Controversy and Creativity with Will Johnson, Gentleman Scholar, on the SOM Podcast
Creative Innovator Will Johnson on Gentleman Scholar and the World of Motion Design
“Artists on great projects,” Will replied:
Show their work to peers
Involve people they respect, whose opinions they share core values with
Really go for it/Don’t half-ass it
Then, he added, “It’s an all-or-nothing industry and you have to prove your worth.”
As our founder, CEO and Podcast host Joey Korenman explains, “Some artists resonated with the hustle-hard mentality that the shortened quote seemed to endorse. But others thought that this is a dangerous message — that it’s asking artists to sacrifice everything for their work.”
Regarding the quote debacle, Will clarifies his position — and (queue the Twitter fingers) stands by it.
Let the controversy continue!
“I think we all work hard, right? Everybody in this industry works really hard. We’re all honing our craft. Like we’re all creatives, our brains, even if it doesn’t hit the paper or the page of the screen, are working constantly.” – Will Johnson, Gentleman Scholar
On Gentleman Scholar
Will Johnson on the School of Motion Podcast
Show Notes from Episode 78 of the School of Motion Podcast, Featuring Will Johnson
The Transcript from Will Johnson’s Interview with Joey Korenman of SOM
Joey Korenman: I almost feel like I should give you a slight trigger warning for this episode of the podcast. My guest today is Will Johnson from Gentleman Scholar, one of the top studios in Motion design. If you’re unfamiliar with their work, take a minute head over to gentlemanscholar.com and gawk at it. The team over there is filled with heavy hitters, and that alone would be reason enough for me to want to pick the brain of one of the studio’s co-founders.
Joey Korenman: However, there’s actually a little more to the story of how this episode came about. Now, during the conversation I do explain in detail what happened to spur this interview into existence. But in short, School of Motion posted a piece of a quote from Will on social media. We messed up and pulled a part of the quote that without context didn’t really match what Will was saying, and some folks on Twitter were, no surprise, unhappy. The short version of the quote, which lacked all context was, “It’s an all or nothing industry. And you have to prove your worth.”
Joey Korenman: Some artists resonated with the hustle hard mentality that the shortened quote seemed to endorse. But others thought that this is a dangerous message, that it’s asking artists to sacrifice everything for their work. So Will offered to come on the podcast to clarify what he really meant. And also to stand by the statement, which made me really happy. Because I have a very similar philosophy about work in general and what it takes to build any kind of business that can compete at a high level the way Gentleman Scholar does.
Joey Korenman: There’s nuance involved, of course, and we talked about that, but Will and I do not hold back our opinions in this episode, and we do get into some tricky questions. Also, you’ll learn a lot about how Gentleman Scholar managed to get off the ground and to thrive in a very competitive LA market. Will is hilarious and really honest, and I hope this conversation gets you thinking. You might not agree with some of the ideas that Will and I expressed in this episode, but that’s okay. And probably healthy. And I think that this is a debate that our industry will be grappling with forever.
Joey Korenman: So you might as well think about it a little bit. All right, let’s get into it. Right after we hear from one of our school Motion alumni.
Cash: I started a few years ago dabbling with After Effects on and off and looking at tutorials on YouTube and kind of just learning tutorials. And what I found with those courses was I know how to use techniques. But I don’t know anything about animation principles or a lot about the Motion industry. So with School of Motion, I learned a lot about studios and different people coming from different backgrounds and learning techniques of not just any software, but also thinking about how to approach Motion on a bigger level. Yeah, my name is Cash and I’m a School of Motion alumni.
Joey Korenman: All right. Will, from Gentleman Scholar. It’s amazing to have you on the podcast really. Thank you for doing this. So early too on the west coast.
Will Johnson: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It’s an absolute pleasure.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. And I know because you told me there’s only coffee in that cup. Nothing else.
Will Johnson: Some of the folks around here would think otherwise. But yeah, no, just coffee this morning.
Joey Korenman: So, we’ve got a lot to talk about. But I do want to talk about your studio briefly. I bet a lot of people listening are familiar with you and your studios work because you’ve been around for I think, nearly a decade and you’ve done some really crazy stuff. I was actually just watching that old John Malkovich piece you guys did because I remember when that came out, thinking how cool that was. But one thing I’ve always loved about your studio is the name, Gentleman Scholar, for some reason that quote that, “You’re a gentleman, you’re a scholar,” that’s always stuck with me. I’m curious. Why did you pick that name for your studio?
Will Johnson: Well, I think, kind of naming a company or naming a studio is always such a hard thing because you’re like, “Well, I want to name it something that’s cool now, but I also wanted to be cool in 10 years, I want something that has a little bit of longevity or something.” And you also run into this, like, how do you stand out above the crowd? And I think Will Campbell actually had made a really nice quote, a long time ago, he talked about how it was kind of a response to these other kind of flash in the pan names.
Will Johnson: It was definitely a response to the industry when we started in 2010, where it was like, “Wow,” it was a little bit of a tough time, a little bit of the recession coming out of that, and we were like, “You know what, we just want something that last we want something kind of like that quote, kid, Gentleman Scholar,” felt like it had this like, kind of fresh vibe, but also kind of an old time vibe to it as well. And I think there’s a little bit of this like family environment that we have over here too, it feels kind of like we’re all collected together as scholars kind of trying to save whatever piece of whatever we can find.
Will Johnson: So it’s a lot of those types of things kind of combined into one, lot of collaborative efforts over on the side, and I found out later, fun fact, after the naming of everything, I went away, and my family kind of gathered around, like, “You know that we have a quote over here. It’s you are a gentleman and a scholar and your generosity is only overcome by your extreme good looks.” And it wasn’t until later that I kind of, I’ve heard that and I was like, “Oh, well then I guess it was meant to be.” So that’s kind of where we all started.
Joey Korenman: Oh, that’s really cool. Okay, so I found a quote, I did my homework on you and the other Will, and just for everyone listening, I’ve never met will before, but every time someone mentions him, it’s also with his co founder, Will Campbell, and everybody just calls you guys the Wills, which I thought was really funny.
Will Johnson: That is true. That is true.
Joey Korenman: But I found an interview. I think it was from a while ago, Little Black Book was the website and I think we’ll see, had this quote, he said, “Truth be told the name was a response to other companies, and our experience in the industry. We knew if we were to start our own studio, we would class it up a bit, introduce more of a family environment and create a place where people are inspired to do great work,” and that lines up exactly with what you just said. But I’m curious because there was that part in there about it was a response to other companies and our experience in the industry, and before starting Gentleman Scholar, you and I’m assuming Will Campbell also worked for other studios, and I’m curious, what are the things that you decided to do differently?
Will Johnson: I think that there were just a few, I mean, going back to the name alone, we liked the idea of Gentleman Scholar had this kind of age looseness to it, and we were young, I mean, you go back to 2010 we were, we were kind of kids still navigating our way through everything. So I think we wanted to come across as he’s like, scholars, and we’re confident, we kind of understand things even though, we didn’t necessarily.
