Famed Designer and Director Bradley G. Munkowitz (GMUNK) on the SOM Podcast
Celebrating 75 Episodes with the One-and-Only GMUNK
In his conversation with our podcast host (and founder and CEO) Joey Korenman, the genius GMUNK focuses on the need for organization, discipline, dedication, diversification and cross-pollination, collaboration, online interaction, real-life experience, work-life balance, continuing education and relentless reinvention to becoming and remaining an innovator and leader in your industry.
He also discusses the tempestuous world of commercial direction; the usefulness of Adobe Portfolio, Instagram and Behance; the importance of having an A, B and C plan; his experimentations with psymunk (psychedelic art), inframunk (infrared photography) and other art forms; his use of hallucinogens; and why and when he may move to Europe with his family.
Fittingly for a 75th episode, this conversation simply can’t be missed!
GMUNK on the School of Motion Podcast
Shownotes from Episode 75 of the School of Motion Podcast, Featuring GMUNK
Here are some key links referenced during the conversation:
The Transcript from GMUNK’s Interview with Joey Korenman of SOM
Joey Korenman: I feel like I need to take a second here to express to you just how much gratitude I feel for being able to do this podcast. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to meet and interrogate some of my absolute favorite artists and people that I have huge respect for. Some days, I feel extra lucky, and this is one of those days, because holy crap! GMUNK is on The School of Motion Podcast. I’m a fan. I’m just going to get that out of the way. I still remember when the Box piece came out, featuring the robots Bot and Dolly. I was teaching at the Ringling College of Art & Design, and I made every student I was teaching watch it, because I felt like it was a huge milestone in the world of motion design, and it solidified Bradley G. Munkowitz’s place in the MoGraph hall of fame, if there was such a thing.
Joey Korenman: Bradley found his way into motion design through Flash animation, which was kind of MoGraph 1.0, and has spent the last two decades creating stunning work in a crazy array of formats and styles. He’s basically reinvented himself four or five times. And I actually believe that this is one of the reasons he’s continued to inspire and thrive in this industry. In this conversation, we go all over the place. I basically threw away most of my questions once we started talking, and you’ll get a glimpse into the mind of one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. You’ll hear about Bradley’s unique upbringing, which definitely played a role in his creative outlook, and you’ll hear about what it’s like to have a career that has skyrocketed the way his has. He’s incredibly humble, he’s insanely generous with his time, and I think that you too will be a GMUNK fan after this if you aren’t already. So let’s meet the Munk right after we hear from one of our amazing alumni.
Kelly Kurtz: My name is Kelly Kurtz, and I live in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. The training I’ve gotten from School of Motion has rapidly grown my skills to work at an efficient and professional level in the field of motion design. I felt like I had job applicable skills, as well as a huge boost in confidence when I got out of my first course. And I also found being able to dig through my fellow course mates’ project files and actually see how they created something was invaluable. It doesn’t matter what stage of your career you’re in, School of Motion has so many options, and are constantly adding new courses to help us shape the future of the industry. If you want to improve your skills, stay up to date and connected to the industry, or just be a part of a rad community of alumni, I highly recommend School of Motion. Thank you so much, School of Motion. My name is Kelly Kurtz, and I am a School of Motion alumni.
Joey Korenman: Bradley G. Munkowitz, dude, it’s really awesome to have you on the podcast. I feel like this has been a long time coming. I’ve talked about you and your work, I’ve mentioned you probably in every other podcast. So thank you so much for coming on, man. I can’t wait to talk to you.
GMUNK: My pleasure. Happy Thursday.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, happy. It’s the happiest of Thursdays.
GMUNK: Yeah. Thursday is so aspirational. It’s like, ooh, we’re almost there. Friday, I can’t wait to sleep in on Saturday morning.
Joey Korenman: I mean in a way, it is kind of the best day of the week, because-
Joey Korenman: It’s like one last-
GMUNK: It has the most hope.
Joey Korenman: … boost of productivity. So we were actually talking before we started recording, and I think I’m going to throw away most of the questions that I wrote, but I did want to talk about your early days, and even before you started your professional career, because I’ve followed you and I’ve listened to a lot of interviews with you, and you’re a very, very interesting guy to listen to. And so listening to you, I’ve gotten the impression over the years that, I think the term free spirit is super cliché, but I think that probably applies to you. You seem like, you’re in Iceland and you’re shooting photography, and then you’re back and you’re working on a project, and then you’re over here, and then you’re living in London suddenly, and your life is kind of unique. Most people don’t live that sort of existence. And I want to talk to you about where that came from. So did any of that come from pre-GMUNK Bradley? Was your childhood sort of non-conventional?
GMUNK: Yeah. My mom is literally the freest spirit on earth. I was literally just in [inaudible 00:04:52] in British Columbia visiting her a few days ago, and when we get together, we have these big conversations about purpose, fulfillment, the meaning of life, stories, the supernatural, just we go so, so deep. And she kind of instilled in me to just always question. Question what we’re being told, and question reality, and believe in magic. We talk about magic a lot, and it all comes from that. She’s a woman that, my parents got divorced when I was very young, at 10 years old, and she moved out. She left my father to kind of find herself, and the way she did it was she moved to South Dakota.
GMUNK: We were all in Minneapolis at the time, and she moved to South Dakota to live with the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota on the reservation for three years. And she’s a five foot tall, curly, curly Afro hair Jewish woman, and she became the first female pipe bearer in the tribe’s history, and also the first white woman to ever be a pipe bearer, and is running ceremonies and sweat lodges and sun dances. I mean, it’s crazy, and I used to go visit her as a kid on the reservation. They used to call me white bread. That’s where they took the name Bradley. And it was just the biggest, the most profound experience, because all of this stuff, all of the work that I’m doing as an adult with Ayahuasca ceremonies and psychedelic ceremonies, is the exact same.
GMUNK: It’s parallel to what the teachings were with those tribes as a young kid. And so that kind of gets you into believing in this other realm of humanity, where you don’t see color, you don’t believe in class. You believe in magic, you believe in the profound, and it all kind of starts there. And then pushing my way in as a creative professional, the element of magic is kind of what we do every day in a lot of ways, because we’re believing in the surreal, we believe in the metaphysical, and that’s our job. That’s our job, is to just wonder, is to dream and wonder. And so I guess it all kind of started there, and I’m literally fresh off a visit with her. I have a couple weddings this summer that she’s going to be at, and we have a great relationship.
Joey Korenman: That’s great, man.
GMUNK: It’s a great relationship.
Joey Korenman: So I have a question about this. That’s really fascinating, and I love the visual of, you basically, so my mom is also a short Jewish lady, so I’m picturing my mom joining an Indian tribe, and this is really, really, really great. So my question is, she left to do that as part of a divorce. Now, my parents aren’t divorced, so I don’t know what that feels like, but I would imagine that as a 10 year old, you probably didn’t have the perspective that you do now on it. It sounds like you really kind of embraced what she did and the discoveries that she made, but at the time, did any of that make sense to you, or was that just later on that you said, okay, I kind of get it now?
GMUNK: I’ve never been one to guilt or … My older brother didn’t talk to my mom for years after the divorce. He had a really hard time with it, but I was a kid who kind of just rolled with it and didn’t really come down on my mom at all. I didn’t really understand to the fullest extent of why she was leaving my father, but as an adult, I certainly do, and the person that she is now, and there’s so much more to it than what I’m telling you.
GMUNK: She’s an extraordinary, extraordinary woman. Just extraordinary. Her stories are just of legend. She’s seen really, really interesting things in her life, and that’s all because she set out to find herself. She set out to do the things that she needed to do to find herself, and that’s kind of what life’s about, right? It’s about finding yourself. It’s about understanding your purpose. We all have a purpose. I strongly believe in your soul never dies, I strongly believe that you have a purpose, and if your purpose isn’t fulfilled, you’ll come back as someone else for a new set of lessons in life.
GMUNK: And I was watching the women’s soccer parade, not the parade, but just highlights of their speech, and she was saying the same thing. It’s like, we’re all on this earth to make the world a better place, and to help people, and I believe in karma. I kind of believe in so many different jewels from a bunch of different religions. I’m not a religious person at all. I’m Jewish, but I’m not a really observant person, but I believe in a lot of the foundations of religion in terms of karma, and helping thy neighbor, and believing in divine purpose, and making the world a better place, all of that. All of that, finding her purpose and her story was enabled by her leaving my father, which I’m totally okay with, because life is short, man. Life goes by, and if you have all these regrets, life’s not about having regrets. Life’s about having as few regrets as possible. And so I applaud her. I applaud her for seeking what she needed.
Joey Korenman: That’s an incredible story. And I mean, it does make some sense out of the ability and the mindset you have that enables you to live in a really free way. I don’t know you well, but you don’t seem nearly as tied down and anchored to things, at least from the things you’ve said publicly, like most people have. And I’m curious, because part of that I think is that there’s a certain sacrifice, I think. And this is my opinion. Maybe you disagree, but I feel like there’s a certain sacrifice that you have to make to have that freedom. For example, the way that you’re describing this magic and the ability, and life is short and this and that, that sounds very appealing, but I also have three kids, and so I feel like there’s a little bit of a sacrifice. I’m wondering what your take is on that, because you’ve also talked about how hard you have to work at the levels that you’re operating at, and there’s obviously sacrifices there. So I’m wondering, how do you relate to sacrifice in this sense?
GMUNK: Yeah, let me talk about that with the kids. So I’m getting married literally in two and a half weeks.
Joey Korenman: Mazel tov.
GMUNK: And going to Bulgaria. [inaudible 00:12:26]. And going to Bulgaria. My future wife is Bulgarian, we’re getting married in Bulgaria in this place called [inaudible 00:12:35]. And that’s going to be a totally quirky, fun Bulgarian wedding, and then we’re getting married a second time for a California wedding in Ojai, which is southern California, just east of Santa Barbara, and then we just bought a house in Berkeley, and we’re looking to start trying to have kids next year.
