Monday, October 14, 2013
Semi-Permanent is a travelling conference aimed
at curating inspirational speakers. Originally from Sydney, they
have now branched out and host conferences around the globe. This
was the first time Semi-Permanent has taken place in Stockholm.
Mill+ Creative Director Carl Addy gives us the roundup…
// All the speakers were superb. I particularly loved that so many
diverse fields were covered; from illustration, to Hollywood
blockbusters, to engineering. My favourite was Teenage Engineering
both for the style of presentation (rambling genius) and for the
content (Products of rambling genius). The unassuming 43 year old
Jesper Kouthoofd has gone from design to
advertising to creating one of the biggest cult denim brands (ACNE) to film direction and
finally to making a bat-cave-like space where he and his
collaborators create geeky synths. Oh… and he collects
There were so many great moments; Wieden's Don Shelford taking us through the
agencies canon of inspirational work, Tiffany Bozic's
surreal paintings that draw heavily on her travels with her
husband, traversing the world studying nature. Christian
Alzmann from Industrial Light and Magic giving us a rare
peek behind the wizards curtain that is Hollywood filmmaking. It's
mind blowing to see the process that goes into Art directing those
special effect juggernauts.
The one talk that caught me by surprise was Wolff Olin's
Lje Nwokorie. l was expecting to see a chat about corporate
branding and instead found myself inspired and moved by this man's
approach to management and company vision. He has implemented
practices that remove heirachy and egos and encourage creativity
and leadership. Lje is a brave leader who has his eye on the
broader horizons of human interaction and culture rather than the
expected focus of the business of branding. In his words 'Leaders
don't need or wait for the authority to lead, they use generosity
and passion and ideas to assemble unusual coalitions. They don't
seek control or obedience or applause. They pursue risk.'
The biggest theme throughout the event for me was 'Making'. Every
single speaker was prolific in the act of creating, the majority
were creating ambitious pieces in their spare time, the kind that
most of us would be daunted to pursue even with the full backing of
The young Kaj
Drobin and his e-commerce platform Tictail, Kelli Anderson
and her New York Times takeover, Gmunk and his general feral awesomeness, all of
these people have committed themselves to creativity, regardless of
profit or fame.
All in all, very inspirational with a hefty dose of challenge...
kinda like getting a kick in the ass/brain area.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Some big brains, consisting of experts from across
the digital media spectrum from advertising, films, visual art, and
design industries, were in the house on Wednesday night for
Think & Drink at the LA office. The Mill has long
been focused on keeping its finger on the pulse of emerging
technological innovations and we were thrilled when the poolhouse
jumped in to co-host an event where we could dive deep into the
Panelists included Alastair Green,
Executive Creative Director, Team One Agency; Sam Baerwald, Director of Film Productions,
72andSunny; Paul Debevec, Research
Professor, USC Viterbi School of Engineering & Associate
Director of Graphics Research at USC's Institute for Creative
Technologies; Robert Sethi, Creative Director, The
Mill; Winston Binch, Partner & Chief Digital
Officer at Deutsch LA. The conversation was moderated by Annie Uzdavinis, Producer, the poolhouse.
The big topics of the night centered around
technology sparking creativity, here are some of the thought
provoking questions and opinions from the evening.
The chicken and the egg as it relates to
creativity and technology.
Which comes first? Robert began by proposing something simple
- that it is a little bit of both. You might find
the technology interesting, and later on the idea grows from
that, but it can also be the opposite. As the conversation evolved,
the panel looked into the opportunities that technology creates
(ex: iPhone fingerprint scan), and how art inspires technology and
vice versa. We use technology both to spark ideas
and to enhance existing creativity.
Democratization of technology and the third
wave was of huge interest to both the panel and
audience. With accessible technology, anyone can make
a commercial, song, documentary,
etc. This challenges agencies to create something that is
beyond the norm. It puts us on our toes, pushes us to rise
above the clutter. Winston provided some insight: "I
think that companies that are leading have a mix of influences. We
just hire kids now. They know more about social landscapes and
technology - they're natives. We see a change happening.
You've got to put yourself in a position where you
attract these young thinkers." Additionally, most agreed that it
serves as a way to stay on top of new technologies.