Will Johnson: And then the other part of that is that response are kind of things that we wanted to try a little different. We were just really into this kind of like collaborative, all hands on deck. We’re all in it together mentality, and I think that we really wanted to take care of freelancers, and our folks and we’ve been very careful about the artists that we’ve kind of crafted or selected or paired and partnered ourselves with, and so it was kind of a little bit of this selfish like, “We just want to have fun,” mentality that then translated I think, into the people that we surrounded ourselves, had a lot of the same either ethos or work ethic, or talent that we were looking for. So kind of that’s really where it all started and then you know, the rest is kind of history, I guess.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So what you just described sort of this like band of like minded artists coming together with similar ethos and work ethics. It almost sounds like you were trying to build something that in response to things you’d experience previously, so were there things at other studios, and don’t name names or anything but I am always curious like, because I looked on your LinkedIn and I saw the studio’s you’ve for and if you get on mograph.net back in the day, I mean, you would hear sometimes some studios, they’ll have a culture of everybody stays until midnight every single night. And then some studios have reputation for abusing freelancers and paying them 60 days late. So I’m just curious if you had any experiences like that, that sort of shaped what your studio ended up being like.
Will Johnson: I mean, we did but not in those kind of ways. I think some of it was just self induced, some of the late nights were really just self induced, and Will Campbell, myself, with Kevin Lau, who’s one of the owners over Timber, we worked really hard together and super fast back in the day and we just poured ourselves into everything. And I think it wasn’t a reflection of the company as much as it was, we kind of just enjoyed being around each other.
Will Johnson: So I think that helped a lot. And then from there, some of the other companies that we went to, we would pull really amazing things. We saw the culture over at tie up, and we loved the way that everybody gathered together to go have a drink after work or kind of just be around each other. So a lot of that stuff, I think, in our experiences, the negativity or anything that might have been that kind of like, “Break off, we’re going to do this crazy different,” were things that we would hear not necessarily a lot of stuff that we would experience on our side.
Will Johnson: So we were pretty lucky in that, I know that there’s been a lot of kind of horror stories or people who’ve had experiences or they’ve just been totally beaten up. And I think that the beating up that maybe happened was us just wanting to learn and dive deeper and kind of discover more about ourselves unless about somebody kind of writing us and being like some kind of whip or hitting us with anything, it was just like we were in it for ourselves.
Joey Korenman: Got it. Okay, we’re going to come back to the [crosstalk 00:10:50], it’s an important point that you just made. So want I want to learn a little bit more about Gentleman Scholar and I was looking through your portfolio all week. And going back through your Vimeo, like back into the early, early days. And one of the things that strikes me about your studio is there’s so many amazing studios now, it’s like, it’s hard to keep track of them all. But I would say that most of them have something approaching a house style, like there’s always diversity in the way work looks.
Joey Korenman: But some people are really good at a thing. And then they get, there’s like this reinforcing feedback loop where they’re good at a thing. So clients come to them for that thing. So they do more of that thing. And your website and your work is so diverse it’s like, it looks like 50 different companies worked on it. It’s almost hard for me to imagine and there’s other companies like that. I mean, I would say Big Star and Sarofsky and places like that, Imaginary Forces. I mean, there’s just all these different looks and I’m always curious, like, how do you pull that off and why don’t we start with, how do you get clients to let you do all that because isn’t it the chicken and the egg thing, if it’s not in your portfolio, they won’t hire you to do it, right? Or is there a secret that you know
Will Johnson: Oh, no secrets. I wish if you knew a secret or if you know anybody who has.
Joey Korenman: Blackmail.
Will Johnson: Yeah. That’s kind of the golden ticket. Yeah. I mean, you’re right. It is a lot of different work and I can kind of like navigate myself there. But I think the big thing was we take risks. It’s almost that like, early days, you brought up the John Malkovich piece a little while ago, one of the first pieces that we did at GS like a long time ago, and it was something that just kind of came across the table, we saw it as an opportunity. And we jumped at it and it kind of was a series of those types of things where a project would come in, or we’d hear of something even to a point and in the chicken or the egg kind of conversation was, we knew we needed to make stuff in order to kind of go and get this stuff.
Will Johnson: We didn’t take over a big portfolio of anything when we started. We kind of just started from scratch. We kind of had a couple projects that we had done and some clients that we had worked with who were like, “Yeah, they’re fine guys. They’re Gentleman. I don’t know if they’re scholars yet, but maybe.” And so, we would just do things in house, we’d push things out, we’d push things out, we would just be the loudest people in the room, we would go to parties, we would just, basically felt like we were in some kind of like candidate race where we would just be everywhere that everybody wanted to be like, “Hey, we’re here. We’re here. We’re here.”
Will Johnson: So it started a lot with that, and then portfolio wise, kind of transitioned into this, like, we have never been both, Will Campbell and myself have never been the type of people who have a distinct style. I think we both like so many different things. I always kind of chalk it up to my own “ADHD, stylistic ADHD,” where I’m just like, “I like everything. I want to try this. Now, I want to try this. Let’s try this.”
Will Johnson: And from there, it all kind of blossomed into the artists that we have and kind of the family that we have, where it is, it’s just a bunch of people who’ve liked to make things and maybe don’t have a specific style, maybe do but are also into learning beyond you, it’s like those type of people where it’s like you’re a fantastic illustrator, but you also want to learn 3D, it’s like then come on in, the water’s fine.
Will Johnson: So I think it’s, that’s kind of how we got this crazy range of work. But going after the work was definitely that like, got to kind of make something in house and prove that you got it just like you said.
Joey Korenman: Cool. And so one of the things you kind of like just glossed over really quickly, I want to point out as you said, we would go to parties, and you were trying to get work inside the studio. Like, what do you mean, like, I assumed it was just like random house parties in LA or something like PromaxBDA is that kind of thing?
Will Johnson: Right, right, right, it would be AICPs, PromaxBDA, occasionally, house parties, sometimes that works, I don’t know. But knock it, but yeah, it was definitely more of like the circuit. Get ourself to New York, we’d try and find where agencies would be, invite people out to lunches and dinners and kind of just be like the loudest, like I said, like, just make some noise, squeaky wheel. Right?
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So I think a lot of people listening are kind of grimacing right now, because the like, and I’ll tell you why, like finding where the agencies were hanging out, going to, like basically hang out at parties with agency folk and kind of try and drum up some business. I think a lot of artists are just terrified of that. That’s like, just so opposite what most people would rather be doing. And so I’m curious, like, are you and Will Campbell built for that world? Or did you have to just force yourself to be uncomfortable and go do that thing.
Will Johnson: Oh, that’s funny. That’s a great question. I would say, if you were to ask Will Campbell, his answer will be 100% different than mine. But I’m going to speak for him, so sorry, Will. I think the big thing, we’re kind of built for it and kind of not, like I love being thrown in the fire, I love improv, I love being loud, if you ask anybody over here, when I’m not in the office people are probably like, “A breath of fresh air.” I get to actually think and put my headphones on, whereas Campbell is just a really smart, he’s really technical, absolutely talented, and we kind of combined this loud mouth of myself with this very like strategic thinking side of him into this like forced, “We got to get ourselves to parties.”
