Handel Eugene, MoGraph Innovator, Teacher and Mentor, on the SOM Podcast
Handel Eugene Talks Work Ethic and Workflow on the School of Motion Podcast
As a California-based freelancer, Handel’s worked on location for Apple and Facebook, in addition to creating the title sequences for Marvel’s Spiderman Homecoming and Black Panther films.
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
– Stephen King
Handel Eugene on the School of Motion Podcast
Shownotes from Episode 76 of the School of Motion Podcast, Featuring Handel Eugene
Here are some key links referenced during the conversation:
The Transcript from Handel Eugene’s Interview with Joey Korenman of SOM
Joey Korenman: I want to start this episode by sharing a quote with you that the internet tells me comes from Stephen King, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” What is the secret to having a successful career in this industry? This is the question behind most of the things we do here at School of Motion. See, I used to think that the top artists out there, the ones that we all look up to, were born with some gift that the rest of us mortals didn’t possess. Then I started talking to them, in large part due to this podcast and I’ve seen a pattern emerge. Every top performer has a work ethic that is undeniable, including today’s guest.
Joey Korenman: Handel Eugene is a bad ass motion designer currently making very pretty things for a small tech startup called Apple, I think they might be on to something. Getting a gig at Apple is impressive enough, but Handel also spent years at the legendary studio, We Are Royale, and he has also worked on the main on and title sequences for Spiderman Homecoming and Black Panther. He’s been a mentor for MoGraph Mentor and is one of the nicest, most humble dudes you will ever meet. In this interview, we find out how Handel forged his path into motion design working harder than almost everyone around him to find an edge, a way in. His attitude and philosophy are both huge reasons he’s been so successful and it was an honor to chat with him. Without further ado, let’s chat with Handel.
Speaker 1: My name is Mikash [inaudible 00:02:51] and I’m from Slovenia. I discovered School of Motion courses at the beginning of my MoGraph career. They propelled me light years ahead of where I could be if I just learned all of this stuff on my own, I think. I would really highly recommend the courses for people who don’t like wasting time. While the courses are really tough, the amount I improved with them in such a short time is literally insane, beyond anything I actually thought would be possible. But like I said, they do take quite a bit of effort. All I can say is really, thanks School of Motion for being awesome and for teaching me more than I thought was possible in this short time. My name is Mikash and I’m a School of Motion alumni.
Joey Korenman: All right, so right off the bat I’m going to pronounce your name correctly because thank you, you’ve taught me how to do it. Handel, it is an honor to have you finally on the School of Motion Podcast and I thank you so much for waking up super early before your daughter is up to do this this morning.
Handel Eugene: Man, it’s a pleasure. Really is, real honor and a real pleasure. Thank you, Joey. Appreciate it, man.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. No, it’s my pleasure, man. We’ve run into each other at various conferences and stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever actually talked to you for longer than five minutes, but I’ve always wanted to. Your work’s awesome, you seem like a really interesting guy. Doing my normal internet stalking that I do for everybody that comes on the podcast, I learned a lot about you that it was really interesting to me. I think one of the most interesting things was just how hard you seem to work to have gotten where you are. I’m always curious where that comes from because that seems to be a common thread with really high level artists is it’s not like they’re just born with this gift.
Joey Korenman: They have to work, they basically outwork everybody and that’s why they get where they are.
Joey Korenman: I was listening to your chat with Chris Do. We’ll link to this in the show notes so everyone can listen to that podcast because it was a really great interview with you. Chris and you have something in common, which is that both of your parents are immigrants.
Joey Korenman: My parents aren’t, but my grandparents were. I’ve always heard sort of through the grapevine that when someone’s an immigrant and they come to the United States, there’s kind of this immigrant experience that’s shared and it can shape your worldview. One of the common things I always hear is that there’s this work ethic that comes along with that that is hard to touch if you’re from here and you’ve kind of always been comfortable. I’m just curious, maybe you could talk a little bit about your background and your parents’ background even. Was that the case with you? Did that influence any of your personality traits and the way you are now?
Handel Eugene: For sure. Yeah, absolutely. I’m of Haitian descent, I’m Haitian American. Both my parents were born and raised in Haiti, didn’t come to the U.S. until their late teens. Yeah, that’s a huge, that’s a big part of my identity and a major factor in where I’m at today and the individual I’ve become. My parents instilled that work ethic at a really young age, just the Haitian culture, just in general. You want to create this sense of … You want to make your parents proud because-
Handel Eugene: … They sacrificed and they did so much for you growing up. For example, my mom, actually, I can’t just talk about my mom. My grandma has eight kids-
Handel Eugene: … And she came to the United States first. She sent for each one of her kids one by one. She worked her butt off in the US without knowing any English at first. She never learned to drive, she still doesn’t. She’s in her eighties now, she still doesn’t know how to drive, but she still was working jobs and sent for each one of her kids, one by one to come to the US, all my aunts and uncles. Once you have a grandma, a strong female figure like that who does something miraculous like that, that’s passed on to to her kids and then that’s been passed out to her grandkids. It’s funny because being in the US, you can kind of be spoiled, but-
Handel Eugene: … Coming from immigrant parents, you get to appreciate the sacrifices that your family’s made. My mom went back to school with three kids. She’s a registered nurse now, but she went back to school with three kids, worked her butt off. My dad’s, he’s a businessman, he owns his own business, he’s a upholsterer. He’s run his own business for 30 years working with his hands, that’s a fun fact, that’s actually where I get my name from. Seeing that work ethic and then having that being instilled into me, that if you want something you’ve got to work hard for it and seeing my mom, my dad work incredibly hard just to get us the things that maybe people here who may be born may just take for granted. It was incredibly important for me, it shaped my character and shaped who I am.
Joey Korenman: That’s an amazing story, man. Wait, did I hear you right here? One of the reasons your name is Handel is because your dad is an upholsterer and works with his hands? Was that what you said?
Handel Eugene: That is correct. He didn’t just name one child that. My brother’s name is Hanley and he’s also used that as well for my older brother’s name as well. Yeah, yeah. My dad’s an upholster, I guess that’s where I get my craftsmanship from. It’s from him as well because he’s an upholster and basically redesigns chairs and there’s a craft to that as well.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. That’s super interesting, man, because I think my great grandfather or whoever wasn’t on my mom’s side that that came over wasn’t really a craftsman. I think he was an airplane mechanic, but again, working with your hands and having this very specialized knowledge and this strong work ethic. One of the things that … I’m really fortunate, my parents never had this, but I know my grandparents did and I know that their parents did, that generation, that had to work so hard and do these manual physical things often viewed a working artist a certain way. There’s that myth of the starving artist.
Joey Korenman: I remember when I taught for the one year at Ringling, one of the big things that the head of the motion design department would always have to do is sort of fight that, tell parents that it’s a myth, it’s not true. But I’m curious because your dad works with his hands and your mother had to raise three kids while going and getting a nursing degree, which is … I can’t even imagine-
Joey Korenman: … How tired she was doing that. I mean, that’s amazing. When you started to sort of gravitate towards the world of art, was there any pushback there or were they just super supportive all the way?
Handel Eugene: You touched on something that I think is really important to note, that my mom worked so hard with three kids and she did all these things, she sacrificed so much. When it’s your time, when you finally have the opportunity to go out and become an adult and a professional, the last thing you want to do is let them down or disappoint them and such. Yeah, when I expressed to my dad and my mom that I’m interested in going into the arts, there was definitely some pushback. It was all coming from a really good place. It wasn’t like, “No, you’re not going to do this.” and was like, “You’re going to bring shame to the…” It was nothing like that-
Handel Eugene: … But it was more so like out of concern. It’s like, oh yeah, exactly like the broke artist misconception. It’s more so family looking out for … Everybody’s got that family member who wants to go and do something and you’re like, “Are you sure you want to do that? Have you really looked into this?” I’m guilty of that for lots of other … It’s funny because even a career in music, nobody wants to kill anybody’s dreams, but then also too, you want whoever that person that wants to do that, you want them to be realistic at what they’re getting themselves into and maybe myself. It’s just more so you’re naive, you’re just really … You don’t have the information and you don’t know anybody that’s successful. How many successful … I’ve asked my mom, or you asked your mom, if you asked your relatives, “Hey, how many successful artists do you know personally?” It’s like they’re few and far between, if any.
Handel Eugene: It’s just more of an exposure thing and just more of people are going to recommend what they know. It’s like, “Oh, why don’t you be a nurse?” All my aunts are all nurses. It’s that’s what they know, they know that you can make a career and make a living doing that. If somebody’s going to recommend something, it’s just based off of their experience and their exposure to it. I think it’s really important and if you’re pursuing something that you do your own research and form your own opinion based off of gathered evidence and research, not just based off of general opinions. You can use that lens to look at a lot of things in life.
Joey Korenman: Right, right. Well, you said earlier that sort of the … I mean this isn’t just confined to Haitian culture I’m sure, but in your culture it’s you want to make your parents proud and honor your parents.
Joey Korenman: They have this misconception about what it means to be a professional artist. I’m sure that that must’ve been a struggle for a little while until maybe you convinced them or whatever. Was there a plan B? Was there something else that you thought about doing instead and eventually came back around to art? Or did you just kind of know, “No, no, no. I’m going to do this and I need to make you understand that I’ll be okay.”?
Handel Eugene: For sure, for sure. It’s funny because I dabbled at art in high school. I did TV production and I was playing with all these really cool, fun little things I really enjoyed, but even myself, I convinced myself, “Okay, when I get to college, all right, I need to settle down and find a real career.” That’s what I told myself.
Handel Eugene: I went into computer science and that’s actually what I was majoring in, C++, hello world, all that-
Joey Korenman: Oh, wow. That’s different.
Handel Eugene: Yeah, exactly. It’s funny, I just told myself, “Oh, I’ll just go into computers because I’m always on the computer.” Not knowing that I’m on a computer creating art, so I might as well be on the computer coding, which is the most backwards way to look at it in hindsight. I quickly found out it wasn’t for me and it wasn’t giving me what I was doing on the side. I was dabbling and playing with these different aspects.
Handel Eugene: I had a job in college, first went to UCF, University of Central Florida, first went there and I was playing with Final Cut and just being introduced to After Effects. I was playing with this stuff on the side, but again, I personally didn’t know anybody that was doing this, so I couldn’t even … If I’m going to come and major in something, I was like, I got to know I’m going to have a job afterwards doing it. Just once I started gathering up more and more evidence, once I started finding, “Oh wow, there’s people who actually do this for a living and this.
Handel Eugene: I started making a stronger, stronger case basically, and I wouldn’t really pursue anything without first consulting my parents about it. So I was like, “All right, now see there’s this person over here doing it, and then there’s this person over here, there’s this resource over here, there’s this is website here that’s teaching you and [inaudible 00:00:14:56].” I started gathering up a strong, strong case, like going to court basically to convince my parents that hey, your son’s going to be all right, because that was a big, that’s the main number one concern. I don’t think, it wasn’t necessarily what I was doing, it’s more so are you going to be able to not starve.
Handel Eugene: Basically.
Joey Korenman: You’re going to be broke.
Handel Eugene: Yeah, yeah.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, and it’s funny too, because I mean even … I’m glad that we’re talking about this because I mean, even when I got into the industry, I sort of just assumed I would always just kind of … I didn’t think I’d be broke, but I didn’t think I was ever going to make a real salary. I was like this, I love doing this, it’s really fun, and I just kind of, you know, consigned myself too to never making more than, I don’t know, 60K a year or something like that because I just didn’t know.
Joey Korenman: And then once you … And we’re going to come back to this because now, especially with the world that you’re working in now, which is hiring artists, it’s just hand over fist and paying them really well that didn’t exist maybe 20 years ago, but it’s that starving artist myth still seems to be persisting a little bit. I think it’s conversations like this, hopefully that break it down and make the next set of parents realize that no, it’s okay. You can be a professional illustrator and do really well.
Handel Eugene: Absolutely.