The conversation turned to the issue of how to keep
abreast of new techniques with constantly evolving
technology: "A big part of embracing new technology is the
admission that you don't know everything and being able to open
yourself up to an idea from a developer. We've hit the wall - let
go of your own ego and see that a 17-year-old kid can develop
something great using new technology." Well said, Sam. Or as Paul
adds, "the best way to predict the future is to invent
The panel moved on to a topic
many hesitate to discuss out
loud: fear-based culture. Clients want
their work to stand out, yet are frequently stifled by the fear of
doing something different. Annie began by saying
that it's hard to innovate because people often want
to go with ideas they have already seen
elsewhere. Alastair brought the conversation way back: "I
remember starting in the industry in London. I remember a lot
of paper drawing and from that
comes many interpretations. I have a love/hate
relationship with technology; sometimes it holds us
back. The prototypes are very rigid. Where's the
Winston made mention of a recent project he worked on with VW and
Google. "It's like Nike+ for driving" as he put
it. SmileDrive is an app that uses your
vehicle's Bluetooth connection to keep track of and share your
road trip adventures and more. Winston used this to
support the notion of selling innovation
differently. Not everything can be sold like traditional ad
campaigns, nor does everything need to be created from scratch. Use
existing technology to create something truly
innovative, and boom - your work stands out! Winston continued, referencing the recent viral video
promotion for the movie "Carrie" as a
fantastic alternative to traditional advertising.
Each panelist chimed in with an anecdote of continued
Sam: Treat 72andSunny like a brand
itself. "We need to treat our agency like we treat our
clients, making sure our company gets that love as well."
Alastair: Team One's move to Jefferson. While
he kept hush-hush on the details, he mentioned plans that
involve digitizing their new space from the ground up.
Paul: Developing a process to create realistic facial
expressions for digital characters with Ira, one of
his digital research partners. Digital Ira is a uses
color-coding technology to detect the different areas of Ira's face
that are activated when making various expressions. The hope is
that this project will open one of many doors to giving real-life
movement to digital characters.
Robert: Down to the structure of workflow and the
collaborations across all offices, technological innovation is a
core part of The Mill - from the R&D teams to Creative
Directors. Every day is an opportunity to up one's game and
knowledge across all mediums.
Winston: Working on VW.com for the last 12 months
and knows what to expect for the next 12 months:
taking VW.com to a global platform requires
taking in a massive amount of technology. But he reminded us that
in the midst of the whole technological innovation craze,
people really just want a good story.
It was bar none an amazingly talented group of
panelists with their hands in all sorts of innovative work. It
was important to both The Poolhouse and The Mill to gather not only
our esteemed panel but also influential members of our industry to
participate (although there was an unfortunate chair incident
for Winston). The result was a night of challenging and engaging
conversation and the biggest Poolhouse event to date. The goat
cheese, peach and porchetta crostinis weren't so bad either…
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Spotted: Mill producer Cat Scott and her partner, Mill CG artist
Alex Hammond, with a full 6 page feature in Delicious magazine. Why? Because Cat and Alex
run a monthly brunch club on Saturdays, taking it in turns with a
group of friends to cook up a delicious storm. I caught up with Cat
to find out more…
Tell me a bit about how the brunch club got
The idea developed amongst my university friends. We used to cook
each other Sunday roasts, taking turns to host one each month, but
often the excess of the previous Saturday night would render some
aspiring chefs incompetent, so the Saturday idea was born. The new
day also had the added bonus of us being able to carry on later
into the evening, so what was once just a brunch, now tends to
develop into a full day and evening of fun. This often ends with
the group sampling the local pubs of the chosen brunch host's
Have you always been a foodie?
It is actually working at The Mill that has developed my foodie
habits. I am lucky enough to go to restaurants every now and then
with clients, and they tend to be very nice ones too, plus The Mill
is in an incredible area for sampling delicious food. What started
as a few Mill lunches has now turned into a foodie obsession and I
regularly try out new restaurants in and outside of London with my
other half Alex, who also now has the bug!
What's your favourite brunch recipe?