Will Johnson: So it was absolutely this introvert extrovert combination that we built together that then we forced to go. So that it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and most people don’t have split personalities like we get to have. But it takes time. It takes some effort to push yourself to go to a party and hang out with a bunch of people, especially as an artist, I think that I can completely understand.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I mean, I remember what, I ran a studio for four years in Boston and that’s where I learned to do the Dog and Pony Show and take clients out to lunch and things like that. And it did not come naturally to me at all. It was very, very, very scary. And I wanted to kind of call that out for everybody because that’s something that kind of gets lost a lot of times, when you see a successful studio, and it looks like everything’s just kind of cruising along, at the beginning, there’s always this really awkward puberty where no one’s heard of you and you have to like basically buy people lunch in order for them to talk to you and stuff like that.
Will Johnson: That is so true. And no matter how much of an extrovert you think that you are, the minute that you kind of go outside and start to play with other people, you’re like, “Wait a minute, I still am an artist, and I’m still really weird.” And I think that that’s okay. I think that just to speak on that for a second that, I think it’s okay to be weird. I think a lot of it was like embracing our weirdness and our awkwardness and it’s still knowing that you have something to offer a conversation no matter how or who you’re talking to, you still will have people’s attention, when you do go to a party or you go to a meeting, you’re there because you’ve made something that interests people or that you’re trying to make something that interests people.
Will Johnson: And we’re all trying to speak to people in general. So how you do it, or how it comes across, I think that’s kind of the biggest thing. And I’m sure we’ll get into more of the work ethic stuff, but I do know that a lot of it is just that, get back up on the horse, get back on the horse. And that works for us just as a kind of a personal side note. That kind of like we had each other to be like, “I don’t really want to do this. Come on, we got to do it. All right, let’s do it.” Versus that inner monologue of, “How the heck do I do this?”
Joey Korenman: Right, right. And it’s easy to talk yourself out of it if it’s just you. So that’s really great that there was another Will that you could lean on.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So let’s talk about your team, you’ve kind of mentioned, and this is fascinating to me too, because the past several months, I’ve interviewed a lot of studio owners, and there seems to be this common thread with studios like yours that have this very wide range of styles that they’re capable of executing, where the core team is this just stable of absolute killer generalists, and just this like random assortment of designer/3D modelers, animator/stop Motion, and then you can sort of supplement that with freelance specialists.
Joey Korenman: Now, is that your setup? And then as the follow up is, how do you attract such amazing talent to your company? Because your company’s big now. I mean, I looked on your page, and I think there’s like 40 plus people in there. How do you attract that?
Will Johnson: Yeah, that’s a great question. We used to do it with beer pong parties. Yeah. So that was one way. But that ultimately transitioned into us going out and kind of like finding people where we stay, we kind of hit the streets, we go to schools, I think just, and the work too, that’s the biggest thing. Beer pong obviously being a joke, the work is really kind of what has got us as much as we can get as far as like the artists coming out of school noticing us and then just trying to be really nice people. I don’t know if that necessarily answers the question. I kind of lost the thread there for a second.
Joey Korenman: Well, let me put it this way. Do you have to compete for talent the same way you have to compete for work?
Will Johnson: We do. We definitely do. I think, and then to kind of go back to your first question. We absolutely have kind of the same range of killer generalists that you’d mentioned before. I think that that’s kind of it. We have a bunch of people here who are just really talented and I think the biggest threat is that they all want to keep learning. I think that’s the biggest thing, at least on our side is everybody here, kind of tackles something and then they see somebody else doing and they’re like, “That’s really cool.” And I think that that’s where we started to, the type of work the type of people, the type of clients, the type of agencies that we would work with, were the type of people who were like, yes, and you know.
Will Johnson: And I think attracting that has been tough just in that it’s, you think that, “Okay cool, like people coming out of school or people in the industry like to do that,” there’s a little bit of an ease and being able to kind of be as a specialist, obviously, the talent and by no means by taking anything away from anybody. But the talent that goes into being able to kind of dive in and change your brain, like this giant lever that’s being pulled, I was making a bunch of our Motions over here of how heavy that lever is.
Will Johnson: But it’s tough to attract that talent because a lot of studios are looking for it. A lot of the talented studios out there, the folks that we’ve looked up to for 10 years are also looking at all these killer generalists and saying, “We want them on our team.” As far as trying to attract those folks, I think we’ve just tried to make a place that’s kind of fun and engaging and that we can really give them that education or give them the opportunity to keep learning or sit in a room and have a voice and that’s really helped us a lot.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I mean, that’s definitely been a common thread with a lot of the studio owners I’ve talked to and something I didn’t realize until recently, I guess it’s just that the key to having a great studio is having a great team and that takes a ton of work. It’s not easy. It’s not just like pay a high enough salary and they will come, you have to do a lot of other things, and for what it’s worth, a few of our team have actually worked with you guys and they say that you have one of the coolest offices, which I’m sure [crosstalk 00:22:45].
Will Johnson: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Appreciate that.
Joey Korenman: Found this amazing quote from Motionographer post dated October 30th, 2010. And it was from Justin, and he said, “Put this on your radar and track it,” William Campbell, Will Johnson and Rob Sanborn launch Gentleman Scholar, we predict big things.” And there were actually a couple of comments on there too. Like, “Oh, this looks great.” So I know, it’s probably weird to hear that that quote, but obviously, you guys have done very well, and you’ve grown pretty big.
Joey Korenman: And now you’re bi-coastal, you have a New York office also. And in that same time period, there’s been lots of studios that have failed to grow, or they’ve even declined, or they’ve closed over the same time span. And so, I’m just curious if you have any insights, what’s helped you and the Gentleman Scholar team not just sort of survive for almost 10 years, but also grow and succeed.
Will Johnson: That’s another great question. It’s also so fun to go back and hear a quote like that. It’s just feels like, “Wow, 10 years almost, that’s crazy.” I think a lot of it is that we’re always kind of looking into what can we do next. I think that you’ve got a little bit of this, like the risk taking collaboration combination from us, at least on our side, we’ve been, that’s kind of been the core of what we do. When we get downtime, we sit down, we make another project we were like, “What’s the next thing? What’s the next thing?”
Will Johnson: Whether it’s tech, we got a little bit into AR/VR for a while, when that like first came out, were like, “Let’s make a internal project.” And the team made like a little illustration that transformed into a narrative that transformed into an entire, like VR world. So it’s always those types of things, we are always kind of following these creative threads on our side.
Will Johnson: And I think that we work really hard. I know we’re going to get into that a little bit. But we work really hard, whether it’s at going to parties or we go to and by parties, it’s like whether it’s how we talk to people or go out into the world and make ourselves known, but also just in the type of work that we do. There’s a lot of ourselves kind of hidden in that work. And that’s kind of, maybe that’s part of the risk that I’m talking about is when you pour yourself out into the world, you’re kind of taking a risk by saying, “Hey, world, here I am, this is me, this is my personality, this is all this stuff.”