Joey Korenman: Yeah dude. I want to talk about how you got into the industry. If you go on Handel’s LinkedIn, there’s this huge jump where you go from, I think you worked in North Gate, you worked somewhere in Florida and then somewhere in North Carolina and then you worked at Royale. Can you talk about that jump? How did you get your foot in the door and end up at Royale
Handel Eugene: Yeah, absolutely. And again, I got to commend you on your research here, this is awesome. Yeah, so just really fast, I just want to touch on something really fast that you mentioned that you mentioned, like you weren’t sure if you’re going to make money in this industry. And that was my same thing, and I think one of the biggest and best decisions I made in my life, which paid off so well was me saying, “I’m not sure if I’m going to make money doing this, but if I have the feeling that I have right now where I’m enjoying what I’m doing, then it’s going to be worth it to me.”
Handel Eugene: That was one of the best conscious decisions I’ve made to pursue this, because once I went to art school, I actually still didn’t have the evidence of can you make money doing this? People have jobs, but I don’t know if they’re actually working full-time on this and doing something part-time or what have you. It worked out really well.
Handel Eugene: As far as me getting my foot in the door, yeah. Once I decided to go to art school and convince my parents that it was safe to jump into that fire. I did two internships during my time in school and there’s this polarizing debate as far as whether you should do internships or paid or not paid internships. And my whole viewpoint on it was, I’m going to do as many internships as I can to get as much experience as I can. If it’s a opportunity that benefits me in the long run, then that it’s something that I’m going to pursue.
Handel Eugene: So I did an internship in Florida, which full transparency, it wasn’t paid, but I did gain a lot of skills and experience during that and I was able to still, and it wasn’t full-time, it was part-time. I was there just two days a week and working all day on Friday. And I gained a lot of experience there and they trusted me, it wasn’t like it was groundwork, it was groundwork where I’m just rotoscoping all day, just getting taken advantage of, then that doesn’t benefit me.
Handel Eugene: But it wasn’t that way at all, they gave me responsibilities. I was able to work out, animate some projects and just taking that experience into the next internship, which also taking those projects, being able to put those into my portfolio, which attracted the next internship and finding a internship at Limerick studios and working in North Carolina.
Handel Eugene: Once they reached out to me, I was incredibly humbled but I was like, “I can’t afford to go up there.” And they thankfully were able to make arrangements for me to come up there and it was paid internship. And once I got up there, I think that’s really where I feel like that set me up for success for the industry because there was this closest thing to a studio as far as LA studio or New York studio. They had a designer, they had an animators, a creative director. There was a whole producers and it’s a whole actual full on production. I was able to get that experience and a lot of that again, well I guess I’ve got to just back peddle a little bit here but a lot attracting those … Because I didn’t apply for either one of those internships thing.
Handel Eugene: I was fortunate enough for those internships to come to me and I feel like that’s not the best strategy for everybody, don’t wait for opportunities to come to you, but I was fortunate in that regard. At the same time I feel like people are going to be interested in your work if you do good work, and one of my strategies when I was in school was to do my schoolwork and get those done. But that to me was just the base that was just the kind of the minimum.
Handel Eugene: I would try to go outside of school and try and do my own stuff and do my own personal projects and find all the things. And because of that, I was able to grow my portfolio faster than kind of my peers at that time. It allowed me to stand out and I just simply, it was just the number, I got more experience in the same amount of time than other students because I just worked on more stuff, which then attracted those internships which stand eventually led me to LA and Royale.
Joey Korenman: Let me call out a few things here. So there’s definitely a theme emerging here about you and your work ethic. You used the word fortunate a bunch of times in a row there saying how fortunate you are. And of course, yes, you were fortunate, but that’s not the word I would have chosen because fortunate almost kind of takes away some of the credit from you for attracting those internships. And I know that you probably felt very lucky that that happened, but then you continued on and described exactly how outworked all of your classmates. I mean, it’s fascinating because I’ve had a bunch of guests on this podcast recently, that’s a theme that comes up where working harder than the next person is often the difference between them getting the gig and you getting the gig.
Joey Korenman: And it seems like you have that kind of built into you and I’m sure a lot of that came from your upbringing. So I kind of wanted to call that out for everybody, and I also want to just talk about internships a little bit too, because-
Joey Korenman: … I did the exact same thing as you Handel, I started interning after my freshman year of college at Boston university they told you not to get internships until your junior year and they wouldn’t help you get them. I found internships my freshman year or sophomore year-
Joey Korenman: … Actually two my sophomore year, and by the time I graduated I’d have five internships.
Handel Eugene: That’s [inaudible 00:23:07].
Joey Korenman: And I had a portfolio and I knew how to edit and I knew After Effects and I had worked at three post houses and it was just kind of, it wasn’t that hard to compete with the average college grad who wanted to work as an editor. I remember at the time feeling so fortunate to get a job when a lot of my friends didn’t, and then in hindsight, someone pointed out to me, well, you had five internships.
Joey Korenman: And I was also really lucky, my father before he retired was a surgeon. I was able to intern over the summer and live with my parents and not have to pay expenses and stuff like that. I know that not everyone’s in that situation, but I want to hear a little bit about your experience as an intern. I mean while you were an intern, were you eating ramen noodles and barely scraping by, or was it just fun and you’re kind of into it?
Handel Eugene: Yeah, so both probably. For sure, when I was in school it was rough. Maybe this is a little embarrassing but it’s a true story.
Joey Korenman: All right.
Handel Eugene: You ever heard of Moe’s?
Joey Korenman: Moe’s? No.
Handel Eugene: Okay, you know Chipotle?
Handel Eugene: It’s a similar aspect.
Joey Korenman: Oh, yeah, yeah, Moe’s. Okay, yeah, I do know about Moe’s, yeah.
Handel Eugene: Basically in art school I was doing some of these freelance projects and it got to the point where I was kind of forced to do these freelance project because I was running out of money and I needed to try and start working, and I was like, “Yep.” But it’s actually really good that I did them because getting experienced, even if it’s I can’t put it in my portfolio because the work is really bad at the end of the day, I’m still learning, but this is my ramen noodle story.
Handel Eugene: You go to Moe’s, you can buy a meal and you can get unlimited refills on salsa and chips. I would buy meal and then I’d bring my laptop and then just work there all day, and eat nothing but salsa and chips.
Joey Korenman: That’s a good hack.
Handel Eugene: For the whole day, just to kind of like use that as, this sounds so terrible, but as a meal replacement. At the time, but it was very cost effective.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Well, I mean it’s probably not very good for your health.
Handel Eugene: [crosstalk 00:25:23]. But you got to do what you got to do, but yeah, I share that story because it’s all an investment at the end of the day. What your going through, this is something that I really want. I guess anybody who’s listening to understand, especially if you’re just getting started, it’s incredibly important that this is an investment at the end of the day, investment comes with risk and you have to make sure that this investment that you’re investing in pays off.
Handel Eugene: Do what you got to do to make sure to ensure that as much as possible. And I knew I was sacrificing, but then at the same time, when I got to art school, especially with so much uncertainty, again going back to my upbringing and such, I wanted to make my parents and my family proud and I didn’t want to squander this opportunity. I put so much pressure on myself to prove to my parents that, hey, you’re invested in me, the sacrifices that you’d made to come to this country to give me a better opportunity than you had. It’s worth it, it’s going to pay off, that was really important to me.
Handel Eugene: If my mom was able to do what she did, who am I to complain with no kids, no responsibilities, English is my first language, I grew up in this country. I’ve gotten more opportunities than my parents did. So who am I to not make the most of the opportunities that I have.
Joey Korenman: Totally man, yeah.
Handel Eugene: Kind of went on a tangent there, but.
Joey Korenman: No dude, that’s beautiful though. I mean it kind of, I don’t know, it explains a lot about your drive and your work ethic, which there’s several more examples of that we’re about to get into. Let’s talk about, getting into Royale. You’re at Limerick studios, you’re in North Carolina, and that’s really amazing that you had that opportunity to stay on the East Coast but still be exposed to a studio that runs one of the big LA shops or something like that.
Joey Korenman: And so how did you end up working at Royale? I mean, and I think when you got there, that was kind of when they … I mean, they were on Motionographer every other day at that point. I mean, just so many amazing projects coming out and I mean, they’re still incredible, but it was just like, there was a lot of attention on them at that point too.
Joey Korenman: How did that opportunity come about?
Handel Eugene: For sure. So I went to Full Sail university in Orlando, Florida. First and foremost was just working my butt off like I mentioned earlier, creating a lot of projects during my school projects and then going out and creating my own projects on this side. Like I mentioned, I went to UCF, University of Central Florida first, I went there for two years, then I transferred to quote, unquote transfer, really, I just left, just dropped out of university.
Joey Korenman: I mean technically that’s transferring I guess.
Handel Eugene: Technically, yeah.
Handel Eugene: UCF is where I learned, I was exposed to After Effects and then I saw this art school that you can major in After Effects, what you can create a whole career out of just learning After Effects? That’s what I thought. Basically, I’m sharing that because I still had some connections at UCF, at the UCF sports media department where I worked and after two years at Full Sail, I reached out to UCF, I was like, “Hey, I used to work there and I know that every year you guys do … You create a basketball intro for the start of the season that you guys play on the big jumbotron. Would you guys be interested in having a bunch of students create your basketball intro?”
Handel Eugene: And I say that because again, that was an example of me almost wearing the entrepreneurial hat, being very proactive in the sense that I wanted to create high quality production value work as a student, that was my goal. I didn’t want my student work to look like student work, I wanted it to look as professional as possible so that way I can again, increase my chances of being successful at landing a job. I’ll go on one quick tangent if I can?
Joey Korenman: Absolutely.
Handel Eugene: And this may or may or may not make it into my Blend Fest speech, so this is a little bit of a teaser to it. But, have you seen the movie Super 8?
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I have.
Handel Eugene: Okay. In that movie, the kids, there’s one thing that stuck with me my rest of my life after watching the movie. The kids when they’re trying to shoot the whole video and they want it to look professional and they see a train in the background, and the kid yells to his crew, one word or two words, he says, Production value.” Essentially he wants to get this train in their film, that home videos to make it look like it’s a real production. Like-
Handel Eugene: How much did they pay to get that? Oh real, this must be a legit operation. That term production value was something that stayed with me all throughout school. My goal all through high school was to try and create work that felt like production value and whatever I could do, if that meant getting my friends to model for me and shoot them on the green screen and make a Forever 21 video and key them out, so that way it looks like this professional Forever 21 spec work or whatever.
Handel Eugene: And the same goes for this, again, having taken that initiative to me and proactive to reach out to UCF and ask them, “Hey, would you trust a bunch of students to do this intro? They’re like, “Yeah.” And that was one of the biggest projects that got me into Royale, was because … The long story, that’s kind of going full circle here.
Handel Eugene: But because of that and what I did in school is what got my work noticed by Jayson Whitmore, who also was a Full Sail alum who often maybe once a year, maybe once every two years would come back to Full Sail and talk to students and basically recruit students too as well. It also inspires students. I was fortunate in the sense that Jayson Whitmore came to Full Sail my second month being there and he showed me his company, Real. And once I saw that Real, I remember going to Full Sail and not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and after watching that presentation, knowing exactly what I wanted to do-
Joey Korenman: That’s awesome.
Handel Eugene: … I was like, what I just saw is exactly what I wanted to do. I used that as my playbook, their real in their portfolio and their work as my playbook. I was like, okay, if I want to work there, I got to know how to do this. I got to know how to animate, I got to know [inaudible 00:32:34], I got to know … Because that’s what they’re using, that’s what they’re doing. Through my research looking into them, and I use that as my bar. It’s like all right, I want to get in there, and it’s a true Cinderella story man.
Joey Korenman: That’s amazing. I want to call out one thing too because there’s something that it just popped into my head and I remember you said this when you were talking to Chris on his podcast and this kind of all comes back to the theme of you working really hard. Full Sail has kind of a mixed reputation with alumni who’ve been there and some people say it’s great and I mean Jayson Whitmore is definitely a star alumni and now you are too by the way.
Joey Korenman: There’s a lot of people that complain about it and say, “Oh, it’s not worth the money.” And you had this amazing metaphor here, that’s like someone going to a gym and just going into the gym and not using the equipment and then complaining that they’re not in shape at the end of it.
Joey Korenman: And I think that’s exactly the right attitude about school, and that’s not the way most students think.
