Cross-media synergy is what Miss Jones is all about. An offshoot and fellow tenant of Santa Monica-based Windmill Lane Productions, the oddly named company is a collective of artists who design and direct commercials, motion graphics, title sequences, print advertising and collateral materials, and Websites.
The design of the studio betrays the unconventionality that is evident in much of Miss Jones' work. The space is divided by hulking parts of B-52 wings; the staff seated in the ejector seats of the old bombers. That furniture is apt, perhaps. Miss Jones has a strategy in place to carpet-bomb every single aspect of media design and production. "The plan is, we create all the parts, we're a one-stop-shop," says Stefan Smith (seen below), one of the five founding members of Miss Jones (with partners Mark Wurts, Scott Denton Cardew, Charlie Whisker and Philip Owens). "It makes so much more sense to have short communication chains, with open lines running from client to creative."
From 1994 until very recently, Smith manned the Flame at Windmill Lane, building a reputation as a visual effects whiz with a knack for testing and breaking the limits of both hard- and software. The thing is, he's crazy about bugs. "When the machine makes a mistake, that's fantastic," he enthuses. "Those little imperfections that were never meant to be make up the machine's invisible energy."
Smith teases out the bugs and plays with them. In the early '90s, while trying out first-generation morphing software, he wondered what would happen if he told the program to morph, but not what to morph into. He ended up with a confused computer -- but instead of crashing, it produced patterns that agreed with Smith's aesthetic sensibilities. The mental note he made of the process came
in handy when he worked on a commercial for First Union, years later, for which he had to visualize the invisible route a conversation takes over a telephone network. Smith remembered the ancient glitch (since then fixed in upgrades), forced the sysop to load the old software, and incorporated the program's mistake in his final spot. Smith believes "these happy accidents are the hidden treasures that form the spirit of the machine."
After years of pushing the buttons for others, Smith, trained as a fine artist, was getting restless. Windmill Lane Productions, in response, created Miss Jones in order to retain the talent the company had been nurturing. It didn't hurt that the parent firm saw all manner of creative opportunities arising in multimedia. Experienced executive producers Tracy Hauser and Bronwen La Grue were asked to pilot the new venture.
Opportunities abound. Via Ground Zero, Miss Jones recently completed three ESPN spots promoting Major League Soccer, including one called "Spider." Shown in amazing detail, the spider, here a visual metaphor for a goalie, turns out to be weaving its impenetrable web between two soccer goal posts.
Miss Jones aims to be ready for the convergent future, for the mutant hybrid of television viewers and computer users. Smith, meanwhile, has his own vision of convergence: he foresees the postproduction process happening in one machine, steered by one operator: online on an effects machine, animating, texture mapping 3-D objects, colorgrading; it will all eventually become a unified system.