Company Profile… The Ambassadors
Tycha Jovanovic / Producer Edit & Sebastiaan Roestenburg, Owner / Music Composer
LBB > What makes the Ambassadors so unique?
TJ > I think it is mostly because it combines all three areas that you can have in post production – edit, sound and visual effects. Visual Effects also includes colour grading and we’ve now added another division with D&A – Design and Animation. We have two full time directors here now for that division, who are making beautiful things; Manuel Ferrari and Adam Manucheck, who have both previously had successful careers and now have brought their talents here, to The Ambassadors. This is our latest addition and we are receiving a lot of beautiful projects for them.
The company started five years ago, with six guys who were at the top of their respective fields, all specialising in different areas; one edit, three sound, two visual effects. They combined their strengths to create their own start-up, rather than working for others. That was just before the financial crisis came, five years ago, so they were lucky with their timing. They started here in Amsterdam and then Marc, the editor, began to work on more feature films. He decided to part company but the team here still wanted and needed to provide editing and so we forged a partnership with The Whitehouse, which is based in London, Chicago, LA and NYC. One of their editors, Ethan Mitchell from NY, has now joined us here in Amsterdam. He moved over with his family and has been working on some great projects with us for international agencies. We also have more Whitehouse editors available to fly here whenever we have a need for them. This is a very unique offering here in Amsterdam.
LBB > What new work do you have up-and-coming?
TJ > We have a really amazing job that launched recently for WWF. It’s a new commercial that we’ve created with Caviar’s director Bram van Alphen. Selmore are the agency and it features the supermodel Doutzen Kroes. The commercial is about how we are nature, so you see her body in beautiful close-ups, beautiful lighting and then, slowly, you see that there are leaves growing on her skin. It’s accompanied by some wonderful music. We did all the sound-design, 3D animation, the grading and the compositing for the work. What is nice about this commercial is that for the shoot we created a new technique so that we were able to do tracking on her body in a certain manner that saves a lot of time and money in the end. It’s ground-breaking visual effects that we developed in-house (see it here http://bit.ly/ycY7jh
SR > For the last year we have had the Ambassadors Lab which is a department developing techniques for production, techniques for clients to access material, to make work flows better and also, techniques for shooting like shooting with low light and in all types of challenging situations. It depends on each film, but sometimes there is a need for a certain approach and then, the Lab will be called in and will think about how they will fix that. They come up with really creative, technical solutions. We have a client portal that has been developed for the purpose of sharing content between us and our agencies, productions companies and clients.
LBB > Talk to me about the building…the space. We are outside of central Amsterdam… what is it about this area that works and appeals to you?
TJ > True, we are not in the heart of the city. The reason, initially, was the internet.
SR > That’s true, the city centre does not have fibre optics and we have great bandwidth here. Also, it was the opportunity to have a large space where we can build bespoke studios. This space allows us to constantly change the layout as and when we need to. For example, the sound studios we have built have three post-production facilities: voice-over recording, sound effects and creating our own picture work and mixing. Where we are, right now, for this interview is our music production studio where we record demos, which we produce to final versions with musicians, multi-track. We can record small events here or we can record string sections or musicians that we hire.
LBB > It’s a huge space that we are sitting in…
SR> Ja, we have lots of instruments here, all types of flavours; keyboards, guitars, double bass… almost everything. A lot of Amsterdam agencies are based in Amstelveen; the really big agencies are outside the centre of Amsterdam. We are here, in the original harbour area of Amsterdam which is where a lot of people we work with live, so it is popular, up and coming place.
LBB > Talk to me about the area…
SR> It was the original harbour for the city, so a lot of goods used to come here by boat, dock, unload and transfer onto smaller boats to be shipped down the canals. You are here at the mouth of the river. The area has developed slowly, probably because of the recession, but it is becoming rejuvenated and as such there are now some great restaurants, bars and there are a series of buildings at the end of the peninsula here where a lot of smaller, boutique agencies (i.e. The Circus Family) and architectural agencies. It has a real creative vibe about it
TJ > The location is also great for transport. It’s a ten minute bike ride from the centre of Amsterdam, we have a bus and tram stop nearby and as we said, we have parking facilities here; we are next to the highway, so it’s easy to access by car.
LBB > How many people do you have within The Ambassadors? I saw the cafeteria earlier and that you use the walls to showcase exhibitions of staff work. You seem to encourage a real community feeling here, keeping it vibrant and creative.
TJ > We have 35 employees at present and yes, we are very social, with drinks and events on a regular basis. It is a great place to work. Now that the weather is getting warmer again, we have lunch on our roof terrace, or a beer at the end of the day. Every first Thursday of the month we have an evening in LM, a bar in de Pijp, where we have drinks with others from the creative industry.
LBB > There are so many rooms here, over so many floors. Do you think it’s important to create these social events so that everyone gets to know one another and that everyone manages to see one another?
SR > It’s important. We’ve grown since we started but we are a team and that, actually now, even though we are bigger, is more apparent. We work and develop as one.
TJ > I think, compared to other places I have worked, there is more of a coherence here. Possibly it is due to there being five owners, rather than one. There is less of a hierarchy; we are all on an even playing field. It is important; it feels like we are working together.
LBB > So what does 2012 have in store for The Ambassadors?
TJ > The biggest thing for us is our collaboration with The Whitehouse, which is just starting to kick off. So for us, that is a major thing. We have been working towards this point and now here we are, enjoying it, working more with international clients. That was one of the reasons for this alignment, but it works both ways as The Whitehouse is now working with more Amsterdam clients, they are able to serve them here in Europe. We’ve managed to bypass the Atlantic! Since the company launched five years ago, it has progressed steadily, in an upward line, which, for a company that started almost in the recession is phenomenal. It is becoming busier and busier… it’s been busy.
LBB > How do you find and source talent here at The Ambassadors?
SR > We have contacts with several different Dutch art schools and we have a lot of people who approach us directly, writing to us and asking for us to see their work. We do some lecturing, mainly about projects that we have done. We have an affiliation with colleges and schools, which look at art and technology.
It is always difficult to get interns from film schools. They all want to do feature films, they do not want to do commercial work. It’s strange. They are missing out on a fantastic opportunity to work in advertising and the many avenues it presents. You can learn a lot, there are many different approaches and techniques that can be learnt through the different mediums that we can play with.