Handel Eugene: The onus is on you, at the end of the day, it’s your responsibility. Just as a life lesson in general, you cannot rely on anybody else to get you to where you want to go. If you want to go somewhere, you’ve got to get in the driver’s seat and take yourself there and then use all these other resources to assist you in getting there, but at-
Handel Eugene: … resources to assist you in getting there. But at the end of the day, you can’t sit in the back seat and… Actually, technically you can. You can technically sit in the back seat, but it’s going to take you a lot longer, if ever, to get to your destination. Whereas then you can get in the driver’s seat and get to your destination a lot quicker, a lot faster, a lot more efficient than if you were to rely solely on school to just get you there.
Joey Korenman: Yes, yeah. I mean, I tell so many people that there’s kind of this thing that’s… I think it’s sort of beaten into us a little bit when we’re growing up, and just the structure that we’re placed into, where you feel like you have to wait your turn, and you have to wait to get picked, you know? And wait for the gatekeepers to tell you, “Okay, now it’s your turn,” and you don’t. Right? And it’s cool.
Joey Korenman: I don’t know if you realized that at the time, that that’s what you were doing, was sort of taking the back door by doing some spec thing for UCF basketball, or making a Forever 21 spec commercial, which is amazing, and I wish you posted that on Vimeo somewhere so I can see Handel’s student work or something. But yeah, it’s amazing.
Handel Eugene: Yeah, for sure, for sure. If you want, I’ll link you to that as well. But yeah, no, 100%. Lost my train of thought, and I was going to say something. Really fast, let me think.
Joey Korenman: I’m sure it was going to be really brilliant, like kind of sum the whole thing up. Keep thinking about it, but while you think about it, I want to kind of sum up where we’ve gotten so far. This is a really interesting origin story that I think, everyone listening, if you’re new to the industry, you can definitely learn a ton from the way Handel had sort of handled the beginning of his career. And even if you’re a really experienced artist, I mean, Handel ends up in Royale, and then… I won’t spoil the rest of the story. We’ll get to it. But you’d think that for a lot of artists… I mean, for probably a lot of my career, you can count me in this group. Just getting hired by Royale would have been the goal, right? That means I won, and now I can take my foot off the gas. And that’s not what happens. But again, one of the reasons I was so excited to talk to you, Handel, was because this… It’s just so obvious even just following you on social media that this is kind of how you operate.
Joey Korenman: So yeah. So you go to Full Sail, you outwork a lot of people, you get internships, you get on the radar of Jayson and Brien, who I had the pleasure of meeting once. They came to Ringling, and they were the coolest guys. Jayson was also like… He’s like a bodybuilder. He’s this huge, jacked dude. Okay, so then you end up moving to L.A. from Florida and working at one of the best studios in the game.
Joey Korenman: So I’d love to hear, what was it like during that period, where now you’re moving all the way across the country to L.A., and you’re in the belly of the beast, and you’re the new guy. What’s that like?
Handel Eugene: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned something that I’ll just quickly touch on that… You asked me if I knew or not whether I was being… Or, if it was intentional that the hard work that I was putting in was leading to the opportunities that was coming down the road. I’ll just share something with you that was really a big driving force for me when I was in school that was told to me.
Handel Eugene: I was fortunate enough that it was told to me early on that… Full Sail may not have the best track record for this particular reason, but at the end of the day I made it work for me. But I was told early on, the numbers aren’t that great. The odds aren’t that great. 90% of the students there are just there to keep the lights on. 10% of the students get the jobs. And that was very, very… My heart sunk to the floor when I heard that, and that was very, very scary for me.
Handel Eugene: But at the end of the day I was like, I knew this was an investment, and I knew that the people have gone to this institution and have gone on to be successful. So I was going to make those numbers work for me. So my whole time at Full Sail, my goal was to be in that top 10%, so that way I can land the jobs. That was the reason why I went above and beyond during my schooling, and what led me to eventually get that internship at Royale and getting on Jayson and Brien’s radar.
Handel Eugene: So yeah, once… Fast forward to… This is January of 2012, and the funny thing is, here we go again. I had to let my parents… I had to convince my parents that, “Hey, I’m going to to L.A. for this opportunity.” Which truthfully, honestly, it wasn’t guaranteed to me. It was just like, “Hey, we’re giving you an opportunity to try and prove yourself.” It wasn’t like, “Hey, you got a job.” That’s something my mom and dad were [inaudible 00:00:39:00]. “You got a job out there?” I was like, “No, I got a-“
Joey Korenman: Yeah. A maybe job.
Handel Eugene: Yeah, a maybe job, an internship, and it’s just for three months. So thankfully, my parents were… I was able to convince them to allow me to go out there.
Handel Eugene: I get out there, and again, it’s… I’ve spent the last two years of my life just working my butt off, so it’s not like I’m just going to turn that off once I get to Royale. I still need… My work has just begun. Like, “Okay, I need to still… I need to be a working professional. I need to pay my bills. I need to pay this loan back that… This investment is just now, okay, getting… I guess the loan… Everything is maturing, and I need to make this all work.” So the pieces in play. I did what I needed to do to get to this point, and now I need to follow through.
Handel Eugene: Once I get there, I’m doing the same thing in school. I’m working my butt off, working really hard. Funny thing is, Royale actually had two people from Full Sail intern at the same time, and it was actually my best friend, who… He was my best friend for a reason, in the sense that he’s super talented, and he was like… We were like number one, number two. We were always trying to one-up each other at school. And here we are at Royale trying to fight for an internship. They always joked that we would fight to the death.
Joey Korenman: That’s funny.
Handel Eugene: It never was like… We never… It was always collaborative. It was always like, “Hey, what are you working on? Hey, how can I help?” It was cool, because it actually… It was actually really good, because it helped push me. I was like, “Oh, wow, he’s doing really good. He must be impressing the folks here.” And it was like, “I want to do really good at the same time.”
Handel Eugene: So what I did as an intern is using the same formula. Whenever I would complete a task, I would get it done, and I would go up to my creative director, Jonathan Kim, who is a lifelong mentor of mine, so good friends that we still stay in touch now all the time. And I would be like, “Hey, you got anything that I could do or I can work on?” So I showed initiative. And he would… It was like, “All right, let’s see what you could do about this.” He would give me an assignment that was already covered by another artist, but he just wanted to see what I could do with it. So in doing that, I was able to prove myself. It was like, “Oh, okay, this guy does… He doesn’t need to just do rotoscoping,” which I did my first day at Royale, which, it’s kind of like… What is that called? Like when you… Kind of like this initiation, like, “Oh, let’s see if this guy is humble-“
Joey Korenman: Oh, they were hazing you, yeah.
Handel Eugene: Yeah. “Let’s see if this guy is humble enough to do this grunt work first,” and basically not being selfish, and putting the priorities of the company first. Especially, too, because you’re unproven. “I’m not going to give you a whole shot for you to do by yourself. I’m not going to trust the… Until you can prove that you’re capable.”
Handel Eugene: So I was able to do that quickly and a lot sooner and by just asking, “Hey, what else do you guys… Anything else I can do?” And then staying later, like being the… I attribute a lot of… I relate a lot to sports. I’m a big sports fan. I love basketball, I love football, and I love… You hear so much about the work that you have to have in sports. So I kind of draw a lot of parallels to that. So I almost used that as a formula in what I was doing, like kind of being the first person there, last one to leave kind of thing. Which, some people might feel a certain way about that. But that was my formula that made an impression on Royale that eventually allowed me to stay longer with them, and eventually led to a staff position.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, we’re going to come back to that, because I definitely want to talk about what you just touched on. You’re the first one there, you’re the last one to leave, you’re working late, you’re kicking ass. You’re also young and single at that point. Or, I don’t know if you were single, but you didn’t have kids yet, right?
Handel Eugene: Right, yeah.
Joey Korenman: Right? And yeah, there are people that have strong feelings about that. So we’ll talk about that. But I want to kind of hear a little bit more about Royale. One of the things that was always… I mean, I think when I realized this, it was kind of a surprise to me. I always assumed that motion design is a pure meritocracy, where the person that does the best-looking work gets the job, and it’s all about the work. And what I found, and this was very fortunate for me, because my work was almost never the best work, was that actually, people work with people they like to work with, and who work hard, and who they can rely on, and all those other things.
Joey Korenman: I’m curious, because even just having spent the last 40 minutes talking to you, I mean, I can tell you’re probably super fun to hang out with. You’re very easygoing. And obviously you work hard. But did you ever see, in those early days, the opposite of that, where there would be some sort of hotshot talent come in, but they didn’t want to work more than four or five hours a day, and then they’d take off? Did you ever have that realization there that, obviously you have to be really good to work at Royale, but if you want to stay at Royale, that’s not enough?
Handel Eugene: Right. Yeah, no, that… Again, Jayson and Brien came back to Full Sail, and they would give student advice, and that was the biggest thing they harped on more than anything. And you know, it’s funny, because I was like, “Why is…” I was so perplexed. It’s like, “You’re coming to give a student advice, and you’re just telling us not to be a jerk? That’s your number one thing? How hard can that be? Why are you…”
Joey Korenman: You’d be surprised.
Handel Eugene: That’s the thing. You’d be surprised, because there’s a lot of people… That’s not an issue for me for a lot of people in this industry. But there are a lot of people who are like, “Why are you being so hard to work with? Why are you sabotaging? Why are you compromising by… We’re putting in the work, and then you want to just come in late and leave early kind of…” Again, yeah, you’d be surprised, because that can derail a project, and that’s the big… Nobody wants to pick up somebody else’s load because they’re being lazy about something or they’re… Yeah.
Handel Eugene: I’ve definitely, definitely, definitely noticed that in the industry, and you definitely see that in the industry. And those people who have that attitude don’t last long, because people want to work with people that they enjoy working with. If we’re going to… You always hear that with studios. It’s like your work family, because we spend so much time together, and we go through this emotional roller coaster of client notes and trying to create the best work and… You’re going through all this together, and if you’re going to go through that, you want to ride with people that are down to ride, you know?
Handel Eugene: So yeah, that’s something that, for sure, I’ve definitely noticed. I guess I’m lucky in that I don’t have that character flaw as far as being a jerk, so it was never an issue for me. I was always willing to help. Always willing to help, and trying to do whatever I can to… Always not putting myself first, not being selfish, not… And whatnot.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So I’m assuming that when you got there, there must’ve been this period of kind of recalibrating your sense of what good is. I can remember sort of the first time that I started freelancing with this amazing studio in Boston, and it was the first time that I got to work with really good designers, and they had these amazing 3D artists. I mean, just in the first week, I went through this crisis where I was like, “Oh my God, I’m never going to be able to do any of this.” And then you have some small successes, and you learn a few things, and then a month in, you can’t even believe what you used to be doing and what you used to think was good.
Joey Korenman: So I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about that. What were some of the things, some of the lessons that you learned early on about getting work to look as good as Royale was doing?
Handel Eugene: Yeah. Yeah, this is funny, because I’m putting together my Blend Fest speech, like I mentioned earlier, and there’s a topic that I plan on bringing up. It’s a lesson that I learned at Royale, and it’s one of the more valuable, valuable lessons, and lessons that I continued to remind myself.
Handel Eugene: But you know what, I’ll tell you a story. When I got to Royale, by that time, I was staff. I’d kind of got some projects under my belt. I was still new, still within my first year. But we had the opportunity to pitch on a job. Basically this brief came in. We called a meeting, and we were like, “Hey, this is the brief. So let’s just spend a day just coming with concepts, gathering up some references, pulling some inspiration, and we’ll reconvene a later today and share what we got.” And me being like, “All right, this is another opportunity for me to prove myself,” whatever.
Handel Eugene: I was pretty proud of the fact that I’ve got like a whole bunch of Vimeo likes as far as… Not likes, but Vimeo collections of videos, like I’ve got these categories of all these different stuff. I’ve got these resources. I’ve been on Motionographer a ton. I got all these different… I felt like… One of the things that I felt was my competitive advantage was that I was fresh, I was new, but also, I was very well-versed in the new, hot trends and stuff that was going on and whatever. So start pulling all these references, this, that, and the other, and I felt really good. I was like, “All right, yeah. This is the concept. These are our inspirations.” They were all these links with Vimeo, and they were all these links from popular sources of inspiration. When it was my turn to present and I presented it…
Handel Eugene: But my creative director and my art director were pulling these references from completely outside of the motion industry. They’re pulling these references from fashion, pulling these references from photography, pulling these references from architecture, and all these other references that… Like pure, true, traditional illustration and such, and paintings, and all these aspects. And I remember that was like… Without even anybody ever telling me, that was like… My work stuck out like a sore thumb, because it was like, what I pulled was just all from these… It was basically all from the motion industry.