Will Johnson: And you kind of hope that the world responds in a positive way. So I think it’s a tough question to say, these are all the kind of the magic things we’ve done. But I think for us, it’s definitely been a learning process for sure.
Joey Korenman: You’ve said the word risk a few times. And I kind of want to ask you about that before we get into, I think this will be like a good segue into the next topic. Starting a studio is a risky endeavor for anybody, like it’s just not a guarantee that it’s going to work. And I having, like, tried it, I know firsthand that there’s so much pressure once it kind of starts working to just not screw it up.
Joey Korenman: And so when you say, we take risks, I’m wondering if you just elaborate a little bit more. I mean, you said that obviously you’re taking creative risks, and making things that maybe people will think are weird or not good or whatever. But like just be concrete about it, what is the risk you’re taking like the you can do something and blow a bunch of money, and then all your clients get mad at you and the studio closes, like is that, when you say, we take risks, is that what you mean in some way?
Will Johnson: I think it’s a little bit of that, it’s kind of a two fold. I think there’s a little bit of that. And I think that there’s also I think, maybe it’s that kind of energy risk. You bring in a bunch of artists, you kind of surround yourself with people, like minded people. So let me think on that for a sec, because risk is, we use that word a lot here, risk is kind of a word we throw around here and that we challenge ourselves and maybe challenge is a better word than risk. We take a lot of challenges where we will basically sit in a room and we’ll look and we’ll say, “Okay, where is the world headed? What are we going to do to kind of define our role and where the world is headed?”
Will Johnson: So I think the risk that we’re kind of talking about is that we are going to stick a foot out there, and we’re going to take a step and we may be headed the wrong direction, whether it’s like a creative kind of our technological kind of direction or something like that. So, I think for us, it was like, the risk is really this kind of one foot in front of the other, are we headed the right way? How much can we really re-navigate or recalibrate ourselves especially when you start getting a little bit bigger, it’s really easy when it’s three people in a room, like, “Oh, cool, easy pack your bags up, let’s go to the next room.” But when you have 40 people like you’re talking about now, you have to be really thoughtful of are we getting the right types of work, and so those risks and types of projects that we bring or look for that’s the challenge now is really kind of pushing ourselves into that world.
Joey Korenman: I think that like as an owner, you sometimes you almost get like, immune to it a little bit, not realizing that, and the great thing is to, that Gentleman Scholar is now I assume, in a place where there’s way less danger of the whole thing exploding on a moment’s notice, in the first year or two, that is real, right, and so taking risks during that period can pay off down the road, but it’s also much, much, much scarier. And you kind of have to have the stomach for it if your goal is to start a studio that’s going to last a decade plus and do amazing work, sometimes you really do have to like go all in you know, in bet the-
Will Johnson: Yeah, for sure. I think you’re right, I mean, the risk is the going all in, it’s the pushing yourself and kind of putting yourself out there and telling these people like, “Hey, this is what we do.” And I think that the risk and the air quotes again on this side was that we didn’t have a ton of experience in the industry. We weren’t seasoned veterans by any stretch of the imagination, we were still kind of figuring ourselves out too, what kind of style do you want to do? Are we going to grow? How fast, like all those types of things, what type of artists do we want to surround ourselves with?
Will Johnson: And so I think that like, a lot of it was the scary stuff of, if we do this project, if you say this word, if you put this PDF together or decide not to take on a project, is that going to sink yet? Like is that going to make you kind of move to whatever bottom of whatever list or into the unknown? So I think a lot of those types of risks, right? Or don’t even think about them anymore. It’s just kind of the second nature of things. But in the early days, it definitely was something that we thought about a lot going into every single conversation.
Joey Korenman: All right, so let’s get into the reason that this interview is happening today. And I’m going to kind of set this up for everyone listening, because I’m assuming most people probably missed this and don’t even know what the thing. So there was a little bit of a Twitter controversy, a very small one actually, I’ve been in a few and this is a minor one. But okay, so the catalyst was this back in 2018, School Motion put together an E-book, it was called Experiment, Fail, Repeat. What we did was we reached out to a lot of people, I think we reached out to over 100 industry leaders, like Will, and over 80 got back to us.
Joey Korenman: And what we did was we kind of took a page from Tim Ferriss and his tribe of mentors book where we asked everybody the same set of questions, and then we printed everyone’s answers. And we got this amazing E-book, and everyone can go download it, will link to in the show notes. And so one of the questions was, what’s the difference between a good Motion design project and a great one? And Will’s answer was, “Artists on great projects, never settle, ask questions, show their work to peers, have conversations, involve people they respect whose opinions they share core values with, they really go for it, don’t half acid,” and then at the end of that you said, “It’s an all or nothing industry and you have to prove your worth.”
Joey Korenman: So amazing advice. I agree 100% with it. So then like many months later, we were trying to repurpose the content, we hired someone to go through the book and pull great quotes and make social media posts. And unfortunately, we didn’t have enough oversight, and so your quote was cut, like all of the context was lost and all that was published on Instagram and on Twitter was, “It’s an all or nothing industry and you have to prove your worth.” So first of all, I take responsibility for that and we’ve changed some of our processes so that doesn’t happen again.
Joey Korenman: And I want to publicly apologize to Will and Gentleman Scholar for the context being lost, but I do want to ask you about this because frankly, I was a little surprised that how upset some people got about that quote, because to me, it’s actually pretty, I mean, I’m not going to say harmless, but like, I don’t know I have trouble figuring out what is so upsetting about it, I think I can guess but I’m curious. I’ll let you go first. I’m curious why you think that quote, caused a negative reaction in some artists?
Will Johnson: I mean, I think we all work hard, right? Everybody in this industry works really hard. We’re all honing our craft. Like we’re all creatives, our brains, even if it doesn’t hit the paper or the page of the screen, are working constantly. So I think when somebody sees a quote like that, what they do is they say what, so I need to work harder than I’m already working, maybe that’s kind of it, that they started to think like, “It’s an all or nothing industry, and you have to prove your worth, like would I have to prove myself beyond what I’m already trying to prove?”
Will Johnson: So I think that maybe it turns into a little bit of a reflection of like, thinking that hard work is this kind of expected quality to our industry versus something that is appreciated. So I could see to all of the people who had a very distinct feeling. I could see that coming across that way. And I think that that is a totally fair and valid opinion on everything, especially with how hard we all pour ourselves into everything.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So I have some thoughts, I kind of want to like, just free associate a little bit. But before I do, I want to make sure that I understand what you meant by the full quote, with all of the context and everything, you basically gave this awesome list of, these are the characteristics of artists who work on great projects and obviously at Gentleman Scholar, that’s what you guys work on, you work on great projects. And the end of the line is you have to prove your worth. So I’m curious what do you mean by prove your worth?
Will Johnson: To me, it is all about making the world notice you. So proving your worth is, and it’s different levels of importance, right? So like you prove your worth, you either prove your worth to yourself. You prove your worth to the next guy or girl who’s sitting next to you in the studio, you prove your worth to the agencies or clients so that they notice you and you’re like, “Oh, shit, let’s bring them in.” Sorry about cussing.
Joey Korenman: You can cuss.
