Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Trailblazing onto the internet this week is "New Music City", a
documentary blowing open the lid on the latest music scene to
explode; Nashville. Directed by Ben Strebel of Some Such & Co and
coloured here by Houmam Abdallah, I sat down with this rising star
duo to talk Nashville, Serpents and Snakes (Kings of Leon's record
label) & the SXSW experience.
How did you first get involved in the New Music City
Ben: I've been writing and directing a few of AllSaints' recent films. The
opportunity came up to collaborate with Clash magazine to
create a documentary on Kings of Leon's label, Serpents and Snakes,
and the wider Nashville music scene and they asked me to direct it.
AllSaints had previously worked with the Kings on various
What did you find in Nashville?
Ben: Nashville is known as "music city". It's a small town, with a
population of just 600,000. However, the musical heritage has
resulted in Nashville being home to all these great session
musicians and there are literally venues on every corner and
recording studios on every block. This incredibly talented
generation of professional Country Musicians have become parents
who have heavily influenced their offspring who have literally
grown up listening to and playing music. So, there's this new
generation of incredibly talented young kids who are just going for
it! At the end of the day that's all they got to live for. Then,
there's also the hoards of bands and musicians moving from
struggling in places like New York or Los Angeles to set up
somewhere more affordable. Jack White, Kings of Leon and The Black
Keys have all moved to Nashville and are starting their own labels
supporting this wealth of fresh musical talent.
This talent appeared in the Serpents and Snakes SXSW
Showcase, how was that?
Ben: Filming the South by Southwest showcase was a fantastic
opportunity to capture the energy coming out of Nashville and how
it's being received by the wider music industry, even on a global
scale. A key signing for Serpents and Snakes are The Weeks who are
actually supporting Kings of Leon on their upcoming European tour
including the London O2. Their lyrics are raw and tell their story,
which kids from the south can relate to. From my time in Nashville
and Austin I can vouch for the fact that this new sound or whatever
is practically a religion.
What other Nashville talent should we be keeping an
eye/ear out for?
Ben: This about
sums it up: The Features, Turbo Fruits, The Kingston Springs,
Snowden and Clear Plastic Masks.
What were the highs and lows of the
Ben: Good vibes. Southern American hospitality is unbelievable;
the people were so welcoming and facilitating. This translated into
the enthusiasm of people on camera, which made for amazing footage.
It seems that the concept of 15 minutes of fame is still very
prominent in American culture. There's faith - a sense that the
American dream is possible and this absolutely comes across when
talking to the numerous struggling bands. If it wasn't for this
experience I'd probably not rushed to somewhere like Nashville, so
it was an absolute privilege to witness this exciting new scene on
the cusp of explosion. It was an honour to be introduced to the new
bands, key players and getting an insight just as it is literally
about to get huge. The aesthetics in these southern cities were
paradise for a UK pair of eyes too. You get these huge American
flags painted on garage doors, different coloured neon strip lights
in every corner shop… anything and everything seems to look
Lows? The flight was 18 hours and then delayed by 3 hours and
the whole crew knew we absolutely HAD to get to this one-off party
called Freakin' Weekend at Exit Inn. This gig happens once a year
on the Saturday just before everyone heads to SXSW and it was to be
our only opportunity to get a real sense of the youthful,
irreverent Nashville music scene. So, we got off the plane and went
straight to the gig and stayed up until 8am! It was worth it
though; I hope, I think we managed to capture a real moment in
time. This was the one chance to see the crowds of people in their
temple crowd surfing, head-banging, sweating, and dancing
themselves into a state of ecstatic euphoria. It wasn't a low, but
there was a melancholic aura about the night, but for a different
reason. There's a famous local blog called Nashville's Dead and one of
the founders and key contributors Ben Todd had recently passed away
so the party was held in commemoration of him and there were very
Kings of Leon are an international sensation. How did
you approach the challenge to provide a new perspective on such a
Ben: As the documentary doesn't just focus on them, there was a
lot to get across. For example in one section that didn't make the
final cut of the film, Nathan from Kings of Leon says, "I guess
Jack White is the Godfather of the Nashville music scene, and I am
the step Godfather. He's bigger then me". All the members of
Kings of Leon have different tastes in music: Jared's progressive
so he looks at electronics, others are more country oriented. They
all individually really care about the bands that they've signed
and truly want to progress their career. It felt genuinely
heartfelt. The band were also recording a new album at the time of
filming so at some points they just couldn't be interrupted but
still made so much time available. They all said that they are just
starting out with the label, and there are so many bands in
Nashville that they want to support.
What role did The Mill play in the final
Houmam: The cinematography/composition was already
stunning and something I feel takes the documentary to a new
level. The style lends itself to fashion and
film-like qualities this isn't just a point and
shoot project. We discussed the style and look of the piece
and found that the more natural and closer to the day's
shooting the better. My aim then was to
harness the colour and contrast to bring out the
atmosphere. This was shot on two different cameras -
a 5D and C300 at 1280x720 resolution which allowed
Ben to get some slow motion and use the 60
You can view the documentary in full here.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
For this month's Design issue, Zink Magazine invited New York
based Mill+ Designer Ariane Irle to collaborate with photographer
Manfredi Gioacchini. Together they worked on a series of six
original images with an open thematic. The project re-purposes
selected photographs from Manfredi's series "Raw", which showcases
a bold "truthful" approach where the only medium between the image
and the subject is photography. This results in a series of
un-retouched images. Here Ariane explains, for the first time, how
the stunning partnership came about…
// After Manfredi and I discussed the various subject
matters that we wanted to focus on and techniques we wanted to work
with, we decided to use surrealist imagery as a reference,
alongside contemporary cutout and collage mediums. From here we
came up with the idea of using silhouettes as a means to juxtapose
two points of view onto one image. This allowed various interplays
between positive and negative space, and scale and placements.