Handel Eugene: What I had found and what I learned that day by a blessing was like, if you want to create original work, if you want to create original content, you want to create fresh content, you have to look outside of the motion industry. Because otherwise, we start creating this vicious cycle of artists biting other artists, and kind of like regurgitating the same style and techniques over and over again if we’re just only looking to our peers. So if you want to create fresh, new, original, look elsewhere. Tap into sources that are… Tap into untapped sources. We’re all… If we don’t, otherwise we’re drawing from the same well of inspiration. Go look elsewhere.
Handel Eugene: There’s a thing that says, “If you want to graze on fresh grass, you got to go outside the herd.” So that’s what my art director and creative director were doing by pulling these references to help create a real, true… Nothing’s truly original, but a fresh idea for the client, whereas what I was pulling were elements and things that had already been done. It was just a recycled version of what was already out there.
Joey Korenman: Oh, dude, that’s so good. That’s amazing advice. Yeah, and it kind of reminds me of something else that you said on Chris’s podcast that I think kind of relates to this. Maybe you could talk about this a little bit. But you said something to the effect… I think you were talking about just how hard it is to come up with something truly kind of fresh and unique. And sometimes, especially when you’re starting out and you come up with something that you think is cool, you’re just so relieved that you did it that it’s like tempting to just say, “Ah, that idea is good enough.” And you said something like, the first thing that you think of, that’s probably the same first thing everyone else thinks of, too. So you got to think that one up, and then keep thinking up more. I’m curious if that was something you learned working at Royale.
Handel Eugene: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. At Royale… Working at a studio, it was the first time… When you’re a student, you work on something, and at least at Full Sail this was the case. If you work on something, you didn’t… This isn’t good. This isn’t going to paint it in the best light. But a lot of times with our work, I guess for the motion graphics classes in particular, we would create our project, but we wouldn’t really get feedback on it. We would do these labs, and our instructors would come across and make suggestions, and it was up to us to make those changes or not. We were never required to make changes. Then at our last portfolio… Sorry. Sorry. At the end of the class, we would present our work, and then we would get feedback. And again, it would be on us if we wanted to make those changes or not.
Handel Eugene: Working at Royale was the first time… Well, actually, working at Royale and Limerick in my internships were the first time where, no, if your creative director tells you to make a change, you have to make that change. Or if the client tells you to make a change or make an adjustment, you have to make that adjustment.
Joey Korenman: Of course, yeah.
Handel Eugene: A lot of times, the creative director’s going to give you, like, “Hey, let’s try this,” or “Hey, let’s try that.” I remember… This is something a lot of young people may feel. But I remember not agreeing mentally with… “Oh, you can’t make me do that. I can’t see… I don’t think that’s a good idea.” But then I would go and do it, and then I’d realize how incredibly wrong I was, because his idea… He’s experienced. He’s been around the block. My creative director knows what he’s talking about.
Handel Eugene: So I was humbled by that experience, and still am so many times, where like, “You know what? I think my idea is better, but this might… I obviously have to do my job, so I’m going to give him this version, and I’m going to do my best even though I may not agree with it.” Then in doing that, I realize, “Oh, wow. Comparing apples to apples, wow, this actually was a lot better.” So that’s a lesson that I learned for sure in the sense that, just because it’s your first idea doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. Actually, even if it’s a good idea, it’s worth exploring and diving deeper and going beyond the surface, and finding a better idea, or a better version.
Handel Eugene: I got to listen to Dan Nguyen in person talk a couple of times, and one of the things that he shared that I’ll never forget and that I try to incorporate my work is that, some of your best work is in your last level of explorations. In hearing that and truly believing that, I almost create this requirement whenever I’m doing work to not settle on the first idea or the second idea, even to do due diligence and try and create a third version or fourth version or iteration.
Handel Eugene: Dan Nguyen also shared with me as well something that I’ll never forget in that, nothing is ever lost. Even though you might not show those four versions or might not make it to the final version, you still became a better artist by going down those different routes and exploring those things. Because what you learn going down those different routes, you take with you to the next version and to the next project. Those individuals, those artists that have gone down those explorations are more… I guess more fluent, are more fluent in the experiences that they have, and are able to take those experiences with them whenever they’re designing something new.
Handel Eugene: I think a lot about this, and I’m trying to find a, I guess, poetic way to describe what it means to explore. A person who has explored a whole heck of a lot versus… I guess travel is a good parallel. A person who just stays in one place and has never traveled isn’t it really well-versed, isn’t really well-experienced, doesn’t have different perspectives on life if you just kind of, I guess, just stay in your bubble. Whereas in a person who’s… There’s a saying. A person who doesn’t travel only reads one page. A person who does travel is reading a whole book.
Handel Eugene: It’s a long-winded answer and way of saying that, yes, the first version isn’t always the best version. You should… At least for me, I make it a requirement to not settle on the first version, but to create a alternate version or a second… Iterations, creating iterations, creating a buffet of options for you to choose from which is the best. Which is the workflow that we do at a studio, right? If you think about it, whenever we’re pitching on a job, you have multiple artists working on that job to create multiple versions to showcase to the client, and the cream rises to the top in that you pick the best option from that array of different choices. More times than not, if you were just to settle on just the one person doing one direction, you’re limiting the potential of that particular direction.
Joey Korenman: I kind of want to unpack some of this. What you’re making me think of with the language you’re using and everything… You used the words “due diligence” in talking about the creative process. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone use it that way. But that’s exactly what it is. And your whole mentality and your attitude towards this is very much that craftsman, that… It’s like, there’s kind of this is difficult-to-describe difference between art and design, and it becomes more obvious when you’re talking about a professional fine artist’s existence versus a professional graphic designer’s existence, right? There’s different motives and there’s different goals and all of those things. So a lot of times, I think some of the conflict that comes up from artists in our industry, in my opinion… This is just my opinion, is that it comes from a confusion about what it is they’re doing. They think they’re making art.
Joey Korenman: But I don’t think they are. I think they’re making design. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on that, because you seem to have a very kind of level-headed view of this. You said, “In my head, that note I just got from the client or from my creative director, I am pretty sure is going to make the thing worse and not look as good. But it’s my job to do it anyway.” And most of the time it does make it better, but sometimes it doesn’t, right? Like “Make the logo bigger” sometimes throws off the composition. It looks like crap now.
Joey Korenman: So I’m curious what’s your attitude is about that balance between doing art, but also being aware that it’s not art for art’s sake, the way that word is usually used.
Handel Eugene: Yeah, absolutely. At the end of the day, we’re creating a product. This is a service-based industry, right? We’re creating a product for a client, and ultimately satisfying the client’s needs, and hopefully giving them something that maybe they didn’t even know they needed, but giving them… Over-delivering in the sense that you’re giving them something that they can utilize is something that we always have to remember, remind ourselves, that is the priority.
Handel Eugene: You find that a lot with younger artists, especially, too, because… I guess it’s a product of what we show. In our industry, we see these studios, and they’re only showing what feel like art pieces. They’re just all these amazing, cool little projects that like, “What? That was a commercial? That just looked like…” You don’t even realize it’s a commercial. So I think as a young artist, we may be naive to the fact, and think that that’s all that we do in the industry, is just work on these cool, creative projects that have little to no limitation. At least, that’s what it looks like.
Handel Eugene: But truthfully, honestly, the majority of our job and the majority of the work that we do is, again, servicing the client’s needs. But we as creatives tend to only show the the best of the best of that batch of work that we create, a small percentage. If you look at my portfolio, you’d think that I was, I guess, a fine artist that just animates, in the sense that a lot of the work that I do just looks like beautiful artwork, but… And those projects are fun, and those projects are cool, but also those projects are few and far between. Majority of my job, which I know we’ll talk about here in a sec, but I’m working in Silicon Valley now. It’s even more and more of my job is to solve creative problems for clients, even more so now, especially strategic thinking and high-level thinking and such. It’s not just about the visuals.
Handel Eugene: I think that’s what may be a issue, especially for people who are young in this industry, who think that it’s just all about, “Oh, just make it look cool.” It’s like, “Oh.” So again, my pushback when I was a younger artist was like, “Oh, this creative director is giving me a note that’s going to make it not look as cool.” But it’s not about it looking less cool, it’s about addressing more so the client needs, like making something more readable, or delivering a concept and a purpose more efficiently and effectively. Those are the priorities, and more so the visuals take a back seat.
Handel Eugene: But again, you look at any studio, and that’s kind of… It may look like it. I guess on the surface level, that’s what they’re selling, is just the visuals. But our job goes a lot deeper than that, and it’s a lot more than that. We’re serving client needs.
Joey Korenman: Very well put, man. All right, so let’s talk about something that I know you’re very proud of, which is the gigantic movies that you’ve worked on title sequences for. You’ve talked about both the Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther stuff on… I think on Animalators you talked about that, and we’ll link to that episode in the show notes, too, in case anyone wants a lot of detail about that.
Joey Korenman: But what I’m really curious about, and as some of our School of Motion team wanted me to ask you about… How did you get the opportunity to do that? I mean, was that why you eventually left Royale, was to pursue that? Did it fall in your lap? Or did you do the thing that it seems like you’ve done most of your career, and sort of engineer opportunities for yourself?
Handel Eugene: Yeah, that’s a great question. Ever since… Actually, I was talking about my origin story, but I didn’t talk about the fact that after I learned that computer science wasn’t for me, I started minoring in film to see if maybe… Maybe if I can do film, maybe that will… Maybe I can make a career out of that. Ever since I got into doing creative things, the goal, or the dream, was to one day work on a film. And that stayed with me throughout my whole career.
Handel Eugene: So it was something that I knew… Lessons I learned in school were, and which I didn’t know it at the time, but it was what I was doing, is like, create the work that you want to attract. You hear that a lot said in this industry. Once I found that to be true, like, create good work and it’ll attract the outlets that you want… Once I found that to be true, and this lesson that I learned early on with the internships reaching out to me, and going and creating that UCF project, which ultimately led to the Royale project, I learned that the more that I put into this, and the more that I prepared myself and created projects that would ultimately lead to opportunities, the more that I did that, the more likely I would have the opportunity to hopefully one day work on some high-profile projects.
Handel Eugene: So I knew that that formula was working. The more stuff that I put out there, the more visible my work was, the more it attracted opportunities. And so I kind of doubled down on that and said, “All right, well, once I got into the industry…” Actually, my last year in college, I created a blog, and I’ll… My blog is my most… I guess, the social media outlet that I’m most proud of, because I’ve kept up with it before Instagram was popular, before Twitter, all that. I had started it more than almost 10 years ago now.
Handel Eugene: I use my blog as… I created a daily quota. Sorry, not a daily quota. A monthly quota, in the sense that I have to create a certain number of posts or a certain level. Even if it’s something that’s half-baked, or even if it’s something that I’m working on or something that I’m learning, I try to create four posts a month. In doing that… It’s just a simple formula. That’s one post a week, and it doesn’t have to be something that’s completely finished or polished. It was something to keep me accountable in the sense that, all right, I’m a craftsman, and I’m taking my craft seriously, and I’m a student of my craft, and a lifelong learner, and I’m continually trying to improve my skills to eventually get to where I want to go.
Handel Eugene: So I’ve more or less kept that quota for the last 10 years. In using that formula that says the more work that I put out there, which will allow me to eventually get more opportunities and eventually prove and show what I’m capable of and such… This industry, which, I don’t know… It’s not a lot of…
Handel Eugene: This industry, which I don’t know. There’s not a lot of industries that are like this. But yeah, it like if this industry is one of those industry where like you put work out there it will get noticed, you know like, and people will see it and people will reach out to you and want to work with you. Ever since college, up until the point that I got to work on these films, I mean, you know, doing work at work and then going home and then doing my own little thing on the side and you know, or collaborating with my artists friends to do a collaboration project or contributing to like this social media that, sorry this, there’s social animation campaign like you know where those social projects where you’d kind of submit something to kind of bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger thing. Like for example, I just did 36 days a type this year, but um, I’m saying all this is kind of like another long winded answer.
Handel Eugene: Sorry. Have brought up.
Joey Korenman: It’s all good though. It’s good stuff.
Handel Eugene: Thank you. But saying all that because that’s ultimately what, what attracted my work. Get it, got the attention of recruiters who wanted to bring me in to work on these film titles. So I, a Perception in New York reached out to me and I, I again, it’s, I feel really fortunate and working on films is something I always wanted to do and I, I truthfully, honestly at the time wasn’t going to pursue it because I didn’t think I was ready for it just yet because I didn’t, I don’t know. It’s kind of like the imposter syndrome or whatever, but thankfully they reached out to me. And I remember on the phone call talking to you a John LePore as a creative director there. He was like, he, I remember, I’ll never forget he was talking to me on the phone.
Handel Eugene: I was like, yeah, I was going through your website. It looks really cool and, and this looks, it looks nice. Then I clicked on your blog and I was like, Oh yeah, this is, and he just, he was touched kind of giving me like, you know, raving about like, you know, the, the work that I was doing on there. Cause he’s an artist too. And he loves seeing, you know, the behind the scenes loves seeing the process. He loves seeing all these other stuff that I had going on. And that to him solidified me as a potential artist to come in and bring into the studio. So, I just, just to go back to what you said, I, I do feel fortunate to have been able to, you know, for them to reach out to me and, and bring me in on that job.
Handel Eugene: But then again at the same time it was all intentional in the, in the fact that since again for 10 years been working on stuff on the side and you know, developing my skills and my craft and creating a diverse portfolio of work to attract those potential recruiters and, and, and, and other artists who all have the, you know, or are in the position to bring artists in.
Handel Eugene: So long story short, basically me creating a bunch of work and putting it out there is what attracted Perception and got them. And got my work on their radar and reaching out to me asking if I wanted to work on, we’ve got some film titles, which they didn’t even tell me what the film was. I had no idea cause it was like you had to sign NDA and everything like that and they couldn’t tell me over the phone. But like before even getting off that phone I was like, Hey look, before we eat, before we get off this phone, I want you to know I’m your guy. Like I don’t care what film it is. Look I’m going to do it. Let’s do it. Let’s make it happen. And it just so happened to be, you know, Spiderman Homecoming, which was the first show I got the opportunity to work on.
Joey Korenman: That’s awesome. And we’re willing to in the show notes, but the a, yeah, the title sequence is unbelievable. It’s really cool. And then you’ve got this, I wanted to call out a couple of things about the story you just told, because if you go to Handle’s cite, you know, it’s, it’s set up mostly like sort of everyone else’s cite. You’ve got work with like a grid of thumbnails of beautiful work. It’s got info with some info about Handle and then that blog link. And that’s not very, you know, common to have that on emotion designers portfolio cite, like to begin with to even have a blog. Then you click on it and there’s just hundreds of posts with like little gifs and animations and sort of case study little things. And then a lot of your projects on, you know, that you’re showing on your portfolio.
Joey Korenman: You have these really detailed breakdowns. Um, these case studies.
Handel Eugene: Thank you.
Joey Korenman: And I’ve heard over and over and over again. And I always tell our students to do this because it really does separate you. And it proves to people that look at your work and say, yeah his work looks great, but maybe he just got lucky that time. No, it shows them that you didn’t get lucky. You had a process to arrive there. So I think that’s so smart that you did that. And yes, again, you’re fortunate that the recruiter found you and all that, but obviously there was, there was something you did to attract that too. So tell me a little bit, I don’t, I don’t want to go too far into like the actual nuts and bolts of working on, on the film titles. Cause I know you’ve talked about that on another podcast and we’ll link to them.
Joey Korenman: I want to know how it felt though. Cause I, cause it sounds like that was like a big goal of yours was to work on, you know, film titles and you got the Spiderman gig and then I think from that you got the Black Panther.
Joey Korenman: Which was, must have been awesome. Huge movie. You know, like just in a cool story tun and everything. So I want to hear like what was it like to, to arrive there and be able to work on that.
Handel Eugene: Yeah. It, it truly, truly, truly was a dream come true. It, it was also like, I felt an incredible amount of pressure, I guess a part of which should I put on myself, you know, like that, that, that lump you get in your stomach. Like I got that every day I went into work because it was, it’s just like this crazy, crazy feeling to know that, you know, millions of people are going to watch this and, and the fact that, you know, I go to movies all the time and the fact that I, I’m going to go see a movie at some point and see my work on the big screen. Like that was, every time I thought about it, I just like, I like my, I got a big lump in my throat and I just got like anxiety and then I was like, I am not think about how, how visible this project is going to be.
Handel Eugene: I had to really like, you know, calm my emotions, but at the same time I was terribly, terribly excited and, and it, it excited before, during, and after. And it really was an incredibly fun ride. It was incredibly hard. Like Black Panther in particular, I created some of the best work I’ve ever created, but also one of the hardest, most challenging projects I’ve, I’ve worked on and also added stress, all these, it’s like a whirlwind of emotions and, and such. And so like, you know, I eventually had to compose myself and get over all that and create the work. But it was a, it was a ton of fun and it really was an opportunity of, of a lifetime to be able to work on that project, that you know, like, and this is actually, I wanted to end on this, but I’ll, I’ll talk about it here quickly.
Handel Eugene: Like, you know, like my, one of my goals in one of my next that I want to take my work as far as the next chapter is just to grow beyond just the motion design audience and create work that appeals to just a general audience in general. You know, like to the point where like, oh, you know, my mom will see that and she’ll think that that’s cool or that’s funny or that was interesting or that made an impact. You know, I eventually want to start creating work that like, you know, it doesn’t just appeal to my peers but appeals to a broader audience to where like, I don’t know, some stranger walking down the street sees it. It’s like, oh, it makes them stop in his tracks. Like, oh, that’s cool. You know, or wow, I really enjoyed that or that really made an impact.
Handel Eugene: And and working on, you know, working on film titles and working on the film is one of those examples of like the, it reaches a broader audience than just emotion does that. Yeah, we’re going to nerd out and geek out about title sequences, but it’s one of those things that’s like incredibly visible beyond just our, our industry. So yeah, it’s incredibly humbling process and, and a whole heck of a lot of fun.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I’ve heard that from, from other artists that have worked on film titles, that is, you kind of can feel the size of the audience that’s going to be looking at it, which, which is very different than the typical explainer video. I wanted to ask you too, you know, like when we started talking you, you mentioned that, you know, you really wanted to make your parents proud. And at first they were, you know, a little skeptical, could you make a career out of this? And I’d love to know how they reacted when they got to see their son’s name and the credits on Black Panther and on Spiderman.
Handel Eugene: Yeah. It’s funny revisiting that because it’s amazing how it’s all come full circle, you know? And my mom, my mom now is the biggest cheerleader as far as for me in my career. And I, I love it because, you know, it’s, if she reaches another, you know, a Haitian-American or Haitian, she’ll, she’ll touch, I, they feel like she’ll be like, you know the spokesperson for like, Oh yeah, there’s a career in the arts and then here’s my son he’s doing it, he worked on Black Panther. So she’s a, I talked to, I was talking to my cousin the other day and she was like, he was telling me that my mom came up to him and told him, Hey, did you know that my son worked on Black Panther? And he’s like, yes, I know. And he’s like, she was like talking his head off about this thing that she can’t, she can’t stop talking about it.
Handel Eugene: But at my place. It’s awesome. It’s been amazing for my family members too. And like for my family to be able to, I guess, you know, use me as like an example of like, Hey, if you work hard or this is what you, you know, this is the fruit of your labor, this is kind of what you can, you can do. And yeah, it’s been, it’s been incredibly well received. My family has been incredibly supportive and, it’s, it’s been, it’s rewarding, incredibly rewarding for me to, to show to my mom in a grand way that Hey, you know, your investment in your son is, was worth it. You know, like, I hope I’ve made you proud. And she tells me that she, you know, I have all the time and like, and I was like, I’m doing this because of you and I’m here because of you.
Handel Eugene: And, and every, every time I receive any type of success, like I always share it with my parents because you know, just to again, prove to them that, you know, like your, your sacrifice didn’t go unnoticed. As soon as we’re done here and I’m like, soon as this podcast goes live, I’m going to share it with my mom. I’m gonna share it like, Hey, this is, this is for, you know, share with my dad. Hey, this is for you. You know this is what your, this is what your son is doing. And I’m here because, I’m achieving the success because of you. Yeah.
Joey Korenman: Oh, that’s awesome. All right, we’ll shout out to your mom. Hi Mrs. Eugene’s [inaudible 00:11:26]. He must be proud of to this beautiful man. What a beautiful story and let you know, like I, I’m, I’m sure you’re starting to get this more and more, you know, as you accomplish these things that, you know, people in our industry, especially people new to it, look up to you. You know, and, and I think you’re, you’re your really good role model in the sense of not just that your work’s awesome, that you’ve done cool projects like this, but that you’ve done it by working hard, not by, you know, you’re also like, I’m sure you had some innate talent in you, but I suspect that most of your success is because of how hard you’ve worked and, and the risks you’ve taken. And, the next thing I wanted to talk about was actually that, you know, we kind of alluded to it a little bit earlier that, you know, you’re basically your MO is, I’m going to outwork everybody, right?
Joey Korenman: Like, no one will outwork me and I’m going to, I’m going to work as smart as I can. And, you know, sometimes that kind of sentiment that like, you know what, I’m just going to hustle. I’m going to hustle and make this work. That mentality can actually piss people off and, and I can kind of understand, I can understand why. I guess like if you’re in a situation where you don’t really have the luxury of being able to do that, like if you’re, if you’re trying to start a career in motion design but you’re already in your late thirties and have a family and a mortgage and all of those things, like you don’t have as much bandwidth. So I’m curious like just to hear a little bit about your philosophy of, you know, that like you have to work hard mentality that clearly works. Right? And gets results but, but for some reason can also rub people the wrong way.
Handel Eugene: For sure. Yeah. And you know, this is a question I’ve thought about a lot and it’s, it’s, I see a lot like, especially like on Twitter, like I, I’ll see this conversation and, and I’m hesitant to interject because yeah, it is like this polarizing topic and I, I’m not hesitant to tell individual one on one. I actually, most of my advice that I give is it’s often one on one. But yeah, I think really what it comes down to is your, your values and your priorities. You know, like, and this is something that I’ve learned and the same reason why you’re asking that question. I’ve asked myself like why don’t some people work harder at what they do? And this is, this is my perspective, that’s that I, I’ve come to understand is that, you know, like some people value life outside of work, some people value life outside of school and to them that is a high priority.
Handel Eugene: And they would, wouldn’t even think about sacrificing that time because that gives them their, that’s, that’s their reward. And that’s their sense of accomplishment is, and that’s what, you know, life is about. And that’s what, you know, it’s, that’s their, that’s the priority. And not to say that I don’t have, I don’t share those same priorities. I definitely, I definitely do. But there are some people who feel like work is for work and outside of that, you know, schools for school. And outside of that, that is your sacred time to, you know, be a human being. Like some people will describe, or be an average person or that’ll be their time to, to get away, to tap out this, that, and the other. And that’s, that’s their values. That’s their priorities. And just like that’s their priorities.
Handel Eugene: They will try to impose those priorities and values on other people saying that no, if you’re not doing that then you’re doing it wrong. You know, like you always eat like, and, I have a different perspective in that, you know? Yeah. Like you know, there’s always that balance of like, you know, enjoying life and, enjoying yourself and giving you a self-time to a reboot. And that’s also incredibly important but also too, the value as far as the run, one of the reasons why I work hard is not for the opportunities it gives me now. Obviously I’m taking away the opportunity to go and enjoy myself. I might, I might go, I may not be able to keep up with like Game of Thrones or Netflix, which I still haven’t yet to keep up with, but it’s not fully obviously now, but for the opportunity in the future.