Will Johnson: Yes. Finally, the door is shut open.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, open the flood gates.
Will Johnson: But to me, it was really about proving your worth in a world that is kind of noisy, right? It’s like rising above all that noise and saying, like, “Hey, world, I’m here. This is what I am worth to you. This is what I think of myself, and how I can kind of help or navigate my own future.” So the proving, is more of an internal than an external as far as I’m concerned. But that’s again, from my brain.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Okay. So Ryan Summers, who’s a buddy of mine, he had this great question and this great way of putting this. And so I wanted to ask you like, my thought is that that line resonated and sort of upset some people, because if you interpret it in a certain way, it’s almost like your work ethic is being conflated with your passion. Right? Like, maybe that’s one possible interpretation. And I’m curious if you think that is that a thing artists are worried about, that those that don’t work 100 hours a week, and do all nighters and stuff like that might be seen as not as passionate as those that do?
Will Johnson: I don’t know. I think it’s like, it’s that weird question of like, what is hard work? Right? And I think that the challenge for everybody is to work smarter, not harder. So don’t work 100 hours a week if you can do the same thing in 25 or 50 or 80 even. I think that’s where maybe the misconception of what hard work is, just sitting on a computer or sitting in a studio for 100 hours a week. It doesn’t make the project happen. And I think that there is, again, this might be polarizing. But I think that passion and hard work and work ethic are kind of all the same thing. To me at least, I think that the amount of hours don’t necessarily always add up. But as far as when you care about something and you’re passionate about something, you’re going to pour yourself into it.
Will Johnson: I don’t think that there is a guarantee that that always works out the best or a preconceived notion that all studios are like, you have to sit at this desk and do it. But I do think that the passion and work ethic are kind of the same. Otherwise, the passion or the end product just kind of sits in a closet or sits in a drawer and nothing is ever made or just kind of stays and it gets stagnant. I think it’s like if without one, you don’t have the other and or as far as the creative or creation of set passion, so I think to the younger artists or the younger generation that’s coming out, I don’t think that there’s an expectation to stay and grind and you have to earn it, you get here and you sit in that chair and you earn it.
Will Johnson: It’s the kind of preconceived notion is you get here, you stay hungry, and you ask questions and you learn, and you sit, and when you’re here, you’re plugged in all the way, when you go out and the day is done at 6:00 or 7:00, or whenever end time is, it’s like, “Go, get the heck out of here,” go to a museum, go be inspired, because when you come back, we’re going to have an even more inspirational conversation the next day. So I don’t think that there’s this like kind of need or want even for our artists or artists in general across all studios to burn themselves out because that doesn’t do any good for all of us.
Joey Korenman: Right. Yes, so I have a few thoughts on this and I kind of want to throw my, I think so, one of the things, when I see that reaction against this type of sentiment, and there’s a lot of this on the internet, this sort of like hustle, grind, work harder than the next person messaging out there. And it can be over done and heavy hand and all those things. But to be honest, I think there’s a lot of truth in it, and want to, but I think that it’s like everything on social media, all the nuance gets lost.
Joey Korenman: So if you’re in your 20s, and you’re single, and you love Motion design, then you’re going to want to work all night on stuff and like working 100 hours will be a joy because you’re learning. But then when you’re in your 40s and maybe you have a family and a mortgage, and you’re just much better at it now and you don’t need to work that hard, it’s okay to just work 9:00 to 5:00 or something like that. But then, and I think that that is probably clear to most people. But one thing that I know, isn’t clear, because I’ve talked to a lot of our alumni and a lot of people in the industry. One thing that isn’t clear at all, I think, is that there are levels to this industry.
Joey Korenman: And I’ve been really lucky with School of Motion to be able to talk to some of the most successful Motion designers out there. And I’ll tell you almost without fail, I mean, basically 99.9% of them work their asses off way harder than most people are willing to work, they are willing to be tired and to not go to that party, and to, in some cases get dumped by their significant other because like, there is a correlation that I’ve seen between how hard someone is willing to work and how successful, how high up in the industry they can get, and I don’t really see a path that ends with graduating from a college or something, getting into the industry, working 40 hours a week, for 10 years, and at the end of that, you have opened Gentleman Scholar, and it’s running successfully, right?
Joey Korenman: I mean, now, maybe I’m not even, maybe I’m just not capable of that. And frankly, I don’t think I am. But I’m curious like was that description sort of accurate? Like, I mean, I can’t imagine that it took 40 hours a week to start Gentleman Scholar and to get it to where it is.
Will Johnson: Right. It did not. I can confirm that. But I think that, to your point, if you really love what you do, you’re going to work hard at it no matter what, whether somebody wants you to, or whether you have a gigantic end goal in mind, whether it’s model trains, right, like if that was your passion, you would pour yourself into it, like anybody who is kind of a passionate soul will do their best to kind of become the best at it.
Will Johnson: And I think that was always kind of the mentality here was just that it’s like we knew just from how the industry kind of is in general, where there’s so many talented people out there, there’s just so many talented people that something my family has always kind of taught me that you may never be the most talented but you can always work the hardest. I come from a kind of a family of people who are, my parents worked their asses off to kind of provide for my brother and I. And a lot of that is reflected in myself now where when we started Gentleman Scholar, we knew it was going to be hard. We knew it’s all those in between hours, it’s never going to be kind of like plug in. Okay, 9:00 to 5:00, we’re going to start a company, but is that… Then I would challenge kind of [inaudible 00:41:51] is there any startup ever on the face of the earth that’s like have like a 9:00 to 5:00?
Joey Korenman: Absolutely not.
Will Johnson: Like, it’s like that just is kind of wild and crazy. So, I mean, it’s kind of that like, we did it, because we loved it. Other people do it out of necessity. And some people do it for other reasons. So I can kind of only speak to us.
Joey Korenman: Got you. So, I want to read a few quotes, I found that sort of speak to this. And I want to try to just, like get a reality check on what it takes to operate at the level that you and your studio operate at, like most of my client experience, like my, I don’t know, I had probably a decade plus of actually doing the work and doing client work and maybe towards the end of my career, I was doing things like at the very bottom of what would go on Gentleman Scholars plate, but most of my work was the stuff that you never see.
Joey Korenman: And like internal videos and things like that, where you can have the 9:00 to 5:00, actually you totally can, but there’s a trade off there. The trade off is you’re not going to get the Super Bowl spot doing that, you’re just never going to get to that level. So here’s what was in the interview. And I and I can’t remember if it was you or the other Will that said it. But the quote was, “We work hard and often pretty late in this industry, when you find individuals who all share that type of inspiring energy, you always have a nice flow of creativity, people are talking, collaborating and staying inspired.”
Joey Korenman: So I’m wondering if you could just talk a little bit about the reality of how much effort, what type of work ethic is required to do the kind of work Gentleman Scholar does, which I see as different from say the kind of work that’s happening internally at Bows as an example, I mean, they have Motion designers internally, and what they’re doing, it’s at a different level. It’s not bad. It’s just what you’re doing is different. So I’m curious if you could just talk a little bit about the reality of what it takes.