GMUNK: So I’m 43 years old, no kids, and so I’m scared to death. I’m fucking scared to death, because well, the good news is my fiancé is an illustrator, a very, very talented illustrator, and super, super career oriented. It’s really literally the only way that our relationship works, is that she’s as busy as I am, and we just work together. We fire up the music and both kind of just disappear into our respective studios, and just jam together, and it’s the best thing ever. It’s literally the best thing ever. There’s no way I could ever be with somebody that doesn’t understand the time that needs to be put in, and the dedication to your craft, and she gets that, and she’s in parallel with me, and we’re both chasing our dream, and it’s great.
GMUNK: But with children, we’re going to start doing that next year, and I do have a feeling that at first, the first six months, my time is going to get threshed pretty significantly, just getting everything up and running. And I’ve been kind of preparing for it mentally, and the way I’ve been preparing for it mentally, and actually pragmatically, is to structure my time differently. And so I have a plugin for Chrome called Block Site, where I turn that thing on, I can’t check Twitter, I can’t check YouTube, I can’t check any news sites, I can’t check any camera sites. There’s no … My browser basically just shuts down, and the only thing I can really do is just pay bills.
GMUNK: And I also have it on my phone, Screen Time. I use Screen Time religiously where I’m only using social media, that’s Twitter and Instagram, for an hour and a half each day. I turn that on. So I’m starting to constrict the amount of time that I could not work, and just getting really, really focused and dialed in on how I use my time. That’s one step. And we’re also looking at nannies. We’re looking at daycare. We’re just strategizing how this is going to work. We still have literally a year and a half until we have a kid, but we’re just starting to prepare ourselves. Maybe even longer, maybe two years, but we’re just starting to kind of get our time structured where we’re getting really, really good work sessions in.
GMUNK: And I’m also, funny enough, getting my music dialed in, where I’ve discovered a new music. I’m starting to work to ambient music, whereas before, I would work to all sorts of different stuff. It’s either synthesizers, or classics. I just kind of go in, and I’m bobbing my head, and it’s all fun, but now I work to ambient, kind of like Boards of Canada, Stars of the Lid, John Hopkins, ambient kind of music, and I swear to God, my productivity had tripled. I just go in. It’s almost like tripping. It’s like I go into these really crazy zones and come out of it just like a different person, and it’s fucking awesome. It reminds me of when I was in my 20s, listening to [inaudible 00:16:30] or Anthony Rother in London, working 20 hours a day, just crushing it to this electro clash music that I had discovered from some friends out there.
GMUNK: It kind of reminds me of that. I’m having like a reawakening. It’s like no longer am I singing along to music, I’m in it. I’m almost in a trance, and it’s fucking beautiful. So I’m preparing for all this. I’m preparing for all this, so when it happens, I’m hoping that it’s not too much of a … Obviously I really want to spend time with the baby and raise the baby and get that going, so I’m also kind of loading up all of my projects this year, and early next year I’m releasing the Offf 2020 titles, which is going to be the biggest project of the last five years. And so once that’s out, I’ll be like, you know what? Let’s make a baby.
GMUNK: Let’s make a baby and go to Istanbul.
Joey Korenman: So I mean, it sounds like you’re a pretty organized person.
Joey Korenman: And I know you’ve talked about just being very organized, even with the inspiration and collecting experiences and cataloging them, things like that. And I think you’re on the right track. When you have a kid, essentially, you just have less bandwidth. And so yeah, your efficiency just has to get better. And it also sounds like too, one thing that helped me, and I’m curious if you ever had to really operate this way, you certainly will when you have a kid, is really being efficient and ruthless about cutting things out that aren’t a value add. And so I’m curious, because a lot of the things I’ve heard you talk about on other podcasts and in talks, it’s really about collecting experiences, because you can’t design anything interesting if you don’t have interesting experiences to draw from.
Joey Korenman: That’s kind of where it seems like a lot of your reference comes from, is just things you’ve seen, places you’ve been, people you’ve met. And I’m wondering if, because it’s pretty easy to binge on that, and to kind of go overboard sometimes, and you can even justify things like being on social media as, well, it’s reference, I’m collecting inspiration here. And I’m curious if you’ve ever had that mindset of, I need to be really selective about what I let in, and sometimes physically or sometimes with a plugin, actually block yourself from certain things?
GMUNK: That’s a great question. I think, I used to speak about this all the time, about the importance of reference and Pinterest and being super organized in that. And then just after a while, I think we’re so used to it, we’re so used to … And it’s funny, I was at a conference called Reasons to be Creative, and I remember a really talented illustrator and director, Kate Moross. She’s an English, really, really, really talented illustrator, also directs music videos. Kate Moross Studio, amazing. She gave a speech, and she was like, “Fuck reference. Go to Tokyo. See the world.” And I was like, no, that’s wrong. It’s all about reference. It’s all about Pinterest and organizing your reference, and don’t be scared to look at others’ work and take it to different places.
GMUNK: And after a while, after a while and just because of Instagram as well, and because of just constantly swiping through images, constantly, constantly, constantly, there’s a detachment to it. And of course you always use reference boards, and you always, always do the process. It’s part of the process. It’s always part of the process, is reference. But I think on a more creative and conceptual level, she was right. She was right. You need to get out and experience life and culture and get away from the computer, and just … What I’m doing in that, is I remember my father used to always go on these fishing trips and these sailing trips with his buddies, and they would go sailing to Costa Rica and go tarpon fishing.
GMUNK: And it was like his boy’s time away. He would go on these trips. And it was boy’s time, nothing got in the way, Dad’s going sailing. And he and his buddies are down in Costa Rica, catching tarpon, and he comes back and he’s just tan and happy and has all these stories and all these experiences, and it’s just story time, and it’s the best. Best for me too, because I get to listen to all these crazy stories, and his friends are hilarious. A bunch of old Jewish guys, you can imagine in Costa Rica on a sailboat catching tarpon. And what I do now is, my mandatory trips are one of two things. They’re either with my crew, like with my best friends in the city, and we go and we take psychedelics and go on adventures, either in the woods, or on bodies of water, or in mansions that we rent on golf courses, and we just laugh and cry and just have these profound social experiences where we just cover the gamut. And it’s just so funny and so fun, and it’s the best.
GMUNK: Or I do just the opposite, and I take my cameras, and I go on photography adventures with my photography group. Bless them. They’re called [Fogles 00:22:05], Jake Sargeant and James Heredia, and we go to Hawaii, Iceland. We just went to the desert, the southwestern desert, and we for 10 to 12 days just shoot 6,000 to 8,000 photos, and really focus on our craft. And through the merging of all of our backgrounds in photography, I’ve learned to shoot 35 millimeter film, I’ve learned about composition from Jake to no end. I’ve learned about color [inaudible 00:22:36]. I’ve learned about everything it takes to make an image, but then there’s also the adventure of capturing that image, which landscape photography is very difficult, because you’re putting yourself in the elements, you’re fucking, imagine waking up at five o’clock in the morning, it’s 30 degrees outside, it’s windy, you’re watching the sun rise, you can’t feel your hands to get a shot.
GMUNK: But the adrenaline of getting that shot carries you through, and that adrenaline translates to directing a set. Being on set as a director with 40 people, you’re fucking tired. Your call time was 5:30 in the morning, you slept like crap because you’re anxious, you can’t fall asleep, and that adrenaline carries you through. It’s how do you use that adrenaline as a creative spark? And that adrenaline happens because you’re out, you’re away from the computer. You’re out in the world where there’s a bazillion variables coming at you, and that is the most inspiring thing you can do. It’s almost like shark diving. I’ve never gone shark diving. Well, I actually have dove with sharks in Tahiti, but I’ve never been in a cage with great white sharks.
GMUNK: But imagine the adrenaline of that shit. You get out of that cage, how do you feel? Unbelievable. Or people that fucking squirrel suit off a cliff. These are adrenaline seekers. And I feel like there’s such thing as creative adrenaline that you need to find. And I don’t think coffee and cigarettes, sitting down at a computer is the creative adrenaline. It needs to be somewhere else. And to my point, finding this Stars of the Lid group a couple weeks ago, it’s kind of like adrenaline, man. And it’s like reverse adrenaline, because it’s so chill that I’m almost meditating while I’m working. It’s fucking crazy. It’s awesome.
Joey Korenman: So when you’re working on, this is really interesting, because you’re making me think that there is a huge difference between looking at a landscape photo that’s beautiful, and being there and experiencing the exhaustion and the adrenaline and all those things. And some of the work that you’ve done over the past few years is experiential, and you’ve done these things where it’s almost like a show, or like a big room that you go into and experience a thing. And there is kind of a one to one relationship between looking for inspiration on Pinterest, and then designing boards for something that’s going to end up on YouTube.
Joey Korenman: But that doesn’t translate one to one when you’re looking for inspiration for, I don’t know, like the visuals that are going to be part of a giant EDM set or something like that, where it’s not about the visuals, it’s about the experience of the entire thing. And so I think that it’s really smart what you’re saying. I’m not sure I’ve heard other people put it in those terms, but I mean, is that kind of it, too? Because you can get inspired by a color combination you see, but you can also get inspired by like oh, I almost died, and I just felt something I’ve never felt before, and that kind of spurs thing. Is that kind of how you operate?