It would have to be Huevos Rancheros, or Mexican eggs as some
people call it. If you cook the eggs just right in the spicy tomato
mixture and have some amazing sour dough bread to dip in you can't
beat it. It is great for a hangover too, tomatoes contain lots of
the nutrients your brain and body is crying out for on those
mornings we all struggle with!
Do you follow many food blogs?
I actually follow two blogs regularly. One called Bitesize, written by one of my good friends
Jacqui, is a highly entertaining food journey of meat, more meat
and lots of burgers. Jacs is obsessed with the programme Man vs
Food and has just completed a trip around America sampling many of
the same haunts as seen on the show. She also covered our holiday
from earlier in the year to the Philipppines which had some
My sister in law Laura Scott also writes a brilliant food blog
called How to Cook Good Food. Laura is a trained chef
and regularly writes up the most delicious recipes as well as
including little anecdotes on her family and their reactions to the
food (which is of course my rather over enthusiastic brother and
his children!). She also hosts a number of workshops in and around
Epsom and I look to her for a lot of my cooking inspiration over
My best friend Lizzie is the food editor of Delicious magazine, so
I regularly get tips and ideas from her and even test the odd
recipe from time to time, so I guess I am surrounded by a good
Pancakes or a Full English?
Well you can't beat a Full English, there is no doubt about that,
but one of our local breakfast spots in Balham also does an amazing
buttermilk pancake stack so it is a hard one to call! I'm going to
go with a fry up as Alex often makes an amazing brekkie over the
weekend, although it's more like a posh Eggs Benedict than a Full
English, so I guess that's the winner!
Who would be your ideal brunch / dinner
It would have to be David Attenborough, he is my ultimate hero. He
has been to everywhere I want to go to in the world, we could talk
for hours about animals (tragic I know) and he just seems like a
lovely chap. I am sure he would love Alex's Eggs Benedict too so
smiles all round hopefully!
Monday, October 07, 2013
Wednesday night saw the annual transformation of The
Mill in Los Angeles into both a huge welcoming base for the
Fireflies stemming from their 5-day ride down the California
Coast and a decked out Brazilian wonderland. The office was
turned into an urban wilderness where dancers from LA Samba Dancers
kept the beats flowing throughout the evening. As well as Samba
dancing, guests were treated to signature brazilian cocktails and
XINGU Beer, visual delights inside and outside of the Blackwelder
Arts Studio, custom tech and art installations and a Mill Laser Hot
a refresher of the Mill Festa festivities, or you can see pictures
by following the hashtag #millfesta.
Inside, guests found themselves walking into a
tropical, colorful carnival featuring four bars, lush tropical
foliage and authentic brazilian delectables.
We all know that Brazilians love to party and DJ Ivy
rocked The Mill in true style by creating a Brazillian playground
as everyone got down to the live booty-shakin, adrenaline-pumping,
high-energy mix on the dancefloor! O Brasil e lindo maravilhoso!
(Brazil is Magnificent) was an understatement on
Wednesday night. The music had it's own distinguishing
features, meaning this was not your traditional balada! DJ Ivy's
funk was a collision of Miami bass and percussive Latin rhythms
sourced from Samba, mashed together under the weight of boastful
chants enjoyed by all.
Guests were able to experience The Phantom Room
masterminded by creative director Phil Crowe and tech wizard
Tawfeeq Martin. Here, something was meant to be seen, heard and
sensed but there was no real physical reality, like a ghost or an
apparition. Thankfully we have proof of the Phantom Camera in
action if you need a refresher of the night.
A number of other bespoke pop-ups added to the
eclectic décor of the night. Those that were adventerous
enough to venture into Suite 5 (aka Sweat Five) got to experience
not only the hot room, but were also treated to an awesome laser
A big thank you to everyone who made the Mill Festa
such a fantastic night to remember!
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
You may remember our 'Where in the world is Hugo?' blog series from
last year that followed our Head of Nuke, Hugo Guerra, on his many
travels. And his travelling hasn't stopped. He's just back from
Amsterdam and is here to give us the low down from this year's IBC festival.
