5 Minutes with…Luc Schurgers
Interviewed by LBB editor, Gabrielle Lott
LBB > MINIVEGAS is rather unique and as such it is hard to categorise what you do and who you are. Perhaps in your own words you could tell us a bit more about you?
LS > We are a creative studio; recently opened up in Amsterdam and we do a lot of projects, a lot of different projects. We originally started in London in 2005 and we opened here earlier this year. We work with many mediums; be it interactive, live action, animation and we work for various different clients, production companies, with agencies and with brands. Pretty much anyone who has got a nice project can come to us and we help to develop and create it.
LBB > So you do live action, animation, interactive…
LS > We pretty much have a project in production for each of those disciplines at any given time. Which is pretty nice, it keeps you on your toes.
LBB > So when someone comes to you with a project, is it a matter of preference or is it that you work out what is applicable to that brief/project?
LS > That is something we are trying to do more. For example, that last couple of jobs for linear animations we have been able to suggest an interactive approach. It’s something we like doing, working with creatives, pushing something further. Sometimes this can be hard to sell into the clients, but it’s great when it happens.
There is a really exciting project that we are working on at the moment, coming out in February that blends everything together… something that we’ve concepted with the agency. We started talking about this job with the agency last April and are very pleased about the direction the project took
LBB > When you and Maarten Boon founded MINIVEGAS what was your inspiration at the time?
LS > The idea was to make our own things, to be able to take on anything you like, to not work for the boss. We always believed that it’s important to have all the tools in house so that you can make anything and don’t have to rely on third parties. I guess we’re a bit of a one-stop-shop in that way.
Initially, we started out by creating a lot of music videos, which is not very profitable, but is a pretty good way to lay your creative egg. It also makes you very resourceful and this is handy when working on economically challenged projects. We always set out to be in a position where we can say ‘yes we can do that’ to any job that we like.
We also work on our own technology a lot. We think that this is important to be a step ahead. Due to our constant research and development it’s easier and more cost effective for us to build high-end technological experiences as all the tools that we created are gathered into a proprietary c++/opengl framework code-named ‘atlantis’ that we use for all our digital productions.
We have also started building our own products, I can’t mention much about it but we are launching our own web service soon.
LBB > MINIVEGAS is a young company. You and all of the other partners are very young and the studio is only six years old. You’re still independent and you are growing quickly. How does that work, what is it like and what are the challenges and strengths?
LS > It’s a little bit stressful because you’ve got to fulfill multiple roles at the same time, but on the other hand we have a very strong team with some really good people working here and that is what MINIVEGAS really is. It’s not just one person that does it… it’s a team that you put together. All the jobs we work on are team efforts. We try to keep it quite young and hip here and I think that’s what makes it work.
LBB > How big is MINIVEGAS now and how do you find and source talent?
LS > We have a permanent team of 21 now. Most people we find online, through recommendations. Our senior producers have a great network. We tend to work with a lot of foreign freelancers, depending on the job. For example Armando Sepulveda our head of 3d has worked a couple of big studios in the States and more recently at Framestore. He has worked on many big pictures and has a great Rolodex of contacts.
LBB > As MINIVEGAS grows, are you still able to be involved in all of the projects?
LS > At the moment I am still, but it’s becoming more difficult. We have multiple productions going on at the same time and we are expanding. We are looking for other creatives to come on board, but I do like the involvement. The type of creatives that we are looking for are all rounders with a flexible skillsets.
LBB > There is a trend at the moment where agencies are creating their own products and marketing them themselves. MINIVEGAS is a little creative hotspot - is this something you’ve ever thought of doing yourselves and what’s your opinion?
LS > Yes. We have a product that we are launching soon, which we will definitely let Little Black Book readers know about. This is the first self initiated project that we’ve done. It’s been a very long project as we’ve been building this in our spare time. Hopefully we’ll be able to launch early in the New Year. That’s the problem with doing your own stuff, it has commercial purpose but we had no budget to make it so it’s been on the back burner a lot of times, but it is definitely something that we love doing. It’s been great being your own client but it’s kind of hard to slide it in. If this turns out to be a success there will definitely be more. Some of the creative that we have made would have been hard to sell to a real client, but we’ve made it for ourselves and it’s a chance to have free reign to experiment.