Practically speaking, Manfredi gave me his original photographs
and I brought them to life using this new thematic and approach.
The process involved a little bit of experimentation and a few
different steps, going back and forward from digital to analogue.
Part of the challenge was to find photographs that would work best
and making each of them stand out in radically new and interesting
I created most of the sketches from experimenting with images
that I photocopied and cut out. Silhouettes and negative space
wasn't as obvious for each image, so my results were quite
unexpected. From the start, the idea was to create an actual
collage and re-photograph it. This meant all of the imagery would
belong to the same world, as well as the process adding slight
depth and shadows onto the final image. Since I was using
juxtaposing photographs, it made sense for each layer to be on
separate sheets. After locking out the composition, I prepped and
printed each photograph to recreate the montage, basically making a
physical layer for each part and spacing each of them on different
levels. In the end, we photographed the montages and I
reworked the colors digitally, bringing blue tints in and drifting
away from fleshy tones to night-like colors.
// Thanks Ariane for this insight into a fascinating project. To
see the collaboration in full you can subscribe to Zink magazine here.
Friday, May 10, 2013
For those who read to last years "Where in the world is Hugo?" you'll be relieved
to hear his globe trotting has continued into 2013 with him already
hitting Sweden multiple times, and two weeks ago he landed in
Stuttgart for the biggest event in the VFX calendar: FMX. Here Hugo
Guerra, Head of Nuke in London, talks us through the big news, the
changing VFX landscape and his thoughts on what he saw (…and
// This was my first time at FMX and I was pretty excited, we
had a great week ahead of us with presentations from some of the
very best in the industry… not to mention our own Tom Raynor with
the Guinness Cloud keynote alongside The Mill recruitment keynote
and booth and then a final Mill offering with Business Development
EP Andy Orrick sharing "If only we knew THEN what we know NOW".
What were your first impressions of FMX?
My first reaction was for the venue, what an amazing
Great atmosphere, great public places, free (very fast) Wi-Fi, the
entire 4 story building was breathing Visual Effects, filled with
small meetings of old veterans, showreel viewings, informal
interviews and a lot of students trying to get the best seat in
some of the top presentations.
After a quick walk around, and after marking some presentations in
the calendar, I joined The Mill and the Campus i12 crew for a quick
lunch before checking the first keynotes. We went to a really
gorgeous little restaurant with some amazing decor; the entire
floor was covered with signs and posters. The food was good but for
a vegetarian like me, I was out of luck, but in the land of the
meat and sausage I was expecting that already. Speaking of
What was the local cuisine offering?
Well... like I said, I am a vegetarian, so I knew I was in some
trouble. In one of the restaurants I even had one waiter saying, "
oh you are a vegetarian? So sorry Sir, my condolences..." but I was
very pleased with the wonderful service. We crewed up with
Framestore, Dneg, MPC and Campus i12 for dinner at a restaurant
called Willies (yes, that was the name!) and we had a great time,
one of the funniest nights in recent memory for me. We ended up
going twice to that same restaurant, first because the food was
fantastic and second because one of the waitress there was so nice
and friendly that we had to come back. Of course it also helped
that she was daring Tom and Andy to drink five litres of
Talk us through the first Keynote you
It was the VES Special keynote about Life of PI by Chris Kenny,
which was completely packed but luckily there was a live stream
outside so people could still come and see the show. Due to demand
this was quite regularly the only way to see certain keynotes
because of the crowds. You can find some of the amazing breakdowns
we saw at FMX in this great FX Guide article.
Did you meet any upcoming talent to keep an eye out
On the second day I went for a little stroll around the schools
area and found some impressive reels from some of the best European
VFX schools. It's amazing to see so many inspired artists and "new
blood" coming up in the next generation of artists.
How were The Mill presentations received at
The Mill had three presentations at FMX, the first with the
talented Tom Raynor talking about our Clio and VES awarded
commercial, Guinness Cloud. During an hour we travelled with him on
the amazing journey of developing one of the most difficult things
to create in 3D: a photo-real cloud that would move, act and show
emotion to the spectator. It was truly inspiring to see and without
being too technical I have to tip my hat to Tom in how he managed
to demonstrate the spirit and workflow of The Mill in his
presentation. Our second keynote at FMX was all about the
atmosphere and work of The Mill as a group. Talent
Manager Joakim Pederson, myself and Tom shared why we love
working at The Mill. We showcased our showreel and launched a few
2D and 3D projects alongside a Q&A about how The Mill works. We
had a full house, so full in fact that a lot of people were turned
away from the venue! Finally Andy Orrick spoke to another heaving
room, revealing, "If we knew THEN what we know NOW" a dynamic and
revealing talk outlining some of the key lessons picked
up within The Mill's history that have helped the business
innovate, diversify and constantly deliver the goods at an exacting
What was it like working on The Mill recruitment
On Thursday the mill crew were at the recruitment booth, it was
really really busy, we spent about eight hours straight
interviewing, talking and sharing with many students, freelancers
and industry people. We saw a lot of inspiring showreels and we can
see why FMX is such a success story, great talent and great people
come from the German VFX schools. At some point we even had a
queue, it makes us very proud of The Mill's general recognition
from the public.
