Creative Connections: Insights for the new normal
to keep our creative community connected, inspired and supported.
Times are uncertain and with feelings of separation high, we want to know how you are staying plugged in, what is keeping you creative and what may be getting in the way?
Four members of the Scholar team answered:
Brice Linane: CG Supervisor – Los Angeles
Madison Ellis: Designer / Animator – Los Angeles
Vin Kim: Designer / Animator
Amy Wallace: Designer / Animator – New York City
Can you please give an introduction to yourself and your role at Scholar?
Brice: My name is Brice and I’m a CG Supervisor at Scholar. After 2 amazing years in the New York office, I transferred to the mothership – Scholar LA. That was mid-March. I’m writing to you now from the comfort of my new and barren apartment. My wife is in our bedroom exercising with canned beans in lieu of weights. My daughter is finally asleep, affording me a few late hours to get some work done. These are strange times.
Madison: Hi! My name is Madison and I have been at Scholar for about 2 years as a designer/animator at the LA office. My apartment is now home to 5 of us total and has transformed into part commune, part studio. Like many my hobbies now include trying to make croissants, trying to read those books I never got to (and still probably won’t), and attempting to look like I am not wearing pajamas on Zoom calls (and probably not succeeding).
Vin: Hello, this is Vin here. I’m a designer/animator and “that one motion designer that dresses in all black” of Scholar. I think every studio has at least one of us.
Amy: Hey this is Amy! I moved to New York about three years ago and have been working at Scholar for almost 2 years. At the moment I’m alone in my apartment with my cat, Nancy, and I’ve picked up various activities in my free time such as making way too many macrame plant hangers, ironing my curtains and re-watching Bon Appetit videos.
What is the most hilarious thing you’ve seen that distracted you from work?
Brice: I really enjoy cooking but find most cooking shows/tutorials boring. That’s not the case with Instagram’s @nats_what_i_reckon. Tattoo expo entrepreneur turned cooking show talent – Nat has recently created some basic rowdy cooking tutorials that are hilarious. I’ve made a couple of the quarantine recipes and they’re pretty good. Definitely worth a look.
Madison: Most recently, this.
Some sports are slower. More about the strategy. pic.twitter.com/JMBaGJ1tSd
— Andrew Cotter (@MrAndrewCotter) April 9, 2020
Vin: Cardi B saying Coronavirus. Does anyone know how to make it stop playing in your head?
Amy: Always my cat. She’s always in a weird position or dragging objects from one room to another and of course, I have to take a photo every time. I’ve also never realized how much she sleeps…
Despite the hilarities, how are you doing?
Brice: In all honesty, I’m doing fine. There’s something pacifying about a community-wide struggle. The knowledge that we’re all going through the same thing somehow makes this experience less awful. Don’t get me wrong, there are days I want to jump out the window. I find myself constantly reminding myself that I’m in good health, I have a job, and this will pass. In between those moments, I’m doing my best to balance work and family priorities.
Madison: My answer depends on the hour to be entirely honest, but hey I am not sick and I have a home and a job so pretty good considering!
Amy: I’m doing ok compared to a lot of other people. I’m glad my job keeps me busy most of the time or else I would go crazy. My roommates moved out during the pandemic though, which has given me a bit of anxiety, but it’s been nice having a whole apartment to myself (and my cat Nancy).
How is work and the pace of your projects? Up, down or stayed the same?
Brice: I’m happy to say that we are busy with some really fun projects. My first instinct was to say that things feel a bit more frantic but that may just be my current circumstances. My daughter’s nap time has become a 90-minute exercise in productivity.
Madison: I would say the pace has gone up. Whether that is due to the projects themselves or just the added challenges of working at home, we are busy!
Vin: It feels like we’ve been busier than ever.
Amy: I would say it’s busier than normal in a good way.
How did your team have to adapt to working remotely?
Brice: The biggest change is probably the influx of video calls. Facetime, Zoom, Google Hangouts – we use it all. I was never a fan of video conferencing but, in the era of social distancing, it is essential. We actually did a very successful print shoot last week via Zoom. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical when first approached to help assemble a shoot kit. That said, the talent did a great job. He was his own camera operator, gaffer, and grip. It was a sight to see.
