level for that person, I would work with them any day of the week, if they're free to do it, even if I have to do a little bit of extra creative directing or polish a file, to me, that's fun to do anyway.
Seth Eckert:
So there's merit to that. I think that trying to find a staff has a healthy balance of the two, a project that size is also helpful. And then, again, coming back to that collaboration piece, what's funny is you plan a project of that scale, you think it's going to look one way, it turns out and be something different and it's usually better than the idea that you had by yourself.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, there's a lot of good advice in there. I wanted to ask you about the last thing you were just talking about. This is something that I think worked in my favor when I was freelance, because I was never the best at anything in the room, but I was meticulous with the emails I would send to clients. I would do that bullet point thing. I would over-communicate to a fault possibly. But I found that clients like that so much more than the rock star that can just come in and do this amazing thing, but maybe they're difficult to work with, or they tell you it's going to be done by the end of the day but it actually takes three days.
Joey Korenman:
When you're looking for freelance talent, I guarantee a lot of people listening to this, they're going to send you their reels. Like, what are you looking for besides that professionalism? To me, it's almost a little counterintuitive, you'd think, "Oh, I just want the best artist I can get." But in truth you just said, you're willing to accept a lesser artist, I guess, is a way of putting it, if that person is professional. So I'm wondering if you just talk a little bit more about that. If there's freelancers out there and they want to work with The Furrow on something cool, what do you want? What's the bullet point list?
Seth Eckert:
Well, it's funny. I actually have a test for this, it's on our website. We list our jobs that we're currently looking for on our website. And we're taking applications at all times. I mean, I'm open to scale and freelance really, at any time, it just kind of comes down to what options do I have at the time based off finances, things like that, whatever. But as far as what I'm looking for, I have a list of things on there and if someone doesn't follow that list, that, to me, is a sign that they don't know how to follow directions, which right away is a red flag, they are not deleted, but they're not in consideration anymore from my perspective.
Seth Eckert:
And I feel like that might be sounding a little harsh, but when we're sorting through, I mean, we get like four to five creatives emailing us every day. You got to kind of like draw the line somewhere. And there's a lot of quality talent out there that I know can produce really well. But it's that plus also the fact that I feel like we'll have people that I think, I guess they assume that we just have all kinds of time to respond and they'll follow up like five, six, seven times. I'm like, I'd love to hear from you and I want to talk to you, but there's got to be this healthy level of balance of, it's not like we're ghosting people, were aware of people out there, but I don't know if that's like the professionalism piece of it, but there's... I mean, you're aware of this.
Seth Eckert:
I mean, when you email back and forth with someone, if everything's in lowercase, not that that's something that should bother somebody, but to me it made the email harder to read. It just kind of doesn't look pretty. And it's like, if you don't care about the communication, what does that mean for the way that you care about the work that you're doing? So there's that transitional piece there, that's almost like you can't really pick it up in an email or in a one thing. I'll honestly, I'll get an email, I'll read the email, I'll make sure that it follows the instructions. I'll make sure that I'll click through literally every link that they send me, I'll try to stalk them on the web, probably similar to the way that you would, and then just kind of piece all those things together and then see collectively if they kind of fit the bill. And then at that point, we'll add them into our CMS or communicate with them further if we need more information.
Seth Eckert:
But it's tough to vet, especially if you're a student coming out of school with a reel. I don't know what y'all's advice is for reels. But it's such a tough thing to gauge like a student reel. I mean, you can see the person's thought and process into say a certain piece. If they have a style that's consistent across multiple shots, or if they really knit their work to the music really well, to me, that's huge. Stuff like contrasting, that is something I've found that's huge that I feel not a lot of people leverage. So, for example, you have a shot that's super bright and then you cut to something that's super dark and then you cut back to something that's super light like that, winding those clips up like that the whole way, that's the way that I've always edited reels, at least, super helpful and it really adds a lot of hype and it helps it echo the music. Stuff like that, I feel like elevates things and it shows that additional level of detail.