What will stick with you in the coming year until the next
I have a hand full of presentations that will stay in my mind for
some time. I will never forget the presentation that Ed
Ulbrich did about the future of VFX, I was already expecting
something great from one of the foremost personalities of VFX
today, and I mean the guy is a legend. The CEO of Digital Domain
made a fantastic keynote about how the VFX film model should be in
the future. According to Ulbrich 49% of the top blockbuster films
are VFX driven so he talked about and suggested a full re-think of
the future of the VFX business module, starting with changing from
a fix bid module through to a co-production module, and for those
solely working in film, filling in the work gaps with commercials,
virtual production, video games, mobile and even retail, licensing
merchandising and theme parks! Very inspirational, and very
positive to have new ideas about the future of our VFX
Simon French from Framestore, shared with us some interesting CG
face replacement presentation about his work in Audrey Hepburn
Galaxy Advert. In the same cinema we saw a very "humorist"
presentation from "local" VFX Company Unexpected Commercials. Alex
& Steffen presented us with some amazing "guerrilla style'
commercial making with very unconventional methods and ideas that
probably would not be possible in UK or US market. I highly
recommend checking up some of there international work here.
Finally, one last note of the amazing keynote made by Greg
Mitchell from Epic Games and Hannes Appell from Crytek, if the
first one showed us an amazing journey of "guerrilla" style
filmmaking in the Gear of War series, the second showed us a super
organised and very efficient real-time game engine that is the Cry
Engine 3. Epic Games presentation proves that video games are
finally becoming a force to be reckoned with regarding narrative
and emotional filming-making, although unorthodox in method! Hence
the Guerrilla style!
On the other hand Crytek's presentation blew everyone's mind with
the real time capabilities of the Cry Engine 3. I mean I was
shocked at the speed and quality of the lighting and effects coming
from that engine, for one hour we saw Hannes Appell playing with
the engine like it was the most natural thing in the world to have
a full CGI photo real environment in real time, with rain,
particles, lights, cloth, etc. I think there is a huge potential
for VFX companies to use these engines, especially after Hannes
showing full EXR multi pass pipelines coming from it. It looks like
it is a real game changer and I truly believe real-time graphics
will have a huge impact in the future of VFX in the near
If you want to know more about my FMX highlights, have a look at
//Thanks Hugo. Roll on FMX 2014!
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
In 2002, the seemingly motiveless sniper shootings of Washington
residents held the world's attention. When the culprits were
eventually arrested, a shock discovery was that one of the snipers
was a minor, Lee Boyd Malvo who was just 17 years old at the time
of the shootings. Fast-forward 11 years and at Sundance Film
Festival 2013 Blue Caprice premiered to curious audiences. Director
Alexandre Moors explores the dynamic of the Beltway snipers and
takes a closer look at their relationship. Here, ahead of a general
theatre release, he chatted to The Mill about the process.
How did you first get involved in Blue
Caprice started in a slightly unorthodox way. The decision to
make the film came about really quickly, I basically woke up one
day with the urge to write and shoot a film within 6 months! I then
had to find a story to do this and I thought a true story would be
a good start. I began researching true crime stories and stumbled
across the Washington Beltway sniper incident which immediately
resonated with me. I didn't actually follow the real life events
when they unfolded in 2002 because I was abroad at the time.
However, whilst reading about the events on paper, discovering the
dynamic between John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo was
fascinating. I felt it was such a great tragedy. I
immediately knew that I wanted the film to just focus on the two
people at the heart of the story, and therefore it could be very
small in scope
What happened next?
I started with a core crew: screenwriter R.F.I. Porto, director of
photography Brian O'Carroll and myself. We were very excited to
then shop around for a producer who could help us. I was fortunate
that people got very invested fairly quickly in the idea. It was
also my dream to have Isaiah Washington involved - I actually
reached out to him on Facebook and he loved the script and came
on-board! From that point the project grew naturally and alot of
people were very enthusiastic about the concept so it drew a lot of
great crew from the beginning. The film came together in an organic
way, we never got stuck. It was a very smooth ride which has made
me very paranoid that I used all my luck up and my next film will
be a lot more tricky!
What were the highs and lows of the
In terms of enjoying myself the most, to some degree was post
production. I had a great time at The Mill and doing the sound mix
at Gigantic. First of all the movie was at the final chapter, so it
was really stress-free and enjoyable by this stage… no more
potential disasters coming. Secondly, at The Mill we were met with
such enthusiasm that it was a really great job just getting
everything done well for the sake of the art. It felt luxurious to
have these people pay such attention to my film. The same applied
for the 3 weeks of sound mixing, we all shared a passion and were
on the same vibe. I love writing, scouting, shooting etc but these
all of these elements are a little more stressful…
In terms of a low, as I mentioned we were fortunate enough not to
have any major problems. However when we went Puerto Rico we only
shot for three days, when we should have been there for five days.
