Episode 307 — Clinton Jones — Leaving Corridor Digital
Clinton Jones is a Director, Content Creator, VFX Artist and Photographer. He has worked at Rocket Jump and at Corridor Digital. On his YouTube Channel, where he is known as Pwnisher, he launches challenges for his community, as well as creates tutorials. His YouTube Channel has a massive following of over 557K subscribers, while his Instagram has 110K followers.
Currently, Clinton is working on co-writing his first feature film, creating content and making art.
In this Podcast, Allan and Clinton talk about the importance of getting out of your comfort zone, how to know when to pursue new opportunities, how not to burn bridges; as well as answer the burning question: Is an official diploma important for an artist’s career?
Pwnisher on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWIfzAYHyNSyHmT2AO-54yg
Clinton Jones on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3807502/
Clinton Jones on IG: @_pwnisher_ (https://www.instagram.com/_pwnisher_/?hl=en)
Clinton Jones on Twitter: @_pwnisher_
[00:01] Clinton Jones Introduces Himself
[05:09] Starting Out as a Creative
[10:08] VFX Diploma Vs Experience
[14:22] Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
[19:28] Clinton Talks About VFX Challenges on His YouTube Channel
[25:30] The Importance of Having a Creative Community
[33:02] Not Burning Bridges
[39:51] Upcoming Technology
EPISODE 307 — CLINTON JONES — LEAVING CORRIDOR DIGITAL
This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 307! I’m sitting down with Clinton Jones (AKA Pwnisher), Director, Content Creator, VFX Artist to discuss his plans after leaving Corridor Digital. You might be familiar with Clinton either through his YouTube Channel or through his work at Corridor Digital.
He recently left Corridor Digital to pursue his own directing projects. We get into a lot of great stuff in this interview, including about how to leave a job without burning bridges.
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[01:06] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[45:48] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
INTERVIEW WITH CLINTON JONES
[03:07] Allan: Clinton, thank you again for taking the time to chat! Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?
Clinton: Absolutely! My name is Clinton Jones. I’m known as the Pwnisher on the internet. I’m a Director, VFX Artist, and a Photographer. I do a lot of stuff. I’d say I’m a drummer but I’m not. I enjoy drumming. I enjoy doing yoga. I’m mostly known for directing short films, action, comedy, VFX short films. I’ve worked at Rocket Jump with Freddy Wong for a long time. Same with Corridor Digital (www.allanmckay.com/238). And I’ve got my own channel as Pwnisher. There’s a lot we can get into!
[03:52] Allan: That’s awesome, man! I’ll link to everything in the show notes. For you, have you always wanted to be a creative?
Clinton: I think so! I have been drawing since I was 3 [years old]. I’m a visual learner, I’ve always loved video games. Video games are such a big passion for me! I grew up not on the classics, but on Jackie Chan and a lot of martial arts. I did Kung Fu for a long time. I was constantly rollerblading and biking. It was a mixture of that inspiration and excitement. And I loved drawing. There was something there but I didn’t know it was going to be in the movies.
[05:09] Allan: Did you ever have any resistance from your family or other people, especially as you ventured out into YouTube content, that it may not be a viable career?
Clinton: No, man, not at all! Fortunately, my dad is super into games. He’s a nerd too. He builds PC’s and he’s a drummer. He showed me all the movies early on. He made a deal with me when I was in high school. He said, “I will buy you a video camera if you stop drinking soda.” That sounded like a great deal! That was his way of replacing a bad habit. He pushed me to go to martial arts too. My mom was very supportive as well! I was going to a community college in Georgia. I wasn’t having it because I knew most of the stuff they were teaching in terms of visual effects. Like, I was on Andrew Kramer’s Video Copilot, in those classes. But my dad kept saying that I had to get a degree. As a VFX artist, it’s your work that’s the degree. That’s what people are looking at, not the piece of paper. He was old school. At the time, I was talking to Freddy Wong.
[08:02] Allan: Freddy has been on my Podcast before (www.allanmckay.com/92).
