This week "We Sit Down'' with Creative Director of Commercials Kristian Andrews of Studio aka. The studio first started representing Kristian as an animation director back in 2009 and along with the team they have worked on some amazingly creative work. Here we showcase his work and indeed the words from the talented man himself...
1. Tell us a little a bit about how you came to be a Creative Director?
By never leaving! There is something very special about Studio aka. It’s a place where, everyday, enormous talents work on important projects BUT at the same time everyone has fun and is lovely to each other. It’s an unusual situation and it’s why people tend to never leave. Studio aka began representing me as an Animation Director in 2009, since then some wonderful and varied projects have come my way, from particle flocking VFX wizardry for the 2012 Olympic Games to sweeded puppetry on our preschool show HeyDuggee, to retro Arcade graphics, and two very photorealistic testicles for a anti-cancer campaign. Studio aka’s expansion into new territories with original IP like Hey Duggee has opened up exciting opportunities for us all, including my new role, the Creative Director of Commercials. Having cut my teeth in the commercials department, now I’m proud to represent it to clients and shape the kinds of work that we do in future.
2. What mediums do you draw inspiration from? (e.g. paintings, photographers, writers, etc)
As a studio, we like to approach the design process with as little of our own preconceptions as possible. This means we can explore ideas openly with clients who are often fresh to Animation. Inspiration can be drawn from such a vast pool of sources online that often our role in the collaborative process is to guide clients through this overwhelming resource and to help them find appropriate yet idiosyncratic reference points with which to hone their stories. In my personal filmmaking, the same design principles are at play. Just as a client might, I am defining my message and deciding how to succinctly communicate a truth in a way that will engage an audience. Previously personal inspiration has come from vintage video game aesthetics to make Lets Play: Nomad X . My old friend Jack Underwood is a celebrated poet, his poem Theology inspired an animation I made for Poetry on the Underground. Observational drawing is often my go-to in my personal work like Rabbit Punch as it confers an authenticity to what is recorded. Artists like David Hockney, or graphic novelists like Harvey Pekar, Daniel Clowes or Lorenzo Mattotti all have processes I admire in this regard.
3.What’s your favourite part of your job?
The unexpected! In commercials you never know what brief is round the corner. In the unlikely event you ever get bored or frustrated with a project, it only takes a day for it all to turn around. I recently finished directing some sword swirling , blood soaked watercolour animation for an upcoming Netflix series. The results were incredible but the process very intensive and precise; what followed was an absolute tonic, building and puppeteering characters for a surreal sequence an episode of the Amazing World of Gumball!
4. If there were one thing you could change about your job what would it be?
Sunlight! Animators have always done it in dark rooms. Animating digitally and screen work in general, is best done in low light levels so I suppose having undernourished studio plants and a pasty complexion is the price that we pay.
5. Are there particular Creative Directors that you admire and take inspiration from?
There are so many fresh studios right now, who are putting out work that really progresses what animation can be. Animade have been a delightful and distinct presence for a while now. Their creative director Ed Barrett is a long standing friend (and rival), we learned animation together both as undergraduates and postgraduates, living in some pretty awful flats together along the way. I love the way his work moves, it always zings with such character. David Prosser who left aka to found Moth with Margot and Dan, has an amazing design sensibility. Mike Please, cofounder of Parabella Studio is also a storytelling colossus. I love all these people and always try to enjoy their creations without drawing too many parallels. Comparison can be unhealthy.
6. Are you only interested in making commercials or would you like to venture into creating more long form content/film?
I get really fired up by new formats and mediums, as they open the horizons of the obscure technical discipline known as Animation. Video games and VR/MR are areas that i’ve explored with projects like Lets Play: Nomad X and Barabara-Ian. Developing longer form or series work is definitely a future aim, but my current vision for Studio aka is focused solely on our commissioned work. Continuing our 30 year pedigree of creating iconic animation by keeping our output both technically ambitious and the stories compellingly idiosyncratic.
7. What piece of advice do you have for aspiring Creatives?
‘Be nice’ and ‘Don’t Smell’, were always helpful pieces of advice I received. I also liked hearing ‘Don’t take advice’. Following the advice of others in industry will only lead you as far as they’ve reached. Your own path is one they wont have travelled so don’t wait for the permission of existing voices in this less than perfect industry. If you’re an aspiring creative and you can see your voice is missing from the conversation it’s an opportunity. I would ask their advice. ‘This industry is fuelled by fresh directorial voices!’
8. What projects are you most proud of?
I was proud to be recognised by BAFTA with a nomination for my title sequence for Black Earth Rising ! But also seeing the Olympic Torch Relay piece that I co-directed with Marc Craste during the opening ceremony was particularly mad!
Extract from BBC Olympic Torch Relay 2012
9. What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a Creative Director?
I’d be a full time Environmental activist! It’s easy to get despondent about the unfolding climate tragedy, but the worst thing we can do is nothing. By taking action to reduce your individual footprint as well as campaigning and protesting, it is possible to be on the right side of history at least. Recently, I joined a local campaign to prevent the building of a giant rubbish incinerator that will emit thousands of tonnes of carbon into the over the next 30 years.
10. What are your latest projects?
Having just delivered an animated sequence for a BBC Two/ Netflix series called Giri/Haji which is produced by Sister Pictures and written and created by Joe Barton, and I’m currently heading up our a push for engagement on the Studio’s social media platforms. All our directors are bubbling with creativity and our social media channels are a great way for us to share this original content. The super-short format and the transient nature of platforms like Instagram make it the perfect forum for us all to experiment with new ideas and techniques. Follow us on Instagram , FB and Twitter for a steady stream of original content with archive work, breakdowns tutorials as well as other aka news and opportunities.
11. What do you enjoy getting up to after a long day at work?
Attempting to play football. Last week’s game put me in A&E nursing a suspected broken wrist though. Luckily hospital waiting rooms are interesting places. It would’ve been a perfect place for some observational drawing and character studies, if only my drawing hand had been working. Otherwise eating at vegan restaurants, redesigning our Victorian house with my girlfriend and losing my dog, Dingo in Epping Forest are all firm favourites.
Still from Findo 2019