GMUNK: Yeah. Hopefully no one’s almost dying, but yeah, I think that’s exactly it. And I’ve always preached this, and you’ve heard me say this before, but diversity is everything, man, because you can just … Every successful creative has a creative hobby that is not their craft. And they just need to spend the time with that hobby, because you’ll learn a lot from that hobby, and you’ll be able to apply it to your craft. So for instance, and a lot of my hobbies come from my surroundings and my collaborations. So the way we think about that is, a lot of my friends, and this is another thing, is really work on your friendships. Really work on spending time with people and being present and being open and loving, and work on your friendships.
GMUNK: None of this is done in a vacuum. It’s very important to have your friends. And a lot of my friends work in different mediums. So the whole experiential thing is a result of a few friends, but also joining a company called Bot & Dolly and 2014, where it’s a robotics studio, and everything they did was experiential. But it wasn’t until I was exposed to a guy named Alex Oropeza, who was kind of design director, head of production at a place called Obscura in San Francisco. That mother fucker taught me about UX, user experience, and he just blew my mind in terms of how UX works. How does it all break down and pragmatically … It’s like a totally different craft.
GMUNK: You can make a show. You can make a show that has the best visuals in the universe, but the user experience sucks, and it sucks. But if you make a show with the worst visuals, or the most rudimentary visuals, and the user experience is amazing, the show will be amazing. So it’s all about the user experience, and that is a whole different medium in itself. And so what I’m trying to do with my career, and this is actually how I stay inspired as well, because if I just do the same thing over and over again, I’ll go crazy. I’ll lose it. I’ll lose motivation instantly. So I just dance around all these different mediums, and really try to learn, really, really just open it up, like open up the conch shell and just dig in there, and just try to learn as much as possible.
GMUNK: So I’m very, very early days on filmmaking. That’s a whole treasure trove of principles. I’m doing a bunch of master classes now with fucking David Lynch and Martin Scorsese as my video instructors, just basically going to film school, and just learning as much as I can. And that’s a whole treasure trove, too. Blocking out scenes, and just really changing the way I think about that, which then makes me a better director, which also makes me a better experiential artist, because it’s the same thing. You’re still setting up a scene. It’s almost like theater. And it’s just, everything is related. Photography is related to design because it’s composition, it’s contrast, it’s color, it’s [inaudible 00:29:32], it’s compositing.
GMUNK: It’s everything is related, and that’s what’s so interesting. My fiancé is getting into sewing. She’s an illustrator, a really talented illustrator, and she’s getting into sewing. And at first, I was like, nah dude, this is going to be a taste of time, but it’s totally not, because she’s working, she’s taking her illustration and design and putting it and wrapping it around forms, and kind of working on how that wraps around forms. And that in itself is a new medium, so it’s all related, man. It’s all related, and it’s fascinating. It makes it so much more fun to just have your … I know, I remember way back in the day working at Buck and working with a gal named Sarah Bocket, who would do this incredible pottery, and just getting into her sculpture and doing all this beautiful paint work on this pottery.
GMUNK: And at first back in the day, I was like, oh, that’s a waste of time. Why is she doing that? And then I thought, no, that’s informing her design work. Really spending that time with experience, forcing herself to learn something new and experience all the different adventures that goes with sculpture and pottery, it’s a good thing.
Joey Korenman: Well, let’s talk about your career before you started branching out into all these different things. Because what’s really interesting to me about your career is that you kind of started the way most motion designers do, and at the point where most people would say, “Cool, I made it! Buck hired me.” I think for a lot of people listening, just getting booked at Buck, and maybe your day rate’s now where you want it to be, and maybe you got a Vimeo staff pick on something. And the it seems like you kind of just took the steering wheel and just cranked it 180 degrees and did something else.
GMUNK: Yeah, I cranked it.
Joey Korenman: But I’ve heard you talk about the time that you spent in LA, almost like you regret some of it. Because you did the studio thing for a while and bounced around and got a day rate and all that, and I’ve heard you talk about it with some regret. So I’m wondering if you could just talk a little bit about that, and what about that period of your career do you wish you’d done differently?
GMUNK: Oh, I just wasn’t focused, man. I just wasn’t focused. I was more interested in partying, and I made a lot of great friendships and it was very fun, but I just lost touch with myself. And I came into the motion design world from the web world, and the web world back in the day was in its infancy, and GMUNK was a thing. GMUNK was one of 10 Flash artists who were basically paving the way for a new medium. And it wasn’t that many people. It was like 10 to 15 people. So I really stress doing personal work, and then when I got into the motion design scene, just as you said, got hired at the top studios, made a day rate, was having a great time in LA, partying, and I just lost focus of my own career, and I just started kind of …
GMUNK: To me, taking a day rate and doing the work that’s handed to you is easy, is the easy way, where everything is just being fed to you. And of course the challenges of being a great motion designer are still in play, but it’s not, you’re losing touch with yourself. And you could promote yourself and all, but if you’re not doing personal work, if you’re not doing your own thing, you’re not really doing anything. And that’s not to take away from people who are a Gentleman Scholar and work on a wonderful project. That’s great, and that’s really great because you’re going to learn a ton from that, and you’re going to have a great piece in your portfolio, and that’s all great.
GMUNK: But I do think that it’s the personal work that will set you apart, because a whole team works on that piece, and then it just becomes this, oh, you’re a scholar and you worked on that Mercedes commercial. So did these five people. And you’re just kind of one in a group, where if you’re like, “Oh, check out this rad film I shot with a couple buddies,” that’s what helps you. And I think you got to kind of do both. And I always say that only the freaks make it in this business. It’s very difficult to do all of these things. It’s a difficult, it takes a ton of time, it takes a ton of focus, and only the freaks will survive. Only the people that are kind of crazy about it make it, because they have the passion to do all these things.
GMUNK: And the perfect example of that is our guy Ash Thorp. Fucking look at this guy, driving from San Diego to Prologue for a year to learn … That was his college, that was his education. A guy who was on his own from a young age, learns from the Danny Younts, Ilyas, Paul Mitchells of the world at Prologue driving three hours a day at probably four in the morning, getting support from his wife, and they had a kid. It’s just a crazy story, but he was possessed. He was a fucking possessed man, and then look at what he’s doing now. He does, what, like two client projects a year, and then the rest of it is just his own work, because he’s paving his way as an artist, and that’s what you do as an artist, is you do your own thing.
GMUNK: And that’s started to pay dividends for him. He’s working on feature films, he’s writing his own films. That’s the path. There’s a lot to learn from that. There’s a lot to learn from that. And when I look at my body of work, I make sure that a big chunk of it is personal work. And easier said than done, but it’s so important, man. You can’t just punch your time card and go in there and just do the work that’s handed to you. You got to tell yourself, I don’t need to be paid for everything. A lot of the stuff I do, I either pay for myself, or I do it for free because it’s a cool project. And it’s important to be open to that. It’s not a prescription. Your career is not a prescription. You really have to take charge.
GMUNK: So that was really my only regret in that time period, was just I wasn’t doing that. And that was three to four years in my prime, in my 29 to 32, in my prime years, just not, just losing track of what GMUNK was. It wasn’t until we finished TRON that I was like, okay, I’m going to get a new website out. I’m going to just take advantage of releasing this epic project with my own epic website and story of all the work that I’ve produced. And I just timed it, and I planned that. I planned that for months. It was like big release, get my shit together, drop it all at the same time, get the publicity going, and just do it. Time that shit. And then from there, it kind of was like, okay, I got my career back.
GMUNK: And it’s everything to me, man. That brings me happiness. And now it’s about, okay, you got your career back. How do you constantly reinvent yourself? How do you make your commercial work as good as your personal work, which is the fucking, the great challenge. That is the great challenge, is how do you make your commercial work as good as your personal work. That’s where you get into the Johnny Green. He was one of my heroes, the Rob Chius of the world, Salomon Ligthelms. These are the commercial directors I’m looking up to right now saying okay, how can I get my client work, how can I get my commercial work to be as good as theirs? And I’m still learning. I’m still learning what is the trick to that. I’m reading interviews of them, and talking to them.
GMUNK: I reach out to, I’m good friends with Rob Chiu, talking to them and just trying to learn as much as I can on what is that, because that’s a tricky one, is how do you collaborate with ad agencies who have written this idea, you take it and put your own spin on it, but during edit and post, they’re in charge. What is that formula that makes really great commercial work? And it’s really difficult, man.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Well let’s, okay, so I’m going to tease this apart, because there’s a lot of things I want to pick up on here. So first I want to talk about, you mentioned Ash, and I got to interview him a while back for this podcast. And in talking with him, I was actually really, really, really impressed. I mean, he’s obviously a brilliant, brilliant artist, but I was also, I think the most impressive thing about him is just how … I’m trying to think of the word-
Joey Korenman: Yeah, disciplined, but confidence in the decision he’s made to be that disciplined. Because we talked about sacrifice a little bit earlier, and to me, I mean a lot of what Ash does is sacrifice. And maybe to him it doesn’t feel that way, but I mean even something as small as like, I’m going to be tired tomorrow because I’m staying up an extra four hours because I have to make this thing better. That’s a choice. And there actually is a lot of back and forth, and sometimes controversy springs up because there’s kind of two minds about it in the industry. There’s, you know what? Other industries just let you have a nine to five job, and you can go home and turn your brain off. Why can’t we do that, too?
Joey Korenman: And then you’ve got, and pretty much it’s the artists at the top that are doing the coolest stuff that point out, well, you can do that if you want, but you are giving up some creative potential there. So I’m curious, what’s your thoughts on that? I mean, is it possible to do the things that you and Ash, and Beeple is another one. I mean, Mike’s got a family, and somehow, I don’t understand when he sleeps, or if. And I’ve hung out with him-
Joey Korenman: … I don’t think he does. But what’s your take on that?
GMUNK: I mean, yeah, let’s talk about Mike for a second. I mean, fucking, I was just in Toronto with him at FITC, I had a great time. He’s literally one of the funnier people on earth.
