By Cian Walsh
Both your career and Windmill Lane have been in the industry for decades. Is there any recurrent themes that don’t change even if the technology does?
That’s interesting because actually the first point in my talks are on that very topic where I speak about consistency versus change and things that will change all the time. Which are the tech. Things like your methods and trends. But the thing that has to stay the same is your purpose and what you’re doing. So if you declare yourself to be a particular type of designer. While all the other things can change around you and they should change and you should embrace that change, you have to kind of stay true to your creative values. Even creative values can change to a degree. I’ve a friend who started out life as a as a lawyer and he gave it all up and became a musician. And quite a successful musician for a number of years. And then he gave all that up and became a photographer started out as a press photographer then became a fine art photographer and now he’s a fine artist. And that guy has changed very few years. But to stay true to his his his consistent dream of being a creative.
Tech is changing so fast. That it’s actually quite daunting to stay relevant if you anchoring yourself to tech as part of your process. You know you’re you’re possibly fighting a losing battle. You can’t just go “I do this” because five years from now might be irrelevant.
Technology is obviously a huge enabler of your creative output but is there any analogue practices you find essential to the process?
A pencil and a piece of paper. I mean my kids can draw better than me. Both my kids can draw better than me and one of them is three and I went to art college. I guess using computers for everything I’ve done creatively since meant I didn’t practice drawing. For the analog side of things, we bring music into our studio and you know the guys there are as comfortable using Ableton as they are using a piano and and you know it doesn’t really matter.
You know it’s funny. We could have a Wacom Cintiq tablet for sketching. And right beside it is a sketch pad and a pencil. So there is analog all the time in there . Grab a pen and write it down or grab a pen and scribble. And make it. Get it out there and start communicating and working it out. There’s there’s the old school analog ways of doing things. Talking. Drawing Sketching.
Windmill covers a huge range of capabilities these days. Is there a challenge to balancing all these disciplines?
You have to declutter. Naturally day to day you’re in the trenches, you’re trying to get work through, you’re doing so many different things, lots of moving parts. And there is a huge array of clients and different ways we do it. And you could take each department in the Lane and you’ve got our audio division, you’ve got guys working on animation, you’ve got guys working in feature films, you’ve got guys working on commercials and they’re all quite specialised areas in themselves.
But what you do is you kind of peel it right back to craft and we’ve got four central crafts. Editing. Colour, Audio and Motion. And after that it’s just it’s just a case of discipline. Or a specialisation.
Collaboration seems to be a keystone of large scale creative projects. Do you feel this is a skill people entering the industry don’t focus on?
We’ve hired people in the past who’ve come from being in that freelance world. That’s how we might have gotten a good feel for their capabilities and we would say you know do want to join the team? And I’ve seen some people never lose that freelance mentality. And I’ve seen some people embrace it and become very much team players. And I don’t think there’s advantages or disadvantages in both. If anything, I’d love to see the ex-freelancers embrace team thing and not be that lone wolf. I often feel that at that lone wolf mentality when starting out is that they try to do everything. Rather than go well I’m good at this. And you’re good at this. Let’s collaborate!
For projects with open briefs, do Windmill use that as an opportunity to explore and research new technologies?
Look at the film we just made for Offset. That’s an absolutely beautiful open brief. I mean the team working on that pushed themselves so hard. They didn’t take a day off for the past couple of months. They were working day and night on that and they were trying out lots of techniques. It wasn’t just a case of “Oh there’s something I saw in a tutorial online and I want to I want to use that in something”. They were like that triggered a thought I’m going to see where this will go. Even the guys making the music. “Yeah we just started here and then we got to here and then we got to here and then we decided let’s bring in a violinist” Things get random and chaotic. So there’s quite an unstructured beauty to the creativity. Which leaves it very open to experimentation, curiosity, trying things out and not necessarily just because you think you want to put that in because it’s cool. It literally that you’re you’re learning and you’re challenging. You’re being curious. But to have trust. If there’s no trust, you’re not going to get a results.
What advice for those aspiring to enter the creative industry?
One of the things I talked about again is ambition and I’m a big believer in making your own luck. I think ambitious people make their own luck. How you deal with good luck and bad luck. And there will be episodes of good luck and bad luck in anyone’s career. It tells a lot about you. If you’re down and you see an opportunity out of bad luck, that’s the right attitude to have. And if you can capitalise on good luck, that’s a great skill to have too. So I think be ambitious, be curious. Collaboration is massive. It is huge. Be willing to collaborate. And that is a relinquishment of trust. Be vulnerable. Just kind of being a little fearless in a way, I suppose I could fuck this up, but I know it’s gonna be good. Grabbing a camera and shooting something and putting it together. Creating a piece of CGI or whatever it is just yeah. You got to be curious. That’s it.