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Behind 1stAveMachine’s Argentinian Adventure

Production Company
London, UK
Sam Penfield and Lautaro Brunatti on a partnership that’s opening up the LATAM market – and opening Argentina’s amazing directing and animation talent up for the world
“We are creating an 'avenue' between the States, and Argentina's talent market,” announces Lautaro Brunatti proudly.

After ten years of exclusive collaboration with transatlantic production company 1stAveMachine, his company TRONCO has officially become part of the 1stAve family and has recently relaunched as 1stAveMachine Buenos Aires. 

It’s a smart move and one that is built on years of working together and nurturing relationships. Both parties are used to bringing their talents together to work on the mixed media, live action/animation crossover work that 1stAveMachine is famed for. But now, as part of a bigger, international group they can do more to expand opportunities in LATAM while more actively promoting Argentinian talent in 1stAve’s North American and European markets.

“I don't know if you know, but Argentina has just an amazing reputation for designers and animators; they have this unique bunch of talent there, so we've always been really excited about the talent in Argentina,” enthuses Sam Penfield, EP and Partner at 1stAveMachine.

What the relaunch and rebrand also does is makes it easier to describe the relationship between the teams, for a comms and sales perspective, and it brings everyone closer.

“We just decided to clean up the communication, and to embrace what we were already doing. And it was just the right time,” says Sam. “I mean, 1stAve is very conservative, we've never signed directors unless we work with them a bunch. We don't make big bold moves, we tend to like test the waters and get everything working before we talk about it. So it just was really time. We also really wanted to get back to more of our animation roots.”

But under the hood of the rebrand, this reinforced partnership also allows both parties to boost each other’s capabilities.

“1stAve BA does a lot of things really well that really expand our offering to the international market. So they do amazing design, amazing animation, and they help us all the time, even if it's not one of their projects with design does they have such a strong sense. And then there's other things  -  somehow they've conquered social media strategy. We partner with them on projects wherever the best skill sets lie. In the same regard, we maybe have a bit more experience with live action. Not that they don't, because they do live action down there, but we have some pretty heavy hitter EPs who come from big live action. So, maybe we can add that superpower and strengthen their efforts in that area,” says Sam. “So, it was really about interdependent co-uprising, I would say. Working together, everybody wins.”

TRONCO itself was an amalgamation of two studios, and has established expertise in VR and AR as well as social strategy, as well as its top line capabilities in animation and design. It’s two founders Lautaro and Tomi Dieguez are now partners in 1stAveMachine BA. And as a producer who was originally a director but who went on to study an MBA, Lautaro is enjoying getting stuck into wider business strategy for the group.

“I think, for us, trusting us to put the big brand on our office was very important. And it gives us the confidence to also go and be part of the strategy, creating new opportunities together,” he says.

While a big launch and rebrand during a pandemic might seem a daunting task, in many ways it has come at the perfect time. Remote working, an uptick in demand for animation and an openness to new ways of collaborating across borders is opening minds to this push to expand 1stAveMachine’s presence in Latin America while also bringing Argentinian talent to Europe and North America. 

“With regards to uptick in animation, definitely. There’s UGC, more reuse of old footage while adding an animation layer. I mean, we stayed really busy in Q2, but it was a lot of inventing the systems. It was a lot of working through how to how to accomplish these things. And now we have our systems completely in place, where it's so fun to see production coming back online,” says Sam. “And as I said, we're still using a lot of the same systems as we move forward. But animation continues to be a huge part of our business and a really exciting part. And the partnership really is there to amplify design and animation capabilities.”

Remote working and collaboration has been accelerated by the pandemic but Sam reckons it has changed working practices for ever. She compares it to the SAG strike, which forced many US productions abroad for the first time – and they’ve never looked back.

Ultimately, remote and cross-border production collaboration has been working well, with workflows and systems established and refined, but it relies on trust. And that’s something Lautaro and Sam have in spades.
“From my perspective, this is like a new stage of the globalisation. I think the good part of globalisation, in my point of view, is you need to trust the other. You are in a situation in which is very difficult to react and change and go. So going with the people, you know, and trust is very important,” says Lautaro.
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