We managed to pull up the schedule but this was the only time in
the shooting where I was literally ripping up pages and pages of
the script. I was meant to be shooting in the city in the morning,
the mountains in the afternoon and the coast in the evening and we
came up against frustrating issues like the sun setting or running
out of time so scenes had to be sacrificed. The saving grace was
that these were the last three days of filming so I knew we already
had a film in the can and these scenes could be lost and it would
all still work.
A film-based-on-true-events , especially such tragic ones,
must require a sensitive and unique approach. Can you talk me
through this challenge?
It was a fluid process as I started writing, although I was aware
that every decision I made weighed a tonne. In 90 minutes you can't
possibly fit the entire life of the characters. I had so much story
to choose from and events I could focus on; was I going to include
the killings, the trial, the aftermath…? Everything I left out had
a huge impact. I just had to have a moral compass and go from there
but it was challenging and I definitely felt the responsibility on
my shoulders. It's worth bearing in mind however that my point
wasn't to make a bio-pic, we took a lot of liberties and I wanted
to bring a more universal approach and for the story to be
timeless. By the end of the process the film wasn't so much a real
event detailing the actual story, none the less by the nature of
the topic and truth behind it, it has a real gravitas and was a
heavy project. People came out of the premiere screaming and crying
which was very meaningful, Blue Caprice takes a real toll on you as
you watch it.
What role did The Mill play in the final
We approached The Mill fairly early on when we were still in the
middle of the editing process. We were looking for a partner
to take on the post production, special effects, retouch, color
etc. We were met by such great enthusiasm by the production team
with Dee Allen; Danny Morris and of course Damien Van Der
Cruyssen; who did the color correction. They became partners
in the project and we worked 6 months together on and off, so it
was a long and collaborative process.
How was Blue Caprice received at the its premier for
Sundance Film Festival?
The film was extremely well received, I was so happy and
pleasantly surprised that no one took the film the wrong way. I was
expecting some controversy with people misunderstanding the film.
The general verdict and review was that everyone said the film
doesn't offer a resolution, its an introspective look at the roots
Talk me through the night at MOMA!
It showed at the opening night of their New Directors, New Films Festival. As a New
Yorker it was real honor when they approached me to be recognised
and celebrated here. The film has now been picked up by IFC and
will hopefully be coming out nationwide across America in
Did you catch any other films at Sundance, and if so what
particularly caught your attention?
Absolutely! I was extremely impressed and inspired by Upstream
Color, the second film from Shane Carruth who directed Primer a few
years back. It was an original piece of work, crucial to modern
storytelling. As a director it is so exciting when you see someone
who's fought to do something new and push the boundaries of film
// Thank you Alexandre for this fascinating insight. If this has
whet your appetite for more, Alexandre has supplied us with an
exclusive clip from Blue Caprice to see before anyone else!
Friday, May 03, 2013
Craften is masterminded
by the same team behind Ciclope
Festival, who pride themselves on creating a new two-day
festival which is "the only conference that brings together the
most well crafted campaigns of the year, explained and analyzed by
global advertising leaders". Last week, for the first time ever;
top creatives, producers, agencies, executives and directors
gathered in Amsterdam to share the secrets behind their most
successful campaigns and to get their heads together on their
knowledge and thoughts about the changing landscape of
The Mill's EP Business Development Jon Chads headed over
alongside London's Head of Production Ben Stallard, who was invited
to speak, and here are his thoughts on the inaugural Craften.
1. Top Talk:
Passion Pictures' talk on the BBC Olympic
work was a real insight into how brave and great work gets
made. The sheer volume of research, boards, tests, research and
R&D was staggering to see. The original idea to only feature
five sports in the initial spot was quickly forgotten with the
final film covering some twenty different sports. The music
composition, created by Elbow developed iteratively as production
progressed as apposed to the normal process of having it nailed
down up front so that the animators can hit specific dramatic highs
and lows. This posed unique problems but also probably pushed the
spot further as both really drive the creative action and
compliment each other perfectly.
However, discussion around the overall stylised look is what
really grabbed me. The detailed R&D into how real athletes can
move their bodies beyond the norm, how they can achieve such
incredible forms and poses for their sport. Passion then had to
translate that into the action sequences set against their iconic
British backdrops and landmarks, which was a feat in itself. Pete
Candeland and the team created such beautiful and stylised looks
taking inspiration from everywhere, even utilising cloth simulation
software used in the fashion industry for wrapping the costumes and
clothes around the characters so it acted according to the movement
and pose. An incredible project spanning some six months, probably
longer, that required a huge amount of passion and dedication even
when an additional sport was thrown in a week before delivery!
2. Best party:
Drinks at the venue on the first night sponsored by Massive Music
gave everyone a chance to catch up and see friends from all over
3. Top Food:
Meh. Amsterdam restaurant service, famous for being a bit dire,
lived up to expectation.
Just connecting with local and European friends from both
production and agency backgrounds. It's becoming a rare occurrence
to see all areas from any production come together let alone to
talk about it so to have agency creative, producer, production
company and post production was great to see. To me it's a huge
shame as what pushes us forward to make great work is the exchange
of ideas and discussion around great creative work.
A big hat tip must go to Francisco at Ciclope for making it all
happen and bringing all of us together for the two days in
Amsterdam. As with all good events you walk away thinking we
must try and connect like that more often.