// This is the second year in a row I had the pleasure of being
invited by The Foundry to speak at the IBC festival. Last
year was such great fun I didn't hesitate to say yes again. A huge
part of IBC is all the presentations and I was lucky enough to have
two slots. My first presentation was about a project I am very
proud of, a short sci-fi film called "The Fields". The interesting thing about this
film is we teamed up with my students from Campus i12
to work on a real job with a real deadline and together created 51
VFX shots for the final film. In my second talk I ran through
how The Mill's Nuke studio uses Hiero and Nuke for fast and large
scale productions like BBC Digital Radio D-Love and IKEA 'Time For
This year The Foundry had a handful of presentations
around their many products and it was great to see the
very collaborative workflows between Nuke, Hiero, Mari,
Modo and The Foundry's partner FTrack in action. One of the top
talks was Jordan Thistlewood's Modo presentation, showcasing how
Nuke, Modo and Mari can be used to make extremely superb looking 3D
baked matte paintings working in Nuke's 3D system.
Another impressive presentation was the full workflow between Hiero, Nuke and FTrack
presented by Jack Binks, Mat Plec and Ben Minall. It showcased a
complete solution for conform, edit, comp and shot management for a
production from start to finish.
But my favourite presentation was from Jon Wadelton about
Nuke's 8 new features. At last Nuke 8 will have a completely new
text node allowing artists to write directly in the viewer and
allowing complex animation character by character. Other new
features include a pixel analyser, a match grade node, broadcast
scopes, a new dope sheet and a completely new 3D tracking node that
uses photos to help the solve of 3D cameras to triangulate
The cameras, it's all about the cameras
This year IBC was all about 4K. New cameras, displays, monitors
and broadcast equipment capable of 4K, or what the industry is
calling Ultra HD, were on display in force. Most noticeably the
floor had a new Red Epic 6K sensor called Dragoon and the new
camera. It's lighter and more rugged then the Alexa and features a
full 35 sensor with 14 spots of range even in high speed shooting
mode up to 200FPS. Last but not least I have to mention the huge Blackmagic booth, it was one of the biggest in
the show and it really reflects how much this company is investing
in its new camera range.
The good and the very good food
As always we visited some fantastic restaurants, but coming out on
top was definitely "De Kas". It was one of the best dining
experiences I've ever had! First of all the dining room is
incredible. It's built entirely of glass so it resembles a
greenhouse. With no menu to choose from each diner is asked what
they like and don't like and a bespoke five course menu is created
for each and every one of you. I have to say it was one of the best
meals I've had in my entire life- even though the entire thing was
// Thank you Hugo for this year's IBC round up. You can find
more info on IBC including information on the talks and speakers on
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Last week Greg Barker found himself walking to the front of the
Nokia Theatre in LA to collect the Outstanding Documentary Emmy for
"Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for bin Laden". And when the
Mill+ team heard the news there were cheers, whooping and all other
kinds of celebrating! The Mill+ team led by designer and creative
director Manija Emran had worked so closely with Greg to create ten
minutes of fully animated content for Manhunt including the titles,
and they were so proud to have played a part in telling this
amazing story. Now that the dust has settled (a little!), I caught
up with Greg to hear all about it.
Congratulations Greg! A huge accolade for an amazing
project, can you tell me (remember) what it felt like the moment
I was in total shock, as was the rest of our team. We really
didn't expect to win, mostly because we had been nominated before
and lost, so we knew to steele ourselves. So when they announced
that we'd won I really couldn't believe it, and I remember feeling
incredibly proud of our entire team and so grateful that all our
hard work and dedication was being honored.
Can you talk me through how Manhunt came
I had the idea the night of the bin Laden raid. As I watched
cheering crowds outside the White House, I just had a gut feeling
that there was a darker, more morally ambiguous spy story that had
led up to that moment. And so I set out to make the film almost
immediately and soon found out that Peter Bergen was going to write
the definitive book about the hunt for bin Laden. Together with my
producers, John Battsek and Julie Goldman, I set out to option
Peter's book and soon after that we were in production.