GMUNK: He’s so fucking funny. And I was just like, “Dude, you’ve done 10 years of this. You should just stop. You should just do an every weekly or something, or dude, every day’s in motion, and just stop doing the every days.” And he’s like, “I can’t.” He’s like, “I can’t. I need to keep pushing, I need to keep inspiring.” It’s almost like there’s this weight on his shoulder, like he’s championing this industry.
GMUNK: And it’s wild. It’s like, dude, you have nothing to prove. Do something else. It’s time. You don’t have to do this. And he won’t listen. It’s just, he’s a man possessed, and it’s crazy how good he’s gotten because of it. He is so … He produces stuff where you look at and you’re like, how? Nobody on earth can make what he makes in a day. Zero. It’s just like he’s on a fucking different … And the reason he is so good is because he’s basically done that. These every days are paying huge dividends for him because he is just so far beyond … His speed, and just the output, it’s just crazy. I don’t know what else to say about it. It seems he’s on a fucking completely different planet.
GMUNK: And that’s what it takes. That’s what it takes. And I don’t think there’s, it’s all about, there is no right or wrong. You know what I mean? There is no right or wrong. It’s just about what you want. And if you want to have … Personally, I think I have a balanced life, because I have friends, I have family, I have adventure. There’s magic, there’s a lot. There’s a lot there going on that complement the long hours that I work to keep my life exciting. And the reason that it is exciting is because I know it needs to be. I know that all these other things need to fall into place for me to be happy. And at the end of the day, all that matters with anybody is happiness. Is happiness.
GMUNK: And if you’re slaving Ash Thorp hours and you’re not happy, you shouldn’t be doing that. There needs to be a fire inside of you that’s pushing you to do those kinds of hours, and it shouldn’t be forced on you. Nothing should be forced on anybody. That’s just a decision that people are making. So that’s kind of the most important thing. Beeple has chosen to do these every days, and no one can convince him otherwise. Ash has chosen to be a complete psycho and work until five in the morning every night, because it makes him happy. He’s on a mission, and he’s been put on this earth to do that, and he’s found his ultimate inspiration. And then that inspiration and that motivation, there’s multipliers, and those multipliers are the interaction on social media.
GMUNK: That’s a big thing, because these guys have networks where they’re interacting with their audience constantly. And that in itself is one of the most inspiring things, because if there is interaction involved, like you do a piece, okay. Let’s just say we’re at, I’m just going to use Gentleman Scholar, because I’m always using Gentleman Scholar today. For some reason they’re just on my mind. Very great studio, Gentleman Scholar. Congratulations [inaudible 00:44:12], and it’s an amazing studio. But if you’re a Gentleman Scholar, the only kind of interactivity you have is on Motionographer and in the motion design scene. And only when your project is done, you can’t really share what you’re doing as much, and it’s just kind of like you have a big interaction at a specific time, but it’s not an interactive.
GMUNK: It’s more like, finish a project, interaction, you’re [inaudible 00:44:44] Motionographer, congratulations. And that’s all great, but with these guys, it’s daily interactions. It’s Instagram stories, Q&As, posting something, getting feedback, posting another thing, getting feedback. Jamming at night, throwing something on Twitter, getting feedback. And that itself, that kind of feedback loop is actually a really inspiring thing because it’s like you have a platform. You have a platform to share. And so I encourage people, get on Instagram. Instagram is the fucking … And now it’s really, really saturated, and I don’t know if it has the same impact, but it doesn’t fucking matter, because Instagram is the premiere place to share things.
GMUNK: And every artist should have an Instagram, and a healthy Instagram, an Instagram that they’re giving lots of love to and posting, and posting stories, and having fun with it, and creating a name for himself, and just getting out there and getting the conversation started. So important. Twitter, I love Twitter because it’s kind of like my information feed. I’ve been using it since, I don’t know, eight years now, and you only follow who you want, and you just really use it how you want. And it’s also a great way to share art and design and ideas and articles, and it’s just a little bit more … Those are the only two social medias I use. And then maybe four years ago, three years ago, I hired some help. I said, okay, I need to make a Behance website, and there’s no way that I’m spending the time making this.
GMUNK: So I hired some help, and my dear friend, Andrea Montealegre, whom I met at a conference. I hired her, she’s now my only employee. She’s like my executive assistant rockstar, and she helped me make a Behance. And a million views later, here we are. And it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made to just say, hey, I need help. I need help getting my shit on Behance and expanding my audience, and that’s a huge platform. If someone is like oh, I want to make a portfolio site, but I’m worried that no one’s going to go there, make it on Behance. Make it with Adobe Portfolio. And I’m not just saying that because [inaudible 00:47:09] for Adobe or anything, but that’s the platform with all the eyeballs, dude.
GMUNK: It’s not on personal websites. And we did an article on Motionographer about that. Hey, I got a new personal website and no one sees it. But a million views later on Behance, the proof is in the pudding. Behance and Instagram, dude, are the two platforms where you’re going to find success reaching people. And you know what, Joey? It’s not for everybody, man. It’s not for everybody. Some people just don’t care. Some people could care less, can’t be bothered, want to have a happy life, punching the time card, getting better, learning from the studio around them. I mean, there’s pros to studio environment, man.
GMUNK: You learn a ton. There’s super talented people all around you. It’s a culture. I tell people who get out of school, I say, “Go work at a studio. Don’t be a freelancer right away. Just get into a studio environment, learn as much as you can.” That’s step one. Probably for a good part of your 20s is get your skills. Get your skills, go to samurai training, go work at Buck. Do it. And then from there, look at other options if you want. But there’s no magic formula, man. It’s all about what you want and what makes you happy, and that’s individual. I could preach and say do this, do that, but that’s just what works for me and a small handful of other people. You know?
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I think everything you said really resonates. I think that there’s just kind of seasons to things, as cliché as saying that is. At certain points, I mean who the hell knows? You’re going to have a kid in a year, year and a half. There may be a point where you’re like, I just want a lot of money right now so I’m not so stressed out about paying for college one day. And so you may … I mean, I don’t know about you, but-
GMUNK: I haven’t solved for that.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. I want to hear it, maybe you got something growing in the backyard that’ll help pay for it.
GMUNK: Yeah. That would actually, we have backyard for that. No. I’m probably going to move to Europe when it’s time for the kids to go to school.
Joey Korenman: Smart. Very smart.
GMUNK: Yeah. I can’t. The U.S., man. You know what? Thank God I live in California. I love California. I just love it. It’s a magical place. I love it. I love the West Coast, I love Oregon, I love Washington State, I love British Columbia in Canada. But U.S., man. Phew. It’s just a big country that is so polarized, and I just … Unless a miracle happens, it’s not going to be that much better in five, six, seven years. So I think, we’re looking at Barcelona. [inaudible 00:50:03]
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Well I mean, I can definitely get up on the high horse if we start talking about the college system and student loans and all that. But we’ll skip over that for now, but where I was going was, you’ve got these seasons, and there’s times when it really is about, okay, I just need to make a big fucking wad of cash right now for some reason, and that’s okay. And then there’s other periods where you’re kind of just creatively sapped, and you need to explore and do something that’s really inspiring. And so much, I mean, I don’t know, almost all of the work that you’re really known for, I mean I guess TRON and Oblivion, those are commercial projects that you were paid to work on.
Joey Korenman: But a lot of the stuff that’s really the best stuff on your site is personal, where I’m sure you aren’t getting paid to it. I’m assuming you’re also probably putting up your own cash in a lot of instances. And that’s a tricky thing to balance. So how do you think about balancing that? I mean, I’ve heard you say that you try to have a certain percentage, but I mean, is it that mathematical, or do you just kind of feel it out and say, now I need to do something personal
GMUNK: I mean, one thing that I will say real quick before I go into the personal stuff, I think one place that is a great place to be is in entertainment, working on TRON and Oblivion. And even to some set … Well, let’s just focus on TRON and Oblivion. That was for entertainment, and there is really no … I mean there’s a client obviously, Disney and Universal Pictures, but there’s something to be said about working on feature films. And because it’s really just kind of art in the end, especially if it’s attached to a good director. So there is a big difference between that and a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial. You know what I’m saying?
GMUNK: And that’s what is making a place like Territory Studios so compelling, is they are working on films. They said from the outset, “We’re going to do UI for feature films.” And so they basically have a monopoly in the industry. They’re just the fucking best at it. And that’s what they’ve done. And then from there, they’re now, instead of doing just UI, they’re doing so much more. They’re doing concept art, they’re doing vehicle design, weapon design. They’ve expanded. And now they’ve opened the San Francisco office, and now they’re getting into the tech industry, all the Silicon Valley market. So it’s been a nice evolution. It’s fun to watch that. It’s fun to watch how they’ve gone from feature films into … They’ve reverse engineered it.
GMUNK: So entertainment is always a good thing. So do as much entertainment … You could, as a motion designer, say, I’m only going to do concert visuals. And so you start off by only making VJ clips over and over, little animations. If you do that enough, someone’s going to hire you to do content for their show, you keep on going on that. And then as soon as you know it, you’re working on fucking Kendrick Lamar’s new show in three to four years. And it’s just kind of like you put out the work you want to do. For me, and I’ve done concert visuals, it’s hard because it’s very long. It’s long, but it’s kind of like you’re doing an hour and a half feature film that’s slightly more ambient. It’s visual.
GMUNK: There’s no script or dialogue or story that people are really going to follow, but it’s a lot of content [inaudible 00:53:54], and it usually takes a lot of time, but it’s also very rewarding because you go to the concert, your content is giant on a fucking giant video wall, and it’s awesome. Experiential is like that, too. There’s a lot of gigs right now for markets in the Middle East and in China where it’s like, make us 20 minutes of content for this giant 20 foot wide video wall in this posh ass hotel in Shanghai. So now I’m making basically art that goes on the wall, there is very little branding involved, and it’s basically just beautiful art that goes on a pretty impressive video wall that people walk by.
