"It's Wednesday and we've already won three projects this week," says Lee Pavey of the Electric Theatre Collective--modestly, it has to be said, as the last way this talented bunch of ex-Mill alumni say they want to come across is arrogant. Pavey is just noting a straight-up fact, one that illustrates how well his new VFX shop is doing after just four months in existence. "People are really responding to our work."
Since September, when Pavey, together with James Sindle, Giles Cheetham and Dan Stanhope Marum set up Electric Theatre Collective in London, they've created effects for big name clients including BT, Mercedes and O2. Their talent for creating TV commercials with stunning visual effects is never more evident than in the Mercedes spot, Thanks, Airbag, for Jung von Matt and directed by Lynn Fox at Blink, which has just broken. The effects make accidents look like an elegant dance, featuring car-less gliding along highways--and then colliding with each other, protected by inflating bags.
They Play With Muppets, Too
But the team is also striking out with some more unusual projects. They have just finished working with Microsoft Studios Soho Productions on an Xbox 360 game project for Sesame Street that utilizes Kinect, that the team says could herald the future of for kids' TV shows. The game, Kinect Sesame Street TV, was demo'd at CES and is slated to launch this summer. It will allow children to actually interact with characters from the show in new ways, such as "helping"characters like Elmo and Cookie Monster with tasks on Sesame Street using gestures and voice commands.
Although the four were happy at the Mill, they had put in several years there (Pavey and Cheetham spent time at the L.A. outpost, while Marum Stanhope spent a year in New York. Sindle, meanwhile, was deputy head of 3D at The Mill London). Setting up on their own was the next logical step, says Cheetham, allowing them to get closer to the creative work. "We wanted a bit more control." In particular, Pavey and Cheetham say they were were attracted by the small business feel at The Mill LA, a smaller outfit than London.
In their new single-floor, open-plan office, they're at the coalface (together with Sindle's terrier, Dot, who has been with them since launch and comes to the office every day). When researching their launch, they found a common "niggle" from clients working with the bigger VFX shops was that they would have an initial meeting with one lot of people, then discuss strategy with someone else and finally have a whole different team working on the project. "We will pick up the phone when clients call, and they know that the conversations they have with us will be about the whole project," says Cheetham.
Clients are also no doubt attracted by Electric Theatre's painstaking attention to detail that has been evident in Mill work such as Lynx's "Fallen Angels" (for which Sindle persistently harangued a Natural History Museum bird expert in order to get the wings right - see the Behind the Scenes film here). Researching the new Mercedes spot, they spent days going through crash-test footage, trying to understand automobile's crumple zones.
Although they say the first few months have been about dipping their toes in the water, and re-introducing themselves to old clients, they are more than pleased with the quality of the work coming in their door. Four months in, it's full steam ahead from the Electric Theatre crew, with a new website about to launch and several new clients under their belts. Says Sindle: "It isn't about what we did in the past--that's a given. From now on, it's about the work we are doing now."
And. . . even though it's not about the past, check out a bit more of the team's work from previous gigs: