Since starting out as a passion-project by a group of friends 13 years ago, it’s fair to say that abstr^ct:groove has more than outgrown its modest beginnings. The Milan-based integrated creative production and design studio is now responsible for some of the most exciting work coming out of Italy today. Its cross-medium approach and relentless exploration of audiovisual innovation has won it the approval of international brands such as Yamaha, Dolce & Gabbana, SKY, Pirelli, and Diesel.
LBB catches up with abstr^ct:groove’s Founder, Director, and Creative Director, Luigi Pane, and Project Director and tech-wizard, Mauro Mastronicola, to find out why the self-proclaimed cinematic bastards aren’t just interested in pushing the boundaries of film but in redefining them altogether. The duo also reveal the reasons behind their investment in a newly dedicated tech department that they intend as a future-proofing venture.
LBB> What’s the idea behind abstr^ct:groove?
Luigi Pane, Founder, Director, and Creative Director> I’ve always been fascinated with film as a complete expression of all the arts. When we watch a movie, there’s so much to take away: we can appreciate the text, the performance of the actors, the beauty of the image, and the quality of sounds to name a few.
Individually, these expressions express a number of interesting things, but it’s when they’re put together in the right way that they’re at their most powerful. These small vibrations add together to generate a single powerful tsunami - this sensorial dimension is the driving force behind abstr^ct: groove. That's what guides us every time we produce a film or approach a new project.
LBB> How would you describe your local market? What would you say makes the creative scene in Italy unique compared to the rest of the world?
LP> Italy is a stimulating place in the sense that you can work on stylistic and cultural aspects that have a very strong character and are quite unique. The quality of work is also improving in recent years. Regardless of where you are in the world though, I think markets tend to be dominated by similar-looking work. Globally, we’re producing too many unnecessary campaigns, which unfortunately does nothing but flood our screens. That said, smaller markets are creating some real gems of communication. Something quite revolutionary is currently happening in the Italian creative scene: the creation of AIR3
, the newborn association of Italian directors. For the first time, directors are brainstorming strongly together, creating ideas for collective projects and visual arts festivals. A fresh collaboration is also starting between AIR3 and ADCI (Italian Art Directors Club). This new wave of ideas is generating new forms of approach to the development of advertising projects.
LBB> abstr^ct:groove has worked on many international projects such as with Yamaha in Tokyo, Cadillac in Dubai, Web Eyewear in Colombia, and Carrera in Tenerife. Was it always the goal to work internationally?
LP> abstr^ct: groove was born in Milan 13 years ago, by a small group of friends who liked art, music, design, and film - a kind of creative collective. We started small, working with modest budgets, then step by step, with a lot of love, passion and fun, our projects increasingly became more important and international. Over the years, we’ve built a tight network of collaborators around the world. Not to be too Italian about it, but we’ve become a family that has evolved and grown very naturally.
LBB> abstr^ct:groove goes beyond the typical production studio offering by covering film, animation, and more. What motivated abstr^ct:groove to be so versatile in its offering?
LP> We’re really interested in re-examining the idea of contemporary cinematography and what that might look like with the emerging technologies available today. As a constantly evolving medium, cinematography is increasingly taking on a more multidisciplinary form, so we’re exploring new technologies that are at the service of the cinematic language. There are so many different techniques to play with and that’s what makes our job so fun! Today, it’s all about expanding and empowering the traditional film experience by harnessing the digital technologies that are evolving from month to month.
LBB> Mauro, in your interview with LBB last year, you predicted that the real innovation in the industry in 2016 would be the way we use pre-existing technologies (such as iPhones, headphones, and wearable tech) and through their connectedness to interactive tech in public places, transforming the way we experience things like shopping or visiting a museum. To what extent do you think that the ad industry has utilised these potentials?
Mauro Mastronicola, Project Director at abstr^ct:groove and Head of We Are Happy - Connecting Dots> It’s certainly a growing trend. We’re convinced that the entire communications industry is moving in the direction of interconnecting creativity software-development of innovative technologies. I think that these technologies will lead to exceptional communication tools that will allow brands to offer unique experiences to their customers.
'Eyes of Darkness' - part of 'The Dark Side of Japan' series for Yamaha.
LBB> What are some of your favourite projects in the past year?
LP> In terms of continuity and effectiveness, ‘The Dark Side of Japan’ saga for Yamaha is probably my favourite. Since our first film in 2013, we’ve revisited Japan to create two more films – ‘Ray of Darkness’ in 2015 and most recently, ‘Eyes of Darkness’ - which we handled the direction, craft, production, post, and music on. Because of the close and consistent collaboration between DLV BBDO Milan and the extended team, we were able to really delve into and develop the creative concept across the saga.
As a director, I’m very happy with our latest Alfa Romeo film, ‘Whoa There!’. Shot in Italy, it was produced by Indiana and created in collaboration with the American agency, mono.
LBB> abstr^ct:groove has built up quite a reputation for pushing the boundaries of creative possibilities with technology. Are you planning to experiment with any emerging tech this year, such as VR, AR, or 3D printing? Are there any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?
LP> We’ve always experimented simultaneously in different areas - be it animation, live action, photography, sound, design or video installations - but right now, we have a surprise in the making. We’re creating a dedicated department for technological advancements that can facilitate and enhance the audiovisual language. It’s called ‘We Are Happy - Connecting Dots’
, and is coordinated by Mauro.
MM> We Are Happy was born because of our understanding that we’re moving towards greater technological interconnectivity, as I mentioned earlier. Thanks to our experience in creative design, production, and coordination of talent, we can cover different areas of creative technologies: systems integration, intelligent spaces, VR & AR, interactive and digital design, edutainment, and immersive storytelling to name a few. That allows us to keep up with the pace of evolution and not fear change. We already have several projects we are really excited about so watch this space!
'Whoa There!' for Alfa Romeo Stelvio