Handel Eugene: And that’s one of the reasons, probably one of the biggest reasons why I’ve worked so hard is that I’m going to sacrifice some of that personal time outside of work to work on myself. You know, I think it’s, like I said earlier, it’s an investment. Like at the end of the day, you’re, you’re investing in something like if for a lot of people, like, you know, for me, I’d rather invest in myself and make myself more valuable because that’s going to provide opportunities in the future that otherwise I wouldn’t have. And I’m willing to sacrifice some of those, those elements of like my personal time and outside of work to, to do that. And some people aren’t. And I think that’s okay. Whichever side you’re on, I’m under, I’m under the mindset of this. This is my approach. I fell I’m, yeah. Bring this up. Okay. So this is my approach.
Handel Eugene: Work hard and play hard. That’s, that for me, there shouldn’t be any in between. Like you should, you should be working hard on yourself to provide yourself with the opportunities that in the future and then you should be playing hard in the sense that no, go out, you know, go, go. Like that’s one of the reasons why I picked up photography because it allows me to be creative, but also allows me to go out and enjoy life and go places that are otherwise, there’s a quote that says, ” Because of photography, I’m able to see things that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Because of photography, I’m able to go places that otherwise wouldn’t have gone.” And it for, for me, it allows me to go out and enjoy life and, and go out and enjoy and, and go places, go on road trips, go do this, that, and the other. And while still being creative at the same time, which is, which is fun for me.
Handel Eugene: So like I, I feel like I am incredibly opposed to the gray area in between of like, Oh, let’s just go chill on the couch and watch TV or let’s just go, I don’t know, go do something that is of low value. Like I think, I got to be careful with my words here. Cause again, I’m going to polarize some more people.
Joey Korenman: Let’s do it. Let’s get into it.
Handel Eugene: All right. So, okay, so this, this is something that I think I kind of want people to understand. So time, time is an investment. You know, time is a currency and it pays dividends where you invest it. If you invest in something valuable, you’ll get a return. The more valuable the investment, the bigger and potentially more lucrative, the return will be. But instead of investing in ourselves, sometimes we invest in other things that give us, you know, little dividends. Give us a little returns. Yeah, we’ll get a reward, but the reward won’t, doesn’t compound, you know, do I want to invest in myself? Do I or do I invest in something else or in someone else? Maybe that’s somebody else’s already famous like investing in the show that you know, maybe that’s somebody else has already made it, but at the end of the day, at the end of the day we’re investing our time into like, you know, that show or that series or whatever the case may be.
Handel Eugene: And me, again, everybody has their own values. For me personally, my value, I’d rather, I’d rather invest that time in myself so that way I can gain a return that I can ultimately cash in in the future. And we can talk about that too. Like we can get into like, okay, what are those obviously the work that we, we talked about. Obviously that being me investing early on and now eventually being able to work on those films is kind of like the fruit of my labor is the return on the investment. But there’s also many more, you know, rewards for working hard that, you know, we don’t share too much about. But I would love to talk about here as well. Like, you know, what are the benefits of working hard? One of the benefits of working hard now, especially in my career, is that, you know, I’m fortunate enough and in the sense that I’m able to afford to, you know, I have, my wife is a stay at home mom and my daughter, my daughter doesn’t have to go to daycare.
Handel Eugene: So you can get that one on one attention from my mom. Sorry from my wife, her mom. And I’ve got a son on the way and he’s going to have that same opportunity. And I tell my, again going back to my upbringing and my mom, my parents, you know, like, you know, they worked hard so that way I can have opportunities that they didn’t have. And I love talking to my mom and sharing with her that, Hey, now your granddaughter, you know, she’s able to have an opportunity that’s better than what I had, you know, and she’ll eventually have more opportunities than I had and she’ll be better off than, than me. And like, you know, we don’t, you know, being Haitian and a patient is sick, you know, coming from one of the poorest country countries in the Western hemisphere, that’s not to knock Haiti.
Handel Eugene: I’m incredibly proud of my heritage. But it’s true. It’s not like we have, you know, generational wealth. It’s not like we have an incredible amount in my inheritance, but I tell my mom all the time, you know, the inheritance that you’re, you’ve given me is, is the work ethic. And that same inheritance has paid off. And now, you know, my, my daughter is reaping the rewards of the sacrifices that you made and my grandma made, you know, my grandma too, being the first person to come here in this country. So like I say that because there’s just multiple incentives. Well, the first, first of all, the first reason, the first and foremost reason why I work hard is I enjoy this stuff. That’s probably, that’s the number one reason. It’s hard to work hard on something that you don’t enjoy. It’s easy to work hard and something that you enjoy.
Handel Eugene: So like first and foremost, like I’m working on this stuff because I love this stuff and but also too like, you know, you know, some people love things but they aren’t willing to put in the time that I put into it and I’m willing to. There’s so much more extra incentives for me to work hard because of the opportunities it’s afforded me. Like working on Black Panther, or like, you know, being able to work on films and titles, being able to, like I mentioned with my wife and my daughter, being able to be in that position, you know, like there’s so many, so many, so many examples of why working hard, is beneficial to me and why it’s a value for me. But again, everybody doesn’t share those same values and obviously like the cliche term to each its own. Like that value is your values are your values and then mines are mines.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. You know, man, you said so many good things there. Oh my God, that was awesome dude. You know, I’m thinking about the last thing you just kind of hit on. I mean like obviously, you know, to, to some people motion design is, is just the way that they pay their bills. And what they really care about is, you know, training for triathlons and being with their family. And that’s awesome. That’s fantastic. And I think that, and, and then on the other hand, you know, when you’re young and in your 20s and you get an opportunity then really like 80% of your mental energy can go towards the motion design career that you’re trying to build. And I, and I always, I think with the, the realization that I’ve had, and from talking to people like you, is that what makes it work is just owning that decision and saying this, I’m deciding to do this for this reason and then, and if you decide not to work as hard as Handel because you have more important things in your life, that’s great.
Joey Korenman: Just, you know, just expect a different results is all I’m saying. Right? Like you’re, you may not get recruited, you know, I mean, you could still get recruited to work on a film, but it might take longer. It might never happen. Your skills may not get to the level that they need to get to all those things. And you know, so this is perfect because you know, you clearly have this like amazing work ethic, it comes from your parents. I think. You know, you’re also just, I think you’re built that way too, but obviously comes from your family and then you have children and that changes the game so much.
Joey Korenman: You know, one of our own, one of the guys on our team, Ryan Plummer, he had his first, his first baby in December and I’ve watched him just learn to grapple with life, you know, not getting sleep, having like about half of the amount of productive hours per day that you’re used to, things like that. And you know, you like, I’m going through your Twitter feed, like researching you and you had this post about these three books that you read, the War of Art, the Obstacle is the Way and The Richest Man in Babylon, all three of them, I’ve read all three of them I read when I had children, and realized I need to be more efficient and all of those things. And I’m curious like, you know, cause now you have the work ethic but now you have less time. So how do you grapple with that?
Handel Eugene: Yeah, I’m going to okay, I’m going to answer that question right now. But there’s one thing that I wanted to add to the hardworking section if I can just add in really fast.
Joey Korenman: Absolutely.
Handel Eugene: It’s common, it’s popular people, it’s common knowledge that, you know, like there’s a, it’s been said basically that to reach a level of expertise in a field that you have to put in ten thousand hours. Right? Perhaps some people dispute that number, but at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure we can all agree it takes a large amount of time to get to a, you know, top of, top of any industry or any, any field. So to get to the expert level basically. And so one of the things, again, one of the benefits for me of working hard and working more and I’ll work in my periods was because I was able to put in those ten thousand hours in a shorter period of time in a shorter span, which allowed me to get the results sooner.
Handel Eugene: So like, like now, you know, I’m not, I always say I’ve never worked as hard as I did when I was, I was 21 and 20 and 19 years old inside of, in college. But I don’t have to work that hard. No, I’m not, not nearly, not even close to the amount of work that now, but I’m still able to create, continue to build off of the work that I did back then. So like that’s one of the benefits of, you know, working, working hard is, I’ve gotten to where I’m at quicker in a short period of time.
Handel Eugene: Like I mentioned, I started in 2012 I was 21 years old when I got to Royale and I’m 29 now, so I’m able to achieve, you know, where I’m at and in what, seven short years. And it’s short.
Joey Korenman: It’s very fast.
Handel Eugene: In a shorter period of, of time. And I hope that, I hope that doesn’t sound braggadocios. I just more so, you know what somebody told me. No, somebody told me that’s changed my perspective. It’s not bragging if it’s true. And that’s, that’s something I have to remind myself all the time because I always fear that I’m coming off braggadocios, which I try not to, but at the end of the day, if it’s true, it’s true.
Handel Eugene: But yeah, now fast forward to where we’re at now. Like, you know, I’ve, I’ve got a young daughter who’s a year and a half now and I’ve got a son on the way. Who’s actually, it’s going to arrive any day now. Like could get off of this podcast and.
Joey Korenman: Could be right now.
Handel Eugene: Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen. No, she, he’s not due, he’s not due for another 10 days, but truly it could be any day now, but um.
Joey Korenman: You’re in the red zone.
Handel Eugene: I like that, in the red zone. Yeah. so like something that I, I’ve had to, something that I’ve had to focus more on is like, you know, time allocation, you know, cause like right now my family is the, you know, the most important thing and my career has taken a bit of a back seat as far as like time in investment that I’ve put into or that I’m use to putting into it now.
Handel Eugene: It doesn’t have that as much time. But then at the same time, you know, yeah, family’s important. It’s my number one priority. But then again, at the same time, this is something that I want to talk about. The two is like, I don’t also want, you know, to let all of the things that I’ve worked for and all the things, all these skills that I’ve developed in all these different aspects, I don’t want to let that go. You know, I don’t want to be like, you know, now I have kids, now I have a family. That means I can no longer be a creative or I can no longer be do cray cray work at a high level. And I think, you know, one thing, at least in our industry and actually in a lot of other industries, it’s like it’s usually one or the other.
Handel Eugene: You know, it’s rarely, it’s rarely both. You know, it’s either like, you know, you’re amazing at being, being a creative, but then maybe you’re a terrible, terrible family person or you’re either a terrible art, terrible at being a creative or amazing a family person. And this is, this is a misconception, this is a stereotype, you know, and, and few people believe that you can have a good balance of creating good work and good, and still be a family person, family man at the same time. And I know that that’s not true because I have people that I look up to, people that I, I studied study people that I learned from who are successful at both. And I was like, okay, so what, what allows them to do that? And so I’ve been doing a lot of research more and more lately, especially now that I have kids.
Handel Eugene: It’s like, okay, what, what do I have to do? And I’m learning more and more, more is that they’re incredibly efficient with their time. And you know, they realized that you can’t do everything but you can do the most important things. You know, like one of the sayings is “Don’t major in the minor things.” You know, there’s, we spent a lot of time in our day, you know, in minor things that are of little consequence. And so like now I’m like, you know, really evaluating my schedule and my day and my time, you know, and everything like that. It’s, so some things that I’ve, I’ve put, you know, some things that I’ve deemed less valuable, I’ve kind of let you know to the wayside or whatever. And now I’m only focusing on the high priority stuff that are high. The things that are, incredibly important to me and allocating my time efficiently.
Handel Eugene: So that means if I only got like an hour, maybe two, sometimes less, sometimes sometimes rarely more, to invest in myself and work on my, my craft and work on my skills, then I need to maximize that time and not be like scrolling through Instagram or compromising that time. And you know, like maybe, maybe I might, I’m not as interested in, you know, the latest shows or the latest thing that’s out latest craze or what happened. So yeah, like there’s so many, there’s so many productivity tips that I’m looking like, like we mentioned Chris Do’s, I mean Chris Do’s podcast and also Matthew Encina, I highly recommend you link to like their focus sprits. He did a talk about focus sprints and like productivity and such and pretty much, you know, like, you know, and now that’s what I, I do now to try and continue to be productive while still like, you know, investing a large amount of time into my family and to my daughter and my wife and such.
Handel Eugene: Also too, like you know, I’m learning all these different things, like the 80/20 rule. Have you heard the 80/20 rule?
Joey Korenman: Oh absolutely dude, yeah.
