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How NERD Productions Rose from the Ashes



Milana Karaica shares the extraordinary story of how a determined team survived last year’s shock closure of th1ng and forged an exciting new future

How NERD Productions Rose from the Ashes

If producing is the art of problem solving, resourcefulness and lightning-fast mental reflexes, the story of NERD Productions is a masterpiece.

The creative production company, which was founded in the summer of 2016, has all the hallmarks of a freshly-minted 21st century production house – smartly-curated talent, clean branding, beautiful work – but NERD was forged in fire. Their story, as LBB’s Laura Swinton found, is one of betrayal and bravery, of kindness, courage and creativity.

When EP Milana Karaica and the rest of the team at production company th1ng arrived at work one day in July last year, they were expecting a day like any other – working with directors, pitching to agencies, scheduling projects. Instead they were greeted with the news that the company was to cease operation with immediate effect; the company assets liquidated without warning.

The team was shocked. th1ng and its sister label th2ng were respected in the fields of animation and live action production respectively, and the slate was busy.

The successful production company had ongoing projects on the books and suppliers to pay – and the staff had to come to terms with the fact that they'd suddenly lost their jobs, with zero notice. The hurt was real – Milana had worked with th1ng and th2ng for almost 12 years, working her way up to the position of executive producer and was looking forward to making partner very soon. She had been on the verge of signing contracts after six months of negotiations and suddenly found herself cut adrift by someone she had trusted. But there was no time to wallow. There were clients who had already invested money in half-finished productions, there were producers and directors with professional reputations on the line. 

Milana picked herself up and did everything she could to ensure that these productions were finished. Rather than pursue an expensive lawsuit, the focus had to be on protecting the clients, directors and producers. To her surprise, people across the industry rallied round, offering support, space and their skills for free. She spoke with clients honestly, confronting the difficult conversations about what had happened. In effect, she and the loyal team produced their way out of a crisis.

From the moment th1ng and th2ng closed down, Milana and the team had two choices – seek reparation or focus on completing the live jobs and looking to the future. The personal hurt and the sense that the bottom had fallen out of their world left them momentarily stunned, but they quickly picked themselves up and set to work.

“Although the personal hurt is something that will not fade that quickly, holding a grudge achieves nothing positive so helping move forward in any way was a path to recovery and ensuring that our directors that could be helped, were! Triumph and joy may be a bit of a dramatic way to describe it but it feels appropriate. Honestly, I didn’t really have to think about it, it was the right and honest thing to do and it needed to be done.”

That honesty and open dialogue was key. “Being honest goes a long way! So many careers could continue in a positive direction, clients had their work completed and new opportunities were created. This would not have been possible without talking and just saying it as it is.”

What Milana also discovered was the London advertising community’s surprising capacity for good will. Collaborators offered to help finish jobs, they offered free space to work in, they offered motivational pep talks. Clients were understanding and patient. Steve Davies of the Advertising Producers’ Association stepped in with support. And, most importantly, the lead directors, senior producers and production team – both full time and freelance – rallied together.

“Our professional life has a habit of merging with our personal life in this tight community of creative creatures…. This has really made me think that people are more amazing than we can all imagine, really. Sounds so cheesy, but in my time of need there were countless individuals that gave me more than I could ever have asked for and I didn’t even have to. People you least expect support from become your true friends, bonds that can’t be taken away or broken,” recalls Milana.

And so, Nerd was born. With a freshened-up roster of directors and illustrators (including the likes of The Nathans, Shay Hamias, Oliver Kember and James Gifford), and a team that had proven that they had each other’s backs, NERD was ready to face the world and take on new projects. It’s a testament to their professionalism, nerves and, dare we say it, heart, that some of those new projects came from the clients who they’d worked with during the ordeal.

Nerd was founded with the view to being a creatively led production studio, and it takes its name from its geeky enthusiasm. “This experience has brought the team even closer together. As Pharrell once famously said, “No one ever really dies”, a quote rather apt for the new creative studio and consequently, NERD Productions was born. At heart, we are all passionate about what we do here… making us all a bit nerdy.”

In September, NERD found itself a home in the News Building in London Bridge, which is also home to The Times, The Wall Street Journal and HarperCollins. As well as getting to know the local agencies (Southwark is home to the likes of Cheil and TBWA), they’ve also been working on a clutch of projects due to launch soon, including an educational film about MS and commercial work in London and the US.

The journey that the team has been on over the past seven months is impressive. According to Milana, it all feels oddly like a rise-of-the-underdog Hollywood movie (might we suggest Revenge of the Nerds?). “It’s like a big American feature where aliens invade the planet or something and a small group of quirky and nerdy individuals come together to save the world… it was a little like that, only it was our little, tiny world… But we waved the flag in the end.”

Talking to Milana about the experience, you are struck by the personal resolve that it’s taken all involved to turn a crisis into a success, not to mention the production smarts and creative problem solving skills. We can’t wait to see what comes next. “Everyone at NERD has a collaborative and hands on approach, as well as a back story that makes what we do a bit more personal and human. We want to share that diversity and attitude with our industry clients.”

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NERD Productions, Tue, 24 Jan 2017 14:28:43 GMT