Madison: Luckily we are a relatively small, tight-knit studio so from my side it seemed like the transition was pretty smooth. Not forgetting the magic that our IT guys are doing behind the scenes. I think communication has been the most difficult change but lots of spreadsheets, chats, and calls make up for it. Production itself has taken a turn, a lot of our projects which started out live-action required some creative solutions to avoid shoots. For one of those projects, a couple of us even got to record ourselves pretending to be on a group video call and they ended up using them for the final – who knew our first steps to stardom would start in quarantine.
Vin: It was a pretty smooth transition, thanks to our amazing IT team. We were able to get everyone up and running over one weekend. Luckily for me, I have most of the basic software I use already running on my home setup, and I’m still able to remote into my work computer to use other software/plugins I don’t have + the render farm.
Amy: It was a bit of an adjustment but has worked out pretty well. I had my Cintiq delivered to my apartment and I will dearly miss it when it’s gone. Our IT team has been a tremendous help and I can’t thank them enough.
What apps are keeping your team connected?
Team: We have always used Rocket Chat so we are well versed in communicating through gifs. As well as the usual Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc. We’re using FortiClient VPN and NICE DCV to remote in and it has worked pretty well. I dropped by the office last week to pick up a Wacom tablet and was surprised to see a pit full of active computers. It was a bizarre sight. And when we’re not working, we still relentlessly share memes with each other on Instagram.
How many video calls do you average per day right now?
Brice: Not enough. My wife and 3 year old are great conversationalists but I look forward to each and every video call. We hop on for project meetings at least once a day. Additionally, we have continued our weekly creative meetups and Friday happy hours. These calls are truly humanizing.
Madison: Currently I am just on one project but that still averages around 2-3 a day.
Vin: On a busy day, I have about 2-3 a day which is way more than I feel comfortable, but I think I’m getting used to it now.
Amy: Usually 1-2. It’s nice to see and hear from other humans still. I appreciate these calls.
How do you stay focused when working from home?
Brice: Honestly, I can’t. I chose to move my whole family across the country during a pandemic. My wife and I take turns locking ourselves in the bedroom while the other one entertains our daughter. I find myself finishing up dinner and sitting back down to do more work. There are no boundaries anymore. No work/life balance. It’s exhausting.
Madison: Making sure I have a proper wfh set up. My roommates also work in the motion industry so we moved everything to the dining room for a mini studio so that helps us keep in the zone. It works about 50% of the time.
Vin: One of the things I started doing is to “get ready for work” like I’m still “going” to work. Like I don’t sit and work at the desk in the same clothes I slept in. Shave, get dressed, and comb my hair as if I’m actually going to work and I think that kind of helped me to put myself in the right headspace. And when I’m done working for the day, then I can change back to my comfy clothes and just lounge all day.
Amy: Truthfully, it’s been hard. Staying focused in an area that I usually relax in has been an adjustment. I try to have a routine which helps. A little.
Can you take a picture of your current workspace, as is (don’t tidy it up!)?
When you feel stuck, or need inspiration, what are your go-to’s?
Brice: When I feel stuck I like to switch gears – approach a different problem. The absolute worst thing I can do is start looking through my bottomless pit of Pinterest or Instagram references. Might as well just go for a bike ride at that point.
Madison: The classics, pinterest, instagram, motionographer (wink)…just soaking in what other people are creating. But like Brice said it is also important not to stay on them for too long or else you just get lost. So just getting up and taking a walk is often the next step, more so than ever. Changing up my space even a little bit has been a good brain reset.
Vin: I have a pretty bad habit of going on Instagram, but I like to think that a lot of it is research. I follow any dope artist/designer I see on Instagram and for me it’s the easiest way to be up to date with everyone’s work. And I have a bunch of posts I’ve been saving into different collections for reference that I can just keep scrolling through for inspiration.
Amy: I tend to go on Instagram a lot and save inspiration. But like everyone above sometimes I just need to step away for a bit.
Can you recommend three general habits to improve workflow? Or list insightful do’s and don’ts.
Brice: I find organization to be very important. I know this sounds boring but, assuring that everything is named correctly, in the right folder, or appropriately integrated into the pipeline is half the battle. I’ve also got a bit of OCD so the fewer distractions the better. In addition to being organized, I would recommend challenging yourself to learn something new as often as possible. It’s also a pretty good idea to get back into the rhythm of showering, wearing pants, and brushing your hair. I feel much more productive when I slip back into my old morning routine.