GMUNK: That’s nice. It’s nice, and I learned a lot spending time with Obscura about that. They did an amazing project with MGM Cotai where they went around all over China and shot beautiful footage for it, threw it up on this gorgeous, gorgeous LED installation, beautiful, giant LED walls all around this beautiful hotel mall. And it’s just a gorgeous project. It’s a beautiful fucking project, really, really top. And you look at that and you’re like, I would love to do work like that. I would love to do work like that. That’s kind of where we want to go with our photo trips, is we want to start putting it in the experiential realm, where it’s basically just beautiful wallpapers for hotels, clubs, casinos, malls, wherever.
GMUNK: That’s a nice place for that to land, because the screens are giant and it’s experiential. So then you focus on the UX of that. How do you make the UX more compelling? And you got something quite cool. Okay. So that’s a rant about that, doing art, entertainment. One last bit, is another place I’m trying to position myself is in the fine art world, doing exhibitions. I did my first solo exhibition in San Francisco, did one in Laguna Beach, did a really small one in Russia that didn’t turn out great at all, and now lining up to do one in Hangzhou at the end of the year. It’s going to be a solo exhibition, taking over a whole room with design work, photography work, sculptural work. And this is where I want to go. I want to make in roads in the fine art world, because it’s personal work, and it’s expression, and there is a huge fucking market for that.
GMUNK: And the cool thing about being a motion designer and having that background is, you can imagine that at my exhibitions, there is giant video walls with tons of content, outtakes from music videos and all sorts of shit that I’m making edit for just to fill that content that goes into the experiential realm. That’s really interesting to me. So I think the personal work is always, for me, it’s always very fluid. And it’s always grounded in, as I get older, I’ve been kind of branding myself differently in a way that the personal work is a little bit tighter. And by tighter I mean more focused. So I started shooting infrared three years ago, and was like, okay, how do I get this out to the world? I’m going to create a hashtag called inframunk, and it’s a new hashtag, kind of a weird, strange word, and I’m just going to flood Instagram with all of my tests on that and basically just master the fuck out of infrared photography, which I love because the process of shooting it is really, it reminds me of tripping.
GMUNK: It basically just reminds me of tripping, and I love it. And I’m still going on that. I’m looking at infrared drones. I’m looking at different filters. I got a new filter that kind of looks like this old Ektachrome film. It kind of looks like film. I’m going to start shooting infrared film as well, just tons of shit. It’s never ending. You can always just add to the technique and keep going. The infrared drone stuff I’m excited about as well. And then there’s psymunk, which is all my psychedelic shit, and I’m going to basically put down the camera for a bit this summer and go hard into 3D again. Just say, I’m going to close Lightroom for a while, and I’m just going to spend three months learning some new shit, doing some stuff with some partners on that, and just going to do a whole new body of work based on sculpture, 3D printing and forms and projection, and just go deep in that.
GMUNK: And that’s all psymunk, and that’s all my psychedelic shit. And then I want my personal live action to also by psymunk and inframunk. So it’s all based on psychedelic and maybe infrared. So there’s that. And then now, after doing this for a while, it’s like a story, narrative. I shot my first bit of dialogue for a commercial recently, and I fucking loved it, and I was like, dude, what have I been doing for the last five years? Dialogue is everything. I’m never going to shoot anything without dialogue ever again. Dialogue is so much fun. You tell a story, and you’re watching people emote and communicate and reinforce that story. So obviously the off script is going to have dialogue, and everything I do, I want to have dialogue, as much as I get the opportunity.
GMUNK: So every personal film I’m going to do now from here on out is going to have dialogue and focus on story. The images will take care of themselves, because I’ve been doing that for 19 years. It’s now about growing into basically a real director, which is dialogue and narrative. And that narrative will then cross over to experiential work, and into user experience. You see where I’m going with this, right? It’s like every cross pollinates.
GMUNK: Everything is kind of pollinating each other, and it’s just like one big exploration. It’s like one big dance. It’s like one big play, where you’re just kind of mixing and matching, and nothing’s off limits. Nothing’s off limits.
Joey Korenman: So let’s talk about engineering this, because it sounds incredible, and I think that it’s a really great model for anyone getting into the industry to look at. Go to a studio, learn the ropes, learn how the industry works, and then start doing this dual track of doing personal work, which then helps your career, your paid work sort of leapfrog, and now you’re getting paid to do that thing. And I mean, that’s kind of a theme that I harp on all the time, is you need to do the work that you want to get paid for before you’re being paid to do it.
Joey Korenman: But how do you do that? And I’m assuming, especially someone at your level, maybe it’s even more difficult because in order to take a month to focus on Maya again, and to do some more cool geometric renders or whatever you have planned, you may have to say no to a $30,000 commercial gig or something like that. And so I’m wondering, just on a very practical level, how do you manage to do that? Has it gotten easy for you to say, “I can’t take this high paying gig because I’m doing a personal project,” or are you just very disciplined financially? How do you pull it off?
GMUNK: Yeah, I rarely say no to money making opportunities. I like to make money. And so I just balance it. I just balance it. I’m disciplined enough where I just balance it, and just do both. But basically how I’ve set myself up on the commercial realm is, I don’t have to be anywhere. I don’t have to be anywhere. So I work from home. I have teams, I have agents, reps who then make the teams around me. It’s all remote. So the client work is like a choreography in a way. And so there’s always enough time to pick away at the personal work alongside the client work. And it’s okay. Rarely do I ever turn down something, especially a cool … There’s stuff that if it’s low budget, or if it’s a client who I don’t believe is going to lead us in a good direction, or is uneducated about the process, stuff like that I’ll definitely say no to, client work-wise.
GMUNK: But a cool client job, I will definitely do both, and just be like, we’ll just do both. And the personal work, we’ll just have to work around it a little bit. We’ll just have to work around the client job so I could … We all need to eat, man. We all need to. It’s just a balance. It’s just a balance. You set up your resources, you set up the resources to kind of be able to manage both, and have teams in place where they can help you produce it for you, and then it makes it a lot easier.
Joey Korenman: So let’s talk about that, because you’ve gotten to the place in your career where you’re operating in a very different way than most of the people listening to this, who are used to either just getting a paycheck twice a month, or charging a day rate, or maybe even a project rate, but they’re freelance. And so to me, from the outside, it seems like you’re a freelancer in a way, but there’s always more to it than that, because if you’re directing, it’s obviously not just you. You’re also repped by I think three companies, The Mill, Tool of North America, and [Joe Jack 01:04:02].
Joey Korenman: So you now have commercial and interactive representation. So I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about what that transition was like when you went from the more standard thing of this is how I get paid and it’s the same as everybody else, to now it’s this much more complex thing, and I’m a director, but I’m repped by this company, and that company has staff that’s actually doing the work, and I’m directing it. Was there a learning curve? What was that like?
GMUNK: Yeah, it’s totally different, and it’s super hard. Well, there’s kind of two different types as well. There’s live action, which is a fucking, the ceiling on that is just in heaven. The ceiling on that is in outer space. Going into that has just been the most humbling experience in my career, because it’s just like, oh God, now I’m being compared to … Now my peers, instead of Buck or ManVsMachine, who I’ve worked for studios like that, so I understand how that works, is now Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, [inaudible 01:05:18] just like what the-
Joey Korenman: Right, Ridley Scott.
GMUNK: Ridley Scott. It’s just like, what the fuck? This is crazy. And it’s hyper competitive, and it’s like a totally new industry with new strategies and processes, and it’s just a totally different thing. And it’s still humbling, man. I keep track of every single one of my pitches. It all started in 2000, I think 2014 or 2013 were my first pitches as a director. I hit a really nice … And I keep track, winners, losers, and no contests. I have a folder. I show this doing my speeches. Yeah, I started in February of 2014 was my first pitch. And so it’s been about five years now. And to give you an example, I have 21 winners, I have 18 losers. That’s pretty good.
Joey Korenman: That’s great.
GMUNK: And then I have 16 no contests, which are projects that just die or go away. And it’s not really like, it can’t be counted as a loser or a winner. It just kind of was never really a thing. So the rate is actually pretty good. People usually say you win about 30%, one out of three you win. But I hit a really good groove in 2015, was probably my best year, because I was doing something new. I was a director who was using light as their canvas. And light to me, all different kinds of light, projection, LED, laser, and then how light reacts with materials, mirrors. And material, mirrors, reflections, refractions, glass, just light. What light and material do, that was kind of my thing.
GMUNK: And I was doing something that not a lot of people were doing at the time, and then that kind of style went out of, people weren’t interested in light anymore, it was too futuristic, people were bored of that by 2018. So it’s like, oh shit, now I got to reinvent myself into something else. Does that work? You just got to … It’s an exercise in snowball, where it’s just like get momentum, do a good piece, someone calls you about that piece, you get another piece. And that’s the challenge about doing really great client work, is because the commercial world is all about doing client with agencies or whomever is hiring you, and you got to do a great piece, get momentum from that, do another one, get momentum from that, do another one, now you’re in conversation, now you’re the hot shit, and you just snowball.
GMUNK: And just got to get on the snowball and hope you get wrapped up in it, and if you don’t, you just got to find that traction is kind of how it works. And it’s super hard. It’s super, super, super hard, because the pitches are hard, you don’t get a lot of time for them, you’re up against all these other directors who are extremely talented. So imagine an ad agency is going on the Internet and say, “Okay, we want to do something about a track that is reactive to [inaudible 01:08:49],” for instance. Just throwing this out there. So they go online and they say, “Okay, who are the three best directors to do this?” It’s going to be GMUNK, Marshmallow Laser Feast, and Unit9 which is always … In 2015 and ’16, that was literally who I was only pitching against all the time.
