Interview: Jason Esser – His journey from student to Digital Kitchen

November 10, 2009 - By 

I wanted to share with you the story of my friend and peer, Jason Esser. He took all the right steps to land a job, right out of school, at Digital Kitchen. Jason was also the inspiration behind the Five Second Projects after hearing about his idea to “Just make 3-5 seconds of animation every weekend for the reel.”

Learn how he started working for Digital Kitchen by…
1. Making a short, diverse reel that shows promise and capable design
2. Knowing someone that worked here to get his foot in the door.
3. Busting his ass as a freelancer to show his commitment to good work.
4. Being a cool guy to work with.

Mentioned in the Interview
His Reel
Finish Line

  • Great Interview. I actually went to school with Jason, and hope to follow his example soon, by getting my reel finished up and sent over to DK.

  • Awesome interview, Jason I am going and try and be like you!

    Can someone link up the roto piece that Jason did for freelance at DK? I would love to see it.

  • Rocking interview!

    Love seeing these Nick, definitely interview more people.

  • Really cool and and inspiring story. That 5second projects he used on he’s reel looks so awesome to me. Overall great interview.

  • Good stuff guys, I just graduated and am in the process of finding a job here in Atlanta, watching a video like this keeps me going with an optimistic outlook.

  • good interview. actually, it would be great to get it in podcast to add in ipod, and watch on way to the job or smth. it would be very useful! 🙂

  • Awesome interview.
    Pretty much did all of the above with DK, but got blackballed when the NY office had no work.

  • Definitely an interesting story that I’m sure has parallels in the graphic design world, photography assistants and all kinds of other creative jobs. Thanks Nick and Jason.

  • Rotoing is tough work man. That spot looked really good too.

  • Thanks for the interview Nick, this was fun. Harry, the roto you can check out is just on the finished Finishline spot. All the people were separated from the background.

  • I thought that worked well Nick, its great to hear how people get in to the business, always seems to come down to passion, hard work and personality. Talent is the obvious pre requisite of course…
    Great job

  • jason is my hero 🙂

    • oh i almost forgot funny story: i was an intern @ dk when they were doing the finish line spot and the quote of the century was jason saying “this roto is dk’s equivalent of hazing…yeah, it’s only 10 seconds of roto, at 75 FRAMES PER SECOND!”…

      simply hilarious…

  • Great work Jason. It’s great to hear stories like this.

  • bam, great interview. the finish-line piece was one piece of animation that inspired me to get into mograph

  • Nice interview Nick and Jason, right to the point, but the most important thing of having connections in the industry, is the fact that you need to be capable of solving problems, maybe knowing more how do a faster roto, a faster rendering, anyway, outputing good pieces as faster as you can.

    Talking about roto, i wanna share a piece i worked on recently at, a good part of the video was rotoscoped, i did roto 4 or 5 shots, some wires, pipes, computer monitors, and lots of stuff.


  • OMG – I went to school with Jason! He was a friend’s roomate. I had no idea he was at DK – awesome!

  • Hi Nick!, Great interview, this site is getting better and better. I would love to see more interviews like this.

    Congratulations Jason on getting the job at the place you wanted! Great reel, and THANKS for the 5second projects “movement” hehe.

  • Debbie Esser - Mom November 10, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    Nick, your interview makes a mom proud. Although, I don’t remember him using that one word when he tells the story around me…

  • wow..what a great interview
    jason your the man..please more interviews we need to hear another great stories .. thanks man .. thanks a lot

  • Awesome interview I really look forward to more interviews like this one, definitely they help students like me, keep up the good work Nick

  • Great interview lads…well done

  • Dope interview man. Keep em coming.

  • Great idea to have this interview, looking forward for more. Thanks Nick.

  • I happen to be Jason’s room mate. I never see him? Why? Because he is always at DK, fucking crushing it.

    ‘Nuff said.

  • I happen to be Jason’s room mate. I never see him? Why? Because he is always at DK, fucking crushing it.

    ‘Nuff said.

  • Great interview man!
    Would love to see some of your more recent stuff as a comparison after a few years of hard work. Maybe just your role in any projects posted on the DK site.

    • Hey Chris, I would say the majority of my work at DK is in the boarding process. Which unfortunately we can’t show on the DK site. However a couple of projects i contributed to largely are Sundance Forest 08 and the Key bank spots which are posted on the site. I also did a blackberry spot thats not on DK’s site but on Nicks “creamy orange” portfolio. There are several other projects spotted here and there but my mind is running blank.

      Someday soon i hope i’ll update my site with all my latest work. But right now i’m way to too lazy haha.

    • Good stuff! Sundance forest is so slick.
      Hopefully we’ll see you jumping in on some 5 second project critiques in the future. Keep rockin it!

    • I’m really curious to know what “boarding” actually means..
      Are they really slick artwork of exactly what the animation will look like or more like sketches?

      I’ve seen boards online and I don’t understand whether they are stills from the animation or preparation work..

    • Boards are exactly that Anders, slick artwork to show how the the animation will look once completed. They’re done for multiple reasons, one to win the job from the agency or client. And also to give the designers executing the spot one concrete vision of how the end piece should look.

