Creative Connections: Insights for the new normal
to keep our creative community connected, inspired and supported.
Times are uncertain and with feelings of separation high, we want to know how you are staying plugged in, what is keeping you creative and what might be getting in the way?
Seven members of The Panics team in Amsterdam answered:
Ania Markham: Executive Producer
Kim Taylor: Motion Designer/Director
Bruce Bigg: Producer
Randy Reyes Romero: CG Intern
Federica d’Urzo: Motion Designer/Director
Erwin van den IJssel: Director
Liene Berina: Senior Producer
Chris Staves: Director
Please give a brief introduction to yourself and/or studio
Ania: We’re The Panics from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. There’s about 28 of us making films of all shapes and sizes. You might know us from ‘A Report Of Connected Events’ (Video Above). The Panics are divided up into directors, producers, motion designers and CG/VFX artists. A mixed bunch of nationalities, we’re all currently working remotely across The Netherlands, with one of us stuck in London (because of lockdown travel restrictions).
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How are you?
Ania: Hi Motionographer. We’re good, thank you. However, the last couple of weeks have woken us up out of our Covid homelife routine and provided a focus on what needs to be done by all of us to help drive the important changes occurring in our world.
How is work and the pace of your projects? Busier, same, slower?
Ania: Naturally some projects were stopped or cancelled immediately but we also have a number of larger productions which have not been affected by the Covid-19 impact. We’ve also noticed an increased interest in wholly CG productions and our CG-specialized directors. Regarding workflow, we switched to remote working quite early on and we’ve been lucky it’s going really well so far for everyone.
Are you keeping traditional office hours? Is your team all in the same time zone?
Ania: We’re all in the same time zone and yes, trying to keep the working day same as normal. We also have Friday after work drinks via Zoom.
What is the most hilarious thing you’ve seen that distracted you from work?
Kim: Working from home makes you more in-tune with the neighbourhood going ons, like in Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Right now I’m more easily distracted by the flat across the road; the resident cat is wearing the cone of shame and its daily activities have become a mini soap opera.
Randy: A group of people came and played a birthday song outside of my window with super big speakers in their car.
Bruce: I’m loving the cats vs. dog challenge. It’s been great watching the internet collectively scramble for entertainment.
Ania: Toast Dogs
When viewing a project, what do you notice first? Any pet-peeves? What things do you love?
Federica: I usually love to watch the background action, and that’s valid for both live action and purely motion graphics projects. If the project reaches that level of detail, I get goosebumps!
Kim: There’s such an abundance of quality work out there these days that it can all quickly become a sea of noise, even when work is well executed. True originality becomes the most valuable commodity and well-thought out concepts or a fresh approach stand out above the rest for me.
How do you quiet your inner critic?
Erwin: I try not to, we make a good duo when working on something. It’s good to keep questioning what you’re doing!
Federica: I’m still learning. For now it just won’t shut up!
Kim: The trick is to remind yourself that ultimately the only ones who will remember your work are yourself, your parents and maybe some friends. And your mum loves your work, even though she doesn’t know what any of it is.
Randy: Listen to music, read, turn off my phone.
Bruce: Self-compassion and mindfulness! Especially in a time like this, with a strange pressure to start all those projects which you’ve been meaning to get to, we need to be understanding and kind to ourselves.
Liene: I don’t. I let it shout out loud.
Chris: Usually, not very successfully. So, I just let him scream into the void about how shit I am and try to ignore him.
Ania: I stopped listening to that old bird a long time ago. My biggest critics are now my daughters.
When you feel stuck, or need inspiration, what are your go-to’s?
Federica: I go-away from the computer. And, if I can, I take a nap! I read somewhere that the moment right before falling asleep is the moment in which your brain solves all the problems you’re having. And actually most of my ideas are born right before I fall asleep!
Liene: The forest.
Kim: Leaving the screen and also the house first and foremost. Doing something unrelated but still mentally stimulating like going to a museum or gallery to get the subconscious juices flowing!
