Creative production studio Psyop is launching its first studio in Europe. Led by a collective of artists, producers and creators, the German-based venture will be driven by a passion for making exceptional content, the desire to persuade, change and influence, and capture hearts and minds along the way.
Justin Stiebel, Matthias Bauerle, Stefan Susemihl, Hans-Christoph Schultheiss and Jan Tiller have come together to form the new leadership team, guided by Psyop co-founder Marco Spier.
Bursting onto the scene this April, Psyop will feature a diverse roster of local and global directorial talent rounded out by accomplished creators with a passion for craft including Juan Pablo Brockhaus, Elizabeth Leeb, Kariem Saleh and Lou Bones.
When Psyop was looking towards Europe, it was very clear from the beginning that Berlin would have to play a key role, being the heart of creativity in Europe and also the birthplace of co-founder Marco Spier. Justin was in Berlin having built up The Mill as managing director. He took the opportunity to first advise Psyop on what European expansion might look like. “I very quickly realised that this was something I wanted to build with them,” he says. “It became a close friendship between Marco [Spier, co-founder] and I, who is from Berlin, grew up here, he moved to New York about 25 years ago. And it became very quickly first an emotional decision to make Berlin the HQ, and then a business decision.”
To better serve Psyop’s European partners, the idea was to create a regionalised home for talented directors, creators, makers and artists. Although the team has decided to set up headquarters in Berlin, there will be several smaller hubs across Germany. And being fully cloud based, the company can be where their teams want to be.
Talent is at the heart of how Justin and his team are ensuring they translate the Psyop magic to a new continent. “It's something that we continuously go back to when we make our decisions: emotionally, creatively, what's the thing that makes the most sense for artists, for our people,” he says. “We take that first and then we try to build a business case around that and not the other way around. Because we were very conscious that we want to attract the best talent possible. And we put them first, that's the only way we can do it.”
Although in the US Psyop is adored for its knack for thinking outside the box, exceptional artistry and a passion for craft, Justin says Psyop Europe won’t be a simple replication of that model. “We're going to take what's there and build upon it.” He says that in terms of attracting and expanding the company’s talent pool, they will be trying to attract the best directors to work with as well as artists: 2D, CG, real-time artists, designers, storyboard artists, script writers. “All these different people, we're trying to attract the best of them and make sure that we are there where they want us to be. And vice versa – we can give them the best work.”
Beyond skillset and more philosophically, the goal for the team is to assemble “a combination of people that really love what they're doing,” says Justin. “And we're not the only ones that really love what we're doing. But I think that the Psyop brand itself has enabled us to attract literally the best team possible.
“We're kind of building an ‘Ocean's Thirteen’ team of directors and artists, and that's what everybody should be excited about. It's the talent, it's the people behind it, it's about the craft, and everything else will follow.”
“It's that sort of mindset that we are lacking in the larger networks, which I used to work for. It very quickly becomes everything but creativity.”
Psyop states its mission boldly: “To capture hearts and minds through iconic visual storytelling and design.” 21 years since it was founded, the company continues to make groundbreaking work, blurring the lines between advertising and entertainment. That will form the bedrock of this new structure on the other side of the Atlantic.
Justin notes that a collective model of production integrated with animation, visual effects and design skills didn’t exist 21 years ago when the five founders pioneered it. As their European hub sets out its stall, the managing director wants to keep the same spirit at the heart: “That ethos itself is something to tap into: Change, persuade and influence.”