  • Nice interview but….
    what’s with these shirts? 😉


  • Killer interview. Love the freestyle vibe. Keep’m coming

  • You guys might be seriously skilled, you’re obviously very nice and outgoing if I had my own company – I’d give both of you a job AND a raise.

    but, from what You Mr. Campbell, and Mr. Esser explain in totally awesome and nice way is that to get into the industry it doesn’t matter whats on your reel – what really matters is that you’re well connected and that you’re willing to rotoscope and do dirty work while working overtime and delivering BEFORE expected.

    I hate to disagree, but I got to, the most successful people in this industry had NEVER had to rotoscope that much when they started, infact, they dont even work in Digital Kitchen and they keep a certain moral value when it comes to working overtime and being someone’s value

    Look at:
    Renascent, Mato Atom, Maxim Zhestkov, Anders Schroder, GMunk, should I go on, there are plenty, you guys give the wrong message to students so I’m here to correct you:

    Keep your head high, don’t let anyone put you down, get paid for your overtime, and remember that only YOU will make a difference

    • Very true. There are many was to get into this business. Names like Renascent and GMunk may have come out of the womb key-framing and never had to do “grunt” work. However, that’s not the path for most people.

  • Awesome post! I’ve sort of fallen into a passion for motion graphics as part of my job at a documentary film company in Maine, and I’m always interested in the success stories of other folks who share that passion.

    Great insights from Nick and Jason both; very inspirational. Keep this interview series going for sure! Love the work you folks at DK are into and can’t wait to hear more from you.

  • Great interview/story. So in other words

    -Great Work Ethic
    -Speed & Quality

    Got to work my networking 🙁

  • Jason looks a lot like Elijah Wood. Maybe if he gets bored with the whole Motion Graphics scene, he could cut his legs off at the knees and be his stunt double.

  • How can you people call this inspiring? It is the most depressing thing I´ve seen in a long time

    • LL – My exact words, besides, take a look at one of the comments – its his room mate from College saying he never see him home cause all the time he’s in DK.

      sounds like a dream or what?

  • Great Gorilla!!!

    This is really inspiring. Please don’t stop. I’m from Brazil and i love to see your interviews. Because i can see that the world is too fucking big, and i don’t need to had only small dreams… no… i can have big dreams!!! And the of it, is that those dreams can become true.

  • Good advice, and it applies everywhere in the creative industry.

    Tell people about your work.
    Work hard.
    Rinse and repeat.

    …I do have a couple pieces of advice though for the vlogs and interviews:
    1) You’ve been really good at keeping me interested in all these vids, and I’m not even a motion designer, but for interviews I’d suggest letting the other guy do as much talking as possible to keep things fresh. Yknow?
    2) Consider cutting your vids to shorten them and remove redundant info. Granted – this could be a bit time consuming and especially difficult for interviews where you don’t want to throw stuff out, but it might significantly shorten the videos and help you reach a larger/less-patient audience.

    A good example IMO: In his vlogs (and at the end of some video-songs) Jack Conte does a really good job cutting up his random banter with Nataly Dawn into bite-sized chunks

    To paraphrase your guy falls of bike video analogy: I just want to see the guy fall off his bike.

    Once more, I love what you’re doing, so keep it coming!

  • Hey guys that’s a great inspirational interview for all those students out there.

    But hey Nick, I would like you to do something like this, but advising all those students out there on how to be prepare for a job interview in this industry. Like what to dress, what things they should keep in mind, what to bring with you, and all that kind of stuff. When I was in school there was a lack of this. And I think this will be really helpful to a lot of students and people who are passionate for this and that are actually seeking for a job.

    Once again thanks for what you do, and keep them coming!!!

  • What a great interview! I’m in school now for Visual Effect and Motion Graphics and plan on going toward the Motion Graphics side. is one of the sites I always check out! These interviews and tut. are what keep me motivated. Being a student, working part time, and haveing a 2 hour commuting too school doesn’t leave me with a lot of time to do extra projects, but I plan on trying to make the time to do those 5 second project. Keep up the great work Nick!

  • Hey guys,

    Thanks, It was interesting to hear Jason’s story. I am a freelance motion designer based out of LA and I have been sending out lots of emails and sparking some interest at some pretty good places but, once I make it through the first stages of them emailing me back and asking for my resume/shotlist I don’t seem to make it any further after that.

    What gives? Just wondering what your thoughts might be to fix this problem?


    • Rocky,
      I’ve found that companies outreach to designers they want to work with early to establish a connection, even tho they may not have any work at the time. People in charge of hiring freelancers need to have a bank of capable people to contact whenever work comes in, so even tho it seems like your missing out after you send your resume/shotlist, i wouldn’t take it as necessarily a bad thing. The companies you’ve been in contact with probably just don’t have the work in right now that they can hire you out for. But once they do, they have your info and will likely call you up. Timing plays such an important role in everything.

      Just a thought, hope it helps.

  • realy encouraging interview!

  • Great story Jason. I was wondering, did you use After Effects for the roto or something more specialized like Silhouette or

  • I’m actually really curious to hear more about your process on that Finish Line piece. There are different ways to do that I guess, but were you using animated masks to cut out the people? Then layer those back on top of the original with the animated elements sandwiched? Great work and interview!

    • Yea aaron, i roto’d on top of a black solid then rendered that solid out against, white and used it as a matte for the footage.

  • Like most jobs, it really helps to know someone. I think the true story here is how hard he worked once given a chance. Sometimes you only get one of those.

  • Jason and Nick,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to record and post this interview. Very inspiring to someone like myself who is aspiring to be in the industry and see the behind the scenes of someone who actually pulled it off.

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