6. What did Ben talk about?
Ben took to the stage with Dav of BBH and Chris from Rattling
Stick to talk about how The Guardians epic 'Three Little Pigs'
spot came to life. Dav took everyone through how the idea of a
timeless fairytale could be a parallel story for open journalism in
the digital age came to life. Chris from Ratting Stick then took
over and walked the crowd through the practicalities of bringing
such an ambitious story to life on what was an incredibly meagre
budget. Multiple locations, a ton of extras and an art department
that mashed up genres and styles all in, but when there is such a
great story to tell and for such an iconic brand a lot of goodwill
goes a long way as well as using every trick in the producers black
book they pulled off shooting in two very long days.
Then it was Ben's turn to take the audience on a whistle stop
tour of The Mill's work. As with all great Mill projects giving the
Director the freedom to tell the story is what really matters
whilst giving them access to the full tool kit of what we can do.
No better example than the animation on the three little pigs who
were filmed on set using real costumes loaned from the National
Ballets archive. We then stepped in and modelled the heads in 3D
allowing complete freedom to the Director and creative team in
giving our characters expressions that range from the fully
expressive right through to the subtlest tweak of a snout. Our aim
is to help tell the story and build emotion in our characters and
at the end of the day we want to cover our tracks… so the work
speaks for itself.
7. How was Ben's talk received?
Questions followed and it was interesting to hear many people talk
about The Mill's role in giving a Director the freedom to shoot
what they want and need for a film. Also Ben's stage presence
earned him the nickname of The Mill's very own Jeremy Kyle.
8. Did any key themes arise throughout
Getting all areas of production from creative, production and post
together should happen more often.
Amsterdam coffee shops are still going strong.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
The Great Marlborough Street, London window has had a spring
makeover this week, with artist of the moment Zoe Bradley installing a
Japanese hanging garden. I caught up with her to learn more about
her previous projects and what inspires her unique approach to the
Tell me about Zoe Bradley…
My work crosses many disciplines combining sculpture, theatre and
fashion. I am passionate about craftsmanship and draw upon my skill
of traditional tailoring techniques but instead of using more
conventional fabrics I prefer luxury paper to create dresses, sets
and bespoke sculptures for advertising campaigns, editorial,
catwalk shows and window installations. My love of paper comes from
a desire to find a material that can keep its form and can be
readily available in abundance- I'm always looking to see what new
limits the material can be pushed to!
You create spectacular silhouettes, what drew you to this
unusual area of expertise?
After graduating from Middlesex University I went to work with the
iconic Alexander McQueen. At the time my doily-punched showpieces
in plywood for S/S 1999 became renowned pieces and this time spent
at McQueen reaffirmed in me that my trademark would be to create
spectacular silhouettes. After McQueen. I went on to produce paper
showpieces for Michiko Koshino, which were recognised by Liberty of
London. Liberty commissioned me to make a range of paper showpieces
for their Christmas windows in 2005 and this definitely marked the
beginning of my trademark of creating silhouettes with paper.
How did you approach The Mill window?
I was really keen to create a spring inspired window. I think
'Japanese Hanging Garden' encompasses this feel perfectly with the
use of flowers and bright spring colours. I also wanted to include
one of my headpieces, which are my most iconic works.
Who and what inspires you?
Both Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry are huge inspirations for me. They
have created some of the most iconic silhouettes in
What has been your favourite project (prior to this
Working with Tiffany and Co. on their worldwide window campaign.
Along with my team we created 146 windows in total. These were a
series of 5 intricately crafted laser cut paper sets based on
fantastical Christmas fairytales. The fifth Avenue store in New
York even had special animated parts that really brought the
windows to life.
What's your favourite part of Spring?
The flowers; I love all spring flowers!
What else is happening for you this year?
We are hoping to launch a range of products later this year for
Christmas which is really exciting!
Harvey Nichols: September 2010 - ZB studio
Chopard: Dec 2012- Matthew Shave
Louis Vuitton March 2009 - ZB studio
Tiffany & Co : Nov 2009- ZB studio)
Friday, April 26, 2013
The Mill Chicago might not have opened to a warm weather
welcome, as snow storms battered the city, but the welcome from
clients, agencies and the people of Chicago couldn't have been
cosier. I caught up with three of Chicago's founding members to
find out how they are settling into the home of deep dish and what
they are finding in the windy city to inspire them.
1. Introducing… Andrew Sommerville,
Tell me about your role at The Mill?
I'm a producer, which put simply means that I oversee and run
projects that we have from start to finish. The day to day role
itself varies depending on the complexity of the project and spans
all areas of the Mill - 2D, 3D, design and content.
You've recently relocated to be part of the founding
team of Mill Chicago, how did that come about?
I knew some of the team here through visiting Mill NY and had
always had an ambition to work in the US. We don't open a new
studio everyday and it seemed like a no-brainer to be involved in
shaping something new. Also, Batman Begins made Chicago look
Can you sum up The Mill Chicago in four
Sexy. Sexy. Sexy. Donuts.
What has been your finest Chicago discovery so
Cheese curds. More delicious than they sound.
Who and what inspires you?
This initial draft of this started off pretentiously. But then I
realized that I was kidding myself, and the answer is probably just
2. Introducing… DJ Miranda, Data Manager
Tell me about your role at The Mill?