1. Write lists. And cross some stuff off.
2. Constant communication. With your teammates and just other people in general.
3. Keeping yourself organized. Both through files and just your life. Giving yourself some semblance of a routine…which is great advice that I definitely tell myself to follow but don’t a lot of the time tbh.
Vin: The most important thing for me is to keep the workspace nice and tidy. I think it’s really easy to be a slob and get messy all over the workspace when you’re working from home. But for me, if I have things laying around all over the place, my mind gets all cluttered. I find it way more productive to have everything neat and organized. And not just the physical space! I have a habit of saving things to desktop when I’m working but I try to clear everything out at the end of the day, as well as close out all the tabs, and remove old unused files in my Downloads folder.
I also make sure to eat breakfast before I start working. During the first few days of working from home, I stayed in bed as late as I could in the morning and just rolled over to my desk at 10am. But once I start feeling hungry it only becomes a distraction, so I make sure to eat something, even if it’s just a banana and some eggs.
1. I like to keep things tidy. Helps me think and keeps me from getting as distracted.
2. Keeping in contact with my team keeps me sane as well as focused on a project.
3. A routine also helps me feel like things are normal and keeps me from getting too lazy.
4. I also really like writing lists like Madison. It helps me sift through what’s most important and crossing things out makes me feel productive.
When viewing a project, what do you notice first? Any pet-peeves? What things do you love?
Brice: I tend to fixate on technique. On my first pass, I’m easily distracted. I’ll find myself 3 shot’s behind having just envisioned how something was created.
Madison: I feel like I am drawn to work that is fun and colorful and exciting. My favorites are the kind that catch my eye, have a sense of humor, get a little weird.
Vin: Typography. Nice type always draws your attention even in thumbnails. On the other hand, no matter how good the project is, if typography is terrible, it’s an instant turn off.
Amy: I tend to pay attention to small detail in the design and animation of a piece. If I can tell they added just that little bit more that maybe some won’t notice I tend to appreciate it more.
What Studio, Designer, Artist (dead or alive) would you want to have a Zoom meeting with?
Brice: I’d love to have a zoom meeting with Geoff McFetridge. I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time and, as a fellow cycling enthusiast, I think he and I would get along.
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Madison: I’d love to pick Lisa Hanawalts brain, she was the production designer for Bojack Horseman and created her own show Tuca and Bertie as well as creating graphic novels and illustrations and a podcast. She is a big inspiration for me as a woman who’s leading such huge projects yet stays so relatable, especially now with all the little comics she is posting on instagram about the current state of the world.
Vin: David Navarro aka Roboto of Collide Studio. His early work of 3D animations and album covers was one of the reasons I wanted to get into motion graphics. Since then he moved on to directing live-action shorts and music videos. It’s really inspiring to see the artists you follow continue to evolve, and I’d love to pick his brain in hopes that some of the awesomeness would rub off.
Amy: I would love to talk to Blink My Brain (Ariel Costa.) I love the mixture of mediums he explores and am inspired by his constant style exploration. He’s one of the reasons I fell in love with motion graphics. Also the entire Bon Appetit team. I want to cook with them and be their friends. Please.
What are you streaming / watching / podcasting?
Brice: Lately I’ve been watching a lot of terrible television to offset my COVID-19 news intake. Top of the list is the cringeworthy, Tiger King. Closely followed by Car Masters: Rust to Riches and Cheer. I’m not proud of that list.
Madison: I have been consciously trying to keep the media I consume on the more positive side. So I’ve been catching up on podcasts like Reply All, starting shows like Schitts Creek but honestly, mostly I am a big nerd who used this time to start new forms of D&D podcasts and shows like Critical Role and Dimension 20 (infinite hours of content perfect for this time at home!).
Vin: I’m a huge fan of stand up comedy and comedians, and most of the podcasts I subscribe to are ones by them. Some of my favorites I listen to weekly are – The Fighter and the Kid, King and the Sting, Congratulations, and Fahim Anwar Dance Hour. My neighbors probably think I lost my mind because I’m just laughing out loud alone in my apartment listening to these.
Amy: I’ve been trying to distract myself so I’ve been watching Community, Gilmore Girls, Buffy and Bon Appetit videos lately (after finishing more popular content such as Cheer and Tiger King in way too short of a period of time.) Also I spend my mornings listening to Reply All, Last Podcast on the Left or Stuff You Should Know.