GMUNK: And Buck and ManVsMachine will say the same thing. It’s like, “Oh yeah, we’re always pitching against each other for the same work,” because they found the style, but they kind of have a monopoly on [inaudible 01:09:17]. So there’s that. And it’s super hard. You’re just pitching against the best in the world for this one thing, and then you work really, really hard, and you always have to change the agency brief just enough for them to get excited about, but not too much where they’re not listening to us. It’s like this dance. It’s like this dance where in motion, and that’s like directing. Either live action or experiential directing is that. In motion design, it’s more like here’s the story, give us the style. It’s more like design direct.
GMUNK: And sure, there’s a ton of creativity that’s involved in it, but it’s more about finding how you’re going to represent this visually, and the agency is kind of taking care of selling it to the client and the creative direction on it. Sometimes. There’s always differences and stuff. And it’s very difficult. It’s probably the most challenging. And I’m smart enough to say, okay, this isn’t the only thing I’m going to do. Because if this is the only thing I’m going to do, then it’s going to be a tough gig. And so I complement the commercial directing with experiential, which I kind of feel like I’m better at, because I have a little bit more experience. There’s a little bit more design involved sort of, and then there’s the UX, which I feel I’m getting a lot better at, and really inspired by it now.
GMUNK: And experiential stuff is like the robotics stuff we’re doing, the screen based stuff we’re doing, anything outside of the television that you experience. And I’m working on partnership in that realm constantly, finding new fabricators, finding new collaborators, and just really bolstering that team. And then fine art I’m very interested in as well, and then the entertainment world. Doing not necessarily commercials, but more working on feature films, working on short films, working on experiential content that is meant to just be … I hate the word screensaver, it’s a terrible word, but it’s just a piece of art in a space, and that’s a nice medium, too.
GMUNK: I mean, a lot of these motion design studios are also doing … I know Buck is doing a ton of experiential work. For a lot of the big hitters in Silicon Valley, they have a whole department for that, because they’re smart, and they realize that there’s a whole other industry that they can tap into with their talent. Buck and ManVsMachine in my eyes are some of the most talented studios in the world, if not the most. And so they’re like, “Okay, we’re not just going to use this talent just to make commercials.” Hell no. They’re privy to that. I mean, I think the industry is always changing, too. You’re not just for television anymore.
GMUNK: So I think a lot of the stuff that I’m saying and doing, a lot of these studios are also doing. It’s not like this is some secret that nobody knows about. But I’m just saying, at the end of the day, Joey, it’s a struggle. You’re always just like, imagine you’re underwater, and you’re constantly trying to get to the surface for air, and you have to swim through all these whale sharks and seaweed and kelp and octopus and jellyfish, and you’re kind of just meandering through this abyss of challenges to find your way. And it’s just a constant struggle and a constant fight, but it doesn’t result in a loss of enthusiasm, because what you do is you find the things that make you excited. Learning, sharing, communicating with others. You kind of run with other people. I’m constantly texting people I admire, because I want to run with them.
GMUNK: We’re like a fucking graffiti crew running at night, painting some trains, because we run together. And that’s really inspiring. And a lot of people in the motion design industry, they run with people at their studio. They inspire each other. I don’t have that, so I have to run with friends. Beeple and Ash and Toros. My iMessage threads are endless because I’m always sharing and communicating and running with these guys, so this constant struggle is more exciting. If you just did this isolated, it would be really difficult and be really kind of sad, and kind of boring, and there wouldn’t be a lot of receiving from it. And I feel like we have to give and receive. You have to give in order to receive in a lot of ways. And so using social media, and just having friendships and just cultivating and sharing and running with these people results in that challenge I’m painting of clawing your way to the surface, it just makes it more exciting and fun.
Joey Korenman: So you’re kind of in this different pond now, I think, than most of the people listening to this. And I don’t have any experience other than at the beginning of my career, being an editor and working on commercials a lot. And so I sort of saw the rep director agency relationship through that lens. And so now that you’re on the other side of that, and according to my math here, you’ve gotten about four commercial gigs per year, which is not a lot. I mean, if you’re a freelance motion designer, maybe you do 30 projects a year. You can just do a lot more.
Joey Korenman: So how does it work in terms of … And we were actually talking about this before we started recording. You were saying that it’s difficult to actually make ends meet sometimes doing it this way, because this system is so cutthroat and competitive, and there’s all these different actors involved. Is it actually harder to get paid well doing commercial work in this way? I mean, would it be easier if you were just freelancing for 1,000 bucks a day? Or I guess let’s start there, because 21 won pitches, pitches that you’ve won in five years, that doesn’t seem like a ton of work, right?
GMUNK: Yeah. Well that’s, yeah, that’s just in the commercial realm-
GMUNK: … that I’m doing those pitches. There’s a ton of other projects that don’t follow that same construct. But if you worked your way up … It’s like burst income. You can either do your steady day … Okay, look. You could book a design job that pays you $1,000 a day as a freelancer for two months, and that would just be fucking epic. That’s what? That’s fucking 40 Gs right there, and that’s great. And you could do that, or you could do a two day shoot, or let’s just say a three day shoot, probably set that shoot up for two weeks maybe, and make the same amount of money based on your day rate for being on set. So there’s just different ways to do it. I would say any of these paths that are chosen, there’s no easy … Nothing’s easy.
GMUNK: There’s no easy formula for making it. And so you have to just use your resources to get where you need to go. And that requires a ton of discipline and a ton of focus, and a lot of luck. We haven’t even talked about luck, but fuck, man, a lot of my big breaks in my career are just lucky, just lucky shit that just happened by being at the right place at the right time, and having a fortuitous sequence of events happen. It’s just luck. And the only way you’re lucky is by being in the right place at the right time. You got to put yourself out there and do that. Yeah. I don’t know, man. I think the key is just to be happy. Do things that make you happy, man-
Joey Korenman: That’s the secret.
GMUNK: … and find the warmth. You got to find the warmth. And a lot of the warmth for me comes from learning, and just constantly learning and trying new things and making myself completely uncomfortable, and faking it. Faking knowledge to get an opportunity, that’s not uncommon. That’s not uncommon. We all do it. I [inaudible 01:19:04] a panel with fucking Beeple, Kate Dawkins, who does a ton of concert visuals and experiential work, and Scott Hansen from Tycho. And we all said the same thing. We all said, “Dude, we fake it all the time.” All the time, and we fake it to get opportunities, we fake it to … And obviously there’s a ton of work behind that.
GMUNK: It’s not just like we fake it and don’t have the skills or the background to make it, but we definitely push that a bit. Push that as much as you can to where you don’t get in huge amounts of trouble, but just know that there is an element of like hey, yeah, I’m going to … Do you know what I’m saying? I’m not saying lie. I’m just, yeah, I’m not saying lie, but I’m just saying, just know that there is some of that involved [crosstalk 01:20:06]
Joey Korenman: A little bit, yeah. You’re not saying lie, but you’re kind of saying lie a little.
GMUNK: [crosstalk 01:20:10] lie, yeah.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. No, I totally get what you’re saying, man. I want to hear, we were talking a little bit, before we started recording, you were telling me about some of the interesting wrinkles that you come across when you’re working as a commercial director with ad agencies, and maybe sometimes it’s direct to clients, but I’m assuming that you’re doing a ton of stuff with agencies still. And that’s an interesting dynamic, because they’re hiring you because of your creative vision and your technical chops and the work that they’ve seen. The personal projects that you did have led to them coming to you and saying, “Here, we’ll pay you 30 or 40k for a few weeks of work.”
Joey Korenman: And then once it’s shot and you get into the editing suite, or maybe even when you’re on set, you’ve got all these other creative people around you who, they may have the ad agency mentality, which I’ve spoken about at length in this podcast. I’m curious, has that been difficult for you to deal with? There’s so many weird things that happen when you get an ad agency involved, and there’s big numbers, and they want their thumbprint on it and all that kind of stuff.
GMUNK: Oh, man. I mean, with commercial work, the setup with it. With ad agency-driven, live action edit commercial work, I feel like motion design for ad agencies is different, because they are doing usually the live action. Sometimes the studios do. Like a ManVsMachine would definitely shoot live action for it and direct it and work with the agency on the edit. But I think the construct of how it’s supposed to go is, the agency pitches the idea, sells it to the client. Agency takes that idea, gives it to directors, directors treat on it the right treatment, slightly changing the idea, putting their own voice into it. Agency awards it to director, they shoot it together, and then usually, agency directs the edit.
GMUNK: And the director can hang around and help direct the edit, but they’re not being paid for it, and they are … I don’t know, it depends on who you are, I guess. If you’re Wes Anderson directing a commercial, no agency’s going to fuck with you. I’m not Wes Anderson. I’m not even close to being Wes Anderson, so I don’t get … I probably get listened maybe 50% of the time on an edit. Maybe less. And that’s just the way it is. So then you say, okay, I can either contribute for free to the edit, give my opinion, become kind of a nuisance in their eyes, not get paid for it, and then just kind of waste time, or I can just do a director’s cut. A director’s cut is tricky because if there’s a lot of post involved, then you either are doing the post twice, and they’re doing your version for free or for favors.
GMUNK: So then you have to be really crafty about how many post shots are there. You want the amount of post shots to match the agency cut, which is annoying and challenging, and usually director’s cuts take months to finish. I’m doing a director’s cut right now that is probably going to come out two months after the agency cut, maybe three. And it sucks. I want to show the project, and I’ll show the agency cut, and then I’ll just swap it out for the director’s cut and no one will care. But in the grand scheme of things, when I look at my website eight years from now, I’ll be like, oh, yeah, I’m glad I did the director’s cut.
