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Motion Design as a Career?

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I love this as a career. It definitely beats doing anything else I can think of. I've been in the field for about 11 years. Started as an editor, then moved into motion graphics. I think most people outside the field or just getting into it often look at this profession as being very one dimensional. Mostly because they have no idea what goes into it. Long hours designing & animating, keeping up with trends & technology, & the business end of things - client relations / new business. people ask me about a career in motion graphics & I tell them "don't get into this unless you're absolutely sure it's something you want to pursue and are prepared to devote a large portion of your life to" which is what in my opinion you have to do in order to be successful.... that coupled with having talent to begin with-

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Long term - be a designer, be wary of being a motion designer.

 

Amen. This is exactly why learning the hard stuff is so important. Knowing how to press buttons in After Effects or Cinema 4D is easy and doesn't mean much of anything, really. Tools and even careers will evolve and change, but great design skills, communication skills, and knowing how to evoke emotion in people will ALWAYS be valuable.

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i didn't really read through all the posts on here so apologies if this is redundant, but if you're a designer in a resource intensive medium like animation, motion graphics, etc (stuff like print design and illustration don't apply so much), then there are four basic career paths...

 

1. continue being a designer/animator/etc who is hands-on making stuff, getting more and more skilled and/or specialized in your craft.

1A. be a freelancer or staff at a place that makes great stuff and just get used to long hours (that will become a problem when you have a family) and deal with the simple fact that your salary/income will quickly top out rather early in your career and sustain at that level (if you raise your rate too much, you'll be deemed too expensive due to the continuous supply of art school grads)

1B. be freelancer or staff at a place that makes ho-hum or corporate work that keeps things at about 40 hrs a week, thus allowing you to be a competent parent/spouse/etc... the salary top out applies here too, and is maybe slightly less than 1A, though not necessarily.

 

2. gradually become more of a creative director or manager where you are doing less and less of actual hands-on making and more and more meetings, email writing, client caressing, and being more or less a politician that comes up with ideas and figures out how to use a budget to make other people actually execute them and/or be good at bringing out your workers' best ideas and fine tuning them. or alternately, figure out ways to make it look like your workers' good ideas are your own, which unfortunately goes a long way for some people. obviously, if you aren't good at interacting with people then this path may not be an option for you. with this management path, the sky is the limit when it comes to income. not exaggerating.

2A. do this at a shop doing great work and, again, get used to long hours.

2B. do this at a ho-hum/corpy place and you're much more likely to get to work a more reasonable schedule, though not necessarily.

 

 

for motion graphics (at least in the US), there are additional sub-splits of each option depending on whether you live in LA/nyc vs. some other american city, which will basically determine whether you have options as to what place you work at. hope this somehow helps and doesn't depress teh fuck out of anyone.

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i didn't really read through all the posts on here so apologies if this is redundant, but if you're a designer in a resource intensive medium like animation, motion graphics, etc (stuff like print design and illustration don't apply so much), then there are four basic career paths...

 

1. continue being a designer/animator/etc who is hands-on making stuff, getting more and more skilled and/or specialized in your craft.

1A. be a freelancer or staff at a place that makes great stuff and just get used to long hours (that will become a problem when you have a family) and deal with the simple fact that your salary/income will quickly top out rather early in your career and sustain at that level (if you raise your rate too much, you'll be deemed too expensive due to the continuous supply of art school grads)

1B. be freelancer or staff at a place that makes ho-hum or corporate work that keeps things at about 40 hrs a week, thus allowing you to be a competent parent/spouse/etc... the salary top out applies here too, and is maybe slightly less than 1A, though not necessarily.

 

2. gradually become more of a creative director or manager where you are doing less and less of actual hands-on making and more and more meetings, email writing, client caressing, and being more or less a politician that comes up with ideas and figures out how to use a budget to make other people actually execute them and/or be good at bringing out your workers' best ideas and fine tuning them. or alternately, figure out ways to make it look like your workers' good ideas are your own, which unfortunately goes a long way for some people. obviously, if you aren't good at interacting with people then this path may not be an option for you. with this management path, the sky is the limit when it comes to income. not exaggerating.

2A. do this at a shop doing great work and, again, get used to long hours.

