Chris Page is off to Berlin to speak at Ciclope Festival

Wed 06 Nov 2013

Our founder Chris Page is off to Berlin to speak at Ciclope Festival. It’s the only international festival fully dedicated to craft. In case you are not lucky enough to be there, he has kindly written about what he learnt at the tech-crunch trip to Silicon Valley this summer with the A.P.A and how this applies to craft and the creative industry.

“Hi All. I have been involved in illustration, animation, Advertising and Creative Production in the UK since the early 90s. Throughout my career I’ve been interested in creativity, creative people and storytelling – and cycling,…

…Big fan of cycling…

I’m not a big fan of job descriptions though. People who run Production companies can call themselves EPs, Founders, creative directors or something similar but the main role for someone who runs businesses like ours is as a Translator. A bridge of communication between the harsh facts, economics and the practicalities of marketing people/clients on one side and the whims and fantasies of Creatives on the other.

I’m involved in two studios. The first is Three Blind Mice, a studio that specialises in Storyboards , Animatics and Pre-Vis work for production companies, Agencies and anyone who needs it. The second studio is jelly. Jelly works is a design-led creative production studio that represents global illustration and animation talent and makes our own stuff in London. Stuff like this

When I found out about the APA mission to San Francisco I was intrigued, the only problem with being a ‘translator’ is that sometimes one feels that you have very little opportunity to drive the conversation, most of the time is spent facilitating the desires of those either side of you, one gets very little chance to be able to add much more insight to the process apart from ‘Yes that can be done’, ‘No that cannot be done’ or ‘No, no, you can't afford it’.

I saw this as an opportunity to gain insight from a culture that is supposedly affecting all of us and potentially changing everything that we do.

So, what did I learn? About this: (‘DATA’ slide). The whole Silicon Valley Economy is based on Statistics and Data. Not just any old Data – but BIG DATA. BIG DATA Rules over everything in Silicon Valley, it is the food, drink and justification for everything that is deemed to be great and good for the rest of the world. The mission visited a total of 14 businesses whilst we were there – all quite disparate in essence - but joined at the hip by data and statistics.

So, here are the facts (according to my notes anyway): IPADS rule. Apple have sold 67 MILLION in 2 years. It took 5 years to sell that many ipods and 24 years to sell that many Macs. I think this means that what we can safely call the old 2nd screen our new 1st screen… 70% of all video will be delivered on mobile devices by 2016. 51% of all Internet content is video. The Data–driven Market economy (ie Silicon Valley) is worth an extra 156 billion to the US economy at the moment. That figure was, of course, estimated by silicon valley itself. We visited Twitter: 50% of all Tweets made whilst people are watching TV – are about TV. 30% of all Tweets made during the Superbowl were about the advertising being shown during the breaks in the game. YouTube: 70% of the people appearing on Youtube are idiots…. I made that last one up.

There will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. The world has generated more data in the last 2 years than in the rest of recorded history. I could go on… and on… So, what did all these endless numbers and statistics mean to me, as a translator and production company owner? Well, data is just that… Data. It can’t make anything more engaging, or funny or relevant or emotional. It can inform a brief and it can affect the medium that it’s viewed on but it shouldn’t kill an idea. I see this a lot with my Three Blind Mice hat on; Agencies and clients using data and research to throttle creativity.

John Hegarty said recently: ‘Data is all about what happened yesterday, business is about what happens tomorrow’ as is craft and creativity. As storytellers and craftsmen we are bound to look to change and improve and seek an emotional response to what we do. Data is great but it’s easily manipulated and too often, I found, it is used to push forward the singular agenda of the purveyor of that particular piece of Data. Youtube’s Data i.e. ‘Truth’ is their Truth. Twitter’s Truth is personal to their brand agenda, as is Facebook’s, as is AT&T, as is Netflix etc etc etc. All this Data was presented as cold hard fact but all of it was, in fact, only truly representative of the marketing Agenda of the Brand that was promoting it as Truth.

The good thing for us, as creators, is that the more ‘Truths’ there are to be told, then we need to provide more creative ways to tell them – which is where our skills have always lied. We can disguise ‘Truths’ as ‘stories’ for everyone and anyone as we are the only ones who have the skills to do so…. To prove my point I guess, a lot of you will have heard of ‘Windy Day’ by now, which is the new immersive animated video content recently made available on the Moto X phone. Motorola is, of course, owned by Google, one of the Silicon Valley big-boys. Its gestation period was the bit that interested me. Motorola originally commissioned their in-house research and tech division ATAP to come up with some kick-ass experiential content to utilise their on-phone graphic card more efficiently. After much in-house experimentation they admitted defeat, their MD said in a recent interview “The honest answer is that we tried painting on this new canvas, and we pretty much sucked at it, So we had to call in the professionals.”

They eventually commissioned Pixar Director Jan Pinkava  - who made Ratatouille - and animator Doug Sweetland to create the content for them and between them they came up with the radical idea of ‘giving the audience the camera’ in a film format. All visuals were created for a 360-degree viewing field, the results are stunning – and now Google and Motorola are committed to the hand-held immersive movie experience as an Art form. All because of the inclusion of proven creatives and craftsmen within the data-driven ‘truth’ process. Its important that we all remember this – this software will eventually be open platform, so we will all get a chance to have a go!

Finally – definitely NOT driven by Data. Dutch Directors Job, Joris and Marieke came up with my favourite recent piece of animated content; ‘Mute’. I think we can safely say that no research, likes or analysis was utilised prior to them coming up with this but it’s an amazing bit of film - possibly for those very reasons. Lovely stuff. As a full-time Translator, its nice to sometimes create content where you don’t have do any translation at all. Just one’s own creativity and urge to tell a story without a commercial need. Ironically, since making Mute, we’ve started to be approached by Big Businesses who are asking for ‘ONE OF THOSE PLEASE’ and retro-fitting the script requirements to fit their Data and research into a ‘Mute-Style’ format. Which just goes to show that production company-led Creativity can still lead the Commercial Agenda.”