Clinton: Very cool!
[08:14] Allan: I was talking to Matt Encina (www.allanmckay.com/302) who is part of The Futur. He kept describing people and they all were on my Podcast.
Clinton: That’s awesome! So I was talking to Freddy at the time. I was probably 18 or 19 years old, and I hung out with them. Freddy was like, “Move out here!” I was raised in Chino Hills anyway. I told my dad I wanted to do that, but he said I needed to get my degree. This was around the time I made Cardboard Warfare. That was the first video that popped off for me and it made me realize I could do it as a career. I explained it to my After Effects teacher Mr. Mason and he said, “If you have a job lined up already, what are you doing here? Everyone here is so they can get a job in LA.” I told this to my dad and it made sense to him. So I packed up my car with so much equipment, and in 2011 I landed in LA. It’s pretty wild!
[10:08] Allan: That’s awesome! What are your views on colleges now? You’re right, some people stick to the idea of getting a piece of paper. No one gives a crap about the degree. People just want to see what you can do. That’s the biggest slap in the face!
Clinton: I think the best part about going to a school like that is that you’ll make contacts. You’ll have people you can hit up later on in your career. Maybe they’ll need someone like you. You’re building a network of clients, co-workers, employers, people you can collaborate with. It’s also good for people who aren’t good at teaching themselves. If they need a regimented structure, then that’s what they need. From my perspective, I’m someone who, once I get into something, I’m into it! I learn as much as possible. I watch tutorials all the time. I’m leveling up my mind. All the information is out there, on the internet, and you can learn it for free. You may need to get a Skillshare account or something like that. You might need to pay for the program. That’s nothing in comparison to $40K – $60K. That’s insane! Not to scare anyone, that’s a lot of money to pay back. If you can do it yourself for free, then do it!
[12:31] Allan: It’s a lot of time! It’s frustrating when you get out (although I never finished high school)…
[12:44] Allan: Yeah, I quit the second week of ninth grade. I left and thought I’d come back. But then I realized I wouldn’t come back after all, so I should just go get a job. I wear that on my sleeve these days because so many people have excuses. When they see that I didn’t have the degree, it’s like Mr. Mason green lighting you. It connects the dots for them.
Clinton: I’m lucky enough to have parents who understand that and don’t have a big ego. If they would’ve said no, I don’t know what I would’ve done.
[14:22] Allan: That’s a really interesting thing too. Most people who take the chance to go off and do something, they wonder what if. Or if you stayed in Georgia! You could’ve folked off and didn’t have the success you’ve had.
Clinton: That’s why I left Corridor. I left because I knew I wanted to direct a feature film. I wanted to make a movie that the young me would’ve liked to see. All those guys are amazing! We’ve hung out more times since I’ve left. Because when I was there, I had no extra time for anything. But now, I have the time to do what I’ve been wanting to do. I have free time! I can hang out with my friends! I looked at it and it made the most sense for me to side step. If I didn’t, I’d be kicking myself in the butt. I don’t want to live with regrets. It’s a difficult decision but it’s working out so far — and it’s the right one! It’s so much fun! I’m rendering something right now and it’s looking sweet! As much as you can, try to live life without any regrets. I’m weird because I like for things to be hard. Because when it comes down to it, I know I can handle the hard version. So the easy version will be super easy. That just goes back to my martial arts background. Some people say it’s not healthy.
[17:14] Allan: I always say that nothing easy is worth learning. It’s the payoff at the end that makes it worthwhile. It’s also the growth that’s important. If you’re doing something easy, it means you could be doing more. If you’re doing something harder, by making it even harder, you can push through a lot of boundaries.
Clinton: I think it’s a mix though. I got his Oblique Strategy Cards here. There’s a hundred of them. He made it when he was in his band. They needed an idea starter. “Don’t be afraid of it because it’s easy.” I needed this card because I’m so after doing things that are detailed and take 10 years to make. No! That’s the opposite of what Beeple is doing. He’s doing a render a day. I’m excited for the future! I’m excited to do this movie! I’m excited to make more tutorials, do more render challenges, and to get married next year. I’m excited to set up my drum set. I desperately want to travel again! That’s the best for me! I want to go back to Japan!