Handel Eugene: Absolutely right. I still like, you know there’s, there’s, you know, what is 20% of of the things that we do lead to like 80% of the value and productivity and like and production, you know like you know, let’s say business value for example, 20% of your customers result in 80% of your, purchases and your profits and such. So if you, if you focus on that 20% you can dramatically increase your profits and your production, you know, like so like it’s same with time. It’s like you know, like 20% of the things that you do are of high value that result in like 80% of you know, the results. And so if you focus on that 20% then you can maximize, maximize your results.
Handel Eugene: There’s also too like ah, you seen, you seen Office Space?
Handel Eugene: Yeah. So like those guys that come in, again, I’m studying this stuff, so I’m trying to like incorporate this into my workflow, into my schedule. But there’s those guys that come in and they’re like, so what do you, what exactly do you do here? And they’re trying to kind of get rid of waste basically that’s happening in the company. Those, those are real jobs. Those are, those are real people that are called efficiency experts and [crosstalk 01:41:31] it’s their job to come into like these big conglomerates and big companies and, and figure out where the waste is happening and trying to make a company run as efficiently as possible. To the point where like, like I was so shocked and surprised, like it matters where you put your printer, you know, in your office because if you move your printer, it can reduce travel wasted therefore it can reduce time, time waste. And they even have like a specific number that they put on it. It’ll save you X amount.
Handel Eugene: They even have a specific number that they put on it, it’ll save you X amount of dollars a year if you just make this small little adjustment and this little nudge. And so now, now I’m going through life trying to figure out, “All right, what can I do?” Because I have to be awake- before I was, it was a luxury, time was a luxury. I can just, I know I have so much time now. It’s free time is a luxury, anything out, anything.
Handel Eugene: So now I’m trying to carve out small little wastes in my schedule that I can take out to allow me to be more efficient and still allow me to continue creating work that I- and continue growing, continue learning, being a lifelong student of my craft. Because like I said, I want to continue to benefit from the reward of all the hard work that I put into this. And I don’t want to let that subside because I feel like a lot of people at this stage, this is when that happens and they come to terms with that and it’s totally fine. Whereas and I’m, I feel like I know that you can have a good balance between balancing both.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Dude, you just gave so many good tips there. So a lot of this stuff you’re talking about is in the 4-Hour Work Week. [crosstalk 01:43:25] I mention that book a million times on this podcast. I mean that’s my … that thing kind of cracked my skull open a bunch of years ago. Yeah, it’s really, it’s kind of about … yeah, finding that minimum effective dose to get to your goals instead of just throwing more hours at a thing. Dude, I’ve gone way down that rabbit hole. I love that man.
Joey Korenman: So, that leads me to the next thing I want to talk to you about was what you’re doing now and the kind of companies you’re working with. And so I assume you told me, I think I ran into you at NAB this year and you mentioned that you were doing some work with Apple and I saw that you’ve worked, done some work with Facebook and I assumed that maybe part of that was you’ve accomplished this long goal of working on feature films and now you’ve got kids and it changes the game up.
Joey Korenman: So I’m wondering if you could just talk a little bit about how you made the decision to, and I don’t know if you’re a contractor, if you’re on staff for Apple, but can you talk a little bit about the decision to go into the tech world and work there? I mean, what were the deciding factors?
Handel Eugene: Yeah, absolutely. So kids of course was the main … well at the time, a kid. My daughter was the big driving, for us driving factor for wanting to move up here. Moved from LA to the San Francisco Bay area. And in our industry it’s not exactly forgiving when it comes to your time. There’s definitely good days and there’s definitely times where you get off on time and maybe you can get off early but a lot of times the nature is whenever a project gets into crunch time it’s like working, working late and that’s not exactly the best solution or environment when it comes to raising a child. Because you want to be present, you want to be around for your kids.
Handel Eugene: And my much respect to those that do it. Hopefully I’m, I definitely don’t want to take away from those who are doing it and I completely get it. But I wanted to, we wanted to have the opportunity to be able to, for me to be present and not be working long hours, which this industry can, tends to have sometimes. That was, it was a work, life balance and so coming up here, it was interesting because I’ve worked in the industry for so long that you forget what it’s like to even have a regular nine to five where you actually clock in, clock out at a time every single day. There are a lot of jobs out here that have that, that resemble traditional nine to five with where staying late is rare.
Handel Eugene: Whereas our industry, staying late is common. It was interesting. I was down for it when I got into the industry. But it’s just interesting how nobody gave me a primer on like, “Hey yeah, we’re staying late tonight.” It was like, I don’t know how to describe it, but like [crosstalk 01:47:01].
Joey Korenman: It was normalized. No one even thought it was [crosstalk 01:47:03].
Handel Eugene: Exactly, it was just like the normalest thing. And I was like, “Oh, I guess that’s just the way it is.” And to the point where I got so used to it that when I actually got to, when I got up here and people were leaving at five o’clock and I was like, “Are you guys supposed to leave at this?” I was like looking around like, “You guys are the weird- what’s going on?” so, oh yeah, you’re work in this so long that you forget that people keep their- the rest of the world, majority of the world is on a regular regular schedule.
Handel Eugene: And basically having experienced that, because I freelanced up here first for a little bit before actually making the move and having experienced that and realizing, “Oh, okay. This is actually better for family life.” Was one of the reasons, one of the major reasons why we came up here. So yeah.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. That’s what I assumed was, I mean just the amount of hours that are expected goes down when you, when you’re working for a company where motion design is not the product, [crosstalk 01:48:17] whereas at a studio that is the product. And so it creates a different scenario. And you don’t have to, you can actually just not answer this if you want to, but I, you don’t have to be specific. But I am curious, I’ve heard through the grapevine that motion designers are getting recruited by these big tech companies and they’re getting paid really, really well.
Joey Korenman: That seems like a nice setup if you have a young family and you’re hoping to be able to let your wife stay home at least for a few years while the kids are young and stuff like that. So I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about that. Did that play into it and is that, is that true that the salaries for motion designers at some of these companies, I mean I’ve heard they’re well into the six figures.
Handel Eugene: Right? Yeah, absolutely. So that was for sure that definitely was a contributing factor. There’s, I saw a meme the other day, I don’t know if it was a meme, but it was like, “Your thirties are spent making up for all the bad decisions you made in your twenties,” and basically right now we’re at a position where we want to try and think about our future, make more fiscally responsible decisions, making more adult decisions. Save up, we got a kid, we want to create, we want to save for their retirement, not retirement, their college, create a college fund for my daughter and also my son and we want to create some, we want to eventually want to purchase a home. We want to start doing those things that, we’re, I guess, less of a pri- it wasn’t so much so as the lesser priority.
Handel Eugene: It was just like, I was just so concerned with motion graphics during my early twenties. Now having a family it’s like, it puts things in perspective and now I want, now I got to provide for the family and making the best financial decisions is important as well. I want to eventually create, have assets that I can eventually hand down to my children. So yeah, all those things, all those are basically being here allows you to make those moves and start actually doing adult things that I think that are incredibly important and viable and I highly recommend people look into those things earlier on than I did. Elements like retirement, saving for retirement and I had no health care. I didn’t. I wasn’t paying for healthcare early on, but obviously now I’m doing that and having had just basically all of these different aspects that weren’t as big of a priority are more of a priority now.
Handel Eugene: Now that I have a family and now like, “Oh, I have to be an adult and I have to really start buckling down. So being here has allowed us to do more things basically. So, yeah.
Joey Korenman: [crosstalk 01:51:25] To confirm.
Handel Eugene: Yes. To confirm all those things that you’ve heard through the grapevine’s for sure absolutely are true.
Joey Korenman: That’s really great. And I mean it’s just a great option. And then that’s one of the things that’s so cool about motion design industry right now is just how big it’s gotten and how many different ways there are to work and make money and stuff like that. And even, so even with the cost of living, which is sort of like San Francisco is famous and Silicon Valley for how expensive it is to live there. You mentioned buying a house, I kind of chuckled, but.
Handel Eugene: I’m sorry, buying a home in Florida is actually where we’re the first move we’re going to make. I don’t know. [inaudible 01:52:02]
Joey Korenman: Ah, Oh dude, that’s very doable. That’s super doable. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Okay. Got you, got you. Okay. Well that’s- it’s really great man. And so I’m also really curious about what the creative environment is like at a place and we can use Apple as an example because I know that’s currently where you’re working. Yeah. I know you probably know Ryan Summers, he was really curious. What’s it like working, from a creative perspective, working for a place like Apple versus working for a studio? Who’s your client even really? You’re kind of working for your client.
Handel Eugene: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what it is. Yeah, there is a big bit of a difference. One of the things that are definitely different is that the products are way longer. We spend more time, way more time on a project in these environments than you would in a studio. I think when I was at We Are Royale I was averaging two projects a month throughout the year. Some projects for one projects, some projects were three projects in a month. Whereas in here it’s not uncommon to work on one project for six months. Oh yeah. And it can go even longer depending on what department you’re on.
Handel Eugene: It’s funny when, I remember when I was working at Royale and other studios I would always, I was always so like, “Why is the client so hellbent on this particular direction?” And, “Why are they so …” it’s because they spend so much time in the conception phase, the ideation phase, there’s so much you just don’t realize how much thinking is behind this idea before they hand it off to a vendor or a studio and such until I got to the other side and realized, “Oh wow, that’s the reason why the client is so very specific and so very like, ‘Oh making this change is no out of the question or whatever this, that and the other.'”
Handel Eugene: That’s because again, the client side, we spend so much time in the ideation phase, which is also a big difference, right? Not only is the longer, but also too, there’s … we do execute, we definitely do execute a whole heck of a lot, but we spend a whole heck of a lot of time in the conception phase, ideation phase. It’s almost like, for example, if you look at a really cool video that you see online, you might think, “Oh, that looks really beautiful. It looks amazing. Who was the art director? Visually that looks incredible.” Whereas in here in these environments, it’s almost like, I guess the person that’s put up on a pedestal is a person that’s like, there’s the lead strategists like, “Oh, who’s the lead strategist on that product? That project was amazing.”
Handel Eugene: Or, “That campaign or that direction was awesome.” So it’s a, there’s more of a priority on high level thinking and concepting and fleshing out an idea is the main priority there. So, that’s cool because working here has allowed me to wear a different hat than what I’m used to, but an incredibly valuable one too as well. It’s like you can’t just create something or do something because it looks cool. It’s got to be a reason behind like what’s the why? Why are we doing this or that? And it’s almost going back to pure graphic design principles and such.
Handel Eugene: So yeah, there’s that level of … there’s more of a priority on concepting than there is on executing, which is I guess the environment that’s been fostered at Apple and we’ll do the creative thinking and then we’ll hand it off to a studio or vendor to do the execution if we need to. If we can’t and we have the means and resources to execute in house we’ll do it in house as well.
Joey Korenman: Oh, that’s really interesting. Okay. So, well let’s start here. So who is your client? Who do you have to get a yes from when you’re coming up with a concept and doing style frames? Stuff like that.
Handel Eugene: Yeah, it’s all internal and it goes up. There’s a chain of commands, but our client, it all comes from the top in the sense that you have your … and I’m kind of walking on eggshells here a little bit.
Joey Korenman: I got you. I got you. Yeah. The Apple sniper is right outside in case you go too far. [crosstalk 01:56:47]
Handel Eugene: But yeah, you get, let’s say you get a brief for something new that’s coming and we need to promote it. We need to advertise it. We need to inform the customers of its details and its specifics as you see Apple does and so the client will be actually where that comes from.
Joey Korenman: Like a product manager or something.
Handel Eugene: Product [crosstalk 01:57:22] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joey Korenman: [inaudible 01:57:24] Okay.
Handel Eugene: Okay. Yeah, the product- basically the product manager, but also too, we have our own internal design team, our own creatives and our leads, they themselves. So you get a bunch of different departments into together, work together to try and come up with a direction. That’s probably too contributes to the longer form aspect is because there’s more channels to go through to get them approved. But yeah, I guess it’s all internal, the client is Apple itself and it’s all done internally.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Okay. That makes sense. I was just trying to get a sense of if … was this sort of a self contained motion design unit or is it … because I’ve freelanced for advertising agencies in Boston that had internal motion design. But and it was, and it’s a very different kind of feel than working at a studio because it’s like, the analogy I use is a terrible analogy, but like it’s almost like having a copier room. “Oh I need a copy.” I go to the copy room and I make a copy of something. Well now I have a motion design room. And so it kind of, it’s like the entire company can now access this new capability.