Will Johnson: I mean, I think it’s a little bit of, it’s the work hard play hard. We definitely play hard. But it’s a people more than anything, I think that we’ve been able to surround ourselves with really talented people who, frankly, are smarter than we are, who work here more creative and whatnot. And then I think, from that, it turns into these conversations.
Will Johnson: Like Campbell had mentioned, I believe in that interview it’s about the collaboration, it’s about kind of staying inspired. And those work hard, late nights are made easier when you introduce a witching hour at 6:37 o’clock, where everybody just goes completely bananas and lets their weirdness hang out and then you come back together, and you’re like, “Okay, cool. All the barriers have broken down. Nobody’s weird with anybody anymore. Now let’s make some shit.”
Will Johnson: So it’s tough to kind of speak about another, those internal kind of places or anything like that because I think we’ve just been kind of lucky on our end to have the creative freedom to push things. And I think a little bit of that is the risk of going back to a previous conversation, that risk of, let’s try some stuff, it may not work, we’re going to throw some things at the wall. And we’re just going to see, those risks are made much easier when you’re able to kind of back it up with a bunch of amazing, talented artists. So that’s, that’s been our, for us, at least, we’ve had the luck of that on our side for the last 10 years.
Joey Korenman: Right. And that actually makes tons of sense and seems like that’s kind of the secret is if you assemble the right team that sort of feed off of each other’s energy, then it probably doesn’t actually feel like work all the time. So just to sort of clarify too, because most of our audience hasn’t freelanced or worked for Gentleman Scholar. So just so we have like some rough idea, like how often really are jobs requiring artists to work, whatever you define long hours as, I mean, is it a typical? Or is it just sort of like the reality of doing super, super duper high end stuff?
Will Johnson: I think as we’ve grown, we’ve made a real kind of strong point to not work late. I know that there’s a couple projects recently that have ground a bit later than we’d like, it’s not as typical as you think, I think that the structures are in place. So if you’re looking at a percentage, maybe 20%, maybe less, I mean, 20% even sounds high once I say it out loud. But a lot of times we’re out of here at 7:00, 7:30, we’ve worked 10:00 to 7:00, so that’s not crazy.
Will Johnson: And so I think really yeah, it is a little bit more a typical than it isn’t. And a lot of that is that work smarter, not harder mentality where we just, we have the right people for the right jobs here. And anybody coming in to kind of like plug in and be like, “Okay, cool, we’ve got the right leads and the right 3D team, and the right animators.” So yeah, it’s kind of, when it pops up, it’s like, “Okay, we see it.” But it’s not as often as maybe it sounds like it is, I think.
Joey Korenman: Right. Right. And I just had a quick question on the hours to our, someone on our team was asking, is there a difference in the hours that artists are expected to work depending on location? Because what someone said was that when they were in Chicago, eight hours was kind of the standard, but then in LA, a lot of shops, it was 10 hours. I’m just curious, like have you seen that? Is there a difference in the New York office and the LA office or anything like that?
Will Johnson: Oh, that’s a good question. I would say, I mean, we work the same hours both shops, so LA and New York, 10;00 to 7:00. To be honest, I don’t know if there’s like a regional kind of discrepancy on time, I don’t… Also, some of our artists and shops are a little bit different, I know some out here too are kind of the 9:00 to 6:00, and even on our side too, our production team comes in a little bit earlier than our creative team just to help get everything going and kind of winding up.
Will Johnson: And then the artists come in and everything’s kind of there, and we’re ready to go for the day. And then the hope is that production can at least like Boogie out a little bit earlier as well. So yeah, that’s it. That’s a great question. I’d be curious if there was like a survey or something just to see kind of how, what the differences across the board?
Joey Korenman: Yeah, that’d be interesting. Maybe we’ll take that on. I want to talk a little bit about sort of the sacrifice thing, and I don’t want to call out first, before we move on that we’ve been talking about the amount of hours someone works as sort of a proxy for work ethic. But I don’t think that that’s the only thing you can measure in terms of someone working hard because two artists can work the exact same amount of hours, but one is definitely pushing harder. And I’m curious if you could maybe talk a little bit about that. I mean, I’ve met artists that just seem to have an intensity, they have a different gear than other people, and sometimes, I mean, is that kind of what you mean a little bit too with work ethic?
Will Johnson: Yeah, I would say, for sure. And I think that there’s another thing to kind of point out is that time isn’t really a reflection of hard work. Right. So the amount of time, it can be in some regards, but I think it’s more the end product, right? We should be looking at, what did you produce versus how long did you work on it?
Will Johnson: I think that’s where things get a little bit kind of feistier than maybe they need to, it’s the danger of being like, “Well, I’ve been working for 120 hours straight,” versus like, “I was able to produce this five second animation,” is like, well, it’s only a five second animation and 120 hours is a lot of time to go into that, obviously, depending on what the kind of medium is, but it’s those types of things where it’s like, “Okay, now we should have a conversation about that harder, not smarter type of stuff, or smarter, not harder.” And then the second part, the sacrifice. Anything you love, you kind of sacrifice things for, I’d say.
Joey Korenman: Let me kind of like lead you into this because I know where you’re going. And this is kind of an important question for me because this is something that, getting back to the quote taken out of context that, like had a negative reaction. I mean, I think that what my gut is, is that you were right on the money when you interpreted it as like, well, are you saying I need to work harder than I am, right? Is that what you’re telling me? And how can I because I have three children, and I’m taking care of like my aging parents or something like that, where of course, like people have different responsibilities in life and things like that.
Joey Korenman: We were talking right before we started recording. And you mentioned to me that currently, you don’t have a family. So is that something you sacrificed? So that you could start Gentleman Scholar and be super successful and have this amazing team. Was that the price of entry? Or like is that just coincidence?
Will Johnson: That’s coincidence for sure, for me, yeah, I’d love, that’s a such a great question because I think in order to achieve great things, you don’t have to completely sever everything I think, it’s like there’s, everybody’s inspired by different things or has their own path or a kind of a way to get themselves pumped up in order to do things, we spoke a little bit about and sorry, Campbell to bring up your family, but spoke a little bit about, well, Campbell has two wonderful kids, a beautiful wife like he’s doing the family thing, but he’s still inspired. He’s still here. He’s still “Sacrificing,” to be here but I don’t think that there was any conversation ever in my head or any plans of anything that was like, “Well, I’m going to give up all these things to start Gentleman Scholar.”
Will Johnson: It was kind of like, we wanted to start this thing in order to be able to do more things, to be able to create more or anything like that. So I think out of sacrifices, maybe some time, maybe some energy, but all of those things are easy to take over or let kind of disappear into the world when you’re like you absolutely adore showing up to work or you adore the people that are around you or you adore the stuff that you’re getting to create, like all that doesn’t ever really seem like a sacrifice at that point.
Joey Korenman: Now, what about comfort? Is that something that can be sacrificed too, because I’m sure you could have also taken a full time position at some amazing studio. I mean, before you started Gentleman Scholar, you were working at all the top studios, I’m sure they made you job offers and you could have said yes and work there for 20 years and not ever had to worry about like payroll and things like that.
