The Ambassadors creative director doesn’t know where his urge to create comes from; it’s just always been there
Vincent Lammers is one of the new generation of creative leaders within the international Dutch advertising and marketing industry. As director and partner of creative production studio Ambassadors Amsterdam and New York, as well as board member of ADCN (the Club for Creativity in The Netherlands), he is convinced that craft, creativity and technology – in that order – will become more and more important for brands directly.
Nils Adriaans caught up with him to talk about the value of craft, developments in animation and the importance of 'makers'.
Q> Ambassadors combines all sorts of crafts: visual effects and 3D, grading, design and animation, editing, music, sound design, live action – plus Ambassadors has its own lab for audiovisual innovation. It almost dazzles me… What’s the beauty of craft in general? Please enlighten us.
Vincent> With the danger of sounding pretentious I think the answer is in the question. Craft is the beauty. Craft is what brings out the beauty of an idea or story, it brings its beauty to the forefront, makes it visible. Craft makes it tangible and real. I can’t put it any other way.
Q> With all digital media, the coming of 5G and the fact that technically more and more is possible to create/craft, the need for moving, outstanding content among brands will only grow. What is your stance on this thesis?
Vincent> I believe that’s a true assessment. The need for moving imagery is only growing and will continue to do so. So because of that, the need for quality will also grow. Quality will always set itself apart. I firmly believe people will always be able to recognise quality. I remember a study where researchers recreated a Mondriaan and slightly altered the thickness of the lines and sizes of the shapes in the painting, and then asked a group of people which painting the felt was better. A big majority chose the original painting. People have a natural eye and instinct for quality - for beauty if you will.
Q> But the real key to outstanding work – no matter the scope or tools – is creativity of course. Back in the day craft was at the end of the whole process. How and why has that changed?
Vincent> I don't think that's completely true. If you look beyond modern day advertising, which I urge everyone in the industry to do for obvious reasons, craft was always at the forefront. It was creativity through craft in many ways. The thinker was the maker. And to be honest, there was some advertising to that as well. If you go way back, why did the Catholic church create all these pieces of art for their churches? To draw people in, to fill up the seats, to make it beautiful and inspiring to be there. That’s advertising.
Talking about the industry today, I believe it’s a reaction to a faster moving market, timings are shorter so we need makers in the room quicker to get stuff done. I absolutely believe this is a good thing.
Q> Originally you’re an animator. When did you realise you wanted to become an animator?
VIncent> I ended up with animation at art school, after a winding road to be honest. I was already attracted to the more artistic fields from a young age, I was always drawing and writing. I directed and wrote some material for the christmas play of my primary school when I was 11 and almost wanted to make a career in theatre. I made music, was in a band for bit. I did a lot of different things. In the end I applied to be a fine artist at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. After trying different things there I ended up in animation. Mainly because I feel it combines all the art forms I love into a single medium. Animation is about movement, story, cinematography, music, sound, it can be everything. I really believe it’s the greatest and most powerful art from there is.
Q> What’s the most interesting development in the field of animation right now?
Vincent> One of them definitely would be real-time rendering. Through conventional methods it can still take a lot of time and work before you have a fully rendered/finished picture to work with (not taking into account all the beautiful work that is done before hand in the design, layout, modelling, texturing, shading and lighting processes by all the artists). This can all change very soon, most of the tools are here already though it will take some time before they are fully incorporated for production. Neill Blomkamp is experimenting with this greatly and successfully through his new studio Oats Studios.
But if you ask me, the moment the industry lets go of their obsession with photorealism things will get really interesting. I’m very excited about the fact that the new Spider Man animated film is such a massive hit. It’s one of the first major studio animated releases that completely embraced a unique stylised approach to the entire film. I hope this will open doors to a more diverse landscape of animated films. I’m also excited about David Fincher and Tim Miller teaming up for Netflix with the animated anthology series Love, Death & Robots. It has an incredible lineup of artists involved. Talking about artists involved, Patrick O'Keefe will be in Amsterdam in April to speak at the Playgrounds Festival. He is the art director of the Spider Man film I was talking about. I would encourage anyone who can to go see this. It’s truly special what that team of artists has done.
Q> Where does your urge to create stem from? What does it ‘give’ you?
Vincent> I have no idea, it makes me happy. It’s always been there, don’t really know any better.
Q> You interned at Buck in LA, which is the Champions League of animation – why did you return to Amsterdam and Ambassadors?
Vincent> In the end it came down to Ambassadors, co-founders Halbo van der Klaauw and Ton Habraken in particular, who allowed me to help them build and expand something which was very appealing to me. They gave me a huge amount of freedom and trust and encouraged me to pursue this “animation thing”. Together with a small group of artists we started taking on more design and animation projects and it just kept growing. Suddenly we were directing, writing, producing the whole thing. Even though Buck will always hold a special place for me and I owe them a lot; Ryan Honey in particular, I still learn from that man. I don’t think I would have been able to do what I do now over there – and I really like what I’m doing now.’
Q> You could say Ambassadors plays in the international league more and more – your company opened an office last year in New York. What is your mission in the craft industry?
Vincent> Our mission is very simple: create beautiful, high quality work through collaboration, craft and creativity. Wherever that may lead us, and recently it led us to New York and that’s very exciting. We had a great opportunity here (I’m in New York right now) to open up a shop and we are taking it from there. Staying close to our roots, we start with great artists, we have an incredible editor and VFX team in the NYC studio and are looking at possibilities to expand the team. It’s also great to collaborate across our studios, we just finished a piece for the Chainsmokers through a collaboration of the NYC studio and our HQ in Amsterdam.’
Q> You’re also on the board of ADCN, the Club for Creativity in The Netherlands. What is your (hidden) agenda?
Vincent> My main focus within the ADCN board is on craft and talent, and a bit on branding and communication for the club itself. ADCN has done a lot the past few years to shine more of a spotlight on craft and design next to advertising, it’s the logical thing to do. Craft is and has always been an integral part of the success and quality of work within advertising and the creative industry. We want to bring the makers more into the ADCN community to inspire others across all fields and vice versa.
Q> Finally, zooming in at your job and skills as a craftsman yourself – what is your favourite piece of (your own) work?
Vincent> There are different things I like about all the pieces I have worked on. ASN Bank – Creature of Habit was pretty successful which I’m happy about, that was a great one to work on. There are two new films coming out soon, we are pushing ourselves a lot on these two, so keep an eye on our website. We have some really incredible work coming up in my humble opinion.
My job is also to zoom out and look at the studio or company as a whole, re-work how we approach things or structure things. This is something completely different than being Creative Director on a project – it’s very exciting though. Coming from being behind my screen for years with my headphones on, this experience has taught me a lot about priorities and people in general. I really enjoy working with my people at Ambassadors, I’ve been there for ten years now and we all have grown so much together. I see every artist pushing him- or herself and growing with every project, that’s really inspiring. I’m also very lucky, I get to work with people who I count among my best friends. They keep me sane sometimes, which I’m thankful for. They make me grow, teach me stuff every day, it’s really cool. Even though sometimes they go through my treatments with a red pen just as much as I do with theirs, they question me just as hard as I question them. And that’s the point I guess, because the work gets better and better.