I am the Data Manager at the Mill. It encompasses running the Data
Lab and making sure all things are accessible to everyone who needs
them while helping to maintain an organized structure/system. In
addition to being the Data Manager I also work as a Telecine
Assistant, Dispatch, and a MCR operator.
You've recently relocated to be part of the founding team
of Mill Chicago, how did that come about?
Randy McEntee was pretty instrumental in this decision for me. I
have worked with him for almost 5 years now and the conversation
just came up in passing about us opening a Chicago office. I told
Randy that the venture of Chicago would be interesting to me and to
try something new and challenge myself is something I would like.
He was quite surprised by this as I had spent my whole life in NY
and haven't really strayed too far from the pack. I was very
flattered by his surprise and excitement regarding me being
interested in Chicago. I also decided that I wanted a change in my
life and the opportunity to work with like minded people and start
another creative arm of the Mill from the ground up was exciting to
me. I figured if I was going to make a change what better time than
now, with the company I have enjoyed working with since day
Can you sum up The Mill Chicago in four
NO I CAN NOT! Haha. I think if I had to try and provide a
realistic answer to this question I would have to say The Mill
Chicago is a group of genuine, creative, collaborative, and fun
What has been your finest Chicago discovery so
The people here are amazing. Simply put. It isn't as much of a
discovery as it is an exposure to a culture of different people.
The embrace the city has provided to all of us here so far has been
wonderful and it has made the transition of moving from home quite
Who and what inspires you?
Family, and friends are great inspirations to me. I have a half
sleeve of tattoo's dedicated to my family for their supportiveness
in everything that I have done in my life.
3. Introducing… Bowe King, Head of Design
Tell me about your role at The Mill?
I came to The Mill over 3 years ago during the initial days of the
Design department in NY. Seeing Design get off the ground in NY
gave me an interesting perspective for building Design here in the
Chicago studio. With being the Head of Design my main focus is to
cultivate an atmosphere that breeds good design, but my day to day
role can jump around a bit as do a lot of relevant artists' roles
now a days. I think the days of being technically excellent with
one thing are rapidly evaporating; now a days you have to be
capable of using a range of industry tools while concurrently being
able to develop strong creative opinions. Basically in a position
like this you need to have an extremely wide view while also being
able to jump in on the micro and focus on some of the details. The
balance of those two points of view is one of the main things that
attracted me about my role here.
You've recently relocated to be part of the founding
team of Mill Chicago, how did that come about?
Well, having so much fun with the early development days in NY for
Design, the prospect of not only developing a department but also a
whole studio was too tantalizing to pass up. I think because of my
initial involvement with NY Design, the Mill liked the idea of me
be part of the founding team here, while personally I love being
involved with the early days with a project like this. Every single
person here is here for one reason; to make an ultra competitive
studio that's fun to work in. There are no veils, no egos or
attitudes, just an air of excitement and eagerness to go the extra
mile. The idea of creating fantastic work while cultivating a
creative atmosphere is something we all want to be part of. There
can be situations when a group grows so large that you inevitably
lose a sense of camaraderie and intimacy. I can say that across the
board every person here wants to maintain that ultra strong sense
of camaraderie that you only can get with the founding days of a
Can you sum up The Mill Chicago in four
Passion, Very Sexy Passion
What has been your finest Chicago discovery so
The people -Chicagoans love their city and expect a very high
standard of living; other big cities can lose sight of a positive
living experience (I can't tell you how many rage fights I've
witnessed in the NY subway), but here people seem honestly happy
and willing to take their time to do things right (except the
The neighborhoods - Something I did not expect was the range of
living options in such a close proximity. There are decadent high
rise apartments right near 100 year old genuine converted warehouse
lofts. There are beautiful brownstones and quiet streets in Old
Town and converted firehouses in west loop. Plus brand new inspired
architecture all with in a 5 mile radius!
The arts and creative - I'm in love with the amount of competitive
art and architecture in this city, it's a totally different flavor
from the East coast or West coast, Chicago definitely has its own
But by far... the food - LA has some great restaurants, NY has
some good chefs, but Chicago has blown me away with the amount of
fantastic food available at any given moment. Finding great places
to eat is one of my biggest passions; from casual Saturday
afternoon finger food to primetime fine dining, so far this City is
holding down the fort.
Who and what inspires you?
Passionate, honest and intelligent people. I can't stand laziness
or pettiness. This industry demands a certain amount of personal
dedication and no one wants to be involved with something that is
spawned from fear or pettiness. Fear is definitely the destroyer of
creativity so as long as you can surround yourself with honesty,
Personally I try to see as much analog work as
I can in order to offset the amount of digital work that I produce
myself; live music, theatre and art installations are all major
influences in the way I see my work. I make myself go to or be
involved with at least one of these things a week, it doesn't sound
like much but having consistent moments tactile things helps to
keep my vision less digitally narrow.
//Thanks Andy, Bowe and DJ for your fascinating insights. You
can take a peek at the first work out of the Chi-suites here with
Orbit 'Heights', Kraft 'Transformations'
and Orbit 'Polo'.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Mill NY's Mikey Rossiter just graded EPIX's Original Documentary
'Amar'e Stoudemire: In The Moment', charting NBA star Amar'e
Stoudemire's early life through to his recent injuries and ambition
to win the championship.