Did you come across any particular hurdles in
I knew one of the biggest challenges was going to be creating a
visual template that drew the audience into the mindset of the
intelligence operatives who were tracking bin Laden. We also had to
convey what is often called the "fire hose" of intelligence
information in a way that is exciting but not overwhelming. The
team at The Mill did an incredible job solving this challenge, and
what I love about the graphics in the film is that they feel
totally organic to the world of our characters.
Did the author Peter Bergen get involved and what did he
think about your documentary?
Peter was deeply involved, although a film and the book it's based
upon are always distinct entities. I had to make the material
my own, develop my own sources and find a way of telling this
complex story in a way that works on screen rather than the page.
But he was an invaluable resource, sounding board and over the
course of production including trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan,
we became good friends. As for what he thinks of the film, you'd
have to ask him but he tells me he loves it!
Do you recall the first edit of Manhunt you shared with
someone else and what the reaction was?
Documentaries are made in the cutting room, and I was privileged
to collaborate on this film with Joe Bini, one of the best editors
working today. We worked in our own bubble for a long time, so it's
always an odd experienced to start sharing the film with others
outside the production team. And it's never perfect until
it's done, so I think my strongest reaction was at the Sundance
Film Festival premiere, when I could sense the film was playing
well and we got a standing ovation after the credits.
Did you immediately realise what an incredible film you'd
created and how well received it would be?
Ha, hardly! I honestly never know how a film is going to
play until I take it out into the world.
What's your creative process? Can you talk me through some
I'm drawn to characters who face complex, morally ambiguous
real-world situations that the rest of us would never encounter in
our normal lives. I then try to figure out how to make a compelling
movie around those characters and their world. I try to put an
audience inside the mindset of the characters, so the audience is
constantly asking themselves what they would do if confronted with
the problems my characters face. Once I find a tone, a mood, and a
world I want to explore, then the rest is really a question of
building access and trust, and finding the right creative team to
make the film a reality.
Do you have any new projects on the horizon? Anything
you can tell me about?
Always lots of projects on the go. I'm very excited about a new
documentary we're finishing about the promise and perils of modern
Where have you put the Emmy?
My kids wanted it right in the middle of our kitchen table, so
that's where it is!
// Still want to know more? Read Manija's blog on how she
masterminded and created the design content or watch the making of.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
The Mill's Dan Levy, a runner in our London studio, is an avid
traveller and photographer as well as an aspiring colourist. I
caught up with him about his round the world trip and how one
amateur photo ignited his passion for photography and colour.
// I got into photography when I was 19. I always had an interest
in photography and a close friend suggested a crazy hop, skip and
jump trip around the world, so I invested in a Nikon D7000. With
the potential for what I could capture I thought why wait around?
This would be an incredible opportunity to see some amazing places
and hopefully document something that people hadn't seen
With no previous experience of photography, I didn't even know
what the ISO did, I taught myself how to use the camera and edit
pictures. This is really what started my love for photography and
travel. I love just hopping on the tube, camera in hand and trying
to find something interesting and exciting, Often waiting for hours
for a timelapse to finish or even just waiting for a person or the
right light to complete the picture. I don't necessarily know what
I'm looking for when I leave the house, or where I'm going, so it's
always an adventure.
I managed to capture some beautfiul landscapes within those six
weeks and most importantly learned a massive amount about how to
use my camera, lenses and tripod correctly.
In total on that trip we visited 12 countries in just six weeks.
Here is a map of where we went…
When I returned home I continued learning how to edit photos, and
started doing portrait photography. This is what taught me how
important light is. Light can define everything about a picture in
terms of what you want to convey; tone, mood, what you are looking
at. Light makes a photo so much more than what the subject is- and
ultimately it makes it look good.
Whilst doing all of this, my aunt who worked at an advertising
agency started asking me to take photos for clients; reference
imagery, mimicking shots they liked the look of etc. It was then
that the Thomas Cook 'Come-Back' campaign came up. They had asked
for pictures of far away destinations, and this was a perfect
chance for me to showcase some of the pictures I had taken on my
travels. The picture I had taken of the Li River in China was
chosen to use in their campaign and was blown up into a 96 sheet
(billboard size). I took the photo while my friend and I were on a
tiny raft, manned by an old Chinese fisherman, travelling down the
river to Yang Shou, our next destination. Looking back, it was a
really magical moment.