Seth Eckert:
So if you have a song that has a sound where maybe it's a dubstep song and it's got a drop, that drop should align with the coolest piece of work that you have and it should be early on. Also consider, I've been thinking even lately, so our last studio reel that we did, I thought, nobody wants to sit down and watch a reel for like a minute and a half. Maybe you and me would, but the people I'm trying to sell this to really only have 10 seconds, 30 seconds. So I was like, "We got to cut this at 30 seconds, cram as much stuff in that's humanly possible." I mean, we were even considering doing a 10 second reel just because it's like, if someone really cares, the taste should be enough for them to come to the site, see the work really want to learn about who we are. Those are the people that we're trying to work with.
Seth Eckert:
So tailoring your reel and your messaging in the ways in which you work to who you're trying to target. It's almost, again, as a freelancer, you're your own business, you're your own management or marketing manager. So it's like being intentional about the ways in which you go about putting yourself out there is huge. So I mean, I feel like our testing for getting freelancers, I feel like I made it sound pretty harsh, but I mean, I feel like a lot of people out there are also probably in a similar boat where they'll look through a reel, think, "Hey, they've got a couple pieces that are really good." Everybody has work that's bad.
Seth Eckert:
I will say one red flag is when I see somebody do a tutorial and put the tutorial in the reel, to me, that's a little bit of a red flag, but if you're a student that's different. So I don't know how you feel about that, but that to me is something I feel like just try to even just reach out to a designer, get their work, animate that, that would probably be better than doing a tutorial straight up.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, I agree with everything you just said, I'm a huge fan of the 30-second reel. And I think unless you're GMUUNK or something, you just don't have enough work to make a two-minute reel watchable.
Seth Eckert:
That guy, dude, everything he posts I'm like, "How can he raise the bar?" And then he does it again. And I'm like, "Get out of here."
Joey Korenman:
He's a special guy. I love the guy. Yeah, so there are a couple of things I wanted to just call out for everyone listening because they're really good tips and they echo a lot of things that I tell students. A lot of the things you mentioned, it's really like these little micro signals that tell you, when you're looking at the email, at the email address it comes from, at the URL they picked out all of that stuff. It's these little signals that, "Oh, this person takes this seriously." They're a professional. Have an email signature, write short, concise emails, just these little basic things that I try to teach students because a lot of it isn't taught in school or anything that.
Joey Korenman:
And then on top of that, the point of the reel is to show you have taste, that's literally the entire point of it. And so, I'm glad you sort of called that out, that you should see that they have taste and now I want to see more, it's the teaser. I wanted to ask you, this is something that I feel like, especially now with just the intense atmosphere that everyone is in right now, do you do a social media scrub before you hire people? Do you try to find their Twitter account, find their Facebook account, if it's unlocked it and try to get a sense of who this person is and what they might be like to work with?
Seth Eckert:
That's a tough question because I feel like someone's legacy shouldn't dictate their future, to a degree. Say, if someone's super toxic on Twitter that could be a red flag that I might not want to hire that person, but to me that doesn't ultimately weigh into the decision. What I try to do, we did this with Justin, was we'd worked on him with two projects, kind of tried to see how he worked, how he functioned and you kind of get to know the person and you just kind of get to talk to them, learn about their life. So it's kind of you get to do that way rather than doing the deep dive on someone. Because, quite honestly, we all know that the self that we put out on the internet is not who we truly are, to a degree.
Seth Eckert:
I mean, I don't think it would be healthy for us to share all of our failures and all that kind of stuff publicly. But when you start to really learn about someone, and learn who they are and their values, that's huge. And I know that you mentioned taste a second ago, that to me is also a huge piece of the puzzle I forgot to bring up is because we have a form that we send out to potential hirees that's a big section of it where it's tell me who you're interested in, who are you following? I don't remember all the questions, but what I'm looking for are... someone's picking employees like a bunch of different design styles, if they do 3D, 2D, multimedia, mix media, illustration design, if they have a good breadth a bunch of different kinds, that to me could say maybe they're not a master of one area but they have a lot of love and attention to wanting to be diverse and look at all these different areas.