Chris: The shower. Always. For me, if I’m stuck on a problem that I’m trying to solve or need to come up with an idea for something, I take a long, late-night shower. Dim the lights really low (we specifically designed our bathroom to have dimmable LEDs for this very reason) and crank the heat up really high. Invariably, some inspiration will strike while I’m in there soaking and even if it’s not a great idea to begin with, it usually leads to something good.
Ania: Sun-bathing. I’m aiming for full Iggy Pop coverage by the end of this lock-down.
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What Studio, Designer, Artist (dead or alive) would you want to have a Zoom meeting with?
Federica: Alive: Ariel Costa. Dead: Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Kim: All Zoom meetings are awkward and confusing and the prospect of meeting any current day hero is a nope from me. Though it’d sure be interesting to see how Michelangelo would react to a disembodied face speaking through the ether.
What inspired you to get into this business? Was there a particular movie, commercial, animation, artist, music video, book, etc.?
Erwin: I think as with many people my age, MTV idents were the first thing that really made me aware of motion design, back when MTV still showed music videos (ok boomer!)
Ania: Absolutely and completely: MTV idents in the 1980’s when I was a teenager
Federica: I probably had more of a “practical” start than an inspirational one. I think I had an idea for an animation and I started trying out stuff with After Effects with the tutorials by the amazing Andrew Kramer on Videocopilot. Once I started realizing I really loved animating, I started discovering more about the industry and I just fell in love with the Motion Graphics world!
Kim: Record covers initially. As a teen I was pretty obsessed with Warp records and their aesthetics courtesy of The Designers’ Republic. From there I discovered Chris Cunningham, whose influence is principally to blame for all the weird shit I created as a young adult that I can only imagine caused my parents some concern.
Liene: It’s more personal than inspiration – i’m just not a very patient person.
Randy: I just like art in general and I thought this was a good way to develop a skill.
Chris: I was already in the business, but still kind of starting out, but working with Mark Romanek on several of his early music videos definitely inspired me to turn what was a job into a career. He gave me my first opportunity to be a lead on a big shot, in Madonna’s Bedtime Stories video, and the shot that I worked on remained on my demo reel throughout my whole career.
What are you streaming / watching / reading / or podcasting?
Erwin: I’m currently watching The Night Of on HBO which I really like — if anyone needs more recommendations that are three years after the fact, hit me up!
Bruce: I started watching Killing Eve (right as a new season is coming out!). So well-written, the dialogue is hilarious and it remains completely unpredictable. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a phenomenal writer.
Federica: I stream basically EVERYTHING that catches my attention! In that sense I’m still like the kid version of myself: every time something is screening I just stare at it with an open jaw, while forgetting about everything else. But in general I love crime stories – for example now I’m watching Killing Eve and I love it!
And I’m reading a book by Melania Mazzucco called L’architettrice (The architectress). It’s the story of how life shapes a woman into becoming an artist.
Liene: I’m reading Baudrillard’s book called The System of Objects. It’s very calming, because it’s well organised. Like all his books.
Randy: A lot of R&B (music), watching Ozark but just finished a Korean series called Save Me, I’m reading Fahrenheit 451 and the pod that i’m listening to twice a week is called “The Joe Budden Podcast“.
Ania: Watching all over again Channel 4’s Raised by Wolves by Caitlin and Caroline Moran as it makes me cry with laughter. I wish they’d made a 3rd series.
Chris: Devs, Better Call Saul, Westworld, Ozark, Tales from the Loop, and a bevy of super-calming British competition shows – Race Across the World, Portrait (and Landscape) artist of the Year, The Great Pottery Throw Down, The Great British Sewing Bee, and of course The Great British Bake Off. Oh and I just found out about The Great Gardening Challenge, so that’s next on the list.
Kim: Just finished watching Alex Garland’s Devs that I thought was great.
Is your house messier or cleaner while working from home?
Federica: Cleaner. Can’t stand having mess around me!