GMUNK: But in the immediate, there’s literally no payoff whatsoever. It’s like, oh, yeah, cool, nobody cares. For me there’s a payoff because I feel better about it. And it’s like okay, yeah, we’ve realized the vision that I wanted to make. But it’s super hard, man. Super, super hard. And so you need to understand, and you and I were talking about this, about what Mr. Lewandowski was saying about, “Always know that your client work is not going to be your best work.” Now for me, the challenge is to make the client work the best work, but fuck, man, it is hard. It is just hard, and I think it’s just about, there has to be a healthy detachment from it where you’re still invested and you’re still giving your 120%, and you’re professional and you give your opinions, but you’re not going to throw a tantrum if they don’t listen, because usually they won’t always listen.
GMUNK: Agency, because they were … You have to understand where these jobs came from. And where did they come from in the beginning? It is from the ad agency. Unless you’re doing direct to client work. If you’re doing direct to client work, that’s great. And Facebook goes directly to Buck, there is no ad agency involved. A lot of the tech companies have their own internal agencies direct to client now. And you’ve seen a lot of that kind of work come where it’s just direct to the studio, which it’s making the industry a little bit more dangerous. Because without ad agencies, a lot of the classic commercial work, especially in the live action realm, is hurting. This year is a very slow year for it, and everybody will tell you that, in the commercial live action agency-driven arena.
GMUNK: Because a lot of people are going direct to client now, the industry’s always changing, and it’s always adjusting. And you as a creative professional just have to roll with that. You just have to roll with the peaks and valleys of what the industry is doing, and just always have a plan B and a plan C and a plan D. There’s always a plan B and C, because you have to have to it. And then you kind of like, oh shit, it’s been a really slow year for commercial live action. Shit, I should just go take a fucking, move to London and go work at ManVsMachine. It’d be great. But I just know that I wouldn’t be happy. I just wouldn’t be happy, so at the end of the day, I’m not going to do something where I’m not happy.
GMUNK: Because the noise, mental noise is the worst, is just the worst. It stifles creativity. You could always tell if you’re healthy or not if you’re talking to yourself. If you’re talking to yourself, and having conversations in your mind that are meant to have with other people that are stressing you out or stressful, something’s not right. And every time that I go into a full time job like that, that starts happening, where I’m talking to myself about other people, conversations I’m having. It’s not healthy. It’s not healthy.
GMUNK: For me. That’s just for me. And so I’m just like, I can’t do this. I don’t belong at a full time job, so then I got to embrace the struggle and crawl my way through the jellyfish and search there. And that’s just the path I’ve chosen, and I’m fucking going to master it. I’m going to master it. And when I’m 60, maybe I’ll be a little bit closer to Wes Anderson, maybe a little bit, maybe a centimeter, but I’ll be better at playing the game. And the only way you get better at that is just by experience. It’s just putting yourself in it and just clawing your way through it.
Joey Korenman: One of the things that I’ve noticed with you and Ash, and just other really successful artists, is that you’re never the same person for very long. You’re kind of always reinventing your personal brand, your work, your style, you’re learning a new tool. And one of the things that I’m curious, I’d love to get your take on this, is that you got into motion design right at the beginning. I mean, for everyone listening, we’re going to link to everything we’re talking about in our show notes, and there’s a piece that Bradley’s kind of known for, for people who have been in the industry for a long time, called Finn’s Movie. David Lewandowski, you probably don’t know this, Bradley, but he came to give a talk at Ringling when I was teaching there, and he showed that piece that you did, I don’t know, almost 20 years ago now, and he said, “This is the first thing I saw that looked like motion design to me.”
Joey Korenman: And it really has all the hallmarks of that early 2000s kind of style with the, everything’s at a 45 degree angle, and there’s pixel smear everywhere and all that kind of stuff. And so you came up through the industry with a lot of super heavy hitters that are still working and doing amazing stuff now, but not everyone shot to the moon the way you did. And the common thread that I’ve seen with people who did reach escape velocity is that they got to the top, and then went sideways and dropped to the bottom and started over again, and then got good at something else. And then, well, now I’m good at this, I should bail and do something else that I’m not good at.
Joey Korenman: And there’s this constant like, okay, now I’m good at it, I have to try something brand new. Is that intentional? Is that kind of part of the secret, is you always do need to be reinventing yourself, or else you end up … And the reason I ask is because there’s definitely a little bit of an undercurrent of bitterness from some artists that have been in the industry a long time that their careers basically plateaued 10 years ago. And they’re not doing poorly. They’re not starving or anything, but they’re just doing the same thing over and over again and getting paid the same amount, and they seem a little upset about that.
GMUNK: Yeah. Constantly reinventing yourself is kind of the ticket. And I don’t know if you need … I don’t look at it as starting over. I just look at it, yeah, I look at it as you’re traveling sideways. Because all the experiences that you have, all the experiences that I have from the motion design industry are influencing every single one of my projects. Even if it’s in a different medium, those skills and those influences never disappear. It’s always time well spent. Any skills you have is always time well spent. I think that it’s more about engagement. I think it’s about, and remember how I was talking about the snowball of commercial work, where you do one thing, your name’s being talked about, and you snowball into another one, you’re getting more opportunities because you’re fucking producing, producing, producing, you’re the hot shit.
Joey Korenman: Right, it’s momentum.
GMUNK: Right? And a perfect of all of that is in the music industry. You see for instance, Miley Cyrus comes out with a new album. She’s changing her look, she’s in the media, she’s doing all sorts of shit and getting attention, beating the drum. And I think that the way to stay healthy, in addition to reinventing yourself and constantly learning, because that’s just going to keep you fresh. That’s going to keep you inspired and just … The more you do and the more you experiment and make yourself uncomfortable, the more rewarding it is, and that leads to happiness. That leads to fulfillment.
GMUNK: But also, you need to beat the drum a little bit and just keep your name out there. And this is a world now where the media and the industry moves so fast, but it’s so connected that you just got to be dropping these little nuggets all the time, these little GMUNK nuggets or whomever, and just constantly get people to know you’re still hustling. And the people that disappear or get comfortable, they don’t do that. They don’t get people talking about their brand or their name or their work. They kind of just disappear. And they disappear because they’re not inspired by a hobby, a new hobby, or branching out into a new thing. If you just look and say, okay, let’s just use Territory for example. Marti and David, met them at many conferences.
GMUNK: Marti lives in San Francisco, a dear friend. Great guys. But if Territory was just only doing UI. Now, let’s just say, okay, they did the UI in Avengers: End Game, and we’re all kind of like, okay, yeah, but you also did the UI in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and you did UI in Avengers, the first one. I don’t know what it was called. Doesn’t matter. But three Avengers movies in a row, they did the UI for. By the third time, it’s like, do we really care? Do we care? It’s kind of just like the same shit. But Territory’s smart and they’re like, okay, we’re going to open the San Francisco office, we’re going to do experiential work now. I’m much more interested in Territory Studio making an LED wall in the Adobe headquarters.
GMUNK: They did a fucking awesome Blade Runner scene in the Adobe headquarters. It’s like, fuck yeah. Dude, that’s what I’m talking about. And getting their name out there, I love that shit. I love what the San Francisco office is doing, and I love that they’re getting more into making assets for feature films, spaceships, weapons, and getting away from just doing the UI. Because if Territory Studios is just doing UI, it’s like we’re numb to it. We’re just numb to it. And if I was just doing inframunk for five years straight, by the time I post inframunk from Croatia in five years from now, you’d be like, “Dude, you’ve been doing that for five years straight. Do something else.” And then come back to it. Come back to it once in a while. It’s all about sprinkles, man. Sprinkles.
Joey Korenman: Isn’t it scary, though? Because especially if you’re a young artist and you get that first taste of, oh wow, they actually like what I put out, and I got featured on Motionographer or something. How do you fight that urge to just keep doing that? Because that’s really addictive. And this is something, actually I’d love to hear your take on this too, because with social media now, there’s no gap between posting something, someone likes it, and now you know they like it. It’s instantaneous, and it’s kind of engineered to keep you staring at the screen.
Joey Korenman: And I’m sure that that kind of translates into, well they liked the last Octane Render I did that had abstract whatever shapes in it, so I should just do another one of those, or I could do something totally different, but what if they don’t like it? What if I don’t get that dopamine hit? And I’m curious if, I don’t know, do you ever feel a little bit of that, where it’s like, well they really loved that Box & Dolly thing I did, the Bot & Dolly, so I should do more of that. Does that ever enter your mind?
GMUNK: Such a good question. I think that if you’re doing work for the pure goal of other people’s likes or adulation, I don’t think you’re doing the work for the right reason. And there’s a really great … There’s a guy names Sean Tucker, he’s English, a photographer, and he has a YouTube channel, and he has an amazing one, and it’s called Dealing with the Artist’s Ego. And it’s just all about, you need to do the work for yourself, and what you want to do, and don’t think about what others are going to say. And I would speak about that as well. Don’t worry about what others think about the work. Do the work for yourself. It’s not about whether or not something’s a hit or not, it’s about the process and what you learned in making the work [inaudible 01:37:00] artistic sensibilities.
GMUNK: And there’s a balance there. I post stuff on Instagram, and I think it’s a really dope photo, and nobody likes it. I’m like, oh, that’s interesting. Usually the stuff that I really like, nobody likes, and usually the stuff that I’m kind of like, oh, I shouldn’t post this, people like it. And I can’t figure it out. I just don’t understand sometimes how it works, or what is the criteria. And frankly, I don’t really care. I really just care about the fact that I am producing for myself. And as long as you’re producing for yourself and putting it out there, there’s happiness within you, you know you’re being true to yourself, and eventually, you can’t control what others are going to think. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. And eventually, something’s going to stick with other people.