Seth Eckert:
That's not a negative thing or a positive thing. I think that could be a thing that could change the whole dynamic of a creative team, that could be super, hugely valuable, it also could hurt you. So you got to think of the piece that you're trying to fill. So I mean, even for us right now, I'm kind of hoping that we'll find a kick ass designer that can work in almost any style, someone that can design characters and can do abstract stuff, someone that can do editorial and can do medical stuff. So it's like you're in this reel... I don't know, trying to find the right kind of person, I feel like, it's a huge challenge.
Seth Eckert:
There's so many pieces that I think are custom-tailored to each person but at the end of the day, I think if you put yourself forward, that's the true you, of who you are creatively and in what you're trying to do, that, I think ultimately always shines through. Because when somebody is trying to be fake, you can usually pick that up pretty quick. But I also know most of us that are in this industry are introverts.
Seth Eckert:
I feel like don't ever feel bad about bragging about yourself to a degree, as long as you're not coming across as a an egotistical jerk, but when you're sending someone your reel, or your awards or whatever, that's a time when it's okay to talk about yourself. And I'm remembering, it's funny, looking at my LinkedIn, I hate looking at that. If I remember writing that stuff, thinking, "God, I just hate this. I don't like writing about myself." Even interviews like this, I don't really, I love talking about this kind of stuff. I don't to talk about myself, it feels unnatural, but.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, well, that's totally normal for... I mean, I remember the first time, you start a company and at some point, you have to name the CEO of the company. And I'm like, "I'm not really a CEO, I can't use that title." But you have to, legally, someone has to be the CEO. I still feel when I see CEO next to my name, I'm like, "That's pretend." I wanted to clarify the social media thing, because the way that I do a social media scrub, I'm not looking for one opinion that didn't age well or something like that. I mean, there's certain things like the culture, especially at a remote company, the culture is so important. You have to really make sure that... you don't want everyone to be the same. That's not the way to do it. You want as diverse a team as you can get, but there are certain things that are just deal breakers.
Joey Korenman:
And one of those things is sort of, I guess, there's a certain type of person that just, I don't know a better way to put it, but just complains a lot. Everything is someone else's fault. And you can kind of sense that sometimes from people, the way they interact on social media. I'm sure everyone has somebody on their Facebook feed or their Twitter feed, that everything is negative. And so that's the kind of stuff that I look for where it's like, okay. And that's not necessarily a deal-breaker, I consider that. And then the interview, when you talk to the person, that's really, when you get to know them.
Joey Korenman:
But I point this out because students, especially now, have grown up living their life online. And I have a fairly nuanced view of it and if I go back and I see a tweet you made when you were 13, I'll take into consideration that you were 13 when you made it, a lot of employers don't and it can be pretty dangerous to leave that stuff hanging out there. There have been people that apply for jobs at School of Motion, where there was really toxic stuff on their social media feed and so we passed. And it really just sort of told us, okay, this is the kind of person where if something goes wrong, they're not going to react to the way a professional needs to. So it's just an interesting data point to kind of look at when we're hiring.
Seth Eckert:
I was going to say I have something I could say to that. Because it's like even for myself, I don't know everything that I've posted right now, but I try to have these rules for myself whenever I post anything that it's got to be positive. It has to add to the world in some way. And it needs to be either loving, or caring or supportive. Because if you go through that lens always, because I can't tell you how many times I've written a tweet and thought that's not nice or that's probably not something that I should put out there, that I've deleted and not even responded. Same goes for even retweeting or things that. If someone's saying something that's political or whatever, that's fine if you share that stuff, but just making sure that you do some research on who that person is or something about them or whatever, but what you mentioned about complaining and that in general, everybody complains, if it's not external, it's definitely internal.
Seth Eckert:
But when it comes to feedback on a project, say if I'm working with you, I do want to have creative input and I do want people to push back against my voice because I think that fighting for a creative is an important thing because ultimately, the best idea should win out at the end of the day, where that idea comes from, if it's me or if it's somebody else, I don't care. I want the best idea possible. But if you find somebody that's complaining a lot, fighting you a lot, it's just going to be an uphill battle all the time, and you don't want to do that. Plus, there's the additional thing that I feel a lot of people subconsciously worry about.
