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Bossing It: Keeping the Car in Motion with Franck Lambertz

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The Mill Paris' executive creative director on helping others find their voice and why you should always be looking for mentors

Bossing It: Keeping the Car in Motion with Franck Lambertz

With over 20 years industry experience, Franck has worked across content-creation as a Flame/Nuke artist, VFX supervisor and creative director internationally in London, Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Paris.

He is frequently hand-selected by high profile directors including Adam Berg, François Rousselet, Traktor, Joe Wright, Rupert Sanders, Patrick Daughters and Fredrik Bond for his stunning aesthetic.

Franck joined The Mill/MPC in 2005 and has led on a host of award-winning projects including ‘Assassins Creed, Black Flag: Defy’ which received a Gold Cannes Lion for VFX in Film Craft in 2014. His work on DIRECTV has garnered him a host of industry accolades, with ‘Hot House’ winning Best VFX at the AICP Awards; a Silver Clio for Best VFX; and a Gold at Ciclope. ‘Robot’ was named a finalist at the British Arrows Craft Awards, Gold at the AICP Awards and received a VES nomination for Best VFX.

Franck is executive creative director of the Parisian studio, working on iconic brands such as Perrier, Samsung, Chanel, Cartier, Paco Rabanne, Renault, Citroen amongst others. In 2019, he worked on Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, which won a Mobius Award as Best of Show in the Commercials category and a AICP Show Award for best visual effects, on Lego’s Rebuild the World which was awarded a Genie Award by PIDS for best visual effects and a AICP Show Award for production design. He also worked on Perrier ‘Heat,’ which won a Genie Award and the Grand Prix of Advertising by Stratégies. Since 2018, he has co-chaired the Visual Effects Society in France. 


LBB> What was your first experience of leadership? 

Franck> The first big leadership experience I remember was one of my first jobs as a VFX supervisor at MPC London. It was for Mail of Sunday directed by Traktor for BBH. This job required generating a crowd simulation, which was quite challenging at the time. Previously, as an artist, my role was to work on the shot and make sure the simulation worked. As a supervisor, I had to spread my attention over several shots, distribute them among the team members and make sure everyone was going in the same direction. This required not only technical skills, but also communication, prioritising needs, allocating tasks to the right profiles and ensuring that the whole team had the same vision of the project.


LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you did not want to be? 

Franck> I am a creative director who likes to help others find their own voice or imagery. I work to explain to people what I myself visualise, allowing them to perceive it like a guideline and take their own ownership of the direction. A leader should just be a conductor that aligns multiple voices to perform in the same tone. Each harmony of this tone is important to make it rich, but I hate the perfect alignment that could make the tune tasteless. 


LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership? 

Franck> A key moment of my life was starting as a 2D lead and VFX supervisor at MPC LA. We started this site with only five of us, and we had to define the ‘soul’ of the studio. It was a big task that required intense collaboration and insight. I am very proud of what we did at the time - the studio grew quickly, and we made beautiful films for Frederic Bond, Rupert Sanders, Traktors, Patrick Daughters. This was the time where I realised that my voice could have a strong impact for the whole company, and I should not act only for myself, but also take care of the full team. It is amazing how adjustments to little details can change the spirit of a company.  The smallest steps and simplest words can create a beautiful space to express creativity.


LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so, how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you? 

Franck> I am not looking for leadership outright; instead, I am more looking for new experiences and to share knowledge with passionate people. Each day is a new page, each year a new chapter. This passion to share experience places me in a position to lead, but I see it more like an evolution rather than a target that I wanted really to reach. Nevertheless, I really enjoy taking the initiative, and I would like to pursue it.  


LBB> When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned? 

Franck> It is hard to divide it up. To me, leadership requires education, self-confidence, and experience as a minimum. It is a fine line; however, if you think your skills are enough, you will stagnate. As everything, you must work, work, work to keep evolving and growing. Always be looking around for mentors and new ways of doing things. Rest is rust – you must keep the car in motion.


LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them? 