What is your “go-to” song? And give us some backstory if inclined. (We are putting together a shared Motionographer playlist on Spotify)
Brice:“Smile” by William Crighton
This may seem like a dark choice but there are some inspiring and poignant lyrics in there. I play it once a day, cry in the bathroom, and then get on with it.
“Smile. We’re all dying…Life is delicate…We’re all fighting…
Madison: “Right Down the Line by Gerry Rafferty
I listen to a lot of classic rock (thanks dad) and for some reason, I have been playing Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” a lot lately (it’s sort of calming?).
Vin: “Circles” by Mac Miller
This song’s been on repeat for days ever since it came out a few months ago. I like listening to this song when I’m starting the day or feeling overwhelmed. The song has a very tranquil quality to it that has sort of a meditative effect on me.
Amy: “A Taste of Honey” Paul Desmond
I like to listen to this song a lot in the mornings. My grandpa used to play this song so it reminds me of when I was young. Just makes me forget that I’m stuck at home and creates a cozy environment.
Any newly adapted online experience you are enjoying from a Museum, Musician/Venue, or streaming party, etc.?
Brice: The Petersen Automotive Museum has been releasing a lot of entertaining content lately. Everything from tours of their vault to unseen archival videos. There’s even children’s programming. It’s fun for the whole family.
Madison: I have been loving seeing my favorite artists posting live home concerts online like @helloclove. As well as streaming movies and playing online games and having happy hours with friends who are stuck at home all over the country. It’s been an unexpected silver lining that I actually get to talk to a lot of friends and family I wouldn’t have so often before.
Vin: There have been a lot of online “music festivals” going on where they stream live sets of DJs playing from their homes. I was streaming a 3-day music festival the other weekend with a lot of my friends watching the same stream, and we would talk about the songs they’re playing as if we’re at the festival but virtually.
Amy: I’ve really just been Zooming (is this a word now?) with friends a lot. We have work happy hours and I have a weekly Sunday brunch with a couple friends where we all cook together. There’s a digital figure drawing class I plan to start taking to by thisplace.nyc
Would you rather give up watching TV/movies for a year or give up playing games for a year?
Brice: I could give up games no problem. I’d probably be a more productive human if I gave up tv/movies but where’s the fun in that.
Madison: 100% give up games, as much as I am enjoying animal crossing at the moment I can’t even imagine giving up movies and TV.
Vin: This is really hard because sometimes I just want to watch TV or a movie and not play any games, but sometimes I don’t want to watch anything and just play video games all day. But I’d definitely give up watching TV/movies. There are video games like Red Dead Redemption that have a lot of cinematics and cut scenes so it kind of feels like watching a TV show and I think I can live with that for a year. Did I just find a loophole?
Amy: I don’t really play games but I do watch Let’s Plays…I don’t know if that counts. I should probably take a break from all media for a bit when things start to get back to normal.
What animal would be cutest if scaled down to the size of a cat?
Brice: A giraffe of course. I’m sure we all remember the DirectTV commercial ‘Opulence’. I’ve wanted a toy giraffe ever since.
Vin: A seal
Amy: My cat. ^. .^
The most creative use of emojis you’ve ever seen?
Brice: Uhhhh, I abhor emojis. My friends at Buck made a spot for Cadbury and Oreo a few years back. It was a collaboration between all three studios and it turned out great. I remember being so bummed I couldn’t work on it.
Madison: At Scholar we have a lot of custom emojis. Some of which include a way to do a rating system for food using Guy Fieri emojis .
Vin: Yung Jake (@yungjake) makes the dopest emoji portraits.
And last, but certainly not least, Scholar recently had a name change, rebrand and website overhaul. Can you talk about that?
Will Johnson (Director / Partner): Well, we’re ten now. Ha! Can you believe that! We’re still so excited. It felt like it was time to focus on our brand. To decisively shine a spotlight on who we are. Not only as a one-stop shop who could handle all of your design and animation dreams, but also a live-action and storytelling powerhouse. To underscore how we approach every job, every story, every creative endeavor with a definitive, scholarly touch. A honed-in ideology that we can always make it better. It felt like it was time to streamline the name, to personify the qualities of what makes us gentle(people) and do it with the attitude of a scholar. We are inclusive, not just one thing, and are ever-changing, always trying to find ways to achieve the unachievable in a fast-paced world. The website is our museum to curate as we choose, and find the best, most authentic way to showcase ourselves to the world.