Seth Eckert:
So, in an industry this, we're under NDAs all the time. If someone's unprofessional or they're chatting with their buddies and you hear them talking about something that they shouldn't be or even talking to their wife about something that's super, super hush, hush, that they should not be saying in a negative way, you got to be like, "Dude, I can't hire you anymore because now I got to worry about you being professional in this manner." I shouldn't have to worry about those things. Those are the things that are like, that should be understood. It could carry over into the social media realm of how they are. But I mean, I know a handful of artists that they only put out toxic stuff online and they're incredible artists. And I would like to work with them, but I definitely make sure I go into those kinds of relationships knowing that, and it would have to be a special project, but that wouldn't be probably someone I would hire full time though.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, that's basically what I'm talking about is the, if someone doesn't have the chops and they have a toxic social media presence, then there's no reason to hire them. But there are people out there that are insanely talented but have that sort of very negative sort of online presence. And in my experience, just the things the studio owners say when the microphone stops recording, most of the time, you kind of get what you expect when you work with people that. And some people are okay with that. I'm sure there's creative directors out there that sort of, they tolerate it and they say, you know what, that's the price of getting that level of work from that person, I'm willing to put up with it. And it just depends on the culture of your studio or your company. I mean, at School of Motion, we don't really tolerate that, but I don't know, maybe there's a way to make that work, to funnel that energy into positive.
Seth Eckert:
Maybe there's just a studio out there that's only negative, but they push out crazy good visuals maybe that's just what it is.
Joey Korenman:
Right, that'll be a different podcast episode. I want to talk about this COVID piece that you spearheaded, because first of all, it's just gorgeous. And as soon as I saw it, I shared it with everyone on the team and I was like, "Okay." Generally, once, twice, three times a year, something comes out and that's the thing everyone talks about for the next three months. Like, "Okay, that piece just sort of redefined the way this style is done now." And I was, "Okay, this is a candidate. This is definitely a candidate for this." It's beautiful, it's a dream team, it's a great message. So we're going to link to it in the show notes, everyone go watch it, there's kind of a super cut and then there's individual sort of looping pieces and it's just kind of a really neat project. So I would love to hear the story of how this came to be and why you decided to do it.
Seth Eckert:
Yeah, well, first off thank you so much for your kind words, that means a lot. I know, especially with the team that we worked with, what a group of rock stars. I guess first I could speak to the nature of that. So initially, we just kind of saw this COVID stuff out in the world. And I mean, here, a lot of people that I knew just seemingly just were not informed, not that they were actively ignoring guidance or things like that. They're aware that there's a virus, but it seemed like there was just a lack of general knowledge. And then also, as we did, I personally, stuff like this, you got to invest the time and learn about it to keep yourself safe. So I would spend time reading about the CDC, and even in our business, I do, weekly and biweekly updates on how the virus is affecting our area, just to keep people informed.
Seth Eckert:
And as we were kind of stepping through all that, we were just getting frustrated that it seemed the message wasn't getting reached, some people weren't getting reached by this message. So we thought, "Okay, what if we did a project where we set out a goal to have some very simple facts or things that are backed up factually, at the time?" I think some of the stuff that we pushed out, I think even over the course of the project, information changed. Fauci said, "We're going to adapt over time to this virus." So we were using that kind of thought, but also trying to pick stuff that was probably going to live on, things like stigma. People don't like Asian people because of COVID, that's an actual thing that exists. That, to me, is infuriating, that shouldn't be a thing. And people need to know about that, nobody knows about that.
Seth Eckert:
So we were thinking, okay, well, let's try to get some messaging that maybe doesn't have the core stuff, washing your hands, and wearing a mask, that message was out there everywhere. So we thought, "Hey, let's try and supplement that message in a beautiful way. That can be pretty exciting." So the goal was just to create some visuals and we thought, "Okay, let's design a project, we'll do some style frames that exhibit some stuff that we've been trying and testing." So we also had with the goal of raising awareness about COVID-19, hoping to feel hope through clear, concise messaging and then at the end of the day, share factual information in a beautiful way that will be easy for other people to share.
