Interview Series – Julian Gibbs
How did you start your career as a director, particularly special effects? Was it something you were always passionate about?
I started as a traditional animator, basically drawing by hand 25 images for every second, I drew hundreds of pictures all day, every day. I worked on all sorts, cartoons, adverts, titles, lots of cool stuff, like the Hello Tosh gotta Toshiba ads and strange movies like the apocalyptic When the Wind Blows. Lots of music industry stuff too, like Brothers in Arms for Dire Straits, all charcoal drawings and rotoscoping.
The whole animation industry was developing rapidly in the 1980s, MTV was seriously buzzing, it actively encouraged and commissioned indie-style underground films. Special effects and experimental animation were the Holy Grail – everyone was pushing hard to find the next new technique, creativity was king, it was very art school and that was, and still is, my spiritual home. I was lucky enough to ride that wave and got an amazing apprenticeship in everything: live action, stop motion, optical image effects, motion control, typographic stuff, every technique that wasn’t screwed down basically.
They were pretty wild times, I absolutely lived and breathed it, there was a big animation community in Soho at that time, studios all over the place, very exciting for a young man who’d spent the previous year signing on.
Being a hands-on director from working on music videos to green-screen filming, having such vast knowledge needs inspiration; what inspires you?
Our company, Intro, has been a constant source of inspiration to me, the designers and directors past and present, and clients, have had a huge impact on me. The knowledge they bring, their understanding of their crafts and subjects, their expertise, and passion for image and sound is a constant source of inspiration and ideas and our studio is the pot where it all boils, it feeds me.
What has been your most memorable work to date?
The video we made for Doves for their single There Goes The Fear.
Where has been your favourite location to work in?
Seen one green screen studio you’ve seen ‘em all, but I did like Shanghai (thanks for that one FP!).
The biggest challenge in the industry at the moment?
Same as it ever was: Good, Quick and Cheap – you can have two but never three.
Oh yeah, Passwords suck.
Most exciting thing/project you’ve seen within the industry recently?
What are your top tips for budding directors in such a competitive industry?
Drawing is the key to describing what words cannot. It’s good quick and cheap, and people will immediately understand what you want to do. So no matter how crap you think you are, get over it, don’t be afraid of it, study it, find out how and why it has been in our world since we lived in caves, and more importantly it will then unlock the mysteries of composition, framing, scale, perspective, narrative, texture, shape, colour, vision etc etc.
One of our company values is being confidently curious, and we only work with confidently curious people – what do you think makes you confidently curious?
I absolutely love to learn, and one of the most extraordinary aspects of our industry is that we have to constantly become an expert in the next subject we are making a film about.
This month’s projects require me to learn all about field hockey, Stella McCartney, Wimbledon, anti-gravity, umbrellas, counter punching, Columbia, Silverstone, time travel, nautical films and Tokyo’s architecture, so my subconscious is a battlefield of ideas colliding like multiple waves of enlightenment and I’m just surfing about in it grinning from ear to ear waiting for the next big one to ride.
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