Mill Chicago: More Than a Creative Hub, a Thriving Creative Culture

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Brian Smego, Jay Bandlish and Carl Phillips on setting up a new chapter in The Mill's story
Mill Chicago: More Than a Creative Hub, a Thriving Creative Culture

Four years ago, three pioneers from the established Mill powerhouses in London, New York and Los Angeles were drawn to Chicago to set up a new chapter in the industry giant’s story. Today, their modern, minimalist, West Loop space has become a creative and social hub, regularly hosting screenings, speakers and social events, as well, of course, as being a destination for world-class post production.

“Our studio is full of passionate and talented people making brilliant work," The Mill’s Head of Production Carl Phillips comments. “The studio is a blend of the Midwest plus everything that makes The Mill such a creative place to work. Ultimately we believe that by creating a truly future-focused studio and providing an inspirational space for our clients and talent to work; we will remain the very best in the world at what we do.”


Brian Smego (far left), Jay Bandlish (middle) and Carl Phillips (far right)

The studio is a hive of activity, buzzing with more than sixty-five artists, producers and makers drawn from Chicago and across the globe to work in one of the most dynamic cities in the world right now.

Carl tells us; “As an Irishman, having moved to Chicago from the London office I was instantly drawn to the vibrancy of the creative community, it reminds me of home. Chicago is full of energetic, passionate people who have given us a really warm welcome to the Midwest. I love walking to our studio, passing the old meat-packers and bumping into new friends working in creative agencies and for some of the most dynamic brands in the world.

"In turn we’re bringing our own thing too – a young, ambitious team, full of energy and a passion to create brilliant work and experiences for our partners. Our culture is about promoting creativity, sharing ideas and working with people who share the same values as us.”

Just like their visual effects, every aspect of the space has been thoughtfully designed and beautifully executed.

“We believe in great ideas beautifully told and making brave work through collaboration with innovative clients,” says The Mill Chicago’s Creative Director Jay Bandlish. “This approach coupled with being in such a dynamic working environment has directly impacted the calibre of creative output right here in Chicago. The increased quality of campaigns produced here in Chicago proves that great work doesn’t need to go to the coasts.

"Within two months of my move from London, we worked on the incredibly complex LG “World of Play” campaign alongside the brilliant team at Energy BBDO and Fredrik Bond, a director I’ve worked with for a long time. It went on to receive numerous industry awards, including a Gold LIA for Best VFX. Creatively, people are drawn here and the stories our clients want to tell increasingly require more complex VFX and we are the best at it.”

Despite the increased diversity in the way in which content is produced and consumed, The Mill continues to be at the forefront of visual narrative. Their ultimate goal is creativity, no matter what the brief. This happens through collaborations with agencies, ground-breaking directors and visionary brands to craft stories that touch people emotionally, become a part of popular culture and that people love and share.

“Coming up through the agency production ranks, I was fortunate enough to move through a few of the best agencies in Chicago and I’ve been able to work with some great talent along the way,’’ says The Mill’s Executive Producer, Brian Smego.

“In my role as EP, it’s been great reconnecting and working alongside them again, problem-solving and collaborating with our clients to find the best and most creatively efficient solutions when there’s so many different ways to attack a job these days is a big part of our offering. The talent and environment we have here in Chicago and across the group allows us to be flexible and to adapt to the needs of our clients.”

“Increased freedom and flexibility is exactly what Mill+, our versatile and integrated team of directors and designers are focused on. Developing Mill+ in Chicago has allowed us to build really fluid and creative partnerships. Last year we collaborated with the Chicago Bulls to create a campaign for the NBA team’s 50th season. The brief was loose and open-ended. It was a perfect fit for our Mill+ team. Both clients and artists enjoyed working together to deliver an excellent campaign to honour the team and its steadfast fans.”

Passion and The Mill are synonymous – be it passion for the Bulls, the Cubs or photography. It is to that end that Head of Colour Luke Morrison and Colourist Mikey Pehanich started a photo club called S35.

The monthly photography series is dedicated to 35mm film. In the age of digital everything, instant gratification, and Instagram filters, they are striving to inspire artists and friends of The Mill to go back to the classic and irreplaceable depth, soul, and dynamic range of shooting 35mm. Each month, participants respond to a new brief for the project, which typically consists of two randomly selected words. Participants share their photos and the five photos judged to be most interesting are framed and displayed at the studio.

And Carl signs off by saying; “This Summer, every Thursday our rooftop, with views over downtown, will play host to ‘Happy Hour BBQs'. We’re looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new friends, so come down!” 

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Mill Chicago, 2 years ago