Talk us through your career as a director so far?
I started working in VFX at the end of the 90s. Working in VFX for advertising, design, episodic TV and feature film, I’ve experienced a huge variety of working environments, from small teams with really hands on work, to overseeing the creative output of multiple large teams. Right from the start, I’ve always directed small animation jobs, but around 10 years ago clients started to ask me directly to take on their work and be their director, which is when it really started. Then things progressively took off as we at The Mill started to do more directorial work. Nowadays, as well as directing, I’m The Mill LA’s ECD, which means I oversee the creative culture, the quality of the work and the creative ambition of The Mill’s LA studio.
Share three of your most recent favourite projects with us
One of the best memories from this job was the free creative process we had. During the creation of ‘Pinball’, I was directing quite a few other films at the same time, which can be intense. However, I remember always coming back to this job, working with the team and getting a new found energy.
We brought life to an inanimate object to show a simple narrative to a journey. It’s really just a little hypnotic film that you can view over and over and discover new details each time. We had enough time on the project to really craft the cinematography and refine design, which always makes a huge difference to the process.
Based on a legacy of puppetered characters, we brought new life into these fun little animated characters and combined them with live action. The characters move really slowly, but have energetic and distinct personalities, so it was particularly fun to set these scenes up. Bill is super grumpy and Karolyn has a confident, sassy attitude, so we put a lot into the animation, really pushing their performance in order to let the characters shine through.
Hay Day features an amazing cast of loveable characters that set off on a series of weird and wonderful adventures. In the ‘New Valley’ film we put the animals in an adrenalin-fuelled action film that was inspired by classic car racing films and crazy stunts. I love the team at Supercell, so it’s always a blast to work with them.
How would you describe your style as a director?
My work has a really broad style across a number of different types of projects. Often it is focused around developing and building animated characters and short stories, which is clearly derived from a love for animated films and characters. I love to find unique ways of using cinematography to craft the look of the films and working with graphic patterns or other abstract ways of conveying a story. It’s exciting to find new points of view to tell stories or scenes through.
What have you learned about the way you work during this lockdown period?
When working through an idea, I find that I am always influenced by my own experiences and surroundings. If I am simultaneously working on a few projects, I often solve a creative problem on one job while I am working on the other. So I find that what I’m doing in life at any moment in time definitely reflects on the work I do one way or another. That doesn’t mean the lockdown affects the creative process by confining it though, since it gives me more time for thinking, with less distraction. I miss the energy from the office and the adrenaline I get from collaborating with our kick ass artists. So I’d say more thoughts and less pure instinct goes into the work at the moment.
You can check out more of Robert’s work on his Creator page.