GMUNK: It’s kind of like, I hate to say a numbers game, but I think definitely don’t do the stuff that you think people are going to like, because then you’re doing it for the wrong reason. And then he had a point, Sean Tucker, in the podcast. He was like, “Break out artists, they have their breakout album when they’re just so purely them.” Most likely this happens in music the most. Breakout album. It’s most likely the artist. It’s the purest form of the artist is in their breakout album. And then they have two different things. They can keep on reinventing and doing what they want to do. Kendrick Lamar is a great example of that. It’s always different, it’s always interesting.
GMUNK: Or they do what they think people want to hear, and that’s the beginning of their decline. And all the most successful artists are the ones that beat to their own drum, and they’re constantly reinventing different musical styles. For instance, listen to Madonna’s new album. Not the biggest Madonna fan. I love Isla La Bonita, it’s one of my favorite songs ever, I love the song. A long time ago. But her new album is all sorts of different shit in there, and she’s taking chances, man. There’s completely different genres in her album, and it’s really interesting. And some of them are pop songs, they’re what you would expect, and some of them are just so what you would not expect from Madonna. And it’s interesting as fuck.
GMUNK: It’s like, oh my God, she is in the studio doing whatever the hell she wants that she believes in, and that’s inspiring, man. That’s inspiring. You would think Madonna coming out with a new album at 60 is going to just be mainstream, giving people what they want, giving them classic Madonna. She’s totally not doing that. She’s doing just the opposite. It’s super inspiring. And I think that’s how we should all be. We don’t do work for other people’s adulation or feedback, we do it for ourselves. We do it for growth, we do it for experimentation, and we do it for happiness.
Joey Korenman: I mean, throughout this conversation, I think one common thread is that you really are driven by this love of learning, and just focusing on things that make you happy and new challenges and things like that. And I think we touched on this a little bit, but I’m curious why you’ve never opened your own studio. And you’ve remained this solo artist. And obviously it’s not just you. I mean, you have reps and you collaborate constantly, and you’ve got sort of an official team of collaborators and things like that. But I’m just curious, because you did say that it can be kind of tough to actually make money when you’re up in the stratosphere and going up, pitching against top commercial directors and things like that. And it seems like a studio, the whole idea behind it is that it lets someone like you leverage the creativity and the technical chops of other people, which might free you up to be able to do more personal stuff. Or is that just way off the mark? I’m curious why there is no GMUNK Incorporated or something like that.
GMUNK: I just never wanted to deal with managing a ton of people. I think you kind of are picking up that I’m very independent, kind of fly or die kind of dude, and the idea of getting into more of … And you have producers for it, and you get a great EP, and it’s very appealing, the studio model, to start one, but I just don’t want to take the time away from my exploration in managing. And that was just a choice that I’ve made now. I think there is a way to do it where I don’t have to manage so many people, and that’s kind of what I’m looking at, is I just don’t want to be a day to day, showing up at the same spot every day, and managing a whole group of people. I’ll just go crazy.
GMUNK: Because it’s kind of taking away from the things that I want to do. Now that being said, I think there’s a way to have the best of both worlds, and that’s kind of what I’m working on right now, actually, is how do we get this where we don’t have to do that? Because I want the resources. I want the resources of having my own studio, so I’m more … And I kind of have it with my reps, because I have such a large Rolodex of collaborators now that we kind of have a mobile studio in the Cloud. And I also find I have better … A lot of people when they say that they own their own studios and stuff, they’re like, “The only time I can get work done is when everybody leaves and I’m alone at night.”
GMUNK: And I just don’t want to do that, either. I don’t want to deal with the overhead. There are a lot of things that I don’t want to deal with that take me away from what I enjoy the most. And so my goal is trying to figure out how do you it remotely where I can have my own studio space, but still have the benefits of a small studio? So I’m working on that. It’s difficult to figure that out. But I’m a scheming kind of guy. I’m always studying and analyzing and have plans and shit.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. It seems like the risk profile changes a little bit too when you have other people depending on you for their salary and benefits and things like that, you know?
GMUNK: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a whole other thing, right? Risk profile. I like that word.
Joey Korenman: It’s very business-y.
GMUNK: Yeah. Yeah. But it’s true, right? That’s the whole thing. And so yeah, everybody’s got their thing, man. I just have chosen to not go that route for now, but there might be some interesting ideas in the future about that. We’re always scheming, dude. We’re schemers.
Joey Korenman: Nice. Well, dude, you’ve been amazing with your time and everything. I have one more question I just had to ask you about before I let you go, because this is something I’m also really fascinated with. I’ve talked about it with other guests on the podcast, and that is the impact of psychedelic experiences on art and on your work. And there’s a lot of the stuff that you’ve produced that … I mean, it’s pretty … If you said, “Oh, that was inspired by psilocybin,” it’s like, oh, obviously it was. The visuals that you come up with, even things you’re doing with these light rigs, things like that.
Joey Korenman: And I’m curious, because you’ve talked about it on other podcasts and things like that, as you’ve gotten older and as you’ve started thinking about starting a family, has your relationship to psychedelics changed at all? Is it still kind of … Because you’ve been pretty gung ho about it, and very positive, which makes a ton of sense given the experiences you’ve had, but I’m curious if it’s changed at all over time.
GMUNK: I think that as you get older, you get more grounded, and you just get a little more humble. I always say, the more success you have, the more humble you become. And it’s so true. And age as well. You just realize that humility is everything. And so I think with psychedelics, I’m more humbled by them and more … I kind of take more from them now, where it’s less about what I see, or new aesthetics, although that … [inaudible 01:46:13]
GMUNK: That’s completely false, what you just said. But I’m more into what I learn from it as a human being, and how does it influence my behavior and the human being that I want to become. It’s actually very encouraging the last few years that they’re kind of … Like [inaudible 01:46:43], it’s becoming a lot more … Oakland just legalized psilocybin for medicinal use, which is a huge jump forward. I think that we’re 40 years behind on it. I think psychedelics are … I used to party, and I used to do [inaudible 01:47:05] party drugs and whatever, and I don’t do any of that stuff anymore, because it just doesn’t teach you anything. It just makes you feel this artificial thing for a certain amount of time.
GMUNK: But with psychedelics, you learn something, and you always come away from it with a different mindset. And of course you see beautiful things, depending on what you’re doing. The intensity of those visions varies on whatever kind of psychedelics you’re doing, but you always learn something. And I think if we as a society could harness and take off the taboo nature of them and look at them at a spiritual healing mechanism to become more kind and more aware and think about sustainability as a society, I think we’re going to be … That’s going to transform our culture. Our culture needs to be a little bit more kind, our society.
GMUNK: And I think that you meet a lot of people who are into psychedelics, they’re all very kind people because they’ve been humbled by it. And with humility comes kindness, I feel, and the control of your ego and the embracing of your super ego. And I think that’s kind of how I’ve always wanted to be, is I want to live gently. And I’ve been vegetarian for 20 years, and mostly vegan for 20 years, and I just want to be a very warm, kind, gentle soul. But then in the work I do, sometimes I want that work to not be very gentle. I want that work to be kind of louder. And that’s where I get to express the loudness sometimes, is in my expression. My fiancé asked me a question [inaudible 01:49:13].
GMUNK: She said to me, “Do you feel fulfilled?” And I thought to myself, and in my head I was like, no, not really. Because fulfillment to a creative, someone who’s spent 20 plus years as a creative professional, fulfillment to me is that deep … I feel fulfilled as a human being, and in my social circles and my friendships and whom I love, and my relationship, and this family we’re going to start, and I feel fulfilled in that way, but as an artist, I don’t feel fulfilled. And I don’t know if I ever will feel fulfilled. I feel fulfilled in how I learn, and I feel fulfilled in how I feel about learning and growing, but I don’t feel fulfilled in my output, and I don’t feel fulfilled in where I’m at in my career.
GMUNK: And honestly, dude, I don’t think … You’ll ask me the same question at 60, and I’ll probably say the same thing. I don’t think I’ll ever feel fulfilled. I don’t think you could Steven Spielberg if he feels fulfilled. He’d probably be like, “Oh, well, there was things wrong with E.T., and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and A.I., and my new film is kind of flopping.” I feel like we’re always, the way to stay hungry is to almost never feel fulfilled in our creative pursuit. Going back to the analogy that we’re underwater and we’re working our way through kelp floras and whale sharks and jellyfish, and we get to the surface and we come up for air so we could survive, but then a speedboat comes in and knocks us over, and then we get swallowed by a whale, and it’s like oh shit, I got to find my way out of this whale. There’s always going to be the thing that throws you off, and you have to find your way through it again.
GMUNK: And it’s just like, that’s the story, that’s the struggle as an artist, is there’s always going to be something that’s going to create that artist’s pain in you. And that’s what lights the fire. The second you start saying, “Oh, well, I just did something great, and I’ve made it.” Nobody who’s anybody will ever, ever, ever say that or feel that way. And that’s the hunger that we all share, is that artist’s pain of just constantly pushing towards an unattainable fulfillment.
Joey Korenman: I got to thank Bradley G. Munkowitz for hanging out on the podcast and for dropping so much wisdom in the way that only he can. I can’t wait to see what he releases next, and I strongly encourage you to go to his website to check out his work, which goes all the way back to the beginning. It’s eye-opening to see just how far an artist can come if they have the right attitude, work ethic, and vision. Mr. Munk, I salute you, and I thank you for coming on. And thank you, listener, for listening to this. I hope you feel inspired. I hope you feel a little uncomfortable, maybe. And most of all, I hope you’re fired up to jam on your own personal creative projects. More than anything, GMUNK is proof that focusing on your personal work is an excellent strategy for standing out in a competitive market, and it’s good for your soul at the same time. And that’s it for this episode. Head to SchoolofMotion.com for show notes and more, and I’ll see you next time.