2B. do this at a ho-hum/corpy place and you're much more likely to get to work a more reasonable schedule, though not necessarily.

 

 

for motion graphics (at least in the US), there are additional sub-splits of each option depending on whether you live in LA/nyc vs. some other american city, which will basically determine whether you have options as to what place you work at. hope this somehow helps and doesn't depress teh fuck out of anyone.

 

 

this post should be stickied. jaan hit the nail on the head.

 

some creative directors can't resist the temptation of taking full credit for their freelancers' work. unfortunately for them, we do notice, we do remember, and we will tell everyone we know. this is how studios lose fame, lose rosters, and go bankrupt. i've heard of partners splitting partly because directors weren't pulling their weight or were all talk.

 

but jaan is right about directors doing a lot of client massaging. fortunately there are still a handful of creatives who are actually creative and will be hands on with the projects instead of breathing down your neck telling you your work sucks.

 

 

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One thing to note is that these big studios don't usually pay as much as the small ones, for a few reasons. One being that your going to be doing a lot more work at a small studio because you don't have help of a big team.

 

If your thinking of going to college for design, just realize your not going to be making a doctors salary out of school, but if you love what you do.. like a lot of people here do... then go for it.. fuck money and be happy with yourself because you make good work... money will come soon enough.. :D

 

hope some of that helps

 

Please learn the difference between "your" and "you're" and use them correctly.

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Bottom line - do what makes you happy NOW. The average person will have three careers in their lifetime according to statistics. Do what makes you happy and follow your bliss and the money will come. I am an editor and motion designer who has been in this business for 25 years. I am 51, still working, still making enough money to support my wife and two kids and , more importantly, still having fun being paid to be creative. Every business evolves and changes over time and if what you are doing is your passion you will evolve and change with it. I started out cutting film on a flatbed and worked on one of the 1st Avid systems (id #6) and now cut on Avid, Final Cut, Smoke and Adobe. If you love doing motion graphics and keep that flame alive you will always find work and always make money.

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I hope it is obvious that two very radically issues have popped up here.

 

1. Money

 

No one goes into motion design to get rich. But, you only get as much as you ask for. Anything else I can say here is redundant.

 

 

2. Family

 

Before working for Red Giant, my last onsite gig was at Justin Harder Studios. I was toiling away in Cinema 4D and 7pm rolls around. I look around the room and all eyes are unflinchingly stuck to their respective monitors. At the time, my son was starting to going to bed at 7pm. I sadly went back to work knowing that I've just put some commercial rubbish (battery commercial? reality show? I don't even remember) in front of my son. My wife messages me asking when I am going to be home. I didn't even know what to say. It was at this point that I realized I was in the wrong place in many, many ways.

 

So, to you young guys in trucker hats, retro high tops and white belts, 7pm or 8pm ain't nothing. But, to a parent.. that's bath, bed, story, hugs, kisses and night-night time. There's not a commercial project in the world that I should be placing in front of my son (and soon to be... SONS) growing up.

 

This is something that all of you unmarried, unattached fellas should be thinking about. Where do you want to be in 20 years? Who do you want to be surrounded by?

 

 

It comes down the glory that you seek. If you are cool with less luster with the place(s) that you work, you'll be able to find that 9-5. But, if you end up in a major city seeking major studios, that is your marriage and your family.

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There's not a commercial project in the world that I should be placing in front of my son (and soon to be... SONS) growing up.

 

Flipside to this - as a freelancer, I get to spend way more time with my daughter - soon to be one of two - than I ever would have done in the regular salary job I ditched shortly before she was born. There's late nights and the a fair bit of weekend work, but I get to take one week day off every week, and half my work is remote jobs so on balance I'd say my freelance status has let me be much more involved as a father. And the money's better ;-)

 

It's quite intense - and there are certain projects I'd like to be involved with but just can't because of this - but I don't know a parent in any profession who finds the balance easy.

Edited by ChrisC

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So, to you young guys in trucker hats, retro high tops and white belts, 7pm or 8pm ain't nothing. But, to a parent.. that's bath, bed, story, hugs, kisses and night-night time. There's not a commercial project in the world that I should be placing in front of my son (and soon to be... SONS) growing up.

 

This is something that all of you unmarried, unattached fellas should be thinking about. Where do you want to be in 20 years? Who do you want to be surrounded by?

