At a young age I figured out that this ability to create visuals would be my way to open doors in life. I enjoyed the style side of things and creating ideas so I got a bursary to then go study advertising and then started a content business way back in the day which got me into more of an entrepreneurial way of doing things. And it also got me to not think of myself as a title, to rather understand that it's about being useful and of being of service.
LBB > So, how did the journey unfold from there?
Carl > Three or four years later we broke away into more of a small boutique of designers which got me into directing commercials because we were doing very strong visual illustrative stuff. As it developed, I learnt how production companies work and this was another big pivot moment for me where rather than continuing to be solo or build a traditional type of business, I understood that the key to them working is collaboration. So for every new job that I'd won was a commercial, I had to learn about other skill sets, other people and bringing everybody on board with your vision. And they were the kind of skills that opened up so many other doors because the best thing you can do is communicate well in a way that other people want to be a part of that idea.
I was then repped by an American company, which got me then working out in the States. At the same time, I was a musician in a band and our whole band moved to the UK but things didn’t work out but it was fun. In that time I freelanced for a whole bunch of different proposals, everything from production companies, to digital startups to ad agencies. I then worked in an integrated agency for a couple years and then went to The Mill. I headed up the design division, I helped strategically push and be a part of the directing proposition, and I also did some of the early work on emerging tech.
LBB > So before you were in advertising, you’d already done fashion, music and design, and then came into it with all those skills. You must have grown quite a big network across your career - such as your work with Damien Hirst.
Carl > Part of the rules of engaging with someone like that is that you don't try and force a relationship. I think the moment he figures out that you're not a pretender, you're not trying to take something from him, he's so generous. We’d broken the ice a little at the start when I asked him where the talent in one of the videos was from and his response was, “Yeah, I chopped her up and she’s in the basement” - and I said, “Oh my god, that’s insane tell me more!” instead of trying to get the real answer out of him. He was obviously being controversial on purpose, because that’s what he does, but he’d basically sculpted her, chopped it up and buried it in the ocean to then raise again like an archaeological artefact.
So, cut to a few weeks later, and I asked him how the project was going and he takes me through these photos of what they’d been doing. For me to be able to have access to somebody who's so great in their craft was amazing. And it was just two excitable people, jamming over the same thing. It’s moments like this that I just find so valuable. The point of talent and fame most importantly is access - access to get to the places where you can be most effective or have moments like that.
LBB > What would your advice be for working with high profile talent and collaborators?
Carl > Along the way you meet so many people who've gotten to similar places in different ways. And what you find is the demystifying amazing thing about really talented people is that they have so many common traits. Things like collaboration and not getting in your own way - and what I mean by that is like ego. There’s a category of talented people who are scared someone's going to take their magic beans, like ‘don’t look at my homework’, that kind of thing. Then there’s a category of people who recognise that there's something electric about just opening it all up and being generous with your skills. It catches quickly with other people and it grows. If you want to be prolific, you’ve got to throw it away with creative generosity.
LBB > You seem to have a running style that brings together all of your capabilities in your work from art and music to aesthetics and digital.
Carl > You’re always going to be drawn to the same stuff that interests you. The thing I’m now fascinated about is how our current screen based culture feeds off of itself, and spits back out and then feeds again and spits back out again. So you start to get these meta layers of commentary running through stuff. With the Fifa spot I did, we played with glitching and data moshing to create misdirection, punch people in the eyeballs and make them want to watch it again to figure it out. So as the frame is moving in front of you, your brain is always trying to play catch up - like it does with a joke. Jokes work because they are0 illogical but they also make sense. And that makes you laugh. In the same way I think great ideas do the same thing with misdirection. You think you're watching or understanding one thing but the fact that it made you believe something else, which got you to short circuit your logic system to believe a new reality is powerful.
Most recently, I’ve just undertaken a huge project for Verizon’s massive 2021 CES announcement on the future of 5G connectivity as it fuels new technologies and services that will blend our physical and digital worlds. It’s a mixed reality presentation using virtual production techniques that utilised cutting edge Unreal game engine software alongside AR and linear content.