LBB > The advertising world is changing - it has been for some time now but many agencies and production houses are re-evaluating and are jumping into digital. MINIVEGAS always had very strong digital capabilities…
LS > It’s very funny. We had this project for S4C a very long time ago and it was quite a big hit then but we never really had a big follow-up from that… but it seems that now that time has come and that people are ready to explore more. It’s not necessarily about websites, it’s more digital experiences and we are set-up really well for that. We’re used to developing our own software. We have created an advanced graphics framework that we use on all of our digital jobs, which puts us ahead, in terms of production. It’s great to have something that is already formulated and we tailor it to each project. It’s a tool that we’ve done all our Heineken projects in and also what we are currently using for our Subaru project. CNN was another project that we finished recently using this technology . The CNN project was a very cool project because we were able to use WebGL, which is a technology that we’ve been following and that we are excited by. It’s very compatible with the tools that we have in ‘atlantis’, it definitely will allow for way more advanced web experiences. The nice thing about that is that we can now deliver our software via URL. For instance we built this installation in Durban, South Africa for CNN and there were three different set ups. There was the actual website where people could leave their own tweets and navigate the world http://cnn-ecosphere.com
and then there where two non-public sites that created the large hologram and the projection. So Dan Lewis (MINIVEGAS co-founder & developer) created three separate URLS for all these different installations and just by going to them it would load the right software to the right computer and he was able to alter everything remotely, he was in Durban for a couple of days but after he was able to work on everything remotely. So you don’t have the problem of binaries not working or people being unable to install THE software. There were no hardware and setup issues WEBGL is something that we are heavily focusing on for the future.
(CNN ECOSPHERE project explained http://bit.ly/rWSHpf
LBB > How has opening in Amsterdam been?
LS > It’s been really good. Yes, we’ve been super busy, it’s been the busiest year ever, really. Ellen Utrecht joined us as EP and partner, which has been really good for us, and MINIVEGAS. She has a fantastic strategic vision and over 20 years experience in the advertising world. She has been really helping to shape MINIVEGAS and to help us grow.
LBB > How did you get into advertising?
LS > I just kind of rolled into it really. I never really intended to do much in it. I worked in post-production for a bit, worked on some ads and thought it was a fun thing to do, but I never deliberately thought ‘hey, I want to work in advertising’. I studied fashion for half a year and then started making websites. I ended up in the UK, doing an MA at Bournemouth in computer animation. I guess I came in from a technical angle.
LBB > What do you prefer as a creative medium to play with?
LS > Well, what I really like is to work on different mediums one after the other. I think it is really nice to do a full live action shoot, then an animation and then do an interactive project. Because it’s so different and it keeps you on your toes, you have to shift your mindset a little bit and that slight uncomfortable moment, I quite like that.
LBB > You travel between LA, Amsterdam and London and you’re Dutch born and bred. What is it about these cities that inspires you, what different things do you do creatively that might inspire your outlook and perception?
LS > You definitely notice a different pace in different cities, which is nice. Some are more relaxed than other ones. I recently noticed that on a documentary that we are making for Heineken where we are capturing the nightlife of 4 different cities: Milan, Tokyo Sao Paulo, and NYC. You see a big difference. Sao Paulo for example, is very chaotic and there is no outside advertising, but then you have Tokyo, which is on the opposite side of the world and is the complete opposite. It’s very busy as well, but it’s really structured and is overwhelmed with ads. It’s really interesting to see that difference and I think it’s great for inspiration.
LBB > What has your favourite job been this year?
LS > I guess it’s the Subaru project that we’ve been working on that I, unfortunately, can’t talk about at the moment. It comes out in February 2012 and it kicks ass. It’s gonna take interactive movies to another level. We shall send Little Black Book a preview when it’s ready for release.
LBB > Are you still enjoying advertising?
LS > Yeah. I don’t know if I enjoy advertising in particular, but I enjoy the projects that we make and they’re becoming cooler and cooler which is a great thing.
LBB > Do you think that’s because the brands are being more experimental?
LS > Yes, but I think it’s also because we, MINIVEGAS have grown more into a professional studio that can handle bigger clients.