With the money earned from my Li River photo I bought a car for
£400 and invested in a whole new set of photography equipment
including a D800 NIKON, a selection of fast prime lenses and a
Gitzo tripod. The D800 is the best camera for the type of work I
love doing. It's a phenomenally high megapixel camera, which is
excellent for landscape photography. All of these elements
are what make up my essential kit now. And while certainly a heavy
collection to carry around I have started to get used to it.
With my new car and kit, my friends and I decided to embark on a
journey across Europe, so we drove from Bristol to Albania. One of
my favourite photos from that trip was taken when we were driving
from Saryjevo to Mostar. As we were driving along this one long
road that led from one to the other, the sides of the road where
alight from a bush fire. All the smoke was beautifully accentuating
the hills, and as we pulled down a dirt slip road I looked back and
took this picture of the road, mountains and hills.
At the moment I'm trying to move more into video. I'm currently
working on time lapses around London. Traffic and people are mainly
what I like to capture. I base myself along the river a lot, along
the Southbank - the biggest reason being because the river looks
pretty! I love taking photos but a huge part of it for me is making
them look incredible with colour, and that's why the dream is to
become a colourist. As a colourist you could take any shot in the
world and completely change the mood, tone or point of interest.
There's a whole other level of creativity to editing pictures. To
be able to make a picture fit the visual image of what you imagined
it to look like, but couldn't necessarily get with a raw shot due
to light or other issues is really satisfying. You can give every
picture such life just with simple editing techniques.
I didn't think I'd be travelling again for a while, but in a
couple of weeks time I'll be going with a friend, rucksack, pair of
shorts (and of course my camera!) to the airport… We don't have a
plan, we're just going to see what happens. We're aiming for the
middle east, but who knows… it's an adventure!
// You can have a look at more of Dan's incredible photos here.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
In a bedroom in Venice, California lies the musical talent of 3D
artist Daniel Lang. By day, he's a talented compositor based at The
Mill in Los Angeles, but by night, he goes by pseudo name 'Bit Sea'
and composes music.
Daniel has turned his love of music into an experimental
composition project on the platform SoundCloud, where he
posts his latest tunes. The Mill has used his tracks for various
behind the scenes projects Compression, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Surprise Eclipse and Playstation All-Stars.
I sat down with Daniel as he shared some insights into creating
How did you get into composing?
Once I started really listening to music, I was fascinated by the
structure and the different elements that brought sounds
together to make a song. When I started composing, I found a world
of bliss that I could tap into and get lost in.
What's your musical genre?
I've gone though different phases of composing because I'm
interested in so many different genres of music. The best genre to
put it in would be Experimental, or maybe just Electronic. The
music that I've been making recently combines Electro, Dubstep and
Reggae, so it's understandably hard to define. I also compose
classical-style music with orchestral sounds, and people seem to
enjoy those tracks a little more, well, sometimes.
I learned a long time ago that music is very personal and if
you can connect with sound and notes in some way it can be a
Tell us a bit about your creative
I like to listen to experimental music,
sounds that push the envelope with tone and style.
When I hear something that is unique and thought
provoking, it inspires me to create another layer and create an
alternative version. This ultimately creates a whole new version of
When are you most inspired?
My favorite time to compose is in the morning. For some reason, if
I can manage to crawl straight from my bed to my desk and start
jamming, I can tap into where music comes from. It might have
something to do with my mind coming out of a place of abstract
stimuli. Having a perfectly clear and level head will help make
perfectly plain music, but I like music with shape, so having a
warped mind is a plus.
What's next for you and your music?
I'm constantly tinkering with it as a hobby. I'd like to one day
perform my music live and am developing an idea for synchronizing
projected visual graphics to correlate with the music, and then
bring some of my other skills into the mix. My music is designed to
take you on a journey and the more immersive it is, the better the
You can listen to Daniel's work here.
Friday, August 23, 2013
The Mill's Daniel Thron, based in LA, recently completed
Spoiler. Here he exclusively reveals why he's bringing something
new to the post-apocalyptic genre and how it became the Vimeo Staff
pick viral success that it is, currently clocking in at 192k
What was the inspiration for Spoiler?
