Having set up independent prod co and animation studio, Woodblock, with classmates from the internationally renowned Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, EP and MD Ilija Brunck has built an impressively diverse portfolio of work from commercials and music videos to independent films, immersive content and game trailers. Brand collaborations have included the likes of adidas, Nike, Microsoft, RIOT, Apple, Disney, Nickelodeon, Greenpeace and WWF.
Here, Ilija tracks the moments that shaped him as a producer and shares his insight into this fast-evolving industry.
LBB> What first attracted you to production - and has it been an industry you’ve always worked on or did you come to it from another area?
Ilija Brunck> Personally, my love has always been for animation. I discovered that passion quite early in my life so I went on to study it at film school. Myself and the co-founders of Woodblock started working with clients while at university as we needed to make money, so I kind of went straight into what I am doing today.
LBB> What was your first role in the production world and how did this experience influence how you think about production and how you grew your career?
Ilija> There was one job that was quite influential on me in the first year after we founded our company. We had a project doing service work for another animation studio and there was a producer there who didn’t communicate with us clearly and put us under a lot of pressure. It was quite a negative experience and we projected a lot of our frustrations onto him. But that wasn’t a healthy way to work and it doesn’t produce great results.
From that experience, I learnt how to look within the team to find ways of optimising any situation rather than projecting faults onto others. It helps you stay in control rather than give in to pressure.
LBB> What’s your favourite thing about production and why?
Ilija> As a producer, you have an incredibly big influence on how the project runs. Situations can be stressful but it’s up to the producer to make it a fun experience for everyone and to satisfy the client. So I really try to find ways of making a project as enjoyable as possible for everybody involved.
LBB> What do you think is the key to being an effective producer - and is it something that’s innate or something that can be learned?
Ilija> It’s all about building experience and the knowledge comes to you. To really know what you're talking about and really know the process inside out. But you also need to be empathetic. You need to be able to understand the needs of others, what their worries are, and how you can help.
LBB> Which production project from across your career are you most proud of and why?
Ilija> I love working on artistic short films and developing episodic content. I have much stronger memories about those projects, because there's nobody involved who tells us what to do! In terms of commercial work, my highlight is never a single project - it’s more about the growth of our studio that I’m most proud of. Being able to build a team that can answer all requests and create outstanding quality work.
LBB> How has production changed since you started your career?
Ilija> The one big change is that relationships for us as an animation studio are getting much more direct. In the beginning, we’ve many times been last in the chain with the client and brand being far away and a creative agency in between. Communication channels were long and we never heard directly from the client about what their actual need is.
Now, that’s evolved and we work directly with our clients a lot of the time, getting to know their specific problems. It’s made everything so much easier and so much more fun. I think it's an incredibly positive development.
Another thing that's changed over the last decade is that, in the beginning, everything was all about one master film. But now, we need to be able to create things in all different formats across multiple channels, for many projects which means delivering hundreds of assets.
LBB> As a producer your brain must have a neverending "to-do" list. How do you switch off?
Ilija> It is exactly as you say, my to-do list is always too long. Quite naturally, being one of the founding partners of the company, I'm rarely able to completely switch off. Which does not bother me since I love my work. Also, every couple of years, I take a longer break of four to six months to travel - my wife is Colombian, so it’s usually to South America.
LBB> From your experience what are the ingredients for a successful production?
Ilija> A comfortable timeline, a healthy budget, and a strong creative concept. And then if we look at it a little bit more granularly, I think that the next big thing is probably trust. Client trust creates the most successful work.
LBB> What advice would you give to people who are interested in becoming a producer?
Ilija> I would say, just do it, go for it. And then you will naturally become good at it. Find people who have a similar passion and band together to produce things. You cannot create high quality content by yourself.
LBB> What are your personal ambitions or aspirations as a producer?
Ilija> One of my core ambitions is to keep building the team until it works by itself and can also grow by itself. For my personal ambition, the next step is definitely to start to develop a bigger footprint in selling our own content, and really start to generate learning and understanding of how we can create revenue with our own IP for our studio.