[19:28] Allan: Yeah, I miss that a lot! Can you talk about the challenges that you do on YouTube?
Clinton: Certainly! Last year, I did this community render challenge called Parallel Dimensions. I got the idea from a guy called Digital Ridge on IG. What he did during quarantine is provide artists with a template and they made it into a render. That’s essentially what I did. There is a character walking at a distance and in the background there is a mountain. I gave this template to 130 artists. The top 5 winners got prizes, including graphics cards. We did this late last year. I got so many messages about the second one. It’s happening! May 1st is when I’m going to announce it. I’m still putting together the announcement video. The prizes are crazy! I want to essentially package all the stuff I do and have it be prizes. I want people to use the stuff I use all the time. It will be a cinematic render challenge. That goes for a month. I also have a discord and I do weekly challenges there. I pick 5 winners and announce them on my YouTube streams every Saturday. I want a really cool way to combine those renders. I have a lot of tutorials. One was on surface imperfections, how to create your own and what they are. I busted out finger paint and did some fun stuff with that. And this feature film! I’m working with the writer to do a fun, heartfelt comedy adventure feature. It’ll be really cool! In the meantime, I’m doing some NFT’s, man. That’s a really cool avenue to make money to support the art I want to do. It’s blowing my mind! I’m able to create and spend time on really in-depth pieces of art I would not normally have time for! And it’s been so much fun! I’m rendering my second NFT right now. It’s so much fun!
[23:11] Allan: Obviously, the main thing you’re doing is making the feature happen. You’re also doing all this stuff that most people would plateau on. How do you manage to stay so active across your social media channels on top of everything else you’re doing?
Clinton: So the feature is not taking up too much of my time. I’m working with the writer to come up with the story. As time gets closer to production, that’s when my time will be spent on it. But right now, most of my time is being spent on creating NFT art and tutorials, and coming up with ideas for live streams. So it’s mainly YouTube that’s taking up my time: Doing the production work of sourcing all the prizes, coming up with the community challenge, coming up with this discord challenge that I have. We do Monday calls. It’s deep in the community of 3D artists. How do I do it all? I realize the necessity for consistency. The only way to do anything successfully is to do it consistently. Doing the YouTube channel is the main hub of where my stuff comes from. It’s those two and I build out from there. If we’re talking about Eat That Frog book, right now the YouTube channel is the most important thing to grow.
[25:30] Allan: Going back to Corridor, knowing that it’s pretty fresh, what was your experience like? And what were some of the biggest lessons you learned while there?
- The importance of your thumbnail and how that’s the gateway to having people click on your video. The title comes second.
- How important a team is to getting something done. Having other people around helps bounce around ideas. It’s difficult to do it all on your own.
- How lucky of a job that was! I worked with my best friends.
- I got better at VFX while I was there.
- When to speak your mind and when not to, how to choose your battles. Sometimes it’s not worth it.
- Whatever I’m doing there, I have to put my heart into it. The VFX artistry was the highlight of my day. But if I weren’t enjoying what I was doing, I’d have to rethink it.
It highlighted to me what was important.
[28:18] Allan: I was just talking to Sam Wickert.
Clinton: Dude, that guy was just at my house the other day. I came home and he was at my computer. I didn’t know who he was. My roommates were filmmakers and they knew him. It was so funny and weird.
[28:56] Allan: I helped out on Chalk Warfare 4. I love the fact that he got a bunch of recognized names. I’m not from a YouTube bubble. Sam is a cool guy! He came on the Podcast. We talked about the whole film and did a breakdown. When I went to visit you, guys, that was something that clicked instantly. I wish I had people who were passionate like you, guys. I did grow up with the Baker Brothers (www.allanmckay.com/155). But as an adult, I didn’t have any of that. Chatting with you, guys, it was obvious how tight you are. That’s so inspiring! I’m in Portland, I have friends but they’re all older. Have you always had other creators around you?