Will Johnson: For sure. That’s a really good point. We actually had a really good conversation at a studio when we were about to start Gentleman Scholar, and we sat down for lunch and kind of were talking about the potential of like, exactly like you said, of coming on board as staff and we had this offer to kind of start Gentleman Scholar on the horizon, we’re kind of thinking, “Should we do this? Should we not do this,” and I remember the studio owner, kind of leaning over and saying, “You should do it, you should try it, just see, see what happens like, if anything, like there’s always something you could do on the other side, but to like, go and put yourself out there and try something,” as was going to become GS and become this kind of passion project of Campbell and myself.
Will Johnson: That definitely resonated with me, and I know it resonated with Campbell as well, just like we’re hearing from another studio owner, and it’s like, “Try it, go be you out in the world.” And I think anytime that uncomfortability could creep in, I’d always think back to that conversation, I was like, “Well, we tried it and we’re still here and it’s sometimes, those aero plane rides get a little bit like claustrophobic,” but at the same time, it’s like we’ve got a lot of wonderful people around us. And anytime we get back into the office, I’m like, electrified. I feel like everybody here just inspires me so much so, and New York like, LA and New York, so we’re pretty lucky in that.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, let’s talk about how to balance all of these ideas of, sometimes it just requires some late nights and a little more mental energy and doing, the certain types of animation are really tedious, and you just have to just do it. You have this big company now, and I’m sure that you have a wide range of artists and way different stages and situations of life. And so, how do you, I guess, let me kind of throw a hypothetical at you, right.
Joey Korenman: So if you’re working on a project, and it’s one of those like really amazing, cool, creative, great opportunity, things and everyone’s excited about it, and you’re getting close to shipping it. And there’s someone who’s young and untethered. And like, just all they want to do is get better at this and they are willing to pull all nighters all week, then you have an artist that has a family and other responsibilities that needs to go home at 7:00, 7:30. And I’ve seen this at studios, I mean, like, unintentional, sure.
Joey Korenman: But it can create a little bit of pressure, peer pressure, something like that, on the artists that has to leave and I’m sure it doesn’t really do this that often. But sometimes it can create a level of resentment, like, “I’m Stan, why don’t…” So how do you navigate that? And I think that that, it kind of speaks to the core of the negative reaction that the quote had is that that is reality. Right? Not everyone can work “Harder” at different times of their life. And as a studio owner, you get to sort of pick and choose when you do that, and it sounds like you usually pick to do it, because you love it. But when you’re an employee at a studio, you sometimes just have to leave.
Will Johnson: I think it’s a little bit, sometimes, there’s a great kind of conversation, but I think it’s a lot on the people, and it’s that open communication. I think that that’s what does it, the minute that it feels adversarial or it feels like your kind of your hackles are up, or it feels like, “I’m not doing enough,” or anything like that. And you don’t have a conversation. You don’t sit in a room. You don’t do dailies, you’re not seeing the process and how things are kind of building and evolving. And you don’t have those conversations where you’re like, “Oh, this young gun is kind of coming up and they need more time. And so they’re going to stay late because they want to pour in that effort,” versus the other generation who’s like, “Yo, I’ve got to get home. I have a newborn.”
Will Johnson: And I think that, to me, at least, it always comes back to this communication of things. It’s like, I think if we don’t talk or you don’t, you like go too long without talking about the process or talking about the project or talking about your personal life, then it turns into that. At least here, we don’t have a whole lot of that, like the resentment on things, like we’re, it’s like, just you get your stuff done, you get out, a lot of times people stick around, to even just like, sit next to people and help out, lend a hand, take the project, show them a better way to do it. So it’s a lot of like, it’s a little bit of the in between, or just like people wanting to help and the other is people asking when they need help, you know what I mean?
Joey Korenman: Right, right. So there’s this idea that I used to have, and I think I’ve been kind of disabused of it that what you can do sometimes is you can work really, really, really hard early, like pay your dues, right? And then later on, things can slow down you can kind of coast and I think that’s probably the way most people look at sort of starting a studio, is that, yeah, of course it’s going to be terrifying and really difficult initially, but once we’ve been around for 10 years, I’m going to have this big staff and it’s basically going to run itself.
Joey Korenman: I’m just curious if you could talk about the reality of that because obviously when you started Gentleman Scholar with the other Will, you were both young, I don’t know how old, but I’m guessing you were in your mid 20s or something, I mean, that’s pretty young. And now, you’re in your mid 30s. So like, can you work less now? Has that actually panned out?
Will Johnson: Ah, yeah, smarter, not harder, right? I think, put your money where your mouth, I think the big thing, we talked about it, and sometimes it pops out too, it’s like, “Man, I thought this would get easier.” And I think it doesn’t because everything, the landscape shifts or because the types of projects we want to get into or because there’s always this next thing that we want to go for. So no, it has not gotten easier.
Will Johnson: But what we’ve found is that we’re surrounded by a lot of people who are kind of doing, and in the same mode of life that are down to kind of party when we need to party and by party, I mean work hard, but also are like, “Let’s go, let’s get out of here and let’s go enjoy the free time.” So it definitely hasn’t gotten easier. But I think that again, that’s all due to the fact that we are down to serve this changing kind of production oriented system that we’re in.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. And so that’s what I expected you to say. I’ve had the exact same experience with School of Motion. It doesn’t get easier, it actually gets like scarier but more rewarding, but the hours don’t seem to go down. And so I want to kind of come back to this, to the quotes, to the all or nothing thing, and start to land the plane a little bit. I think what I kind of felt coming into this conversation and then talking to you just like really kind of reaffirmed it in my mind.
Joey Korenman: And by the way, everyone listening I’m really, really, really curious what you all think about what I’m saying, what Will is saying, like please like hit us up on Twitter or Instagram or wherever you find us and let us know what you think. But you have chosen the lifestyle you have, you have chosen to work really, really hard and to go to parties and schmooze creative directors and go to PromaxBDA and try to drum up some upfront business and that kind of stuff.
Joey Korenman: And because of that, and because you’re talented, I’m sure there was some luck involved, but clearly, you’re talented, you work really hard. You’ve had this great success. To me, I think that that’s kind of the price of the kind of success that you guys have had, I’ve never seen someone start a studio and have it be as successful as Gentleman Scholar’s been and do the kind of work that you guys have done without doing basically what you and the other Will have done and all of that stuff.
Joey Korenman: And so I’m curious if you have more experience like, far more experience in the industry and running studio than I do. So I’m curious, like, do you agree with that? Do you think that that’s kind of how it works, you have to do that if what you want is to open Gentleman Scholar one day, if all you want is to be a great After Effects animator and do cool stuff and work 40 hours a week and go home and not think about it. Cool. You can do that too. You can make a great living doing that. You can open Gentleman Scholar doing that.
Will Johnson: I think that that, I’d have to agree somewhat and I think it’s like, it takes time. It takes effort it takes, parties aside, it takes going and finding the right people, it takes all the in between stuff that isn’t necessarily the creative sit down and do an amazing frame or put an amazing deck together. It takes talking about it and being able to kind of craft your extrovert and being able to go to amazing schools and find amazing people and really kind of put yourself out there in that regard.