Seth Eckert:
So we wanted to have a tone that was calm, reassuring fact-based and then set it up in a format in a way in which people could share it wherever they wanted. So that would be they could share it on YouTube, they could share on Instagram, which, with current deliverables, I'm sure a lot of people see, people are asking for let's get that 16 by 9, 9 by 16, one by one, 4K, all the things. So we thought, "Hey, let's use this as another trial run to kind of expand upon that as something that we do on the day to day seemingly."
Joey Korenman:
Right, so how did you get so many people involved? I mean, the credit list is just crazy. I mean, ordinary folk worked on it, Tom Redfern, Ericka Gorochow, Christina Young, I mean, Allen Laseter, it's just this endless list. Ello worked on it. So how do you get people to say, because I'm assuming you didn't pay.
Seth Eckert:
Well, yeah, I wish we could have paid. We did a collaboration project back in 2016 or something where we paid everybody for a day's worth of work, it was awesome because we didn't have something like this to leverage but it's not that we're using this virus for our own purposes to work with people. But we thought of this as a great opportunity to share a message that might actually, what if it changed one person's life and they learned one fact and it did ultimately stop someone from getting the virus that would have died? We thought there's real impact to the message here that's important. That's the kind of business that we've run, we want to do stuff like this all the time. We've gotten to work for a couple of nonprofits, so the fulfillment and the payoff is really in the end work.
Seth Eckert:
So we wanted to set it up in a way that creatively wasn't a super heavy-lift but it felt like it could be something that might be a little bit different than what we've seen out there a lot. So we reached out to a bunch of people. I mean, I'll be honest, it's been a strange year where we haven't gotten the time to get to work with a lot of people and we thought, "Hey, let's do this project and let's reach out to as many creatives as we can and see if they'd like to join." So initially we thought maybe two or three people will say yes and we'll have a small team for this.
Seth Eckert:
Ultimately, almost everyone said yes and I was like, "Oh my God, how are we going to manage all of this?" Because initially, we thought we set up this really fun style where we're like, "Yeah, we're going to get to animate and design like four or five of these scenes, it's going to be great." Lo and behold, we had so many people that said yes, that we thought, okay, we can break this up to where every person has one role and one shot and it was very exciting. And beyond that too, we've been trying to do this new idea where I feel like especially with there being so many small studios popping up everywhere that, for us, studio collaboration feels like our greater thing.
Seth Eckert:
So we thought why not reach out to some studios as well and see if they want to jam on this with us. So we'd head up Ordinary Folk, I know we've got some fun relationship with the team there and they were super stoked about it, which was huge and then also Ello, which I loved those guys, they said yes too which I thought I was like, I can't believe they said yes, this is amazing. So it was really interesting, just a lot of people were all about it. And I think honestly, a lot of these people also had similar views. A lot of people wanted to get positive messaging out there about this virus to help potentially save lives so it was cool in that regards. Everybody seemingly had the same excitement about the core value of the project that we did.
Joey Korenman:
How did you get such a consistent look and feel with 25, or 30 or more artists working on this all across the globe? I mean, as a reel, I mean, it looks like one studio made it, the design, the colors, the animation style, all of it is cohesive, so how was that possible?
Seth Eckert:
Yeah, gosh, I appreciate that, that means a lot. I think honestly, the setting up of the format I think I invested a ridiculous amount of time in that so we set up a style frame that was basically, we picked a frame that we knew would be simple because we knew everybody was going to be bringing different talents to the table. So we thought, okay, if we set up a style that has some basic design rules and then we build this frame, simplistically, everyone will be able to bring their spice and take this to another level. So I don't know if you can link or not this thing but I'll send you this. Basically, it just shows the same style frame and a couple of different color variants, the text kind of moves around on screen. It's not innovative or groundbreaking stuff but the idea behind having a foundation that was a little bit more simplistic gave room for people to expand upon.