 

 

It comes down the glory that you seek. If you are cool with less luster with the place(s) that you work, you'll be able to find that 9-5. But, if you end up in a major city seeking major studios, that is your marriage and your family.

 

 

I think this is an interesting point that I notice gets inadvertently brought up often in my city. I think its important to make decisions in your life (career or otherwise) that truly make the most sense for keeping a balance between being happy and fulfilled but at the same time looking forward to the future.

 

My personally belief is that its important to takes risks, move around and generally work hard while im young (25) to experience creating and learning really cool shit. There will be a time and a place later in life where I will want something more comfortable with more security in my job.

 

I also see and hear some of my peers bitch about how there aren't any cool projects or cool work coming into their lives yet they have clearly chosen to 'settle down' with a long term girlfriend or wife, choose to leave at 5 and not work on anything extra curricular. It's a fine choice if thats what you want but don't be surprised if later in life you regret not taking opportunities when you had a more flexible chance at experiencing other options or learning skills that will keep you fresh as time moves along.

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CHARGE MORE MONEY.

 

This industry seriously needs to grow a spine. Everything is motion graphics now, we should be making Mad Men money - we deserve it.

FYI-it took me many years to realize this,,, I wish someone would have said it to me earlier.

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I leave the studio at 3am after 18hrs of ROTO. As I ride my fixie the 10k's home in only my Justice t-shirt, I fill with joy thinking of those rotobezier points, greenscreen spill and anti-aliasing flicker.

 

It is only then that the realisation hits me... My destiny to help the sick and needy, save the world, and most of all, advance mankind, has been fulfilled with shiny deer-heads floating in a sea of three dimensional arrows that sweep around me.

 

As I fall asleep that night, I long for the rendering complete sound from my alarm so I can get back to tracking those pixels as soon as possible.

 

I don't need cash or food, I don't miss my wife, my children or my friends, I miss my Wacom.

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As I fall asleep that night, I long for the rendering complete sound from my alarm so I can get back to tracking those pixels as soon as possible.

I don't need cash or food, I don't miss my wife, my children or my friends, I miss my Wacom.

 

this.laugh(5,20)

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One day at Nickelodeon Digital, I was sitting next to a guy in his 40's doing the same work I was doing and talking to his buddy on the phone about how he was going to get the beer for that night's party. For me, that was the moment I realized that going long-term as a motion designer/animator was not something I wanted to do. I have no problem with someone being a motion designer when they're in their 40's. I just didn't want to be in the same place in 15 years that I was right then.

 

My point is: Motion Design as a career - sure. Motion Designer as a long-term gig - probably not. In any career, you should always be trying to grow. In our field you can become a lead animator/designer, you can manage a team of animators, become a creative director, or you can start your own motion design business...etc. Pick up extra skills so that you can grow and be more versatile. But also because the more you understand about all aspects of the post production process, the more you can manage others, and the more essential you become to the process (meaning you are in higher demand). And the more you can call the creative shots and get paid for it.

 

Also, while anyone can be replaced, it's much easier to replace a motion designer than it is to replace a creative director. And the creative directors and management people tend to work better hours while still enjoying their gig - at least that has been my experience while working on "animation emergencies at 2 AM."

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Awesome points everyone!

 

re: charge more money: never gona happen. This industry is too fun and I think the supply of mograph guys will always outweigh demand for them. Your only option is to get REALLY good and make yourself more valuable.

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CHARGE MORE MONEY.

 

This industry seriously needs to grow a spine. Everything is motion graphics now, we should be making Mad Men money - we deserve it.

FYI-it took me many years to realize this,,, I wish someone would have said it to me earlier.

 

Madmen money eh? Like the show?

Hmm, lets take a look at madmen and see whose making the big bucks.

 

Don, Roger, Bert, and to a lesser extent Pete.

The owners.

 

Whose making relatively little?

Peggy (creative) Sal (art direction) and everyone else for that matter.

 

Seems about par for the industry today.

Edited by Spence

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I was toiling away in Cinema 4D and 7pm rolls around. I look around the room and all eyes are unflinchingly stuck to their respective monitors. At the time, my son was starting to going to bed at 7pm. I sadly went back to work knowing that I've just put some commercial rubbish (battery commercial? reality show? I don't even remember) in front of my son. My wife messages me asking when I am going to be home. I didn't even know what to say. It was at this point that I realized I was in the wrong place in many, many ways.