Amar'e grew up in a small town in Florida with an estimated
population of only twelve thousand people, now he plays basketball
for one of the biggest names in the NBA, the New York Knicks. He
plays the power forward position and this sums up his drive in life
too: his parents divorced when he was two, his father died when he
was 12, his mother spent 29.5 years in and out of jail and he had
to attend six different high schools (and changed high school
basketball team that many times too).
I asked Mikey about how he got involved in the project, his
approach and how it differed from commercials.
How did you first get involved in the project?
We were contacted directly by Chris Tuss, the editor of
the piece. We have a mutual friend that I've done a few great jobs
for who recommended me for long form work. Chris had spent the past
year immersed in Amar'e's life and, with the project finally coming
to a close, he wanted to bring the piece together with a final
What were the highs and lows of the process?
Honestly, there were no lows. Even with the tight
deadline we had a complete blast working on this project. Chris,
the editor and Dave Adams, the director of photography, were still
excited even after working on it for so long and their enthusiasm
proved infectious. From a grading point of view I had a lot of fun
with the more surreal sections of the piece. I was pretty much
given total creative freedom to do whatever I wanted in these
sections and I'd like to think that we ended up in an interesting
place, particularly in the childhood flashbacks.
A documentary-based-on-true-events must require a sensitive and
unique touch, how does it differ from the projects you normally
It definitely requires a more subtle touch than the music
videos and commercials I'm used to. It's much more about unifying
the piece than giving it a defining look. I found that when I
pushed the picture too far it was detracting from the storytelling.
The last thing you want in a documentary is for the look to be too
clean or too set up; it just removes the realism from the piece
completely. But there were sections which warranted a heavier feel
than others, so it was all about finding the right balance between
the different scenes that wouldn't feel
Did grading the work change the way you think about
It definitely made me understand and respect the sheer
amount of effort and hard work that goes into being a professional
athlete. The grueling training regimes, constantly having to
maintain a strict diet ,and being under an incredible amount of
pressure to perform certainly opened my eyes to the hard work that
goes into being a professional basketball player.
What inspires you?
Seeing talented people do what they love.
Take a look at the trailer here and see the results of Mikey doing what
The full documentary can be seen only on EPIX and EpixHD.com,
Friday, April 19, 2013
It's 2 days to go and Neil's marathon mission is ramping up a
gear, thanks to some pretty nifty sports tech kit. Catch up on his
first round of reviews here
and enjoy some photographic evidence of his final sprint yesterday…
around the Mill London!
//It was only recently that I happened across Run Keeper
in the iTunes App Store, so thought I'd branch out from using Nike+
and try a brave new world.
4. Run Keeper
Another GPS tracker for the iPhone and Android, giving you all
the usual data that you'd expect when running with a mobile device
including periodic verbal encouragement from a robotic sounding
lady. Once I navigated the slightly glitchy registration process
and navigated the UX, I was ready to record a new activity. You can
just hit go, and start running and it will record your data, but
what I didn't expect was the abundance of options that you can
choose from with regards to the type of feedback you get whilst
running as well as a host of different targets and training plans
that you can set yourself before you start.
You can also choose to pay a monthly or yearly subscription to
upgrade your app, so that you can 'broadcast' your activities,
supposedly allowing your 'friends and family to watch you live'
although how this works exactly, I'm not sure. The pro account also
gives you access to a website where you can monitor your data even
more carefully, which includes, nutrition, weight, sleep as well as
being able to track your lifetime miles across any activity
Run Keeper is a very comprehensive app to assist with all levels
of running, though I would say it's tailored for the more
enthusiastic and keen perambulator and it's possibly in danger of
having too many options (I'd be inclined to have a lite vsn
available) in there, however if you simply want to monitor and
record your running, it does exactly what it says on the tin. One
concern is that in comparison with Nike+ I appear to be nearly
35/40 secs per mile slower on Run Keeper, which is worrying. I
double checked the map and distance I did, and it seems right, so
I'm hoping its an anomaly, though I'm sure we'll find out on the
big day in a few days.
Run Keeper: 6.5 sneakers out of 10
5. Nike +
Chances are, that if you've ever run a few miles for more than a
handful of occasions, you may have considered using some or all of
Nike's techy running gear. Hard to believe that Nike+ is over 7
years old now, with the original release making a big splash back
in 2006 (winning multiple awards) as it successfully combined sport
& technology (the iPod) and arguably made being able to
quantify your exercise, accessible to the average person for the
first time. The combination of tracking your run/walk together with
being able to combine your favourite music, seems almost mundane
now, but yet for me, Nike+ was and is the first place to go for
this kind of thing. I used the older vsn, which required a chip in
my trainer, which was excellent, but the release of the GPS vsn was
a bit of a game changer.
Over time the App has grown and developed, with the Nike+
environment now providing a huge social media platform, which in
turn is tied into Twitter and Facebook. I have used Nike+ pretty
much exclusively since training, and according to my history, I've
racked up nearly 300 miles since starting in Jan. It's very
satisfying to look back at your history of runs, and the front end
of the App (less so for the website if I'm honest) is seemless and
a joy to navigate.
The running experience is very often excellent. You need to
remember to turn off the phones wifi as it can interfere with the
tracking of your run, but generally speaking, the accuracy is
pretty good. On occasion the iPhone itself has let me down (not so
unusual any more, looking forward to testing on a Samsung S4) and
just had hissy fit and crashed. This lead Nike+ to think I had once
done a 5 min mile, which as much as I'd like to believe, is not the
case. These anomalies cannot be changed, you can tweak the total
mileage, but it doesn't compensate for time/pace, so your data will
still be wrong. You can though, if you're a bit OCD (like me)
delete the record entirely, which is a shame if you've just bashed
out 13 miles (also me).