Seth Eckert:
And then in that we also created just a... where were you in thought? A color palette sheets where it kind of shows color by scale and use. So we had some specific direction, we had the format, we wanted objects to stay, the subject matter to say center screen. And then we also had tips on how to leverage adjustment layers and blurs and things because we take this very flat geometric style but we also wanted to have a depth to it. So we had this rough reference frame, I think it was from Guardians of the Galaxy. I don't know if y'all have seen that but the skull of the, whatever that God-like feature was, God, I'm blanking on what's called.
Seth Eckert:
Anyway, all around him is this cloud of material, cloud of space stuff. And you kind of see how it's your main subject is encompassed with almost like distortion in front and clouds in the front and it's also got it in the backs, this idea of blending those subject matter into your environment was another piece of the puzzle that we kind of threw into this and then just basic rules, like don't overuse gradients stuff like that. So, and then when it came to motion and consistency there, we also knew everybody is very different, I know Andrew Vuko helped, he's got the most refined style, when you see his working, you know it's him. So I was thinking we have guys like that that are very refined in the ways in which they work and function and how it's going to look and then we've also got the other end of the spectrum people that are cell animators. So it was like, how can we bridge that gap?
Seth Eckert:
So we gave some basic references and then kind of an archive of additional references that we kind of felt were in the same role and case. And then just kind of setting the rules for the length of it being at seven and a half seconds. Logic behind that was, we were hoping to push and promote this mostly on Instagram and with their storylines being 15 seconds, seven and a half seconds is half of that. So we thought we didn't want to have everybody do a 15-second loop that's really long. So we thought, "Hey, let's just do seven and a half and then that will fit the looping structure."
Seth Eckert:
So everything had to loop that was another challenge that I think added some cohesion as well because it gave in and out points for each shot so as you tap through them, or change the story, and even I know for Antfood when they did the audio, I think for them when everything is edited to a click track, everything loops at a certain specific moment, it was crazy full how they gave us this modular set of audio, where I could use literally almost any clip that they gave us and it would align to the visuals, it was really, really cool to see when it all came together at the end.
Seth Eckert:
So all of those pieces and that the foundation of it, I think ultimately were what helped have more cohesion, but ultimately, we also did a full pass internally of almost everyone's file and then tried to limit directional notes to being specific to not our own taste but just basically realignment to the core values that we had set. So it was more or less we were just kind of guiding the ship rather than doing much of the heavy lifting and gosh, I mean, the talent on the team of people, everybody. There wasn't one frame that came back that worked that someone did that, I was like, "That's not good." I was like, "Wow, this is incredible like that." And then the fact that people were spending so much time, we kind of added all the hours together estimated about 400 hours from the whole team of investing in this.
Seth Eckert:
So I was like, man, it's just huge that these people were willing to give their talents to a cause like this. Ultimately, our hope out of this, as well as that, not that The Furrow gets elevated by this but people will see the talent that these people exhibit and it'll hopefully be a piece that they can share and maybe get new work and jobs that are in that space. Because I know for us, we do so much character-based work for us, this was a fun change of pace to get to do something that wasn't character-based.
Joey Korenman:
Yeah, well, it's pretty amazing how cohesive the whole thing is, considering how many different people worked on it. And it was funny because when I watched it, I didn't even know Vuko had worked on it yet and the shot that he did, I was like, "I bet Vuko did that, you could tell." It's the way stuff drifts when he animates it, it's like it drifts.
Seth Eckert:
He's so good.
Joey Korenman:
He's pretty good. So yeah, so wheeling to that, wheeling to the piece, I would also recommend everyone go on Instagram and look at the pieces there because I mean, it was really, I think, pretty genius to engineer this project so that it could be shared basically anywhere anybody wants to share it. Do you have any sense of how widespread it's gone? How many people have shared it, how many views it's gotten? Has it been successful in terms of having the reach that you hoped for?
Seth Eckert:
Let me real quickly find screenshot here. See, yeah, across platforms and posts we've driven. This is a week out, we had seen 59,712 views, 6,966 likes and then 2,270 shares/reshares. So keep in mind that these stats feel inflated because they're across the breadth of videos, posts and shares. And then 5%-10% of what we saw was actually outside of our industry, which we felt popping that bubble anytime you can is huge so we were most excited probably about that. But to us, we felt like within the first week that those were the statistics that I know a lot of that is probably us getting excited about the creative but our hope is that the messaging maybe reached a pretty large audience. So to us, we felt like we hit those goals that we had outlined at the start of the project which was pretty exciting.