Karl Denham (the producer/DP) was living in a really creepy
looking, walled-in apartment complex in kind of a sketchy area --
we'd joke about it being a sort of post-apocalyptic bunker-hotel --
and for some reason the fire alarms just kept going off randomly.
So when we were talking about what project we might want to
tackle next and we hit on trying to make a zombie movie, it all
just clicked. We had something like Spoiler in mind from
the get-go. I've always loved the idea of realistic treatments of
fantasy-based things; this is what I love about
sci-fi: Children of Men, for instance, is essentially a fable
told in an extremely realistic way, both in terms of the setting
and the characters' emotions -- and I think it disarms the audience
a little bit, opens them up to watching stories they might not
What were the highs and lows of the
The biggest low came in the editing room, when Karl and Chris
Stack and I realized that the ending we had wasn't working, and we
knew we had to change it; because if it's dishonest, the audience
will drop you. So we gritted our teeth and pulled everyone back for
some quick reshoots, and got it right. So the biggest high of the
whole project was putting that new sequence in; suddenly the whole
movie worked. That's how it always is, I think -- the lows are the
moments when something is screwed, and the highs are the
moments when you figure out how to un-screw it. And the more folks
you have around that you are inspired by and can trust, the faster
that will happen.
Who and what inspires you?
Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, Alan Pakula, Sydney Pollack,
Sidney Lumet. The two movies I wish I could've been responsible
for, though, are Ridley Scott's Alien, and Michael
Mann's Heat, both of which I will rip off like crazy for
the rest of my life. Apologies in advance, fellas.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Ugh. Both. I will always intend to go to sleep, and then end up
staying awake till 2:30 watching Hunt for Red October for
the fortieth time.
Is it your goal to direct more horror?
I want to do any kind of genre film -- and actually I'm a bigger
sci-fi nerd than anything, but I love a horror movies, and I would
love to try to make a good one. The genre definitely needs some
serious shaking up. I'm not against found footage, but for a while
there that was the only thing on the menu, so I'm happy to see old
school stuff starting to come back a little bit with movies
like The Conjuring. The kind of thing I'd really like to see,
however, is something as artful and upsetting as Nic
Roeg's Don't Look Now, which to me still feels radical.
What's been your personal highlight in your
I got a chance to meet Ridley Scott a while ago, and it was
everything I could do not to ask him to sign my face with a
sharpie. Outside of that, my proudest moment has to be my
performance in Ben Hansford's "Tron: Reboot" web series. Go on and
Google it. But I warn you, I'm in Spandex in that one.
What is the most challenging aspect of filmmaking for
Writing. When it's rolling, it's great, but when your stuck, it's
death. The best help in overcoming this has been from going to this
weekly writer's group hosted by David Bryant, who plays the husband
in Spoiler. We all get together and read whatever we've been
working on, and everybody hammers on it. Incredibly helpful; I
really recommend joining one or forming one if you want to write.
We also help each other on every shoot any of us put together --
any one of us might be directing one day and booming the next --
this is how Spoiler got made, all through this support
network. Filmmaking is teamwork, always; doing anything else is
just getting in your own way.
Where are you most productive?
Writing wise, on the Metro or bus; everything else is too
What's your favourite thing to do in LA?
On Vermont in Los Feliz is the perfect run: House of Pies/Los
Feliz 3 Theaters/Skylight Books/The Dresden. Pie, movies, books,
and whiskey. Beat that.
Are there future plans for Spoiler?
We're currently in the process of developing Spoiler as a cable
series, which has been going very well -- it's been
incredibly satisfying to build out the world, as well as to hear
what other people want to do with it.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The Caretaker, directed by Lauren Lillie, is causing a stir
wherever it plays across the festival circuit, most notably playing
to a sold out audience with the accolade "best live action short"
in the Lower East Side Film Festival. Last week it was also
selected to be part of the 17th LA Shorts Fest, Sept. 5-12th.
Sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences,
many of the shorts shown here go on to be nominated and even win
Oscars. I chatted to Lauren about the experience and her plots and
plans for the future.