Other options allow you to set a distance that
you're aiming for, select which shoes you are using, get your
average pace, track your calories (and Nike Fuel) and of course
share your run on the ever present Twitter & Facebook, which I
chose to do as it shares the map of your run which can be of
interest to your followers (or just your mum like me) and if you
like showing off (me again).
Nike+ is the App to beat for run/walk tracking as
far as I'm concerned, it's simple enough for beginners and offers a
lot for the keen runner. Lets hope my faith is not misplaced as my
marathon pace plan is based very heavily on my Nike+ GPS data.
Nike+ 8 sneakers out of 10
It's late in the day, but when I read that this
App was able to accurately measure my heart rate just by looking at
me, I admit I mocked it. "What dark magic is this!" I exclaimed.
But, of course, I downloaded it anyway, and gave it a bash.
Designed by the MIT Media Lab, it uses the camera on your iPhone to
measure the light reflected from your face. Every time your heart
beats, more blood is pumped into your face, which in turn causes
more light to be absorbed and less light reflected back into the
camera. Sounds bonkers I know, but I tried it and compared it to my
MyZone monitor (see blog 1) and amazingly, it was the same (within
a beat or 3), and yes, that screengrab is really mine, eat your
heart out Steve Redgrave.
I've only started it using it this week, but I
can see that it would be effortless to keep track of your fitness,
I also like having my predicted life expectancy compared to random
Cardiio: For pure ease and bonkers science 8.5
sneakers out of 10
//Thanks Neil & GOOD LUCK for Sunday. Just
pretend Wile.E.Coyote is chasing you…
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Last week Sonos Studios Los Angeles was over-run with BUGS. I
caught up with Mill LA Head of Production, Arielle Davis, on her
pet-project and how this collaboration of creative and innovative
minds was born.
1. How did you first get involved in BUGS?
We collaborated with Tom Kuntz in 2011 on the 1st
instalment of BUGS which was displayed at
The Sydney Opera House. In the original iteration, we were
exclusively the animation partner.
2. This is an epic collaboration between true creative
geniuses; can you talk me through how it came to
I have worked with Tom Kuntz since the early days of the Mill
LA. He has helmed some of our most critically acclaimed work. There
is a real sense of collaboration when we work with him, so when he
approached us at the end of 2012 about a BUGS revival it was a no
brainer to participate again. This time he commissioned Dan Deacon,
Sonos, and The Mill LA to bring it to life. Our role expanded to
include production management, VFX and technology for the
3.What role did The Mill play in the final
We brought the band back together so to speak, with myself
producing, and animators Greg Park and Dan Lang on the box! They
rocked it last time, so I knew they'd be up for it again. Tom
designs the bugs, and Greg + Dan bring them to life through rigging
and animation to set tracks by Dan Deacon. We also added some new
people to the crew! Editor, Luke Kraman stitched sequences
together to allow Tom to have some creative control over the
randomized BUG playback madness. Technical Innovations Manager,
Tawfeeq Martin came on board in the early phases to create a
blueprint to the installation.
Tawfeeq commented "Being able to contribute
from concept has been an exciting opportunity to showcase the
Mill's technical innovation sense that compliments our creative
talent. My approach was a network manageable solution that could
very easily be taken on the road. Mix in an A/V box with some out
of box thinking and then a space-time continuum may very well have
been defied. Some software tinkering allowed us to randomly trigger
infinite combinations of video and audio samples, but more
importantly maintain time and beat sync. The result is a
continually evolving and immersive sensory experience that truly
comes to life through the SONOS PLAYBAR."
4.What were the highs and lows of the
It was amazing to work with peers on an artistic collaboration
with a sponsor who promotes innovation. Sonos was a great partner,
and their speakers being ace didn't hurt… Working with Tom in a
non-traditional capacity was rewarding for all involved. Balancing
schedules of everyone was a challenge, but that is often the case
with busy talents.
5.How was the exhibition received at
the opening night at Sonos Studios?
It was awesome to observe people's positive response to the
exhibit, as it's unique for our work to launch in a live setting.
Sonos Studios was designed to have site-specific installations, so
they have a little underground following. That in combination with
fans of Tom Kuntz and Dan Deacon, allowed for a great 200+ crowd
the whole night who were all genuinely excited to see a live jam
session. When Dan Deacon + Friends played a myriad of instruments
alongside the BUGS performing in their monoliths, it was an
entertaining and transfixing experience. The BUGS continue to live
in the space for another few weeks at Sonos Studio, but the night
of the launch they came alive with human interaction.
6.What is the plan next for Bugs?
BUGS is an interesting concept at its core, and lends itself to
evolving further. We would jump on the opportunity to take it to
the next level if it presented itself!
7.How do you feel in general about creepy
I know a mother isn't supposed to play favorites, but Bug 5 has
a special place in my heart. Don't tell the others!
//Thanks Ari & Tawfeeq for this exclusive insight. If you
couldn't make it down to Sonos Studios, lead animator Greg Park was
on hand to film this time-lapse experience of the opening