Franck> As much as I have emphasised the importance of pushing forward, I am always impressed with people that can slow it down to be sure everybody is included. I am a scout that moves quickly, and I have trouble looking behind me to make sure the foundations are secured enough to build on top. Slowing down and checking back is necessary when working on large, complex projects. I need to work on this skill. It may seem that these steps would make me less efficient on the short term, but the long-term payoff is huge for me and my team. Developing in this way would allow me to be more robust and more versatile on my actions. 


LBB> Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it? 

Franck> Of course - in a way, we are failing all the time. However, that is part of the process. I think it is important that you always keep challenging your goal and attempt to push it to the limit. This will result in misses, but those misses are key learning moments. You must be realistic with the tasks you aim to achieve, but you should still test those potential boundaries. If you only navigate within the comfort zone – the zone of what is guaranteed, you will stop progressing. We are lucky to work in an industry that is always evolving. I love it, and I am so passionate to try new technical toys or pipelines.


LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered? 

Franck> The respect of others is very important. People will naturally look to you if your attitude is kind and respectful. You also must tell the truth, if and when the person is ready to listen it. The beauty of my job as a VFX Supervisor is to always to adapt my vision to the vision of someone else. I should embrace their ideas and twist it into my own vision in order to fully understand and be able to share it with my own team. And this is why I love my job. In a way, it’s the same with leadership: you need to be authentic but at the same time understand the aspiration of the others and try to embed them with your own.


LBB> As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship? 

Franck> I have been lucky enough to have multiple mentors. When I started, I was extremely impressed by Yves Le Peillet, the VFX supervisor at Buf. He was always challenging your result and the idea around the shot.  His motivation was pushing me to give my best. I like all the others at my little level, we were trying to enhance each detail of the films and it is what makes an enormous difference at the end. His pushes forced us to elevate our work, for which I am grateful. On the same topic, John Knoll, the VFX Supervisor at ILM, is a great source of inspiration. I don’t know him personally, but I always remember a quote he said: “We are doing Cinematographic Photorealistic effects, and we should never forget it. What is the point of doing a photorealistic effect if your shot is not looking appealing?” These words remind me to look at the scene as a whole – you must create something worth looking at. Creativity should always be your goal. At The Mill, I am lucky to work with an amazing talented crew. Each graphist is in a way a source of inspiration for me now.


LBB> It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters? 

Franck> Because it stressful to deliver in time with the quality we are used to do; we had to adapt quickly, and we did. It was amazing to see how the crew responded with such flexibility and responsibility. We were able to deliver multiple projects with ease. This experience was very inspiring, and we are now working on what should be a creative studio in 2022 as a result of this hard work. In France, the business never really stops, so the studio has been back to full speed. 


LBB> This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this? 

Franck> As a leader, I am very pleased to say that I see a change in our industry. I see growth in current roles, and we are open to anyone looking to carry on with the same spirit of inclusivity.  


LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020? 

Franck> Culture is everything. For our team, stimulation and inspiration are key. You must make sure you are bringing in new ideas, technology, etc. to drive creativity. It’s so great to see an artist walking from desk to desk, looking at the work from a colleague, and watching them share experience and advice. In France, the fully remote situation was temporary - a large part of our crew wanted to come back to the studio as soon as possible. We are now around 80pc on site. Our focus right now is to keep everyone moving at the same beat. We realised it was a challenge to ensure everyone has the level of information when part of the team is working together on the floor and another part might be remote, so we are focused on streamline communication. So far, the balance seems to work.


LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey? 

Franck> When I started working in this sector, knowledge was difficult to access. To get information that I can get in a few clicks today, I had to search for a long time to find a solution that would allow me to move forward.

I remember running around Paris trying to find documentation on illustration, graphics and visual effects. Only a few libraries could give you access to the world's documentation... Cinefex was my bible, I started subscribing to it in 1995, keeping them all at home. At that time, it was one of the few sources of information. They stopped publishing last year. In our modern world, this magazine was not as important anymore. It's sad.  

For me, leadership is about creativity and every detail around me is an inspiration. From a simple Instagram post to a specialised website, from a meeting with enthusiasts to a meeting with experts, inspiration is everywhere, and it feeds leadership. We just need to take the time to observe our environment to make the right decisions, to move teams and projects in the right direction.

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Mill Paris, Thu, 07 Jul 2022 14:23:17 GMT