Clinton: It was always like that. I was lucky to be surrounded by people like that. That Cardboard Warfare happened because my friend called me randomly and said, “Hey, let’s build a tank.” Let’s go! It took us a year but we built it. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have made Cardboard Warfare. One of my friends Adam and I were in a video class together. He’d make the music. Two is better than one. If you could find a small team of people that you’re aligned with, you can talk it out and bounce ideas around. It was like that at Rocket Jump and Corridor. I’m trying to find that here.
[33:02] Allan: I feel like a lot of people are afraid to quit their job because the door will close forever. You talked about how to quit and how not to quit. What were the stages you went through?
Clinton: It took me a year to be able to tell them. I knew that I wanted to do it. Last year, I didn’t have the means to do it. The first thing was about having a financial net. What I said was that I loved everything they were doing and I also loved what I was doing on my own. I had to choose and follow the things I wanted to do personally. I told them I’d be around and that I’d phase out. Eventually, I got to the point I’m at now. If they need me, they can reach out. I think it’s important to never burn bridges, even if the person screwed you over. It’s better to be respectful and move on. Why close doors?
[38:14] Allan: That’s always been important for me. I’ve only had two horrible working conditions. It feels good when they call you back. “I’d love to but I’m busy.” Why burn bridges?
Clinton: It makes it harder because they’re my friends and I care about them. If it were someone I didn’t know and we just talked over email, I’d just say I’m busy.
[36:29] Allan: Most people when they leave a job, they’re thinking about themselves. You’re giving them plenty of notice and starting a dialogue. It’s about being really considerate of other people.
Clinton: Certainly! There was a time after I told them, I was antsy. But we did it the right way.
[37:28] Allan: How did it feel on day one after having left?
Clinton: It felt great! I did this once before. When I transitioned from Rocket Jump to freelance, I only survived for a year. I didn’t have a plan. But now, I have a plan and it’s so exciting. I can see years and years ahead! And it feels refreshing to be working for myself. I’ll still be able to work with them. The door is not closed.
[38:41] Allan: I’ve only had a few staff jobs, but I remember after I left that day, walking around the Marina, I felt like I could do anything. I was unemployed but my visa allowed me to stay legally.
Clinton: I get the same feeling when I get to travel. I can do anything! I can do whatever I want! I have the ability to craft the day or the months. It’s cool!
[39:51] Allan: Is there any technology that you have an eye on?
Clinton: Yeah! NFT’s and MetaHuman, Unreal Engine. I’m messing with the World Creator right now. Omniverse for collaborative projects is unreal! Quixel is so exciting right now. Mocap is really exciting. I’m not looking forward to doing virtual production but I’m excited for elements of it. S24 for Cinema 4D is supposed to be pretty sick! What about you?
[41:07] Allan: For me, it’s about time cost. I haven’t been working out in a long time, but I can’t wait to start so I can have more energy. I’ve been doing a lot of LiDAR stuff. I’ve had it for a year. Camera tracking is way simpler with that. I really want to build a solid pipeline for scanning environments. I’ve got a team of artists that work for me. I’ve started tinkering around with photogrammetry and LiDAR.
Clinton: I’m using RealityCapture for all that stuff and it’s a versatile program. I’m just trying to understand it. Sometimes, I get a weird result. I’m trying to figure it out. It’s a journey for me as well.
[44:05] Allan: I love that Epic bought Reality Capture. I’m excited to see where all of this goes! Where can people go to find out more about you?
Clinton: Well, you can go to YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWIfzAYHyNSyHmT2AO-54yg) or my Instagram @_pwnisher_. Same thing for Twitter. Look into my descriptions on YouTube for my discord.
[45:44] Allan: Thanks so much for doing this, Clinton! I really appreciate you.
Clinton: I appreciate you too, Allan!
I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Clinton for taking the time to chat!
I will be back next week interviewing Stuart Lippincott or Stuz0r on social media. Until then —
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