I work on site most of the times but i always leave earlier than most of the other freelancers. What's the problem as long as you get your job finished on time? Experience makes you work faster than your younger colleagues - so why should you stay as long as they do?

 

 

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tons of good info here in this thread.

 

I think that motion design is a very viable career, but you have to eventually evolve past freelancer in order for it to remain viable (and to keep having fun). "Freelancer" works in 20s, somewhat in 30s, and who knows maybe 40s. But really, you should be transitioning into the "next step" in your 30s if not sooner. What is the next step? Its up to you.

 

For me the next step is trimming off the day-rate work, going flat (project) rate, rejecting "animator" roles, courting "director" roles. I reject all NDA work that has to stay NDA forever (too hand-to-mouth). I only work on projects that I think add to the appeal of my portfolio to prospective clients (not necessarily peers). I look for projects where my creativity is at a premium and my skill with the 2d/3d tools aren't as important. There are always people who can do the 2d/3d stuff better.

 

To grow in the industry you have to de-commodify yourself. Try to make yourself unique in some way. Try to make yourself a go-to guy. Try to make your self irreplaceable. Establish some sort of positive reputation in your strength areas. If you don't, then you are just a commodity to be bought and sold at the going rate, and the going rate is ALWAYS being driven down by market forces, be they new eager talent or offshore animation mills. To beat the market rate, you have to be unique in some sort of way.

 

For me the next step is also to be less and less tethered to my desk. Some weeks I book 2-3 projects at a time, and I work like a dog. Other weeks I have only one project and have a ton of free time. I take trips, I work on my house, I ride my bike, I hang with my family, I learn new software tricks. Etc Etc. The 9-5 (or 9-9) work week is for people in stage 1 of their careers. Eventually you have move past that. If you aren't moving past that, then you are stuck. Time to re-evaluate your tactics.

Maybe stage 2 is when people trust you to deliver an end product and don't care how you spend your time. You work when you feel most creative. You are your own boss. Thats what I'm doing now. I love it. Maybe stage 3 is hiring other people to execute and you just conduct (like Starck, Spielberg, Tom Ford, or Martha Stewart, ha!). I'm not at stage 3, maybe I never will be. But I'll try to get there and the trying will keep me from sitting still and growing moss.

 

A career in motion graphics is the same as any creative career, you always have to be evolving somehow, looking for the next step and the next inspiration.

As far as the money goes, if you are doing it successfully, you should be able to do pretty well in perpetuity.

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tons of good info here in this thread.

 

I think that motion design is a very viable career, but you have to eventually evolve past freelancer in order for it to remain viable (and to keep having fun). "Freelancer" works in 20s, somewhat in 30s, and who knows maybe 40s. But really, you should be transitioning into the "next step" in your 30s if not sooner. What is the next step? Its up to you.

 

For me the next step is trimming off the day-rate work, going flat (project) rate, rejecting "animator" roles, courting "director" roles. I reject all NDA work that has to stay NDA forever (too hand-to-mouth). I only work on projects that I think add to the appeal of my portfolio to prospective clients (not necessarily peers). I look for projects where my creativity is at a premium and my skill with the 2d/3d tools aren't as important. There are always people who can do the 2d/3d stuff better.

 

To grow in the industry you have to de-commodify yourself. Try to make yourself unique in some way. Try to make yourself a go-to guy. Try to make your self irreplaceable. Establish some sort of positive reputation in your strength areas. If you don't, then you are just a commodity to be bought and sold at the going rate, and the going rate is ALWAYS being driven down by market forces, be they new eager talent or offshore animation mills. To beat the market rate, you have to be unique in some sort of way.

 

For me the next step is also to be less and less tethered to my desk. Some weeks I book 2-3 projects at a time, and I work like a dog. Other weeks I have only one project and have a ton of free time. I take trips, I work on my house, I ride my bike, I hang with my family, I learn new software tricks. Etc Etc. The 9-5 (or 9-9) work week is for people in stage 1 of their careers. Eventually you have move past that. If you aren't moving past that, then you are stuck. Time to re-evaluate your tactics.