Joey Korenman:
That's awesome, I know that the intent behind this was not, let's do something so we can raise our profile as a studio, but of course, if you're going to invest this much time and effort and everyone involved is probably hoping that a lot of people look at it and like it. And so, I'm glad to hear that it works out because I mean, it's one of the hardest things to do as a studio is to figure out how to pull away some resources and some time to do things for free. And now you've got this style that doesn't really look like a lot of your other work and so now you've got this new thing you can show potential clients. So congratulations on it and how it turned out, it really is amazing.
Joey Korenman:
And I know we're going to be doing some more content around this piece at School of Motion. So hopefully, everybody listening if you're curious about how some of this was executed we're going to have some articles and some stuff coming out. So Seth, the last thing I wanted to ask you, I mean, I guess it's kind of fitting you just completed this massive piece about COVID-19. And COVID-19, who the heck knows what life will be like in a year, we kind of all going to be walking around in masks forever, God, I hope not. Are we all going to be working remotely forever? I mean, it's just caused everybody, myself included, to sort of reevaluate, all right, what's important here, what are my goals? What is the point of all of this? So as someone who's running a studio, it's successful, it's this great model where it can be lean but scale, how has this changed your perspective and your thinking, have your goals change, I'd like to just kind of hear about where you're at right now.
Seth Eckert:
Totally, baseline business goals have never really changed. We're currently aiming to grow our team and reach more clientele, hopefully, within that time of year but the pandemic definitely did slow things. I know the stimulus that the government gave out, we were able to capitalize on. I know that was a very scary and interesting time especially as I spoke with a lot of other studio owners, just like what that will do to business, there were lots of fears that the world is ending kind of vibe. But ultimately, I think like in any kind of pandemic, that's probably the feeling that everybody mutually kind of has, but I mean, there's been a shift in the ways in which work feels like it's being done, I know there's new stresses, new challenges. I mean, working from home, I feel like I never leave work.
Seth Eckert:
Basically, I go to work in my basement here and then leave here and then spend time with my family and the same house and then do it again tomorrow. So that in itself has had probably additional stress, not only to myself but also I know our team as well with the ways in which schools have been closing and things has been a challenge. I know our team, our producer, Janet, her children are older so having to administer NTI to them is something that's a challenge, we've seen that on our client-side as well. There's been conversations around how hard it has become for lots of people because you're now not only a parent but you're also a teacher, you're filling all these roles that you didn't previously have to fill. And there's just new fears and new challenges that exist externally, I feel like we all know what those are.
Seth Eckert:
But as it relates to business we found working remote, working from home is doable. I know we talked on this earlier in the podcast. It's something that I'm not against by any means, but it is something that we hope not to do because it's exciting to be in the same place with the people in which you work with. And I know, we've even had socially distanced Furrow parties, we got all the kids together and spent a lot of time outside. It's been 91 degrees, we were sweating but it was fun just to get to see people face to face again.
Seth Eckert:
So I think if anything, the only thing that's probably changed, is that there's been a drive to be more organized than previously before, whereas we could kind of willy-nilly pop in each other's offices and say, "Hey, can you look at this? We need to talk about this." Whereas now we're working on this, this and this where we kind of autonomously working it's like we got to meet on these, will you schedule some time for this. And then we're trying to work around multiple schedules. So it's definitely slowed workflows as far as maybe potentially on ramping fines and things like that.
Seth Eckert:
But yeah, it's been interesting to say the least. So I'm hoping that the pandemic will slow, in that things will reopen. And I think quite honestly if America can get their act together and start driving down these numbers, I'm hopeful that things can change but it's interesting, we're in a weird political climate right now where it's seemingly there's lots of misinformation. My hope is that people will do their own due diligence to learn from sources that are reputable. And hopefully, if we can all do this together, I think we can get out of it sooner.