SFI Spotlight: Keith Rivers and Careers in Motion Graphics

Request Info | Visit Us | Contact Us | Apply

At Seattle Film Institute, we offer a number of programs in various aspects of filmmaking. From sound design to motion graphics, our students take a hands on approach to learning the craft and apply it across industries after graduation. Our Master of Fine Arts in Filmmaking and Producing offers a Motion Graphics and Visual FX Focus which combines film, audio, graphic design and animation. As demand for professionals in the motion graphics industry increases, we spoke with Keith Rivers of Workhouse Creative about working in film and motion graphics and how students in the field can build their careers.

Tell us about Workhouse Creative and your current line of work.

Workhouse Creative is a five-year-old storytelling content company. Before that, it was Keith Rivers Films, LLC for five years. We represent a select few directors and focus on creating stories that are impactful for larger brands. I am currently working on directing my debut feature film based on a true story and a short 2D/3D animation based on a children's book.

How has motion graphics served you in your career?

I use motion graphics in every film we touch, even when it’s invisible. Though it isn't the primary aesthetic in my body of work, filmmakers like Renato Marques use it as their vessel when directing projects. Motion graphics in general cast such a wide net when making content, and there are so many versatile directions you can take in your career because new mediums are emerging everyday. I tend to hire people who are a lot more talented than me to achieve a certain aesthetic for any given story and most of the time it’s a motion graphic artist who can do something I don’t know how to do.

Here are a few projects we recently finished with motion graphics in them:

Hidden -- The lightning at :13 seconds

Get The Game Ball-Design and compositing end tags

Porsche Hunger- 3D modeling of a car

What is the demand for this type of employment? The skills you look for potential employees?

When it comes to creative excellence, you are only as good as your last project. Your body of work begets your very next project. Don't think that anyone in business will give you a chance, unless you're working for free, which by the way, is a good way to build your reel. The way in which I succeeded was a numbers game: I said yes to as many free projects as possible until my timetable filled up, at which point I was unable to accept new projects coming in, so people offered to pay me. This demand in time was a game changer and the experience I gained elevated my work. Know that as a motion graphics artist you’re entering an arena that is valuing you based on how well you sell your time. If you create a false hype, eventually people won’t believe you, and they won’t hire you. If you’re too busy, then you need to increase your rate. Increase your rate too much, less people may hire you.

I look for a kind of eagerness and willingness over a person's level of talent, skill set, or ability when it comes to hiring a motion graphics artist. This is much more valuable to me, because I know that that person has the heart to work together, and care about the relationship with our clients almost as much as I do, and that they’ll have the determination to finish in the wee hours of the night or when a project goes beyond scope, or over budget, which they almost always do these days. For Workhouse, there's often a huge demand in hiring motion graphics artists, whether it's After effects, Maya, C4D, etc. Ultimately you'll get hired if you hold yourself to high standards of integrity, grit, and possess the ability to work well with others.

What's one piece of advice you would give to a prospective student interested in studying motion graphics? In a career in motion graphics?

Motion Graphics requires creative empathy for a brand, a director, or a producer. You’re going to work with all kinds of egos, hierarchy, money, and talent. Know your approach. If you’re a “Ready. Aim. Fire.” type of person then that’s good, because you’re tactile. However, if you’re a “Fire. Fire. Fire.” or ”Aim. Aim. Aim.” person that’s okay, but clear communication established upfront won’t put your client in an uncomfortable position. As a creative, I’m more of a “Ready. Fire. Aim.” type of person because I’m impatient and I like to enjoy what I’m making in the moment. Too much calculation can slow down the process in a fast paced environment where things rapidly change.

Students have the unique opportunity to learn from their failures. My advice is to fail often and humbly make adjustments. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Just don't. That’s glib.

If there's a fork in the road, take it. Find what's in your heart that you want to do and then do it, don't talk about it, don't pretend you're doing it, and don't delegate any road block you endure, just do the work.

If you intend on learning anything and everything and not focusing on one thing, that's okay, but know you're getting yourself into twice the amount of work so intend on working twice as hard as your peers. And it’s more competitive than ever, so you’ll need to strive to achieve creative excellence over your fellow peers if you’re to get hired. Otherwise, use take each new experience as it comes and transfer those moments into the new energy and passion that feels whimsical and fun. When the time came, I transferred colleges. I transferred jobs. I transferred my work as an editor into a director, because the time felt right, and all of these unconscious transitions in direction lead me to be a better storyteller. If that is your goal, then re-focus on the thing you want and then go about finding it your own way. Ready. Fire. Aim.

Motion graphics is the type of profession you can hopscotch around into different areas. If you're simply hopscotching because you don't know what you want, that's okay. If you're hopscotching because you love all aspects of motion graphics, that's okay too!

How can students build skills in motion graphics during their time in college?

Make things and finish them. Finish everything you do even if it’s only an 85 percent B. Good enough is better than incomplete. Find the “intention of story” inside your craft, even if that's just three seconds. Beginning, middle, and end. Every cut in a shot has a beginning, middle, and end. A ball enters frame left, travels through the center of frame, and leaves frame right. Cut. End of story!

There are too many ways to build your skills during your time in school that if I really had to find the answer to that question for you it would be belittling. The tools for learning are literally at all of our fingertips. SFI is a great school that will help you streamline your talent faster ultimately pushing you ahead of the herd. Beyond that, there are internships at Workhouse Creative that are extremely organized and built for your education and for you to find real life working experiences in your field. Hireme@workhousecreative.com

To learn more about Motion Graphics and other programs at SFI, visit our website today!