Joey Korenman: And so sometimes the client is a creative director, sometimes the client is an account manager or something and so it really changes those things if it was similar it sounds like it is. I also wanted to ask you about Apple’s campus. I’ve heard it’s really cool. Studios generally have pretty cool digs but what’s it like working in a place with, sort of a famously cool campus?
Handel Eugene: Sure. Apple is great. Apple is amazing. But you should see Facebook and Google’s campus. I’ll just say that.
Joey Korenman: Are you really?
Handel Eugene: Yeah, they’re a … Apple’s a design company but they’re also more serious. It’s more like the mature kind of grown up design aspect. Google and Facebook are like the university cool little startup, fun little environment where it’s like they don’t take themselves as seriously. So I think I’d kind of give them the edge a little bit on the campus as far as the environment. But then again, I always wonder how you get any work done at Facebook or Apple, but that’s just [crosstalk 01:59:48] I’ll say that. Get too far into that. But …
Joey Korenman: Awesome, cool.
Handel Eugene: It’s awesome. It’s a really cool environment. And if you ever … I’ll say this, if anybody’s ever in the Bay area and they ever want to kind of stop by, hit me up. Got some guest passes, get you guys [crosstalk 02:00:09]
Joey Korenman: Oh right on dude. Right on. Oh, I’m going to take you up on that shit. That’s awesome.
Handel Eugene: I’ve got friends that they stop by a lot around the area and yeah, again another moment for my, proud moment for my mom and dad. I get to take them and show them around and you get to have lunch at the [inaudible 02:00:27] cafes and stuff like that.
Joey Korenman: Oh, that’s awesome dude. So I want to talk a little bit more about just sort of the reality of living in San Francisco. I mean, how has that transition been too, going from LA up to San Fran to work for the tech companies?
Handel Eugene: Yeah, so I say San Francisco Bay area because people are familiar with San Francisco but I really, I live in San Jose. Like whole work life balance out, one of the reasons why I moved up here because I can live right next to work. I live, I’m a 10 minute drive from work.
Joey Korenman: So, awesome.
Handel Eugene: That’s not something that I had when I was in LA, especially when I was freelancing. So again that contributed to the whole decision to move up here as well, work life balance.
Joey Korenman: That’s huge.
Handel Eugene: But on a good day it takes 40, 45 minutes to get up to San Fran. If you live in San Fran it’s, I mean that’s with no traffic you can easily double that with traffic. But as far as living in the area, it’s great for family friendly. It’s a great family friendly city. The same reason I’m up there is the reason and also a reason why another, a lot of other families are up there as well and therefore it creates this community of family. So there’s always something to do that’s really great in that regards. It’s not, I got a lot of friends that will freelance up here and they’re single and they’re looking for things to do and it’s like, it’s not about a lot going on. That’s that appealing, especially if you’re coming from LA or New York. But I spend most of my time with my family anyways, so it’s like, it’s not, those aren’t things that are like, “Oh, but it’s a huge priority for me.”
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I totally get that. I mean, that’s why we live where we live, near Sarasota because yeah, if you were in your 20s and single, there’s not a ton to do here, but when you have three kids, it’s pretty awesome, man. That’s great.
Handel Eugene: It’s the best.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So I wanted to ask you, and we can go as deep as you want into this. You talked about this on Chris’s podcast and you two had an amazing conversation about it. So we’ll definitely link to it in the show notes and everyone definitely check it out because it- there was some really good insightful things there, but you hinted at something. So that’s why I wanted to ask you again. For anyone listening, you may have guessed when Handel said that he’s Haitian, that he’s a black artist and our industry is just mostly white. It just is.
Joey Korenman: And on Chris’s podcast you said that you haven’t really, fortunately run into much sort of, I mean definitely no overt racism or anything like that, but there’s a lot of times, there’s just these weird unconscious bias things that artists run into if they’re minorities or female artists run into things like this. And you said you hadn’t run into too much of that, but then you hinted, that yeah, but there have been a couple of times where, “I don’t know, it sort of felt like I wasn’t being let into a situation that I thought I should have been in.” I’m curious if you could talk about it a little bit and if anything’s changed going from a place like LA to Northern California and the tech bubble.
Handel Eugene: Yeah, I described it as subtle slights, here and there where I felt like I was qualified or I felt like I was in a position to be able to contribute and it to a particular element of production that especially like client facing aspects, like we’re … and we mentioned the gatekeeper that there might be some subtle slights here and there. But I’d say overall in this industry, I say that in comparison to other professions and other industries, that’s more so what I was comparing it to. I guess I was looking at it as a glass half full. Being appreciative to at least I’m not in some of these other jobs where like it’s of, it’s incredibly prevalent and a huge barrier for African Americans and minorities in lots of other industries that, little bit more, I guess PC I guess? [inaudible 00:22:45].
Handel Eugene: Or more traditional, whatever the case may be. In that regards that that I’ve been fortunate to be able to achieve the success that I’ve been able to achieve and this industry in general is, to getting your foot in the door. It’s really is like, “Show me your portfolio. It looks good. This got you …” If your work is good then chances are high that you’ll have an opportunity to improve yourself regardless of what you look like or your background and such. But I’ll say that just being in Silicon Valley, it’s very different from LA in that it’s incredibly less diverse.
Handel Eugene: I think my wife is doing an amazing job in being aware of the fact that we’re at, my daughter’s African American and wants to make sure that she gets to see the people that look like her as often as possible. She’s actually very intentional about that and trying to expose her to that aspect. And then this, I don’t know, this isn’t incredibly on topic, but this is something that’s important to me because it’s something that I feel like I’m doing to help address just the overall, just my small little contribution towards addressing some of that unbiased aspects that you, that individuals like myself and other individuals of race or of color experience.
Handel Eugene: But again, this is not on topic at all, but this is important. It’s something that’s important to me. I come from a Haitian American [inaudible 02:06:40] I was saying we’re very, very, very traditional and, but one of the things that I get pushed back more than being an artist, which is funny for is I’ve grown my hair out and I got a Afro and my grandma’s like, “You should cut your hair. It should be clean cut,” and just like [crosstalk 02:06:58] “Super clean cut,” and everything like that.
Handel Eugene: And for one, my number one reason why I’ve grown my hair is because I, for one, I like it. That stylistically it’s something that I enjoy it and it’s something that’s helped change my appearance just over. Something that’s cool. That’s something I enjoy. But I guess even more so than that I think, which is awesome that I get to do is that I’ve, I look like a lot of other African Americans that may not have the best reputation. You see it in my family all the time. Like they’re like, “You should cut your hair. You don’t want anybody to think you’re up to no good or you’re doing doing something wrong.”
Joey Korenman: [crosstalk 02:07:40] I get what you’re saying. Yeah. Okay.
Handel Eugene: [crosstalk 02:07:41] appearance and so I hear that so many times it’s incredibly bothersome is like that’s not how it should be. And so what I do and something that I take pride in is that I love breaking that stereotype because that’s obviously not who I am. I love somebody having pers- thinking they have a perspective on who I am and what I’m up to. I love shattering that perspective when they find out that I’m educated, I’ve got, I’ve gained some form of success with my career. I’m a family man, I’m present with my family. I’m able to provide for myself. I love breaking all those stereotypes based off of my appearance and so, and that’s something that is even, I get the … So that’s something that I get the opportunity to do more of now that I’m here in in Silicon Valley than I did in LA.
Handel Eugene: Because it’s funny, I was telling them, I was explaining this to my aunt and I was like, “I might be the only African American that maybe this person interacts with all all day, maybe all week, maybe all month.”
Handel Eugene: I feel like this responsibility to represent the greater potential, the greatest aspects and the best aspects of who we are. I try to carry myself in that regard and try to improve any type of negative perspective any person may have based off of my … I try to educate, I try to create a paradigm shift in people’s perspectives when it comes to what the typical African American who looks like me is capable of basically.
Joey Korenman: Dude your outlook is just unbelievable. It’s amazing. I mean, I love talking to you man. I’ve never heard that before, what you just described like that and I’ve never thought of it of course. Because I’m a white dude in America. I just look like everybody else in the industry and I shave my head. So now that’s a dime a dozen also. The thought that there might be pressure to, I’m assuming it’s like cut your hair shorter. Because I mean a few times I’ve met you, you’ve had really tall hair and because it looks more clean cut or something, right?
Handel Eugene: I have dreads now. And there’s this pressure to just conform to societal standards of what beauty is, and for example, somebody, and I’m actually planning on doing a whole little art piece on this, but there’s in other industries you can discriminate based off of the appearance of your hair. And like dreads … and having dreads and so there’s this negative connotation that of course, any hairstyle, if it looks sloppy or anything like that, may not look as [inaudible 02:10:45]. But if it’s neat and well kept up like dreads are, is something that we’ve, is a cultural aspect of being African-American, literally going back to Africa. And also too [inaudible 02:11:01] in the Bible, people paint him with this long flowing hair. But he had, it’s historically he’s been known to had dreads his long hair were dreads. So I’m getting, not to get too political here on the pod- I know this is a motion graphics podcast.
Joey Korenman: Oh, it’s all good, man. [crosstalk 02:11:24] We’ve gone this far. Right?
Handel Eugene: But yeah, that’s something that again, I’ve tried to break those stereotypes and represent the best of who we are and what we’re capable of and trying to shatter any type of perspective. So I’m trying, again, being, it’s cool because I’m visible. I love the idea of the fact that somebody who looks like me, who comes from my background can look at me and say, “Oh, okay, this person is doing it and he’s able to achieve success.” And it’s possible, like I want, you can be a professional in this industry without having to compromise and conform to everything and I know it’s not the same for all in the industries, but I again, I enjoy having, giving myself that responsibility to uphold that.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. That’s amazing man. I’ve said this to a few people on the podcast. I mean one of the, my theory and I’ve talked to a lot of people and it seems like there’s probably something to this is that one of the reasons that there is such a low percentage of minorities and for awhile this is getting better now, but there was a way lower percentage of female artists in the industry. I always assumed it was just because it’s easy for someone who looks like me to find someone who looks similar and is successful in this industry. So it gives you this conscious permission to go be successful. And now with your success and you’ve worked on feature films and you’re also really good at promoting your work and getting your name out there and you’re speaking at Blend and all that stuff.
Joey Korenman: The next generation of motion designers who are black or they’re either native to the U.S. or they’re immigrants, whatever. They now have someone that might look like them that they can see, “Oh look Handel was successful and looks like me and comes from a similar background.” Maybe, your mom’s out there recruiting every Haitian she can into the motion design community. So I think that’s what it takes and I think it’s really cool too. I mean you obviously, it’s not your responsibility to do that, but that’s amazing that you’ve taken that upon yourself because I think that is what it takes to make a difference. So kudos to you man.
Handel Eugene: Oh, thank you man. Appreciate it. Yeah, it’s all about exposure and people being able to see. So I mean truthfully, honestly, I’m a life long card carrying member of the introverted club. I say that a lot. So I am not, I’m out of my comfort zone when it comes to being put on a pedestal or being used as opposed to [inaudible 02:14:17] any means or all the pre- my mom, I tell my mom, she’s done more bragging than I’ll ever do in my lifetime about me. I don’t like attention basically. Naturally, instead of … I’m naturally … I love just being to myself a lot of times and I so but again, like I said, I am conscious and aware of the issues and I’m aware that I have the opportunity to create an impact and create an influence at, because of that, I’m willing to step out of my comfort zone to sort of make myself more visible, to try and make an impact and represent, be a better representation. Yeah.
Joey Korenman: Checkout Handel’s at handeleugene.com which of course we will link to in the show notes. He’s got a staggeringly diverse portfolio and he’s also been doing a lot of public speaking lately. So follow him on social media to find out if he’s doing any presentations with Maxon or anyone else in the future. If you ever run into Handel in real life, you’ll walk away with a smile on your face. Thanks so much for listening. Show notes are up at schoolofmotion.com. See ya.