How did you first get involved in The
I met artist, Morrisa Maltz, when I moved to LA four years ago and
immediately responded to her work. We share interests in the dark
and fantastical, and both particularly admire the work of Gregory
Crewdson. Morrisa approached me with the idea of taking one of her
costumes outside the realm of her studio. We didn't know where that
would lead, but I was immediately interested.
What were the highs and lows of the
We didn't have any money to make the film, so the biggest high was
seeing how much we were able to do with just the generosity of our
collaborators. We started out by looking for locations where we
knew we could shoot for free. We cast actors that Morrisa and I had
worked with before. Once we'd come up with the concept, I was
fortunate to be able to ask various, incredibly talented friends of
mine from film school (AFI) to work on the film. A friend of
Morrisa's who is an accomplished chef volunteered to help us with
food styling. We kept all of the remaining expenses to a minimum.
For instance, Morrisa picked up all of the flowers used in the film
for free from various stores in the flower district downtown.
I was excited about how much we managed to do with so little - but
the low point was realizing that, despite our best efforts to keep
the budget as small as possible, we couldn't afford to finish the
film. At that point, we launched a small Kickstarter campaign and
reached out to various friends in the industry - including a friend
of mine from AFI, Simon Brown, who works at The Mill!
What role did The Mill play in the final
Working with The Mill was an absolute godsend! My cinematographer
& I had come up with an idea for one VFX shot in the film. We
wanted to subvert the audience expectation that our protagonist is
human with one surreal image of her body as she undresses.
Initially, we tried to create our desired effect practically with
make-up. This was the other low point of the process. The SFX
make-up took up quite a bit of precious shooting time, and didn't
work at all. So I needed to find VFX artists willing to help us
achieve the desired effect in post.
The beautiful work that all of the VFX artists at The Mill created
was beyond what I could have hoped for! I'm well aware of how much
time & effort it takes VFX artists to do their work so I was
honestly really touched by all of the effort put into our one
surreal shot. Every tiny detail was attended to so as not to ruin
the delicate suspension of belief. And then our colorist, Gregory
Reese, took the entire film to another level.
The film recently received a glowing response from the
Lower East Side Film Festival. How was that?
Fantastic! Once you work on something like this and so many
different people generously contribute their talents, you want it
to find an audience! Morrisa and I were particularly happy that the
film screened at Anthology Film Archives, since it has been such an
important organization for experimental and avant-garde cinema
since the 1960s. The film screened there for a sold out audience of
177 people, and received enthusiastic support. The response was so
positive that the festival added another screening of our film, and
then it screened again at the Sunshine Cinema after winning "Best
Live Action" short. The festival organizers said that it stood out
not only for its unique concept, but also for the professional
execution of the VFX and overall image quality.
What is the plan for The Caretaker now, after LES Film
We're continuing to submit the film to festivals, and we also have
a screening in the works at a gallery here in Los Angeles. Morrisa
and I would like to work together again on other projects so we've
also been showing the film to various people to show what we're
capable of creating.
Did you catch any other films at LES/the festival circuit,
and if so what particularly caught your attention?
There were a number of other exciting films at the L.E.S. film
festival. One of my personal favorites was an animated short
called, "Fear of
Who and what inspires you?
I've always been a huge fan of movies, music, art, and dance so I
could go on endlessly about how many artists inspire me. As I
mentioned earlier, Morrisa and I are both fans of the photographer,
Gregory Crewdson. Admittedly, we took a lot of inspiration from him
in creating "The Caretaker."
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I wish I were an early bird! But I have always been a night owl.
Unless I'm on set or under a deadline, my mind is much clearer late
at night than early in the morning.
What talent is on your dream hit-list to work
(I'd rather not jinx it!)
What's your favourite thing to do in
The diversity of California is my favorite thing about it. Pretty
much whatever you want, you can find it here.
// Thanks Lauren for this engaging insight. A special mention also
to the VFX crew on this project who were VFX supervisor Chris
Knight, 2D by Patrick Munoz, Robert Murdock, Margolit Steiner
and Kevin Flores, color by Greg Reese and produced by Benjamin
Sposato. Now you obviously want to watch the trailer… so lets