Maybe stage 2 is when people trust you to deliver an end product and don't care how you spend your time. You work when you feel most creative. You are your own boss. Thats what I'm doing now. I love it. Maybe stage 3 is hiring other people to execute and you just conduct (like Starck, Spielberg, Tom Ford, or Martha Stewart, ha!). I'm not at stage 3, maybe I never will be. But I'll try to get there and the trying will keep me from sitting still and growing moss.

 

A career in motion graphics is the same as any creative career, you always have to be evolving somehow, looking for the next step and the next inspiration.

As far as the money goes, if you are doing it successfully, you should be able to do pretty well in perpetuity.

 

Great post. I agree with the transitioning to different stages. I think a lot of people fear that transition because of things like self-doubt, worrying their skills aren't up to par, and the fear of the general unknown. For me personally, I never spent a bunch of time learning the tricks of the trade when it came to animating the latest trends. Half of it I still don't know and would have to sit down and figure out for a few hours even being 4-5 years into this. I got my reel critiqued heavily here when I first started and then I started focusing on theory, basic design principles, and a more conceptual approach. That coupled with working in a production/post-production boutique that doesn't specialize in traditional 24/7 motion graphics work started me learning more about story telling, communicating through advertising, etc. Given that I've always been self-taught, maybe this is stuff people learn in school, but it was invaluable for me.

 

All of this is helping me transition into a second phase, though on-staff and not freelance like monovich's experience. I'm more interested in directorial roles and being involved in the initial creative/development phase, then having people way more talented than me execute, Though I still do the bulk of executing since our talent pool here in limited. Either way, good ideas/concepts and the ability to execute them while keeping clients and crew happy is what I believe will help me in creating a sort of longevity in this field, as well as being what I ultimately what to do. For me, I just want to create cool things and motion graphics allows that without the inhibition of having to stick one way of execution.

 

Also, not that there's anything wrong with being the people that execute in the trenches, some people work better in that regard. And I believe there's longevity there too, as someone mentioned before, they will probably end up TD's, animation sup/lead's, etc if that's what they want and are good at. In the end there are people in every industry that just end up being in the minions, so to speak, motion graphics is no different. It's not like every Tom, Dick, and Sally are becoming CEO's and VP's working at banks, etc.

Edited by a2visual

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good input. monovich is the gandalf to our middle earth.

 

i'd like to add that some minions can make bank. if you're the type that would rather be in the trenches than sitting in hour long conf calls or doing client presentations fret not because there are many senior (age and rank) artists who still get their hands wet with the younger guys. it's not as sexy to be 40 and animating tags for sesame street, but it beats the hell out of most other careers in the same salary range.

 

and by the time you hit 50 lets hope you've developed a solid investment plan to carry you to retirement. i've worked alongside some older guys, and being a relatively younger guy myself i've had nothing but respect for them. at times i've longed for fireside storytime about how mograph was in the early days ('98?).

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I work on site most of the times but i always leave earlier than most of the other freelancers. What's the problem as long as you get your job finished on time? Experience makes you work faster than your younger colleagues - so why should you stay as long as they do?

 

 

 

There's a thousand reasons not to work late.. or why you shouldn't have to. But they still demand it. They'll just throw another project at you. You can get up, walk out.. and you'll never hear from them again.

 

In this case, I didn't really care.

 

Very good points by Monovich. That 2nd stage is unique to all of us in terms of what it is and how you get there. But I think it is a very good point to have those in the earlier stages keep aware of this looming transition.

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tons of good info here in this thread.

 

I think that motion design is a very viable career, but you have to eventually evolve past freelancer in order for it to remain viable (and to keep having fun). "Freelancer" works in 20s, somewhat in 30s, and who knows maybe 40s. But really, you should be transitioning into the "next step" in your 30s if not sooner. What is the next step? Its up to you.

 

For me the next step is trimming off the day-rate work, going flat (project) rate, rejecting "animator" roles, courting "director" roles. I reject all NDA work that has to stay NDA forever (too hand-to-mouth). I only work on projects that I think add to the appeal of my portfolio to prospective clients (not necessarily peers). I look for projects where my creativity is at a premium and my skill with the 2d/3d tools aren't as important. There are always people who can do the 2d/3d stuff better.