Will Johnson: So I would have to say that I would agree with that. And I think that, and I’m sure that a lot of other amazing studios folks that we’ve looked up to in the past, present that we’ll continue to look up to in the future would more than likely say the same thing that the hard work kind of is a little bit part and parcel with the end result.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I totally agree with you, and I think that that’s kind of a bitter pill to swallow sometimes. But I really want that to be known by everyone in this industry because there’s a lot of kind of mixed messaging, I think that comes across on social media, and especially when all you get is a quote or a tweet or something like that you don’t have the full context. Like things like what you said, it’s an all or nothing industry. I mean, that is correct in the game that you have signed up for.
Joey Korenman: If someone else is in a different game, they work as a Motion designer on a team of 10 at a sort of mid size ad agency. Yeah, maybe it’s not an all or nothing game there. Right? Maybe the stakes are a little lower. Yeah. But just know what you’re signing up for, and then own it.
Will Johnson: I think that’s it, right. Like the own it part, to me, that’s the intention. It’s like when you look back at the quote, or whatever, it’s like, that’s the intention is just to anybody out there who has any drive or desire. It’s like if you’re already doing the learning, and you’re already driven and you look up to insert, director, illustrator, animator here, and you’re like, “I want that,” then you’re going to go all or nothing and kind of put yourself out there to do everything you can to go conquer it.
Will Johnson: So I think it’s kind of a, even if you are kind of a specialist, right, and you’re like, “You know what, I just want to be an animator. And that’s it, I’m good with that.” I think that that’s still, you’re still going to have a drive, that maybe you’re not even thinking about or if you’re a 20-year-old, or you’re a 50-year-old or you’re whatever, we have the entire range under our roof, and I don’t think that there’s one person that works harder or not as hard as the next person.
Will Johnson: And that’s just kind of that reflection of, I think the industry, I think like it’s still a young industry, like we’re all still kind of getting our feet wet in ways but it’s like, we’re all kind of here to like, figure it out together. And maybe that’s it, is that we’re all kind of like, “I don’t know,” so well, let’s make some stuff. And we’re all lucky that we get to make art and we get to show up for work. And we’re talking about keyframes, it’s like you go to some family, Thanksgiving, and you’re like, “Oh, I moved keyframes around here,” like, how many cousins are like, “What the heck is that?” It’s like, “We have each other.”
Will Johnson: So I think that that’s kind of it is like, in the end, it’s like, I would love for the artists to across the table. If they’re 18. And just getting into After Effects for the first time to look at me and say, “That guy tried really hard, that guy works really hard at what he does.” And I enjoy that. To me, that’s like our, I want to talk to that guy or I want to like, I’m inspired by and I think it’s like as long as we’re all trying to inspire each other, that’s how we make ourselves better.
Will Johnson: And I think it’s like we still, again like as a company, we have a bunch of people we look up to, artists and other companies and studios that we’re just like, “Damn,” like, scrolling through other folks work, “Damn. They proved it. So it’s our turn, our turn, we’re next, we’re next.”
Joey Korenman: I love that. That’s beautiful, man. Well, you’ve been so awesome with your time. Well, I have one more question for you. And you may have to speak for Will Campbell, because I have a feeling that his answer would be different than yours. So do your best to channel him.
Will Johnson: Okay. Yeah. I’ll do that.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Awesome. So like I mentioned already, I mean, when you both started Gentleman Scholar, you were in some somewhere in your 20s. But you were pretty young. And now your mid 30s, I’m guessing and you said, well, Campbell has a family and I’m just curious, like, have you noticed any change within yourself about your work ethic like, and I’ll use myself as an example.
Joey Korenman: I mean, I have three kids. I live in South Florida. My life is significantly different than it was when I was running a studio. And my, like, I still have the exact same drive and work ethic that I did. But I’ve also become more okay, leaving things till tomorrow, that would be like a subtle change I’ve noticed in myself that I used to not have. And I’m curious if, as you’ve gotten older and maybe if Will’s talked about this with you, as he’s gotten older and started a family, has anything changed? Or is it still basically the same? There’s just a little more to juggle?
Will Johnson: Yeah, I mean, that’s such a good question. And you couldn’t be more right. Like, I think our answers are going to be distinctly different side. So I can absolutely try it. But I think, I mean, to your point, I think the brain has gotten more streamlined. I think that there is, there used to be this, everything was the most important thing on the planet mentality, like a phone call, and it was my dentist, and it’s like, “Hey,” I’m like, “Oh, shit, I need to go to the dentist right now.”
Will Johnson: Things like that have shifted to like the prioritizing, looking at things kind of through a different lens, knowing what is necessary for the future growth of GS versus when an artist really needs a hand and kind of like keeping our eyes on that type of stuff. So it’s become this really kind of, I don’t want to use the word selfish kind of nature of things where you’re kind of like doing it for you to then you do it for a bunch of other people. And when you’ve got 40 plus people, you’re kind of your motions start to align with everybody else. That’s one thing I’ve kind of noticed as far as like, the hard work is that you kind of look out for other folks, I guess, in a way.
Will Johnson: And I think Campbell is the same in that and I know that with the family and things, he’s gotten really good at kind of being able to wrap things from afar and be able to get home and maybe work from home a little bit or when things pop up, it’s like a dance recital or something like that, it’s like, “Yo, I’m just going to be in a little bit later.” I think those like those life prioritization, it kind of just happens and it becomes this unspoken thing. But the hard work just gets channeled into very faster, sharper slices, you just get a little bit more efficient as you get older, I think. But yeah, I think that’s probably the same, same but different.
Joey Korenman: I want to give a huge thanks to Will for coming on and for being a totally open book about his studio and his thoughts on what it takes to succeed at the highest levels. If I had to sum up my thoughts after this conversation, I would probably say something like, decide what you want in your career, figure out the price. And if you’re willing to pay the price, then own that decision. You are in a different situation than every other person listening to this podcast, and so only you can decide what makes the most sense for your life and your goals.
Joey Korenman: For some, the stress and hustle required to start a top tier studio or do it extremely high end work is exactly what they want. For some a 9:00 to 5:00 job that pays the bills and leaves plenty of time and energy for family, exercise and other things is a much better fit. Either one works, but we can’t pretend that they aren’t very different paths with very different requirements and expectations. So to anyone who was offended by the original social media post that contained the no context version of the quote, I apologize, seriously, nobody here at School of Motion wants to offend, and I really wish that we’d included the rest of the quote.
Joey Korenman: However, after interviewing dozens and dozens of artists and studio owners, it’s clear to me that the ones who work their asses off take risks and push themselves to the edge, those are the ones we’re all talking about. So that’s it for this one. Show notes are at schoolofmotion.com, and I hope this one sticks in your head for a while and gets you thinking about what you want for your own career. Because you’re the only one who can decide that, and when you do decide that, you can then figure out if the price of that career is something that you’re really willing to pay. Thanks as always for listening, I really appreciate your time and attention. And I hope this podcast adds value to your day and to your career. So that’s it. Until next time.