Kim: So much cleaner. No excuses now! Times are depressing enough without having a messy-ass house to be stuck in.
Chris: A bit messier since we aren’t having our housekeeper come (although we’re still paying her. I’m a good person!). But my wife and I are both pretty neat, so we’re not falling behind too much. Planning on having a big clean-up this weekend, and in a sign of the times, I’m kind of looking forward to that in a weird way.
Ania: Definitely cleaner
What have you eaten too much of during Quarantine?
Federica: Carrots and cookies (not at the same time!).
Ania: Completely obsessed with Manner Neapolitaner Wafer biscuits. I think it’s the colour of the wrapper and a taste of childhood. Just sent a parcel of them to our director, Fons Schiedon in NYC so he can join me on the dark side.
Kim: Choc chip cookies don’t last for more than several hours in my household.
Bruce: Discovered a shop around the corner that sells like every flavor of San Pellegrino which has quickly developed into a full-blown addiction.
Chris: Definitely chips. Normally we have maybe some pretzels around, but since this started, there’s a constant supply of 4 or 5 different crunchy salty snacks on hand. That reminds me, I need to go shopping for more chips…
Any newly adapted online experience you are enjoying (Museum of Modern Art, Music Venue/Artist, LACMA, viewing or streaming party, or the like)?
Liene: I actually use the opportunity to stay offline after work, there are so many fun things that I love doing that I had completely abandoned before lockdown.
Randy: There’s a lot of IG live music battles going on that i have been enjoying a lot.
Bruce: I love the insta page Tussen Kunst en Quarantine (between art and quarantine) where people are recreating famous pieces of art while in lockdown using items in their house.
Erwin: Playgrounds Festival! We’ve partnered with them in the past, and got really involved when they moved the festival online last month and hey, maybe have a look at the titles ;)
Would you rather give up bathing for a month or give up the internet for a month?
Federica: That’s a tough one…provided I have enough books to read, and movies or series to watch, probably internet? I don’t think I could go through a month while smelling bad!
Liene: If I’m out in nature – both.
Kim: Under normal circumstances Internet. But during a lockdown, who wants to give up their portal to the outside world? I’m giving up bathing (apologies to my housemate).
Bruce: Wait, I’m still meant to be bathing?
Ania: I could lose the internet and become a clean person inside and out.
Randy: CG Intern: I’d rather be dirty and have fun with access to the internet.
Chris: Probably the internet. Not necessarily because of a need to be clean, but just because I enjoy the shower and bath experience too much to give it up for a month.
Favorite Charlize Theron movie?
Liene: Martini commercial from Nineties. But probably Rita in Arrested Development.
Chris: I’m kind of luke-warm on her. I like her, but I’m not a super fanboy, so probably Snow White and the Huntsman, which I enjoyed much more than I thought I would, and a friend of mine was VFX supervisor and second unit director on it.
Best live experience (Concert, play, festival, etc.)?
Federica: Terraforma festival! A small music festival in Italy, just outside Milan. I was volunteering there and, although I’ve never been more tired or hungry in my life, it was just one of the best experiences in my life!
Randy: Way Out West ( Swedish hip hop/ Indie Music Festival).
Ania: Massive Attack at The Royal Albert Hall in London 1998.
Bruce: Bummed I have to say goodbye to live experiences for a while still, especially now festival season would be underway. Last year’s Horst Arts and Music Festival in Belgium really stands out for me. There is such a focus on art and design, woven into the fabric of the experience, coupled with phenomenal electronic music. The location, at an old military ground including a couple of those massive cooling towers, also stood out.
Chris: Prince – the Purple Rain tour (yes, I’m that old) or D’Angelo playing at Paradiso in Amsterdam a couple of years ago.
Anything else? Want to share your latest project, event, or news?
Couldn’t have been more surreal if we tried, all supremely weirded out by it but it’s a cool film. Thank you for asking us to take part – we had a lot of fun answering your questions!