MK12: From Missouri With Love

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Name: MK12
Age: 10
Profession: Studio
Location: Kansas City, MO
Production Company: The Ebeling Group
Hometown: Kansas City, MO

On its website, motion graphics collective MK12 says it provides "anti-sectarian, multi-global theoretical conclusions and property relation guidance." They also believe in magic. And don't take bribes. This approach has led the shop to commercial work with global brands like Coke, Budweiser and Haagen Daz, as well as feature film duty in Her Majesty's Secret Service (Quantum of Solace), The Kite Runner and Stranger Than Fiction.

We sent word to what we can only assume is a fortified creative compound in Kansas City to try and get to know MK12 a bit better. This is what came back.

How did you get started directing?
We've been directing our own projects in one form or another since our art school days. Most of us went to Kansas City Art Institute together, and while we were there we produced a number of short films, both as a group and individually.

I don't think that any of us had aspirations to become directors in the traditional sense, but as the scope and nature of our projects expanded, we fell into it and we found that we enjoyed it quite a lot.

Stranger Than Fiction
Stranger Than Fiction

Describe your directorial style.
To state the obvious first, most of our shoots are fairly technical in nature, so we're always keeping one eye on that. But we do try to iron out the logistics as best we can before a shoot so that they don't become issues on set.

Once that's taken care of, we focus our attention on getting the best shots and performances. There is no tried-and-true method for doing this -- at least, not that we've found. Every shoot is a unique animal, and we adjust accordingly. We've been working together for a while now, and we have good professional chemistry, so we'll often work together on set, divvying up performance, compositional & technical concerns to be sure we get what we want.

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner

What or who are your biggest influences – and why?
As a collective, they're really too varied to audit -- one day it's Bergman and Bass, the next, Leone and le Corbusier. And everything in between.

A lot of our influences also come from the region; the Midwest is a great resource for all things off the beaten track, be it music, ephemera, or just the culture in general.

What is the difference between directing a spot and doing work on a feature?
When we sign on for a feature, we understand that the work we'll be doing is necessarily in service of the director's vision, and our own creative agenda takes a back seat. Of course we're happy to offer our thoughts and engage in creative debates, but ultimately, we respect the wishes of the director just as we'd expect others to honor ours when we're in the chair.

That said, the directors we've worked with don't come to us because we're a great vendor; we're probably a lousy one, as far as VFX houses go. Our forte isn't realistic CGI or seamless compositing (though we do step up when called on) -- it's ideas and abstract problem solving. We've produced a lot of short films over the years, and the type of lateral thinking that goes into seeing a story through -- be it experimental or narrative in origin -- is very applicable to the work we do on the big screen.

We're pretty good at identifying the subtext of a film and finding the right tone and visual aesthetic to best communicate it's message, and we've been very lucky to have worked with directors who have tapped us for that resource.

Directing a spot or short film, obviously, is the inverse scenario, but the rewards are the same. So long as we're able to put our best foot forward, we're happy.

Quantum of Solace
Quantum of Solace

What was the best part about working on a James Bond flick?
Aside from the ride in the Bond Aston Martin, the bikini-clad women, the sets at Pinewood, trips to Panama, Austria and the premiere in London, it's a pretty dull job.

What's been your biggest career challenge?
Honestly? Just getting started. We knew very little about the landscape and even less about how things got done professionally when we first opened our doors. We had no projections or business strategy; we just wanted to build a venue for our work.
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