 

To grow in the industry you have to de-commodify yourself. Try to make yourself unique in some way. Try to make yourself a go-to guy. Try to make your self irreplaceable. Establish some sort of positive reputation in your strength areas. If you don't, then you are just a commodity to be bought and sold at the going rate, and the going rate is ALWAYS being driven down by market forces, be they new eager talent or offshore animation mills. To beat the market rate, you have to be unique in some sort of way.

 

For me the next step is also to be less and less tethered to my desk. Some weeks I book 2-3 projects at a time, and I work like a dog. Other weeks I have only one project and have a ton of free time. I take trips, I work on my house, I ride my bike, I hang with my family, I learn new software tricks. Etc Etc. The 9-5 (or 9-9) work week is for people in stage 1 of their careers. Eventually you have move past that. If you aren't moving past that, then you are stuck. Time to re-evaluate your tactics.

Maybe stage 2 is when people trust you to deliver an end product and don't care how you spend your time. You work when you feel most creative. You are your own boss. Thats what I'm doing now. I love it. Maybe stage 3 is hiring other people to execute and you just conduct (like Starck, Spielberg, Tom Ford, or Martha Stewart, ha!). I'm not at stage 3, maybe I never will be. But I'll try to get there and the trying will keep me from sitting still and growing moss.

 

A career in motion graphics is the same as any creative career, you always have to be evolving somehow, looking for the next step and the next inspiration.

As far as the money goes, if you are doing it successfully, you should be able to do pretty well in perpetuity.

 

preach, brother! Agree 100%

 

c

Edited by Colin@movecraft

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Great post Monovich!

 

I think there is no specific way to get into the mograph business. It really depends on your location and your ability to make good stuff. No matter if you come from a high rated university or not, employers won't look at your resume, they'll look at your portfolio and nothing else (I'm speaking for french market, but I'm sure it's the same in the US). Also, if you choose a freelancer career, you'll have to be a good businessman: accounting, travelling to meet new clients, spending a lot of time with taxes service (speaking for french market again)... My friends are always suprised when I talk about this side of the business, they always think there is just the creativity side. But the only key to success is the love for your job, because when you get up in the morning and you're happy to turn on your Mac or PC with new ideas for your current project, you know you got the right job!

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This recently came up in another discussion so I thought I'd quote this and bump it. Words of absolute wisdom. I got married later and now have little kids in my 40s, while all my friends who disappeared in their 20s are now available to freelance as their kids reach their teens and even adulthood themselves. It's a weird place to be. At least now I know where everybody went while I was racing motorcycles, living at ski resorts and snowboarding for a living, breaking bones and healing, and "getting it all out of my system". I'd rather be free to do those things in my 20s than my 40s, and at 40-something it's a lot easier to see the wisdom in Harry's comments about priorities below.

 

It's really tough to have to pass up the freelance work I enjoy so much (I do primarily live sports, not mograph) because someone needs me at home, but I never regret putting them first.

 

Cf

 

 

 

I hope it is obvious that two very radically issues have popped up here.

1. Money

No one goes into motion design to get rich. But, you only get as much as you ask for. Anything else I can say here is redundant.


2. Family

Before working for Red Giant, my last onsite gig was at Justin Harder Studios. I was toiling away in Cinema 4D and 7pm rolls around. I look around the room and all eyes are unflinchingly stuck to their respective monitors. At the time, my son was starting to going to bed at 7pm. I sadly went back to work knowing that I've just put some commercial rubbish (battery commercial? reality show? I don't even remember) in front of my son. My wife messages me asking when I am going to be home. I didn't even know what to say. It was at this point that I realized I was in the wrong place in many, many ways.

So, to you young guys in trucker hats, retro high tops and white belts, 7pm or 8pm ain't nothing. But, to a parent.. that's bath, bed, story, hugs, kisses and night-night time. There's not a commercial project in the world that I should be placing in front of my son (and soon to be... SONS) growing up.

This is something that all of you unmarried, unattached fellas should be thinking about. Where do you want to be in 20 years? Who do you want to be surrounded by?


It comes down the glory that you seek. If you are cool with less luster with the place(s) that you work, you'll be able to find that 9-5. But, if you end up in a major city seeking major studios, that is your marriage and your family.

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