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New York’s Quiet Man Celebrates 10 Years of VFX

In many respects, Quiet Man functions much as it sounds. The New York visual effects company is decidedly low-key and casual, reflecting the comfortable confidence with which they ply their craft. However, Since opening their doors a decade ago, the creative studio has enjoyed a, for the most part uninterrupted, growth in status and reputation in the advertising industry, in which they are renowned for the high level of aesthetic and technical finesse they bring to their visual effects work.

Quiet Man specializes in creating well crafted seamless visual effects Through the years, the company has made Jane Goodalls chimpanzees imitate Marlon Brando and Sylvester Stallone for HBO; helped a FedEx truck travel to the merry old land of Oz to help the Lollipop Guild; and enabled two scrawny teenagers outclass the NBAs finest, for starters.

Quiet Mans work has had a profound influence on the ad industry. In addition to winning an Emmy award, the aforementioned HBO spot, CHIMPS, in which Goodalls simian subjects secretly watch her HBO connection and begin behaving like famous movie characters from THE GODFATHER to FORREST GUMP, gave rise to a veritable avalanche of commercials featuring talking animals.

Not surprisingly, the company has garnered the attention of the top directors and editors in the commercial business. Working with legendary ad director Joe Pytka, the Quiet Man team has created some of the most enduring and sought-after work in the business, including The Beatles groundbreaking FREE AS A BIRD music video released in 1996, and Pepsis GOLDFISH spot, in which a pet goldfish does incredible tricks for a drop of cola with disastrous but hilarious results.

Truth be told, Amy Taylor and Johnnie Semerad never expected things to turn out this way. When the duo started Quiet Man, their New York City-based animation and visual effects company, in 1995, they had no way of knowing what the ensuing decade would bring.

Now Quiet Man still occupies an ever-growing amount of space in the same Manhattan edifice that provided the first home for the original bellicose editors of THE NEW YORKER. From the very beginning, vigorous talent and easy-going style combined to ensure Quiet Mans success in the ad business.

Significantly, Quiet Mans inaugural year of business also forged a long- lasting and fruitful relationship with a then-emerging advertising legend.

By the time he met Quiet Man, commercial director Joe Pytka had already given the world such ubiquitous catch phrases as Ray Charles Uh-huh for Pepsi and This Is Your Brain on Drugs, likely the most memorable anti-drug PSA ever created, and would go on to direct SPACE JAM (1996), a delightful blend of animation and live action starring Michael Jordan. In Quiet Mans early days, however, Pytka was in need of something special for a Pepsi commercial starring 71 Shaquille ONeal, then a rising star with the NBAs Orlando Magic.

The commercial called for Shaq to run through a series of television monitors, each showing some classic television moment, explained Semerad. We werent even six months old at that point, and the spot had already been awarded to somebody else. The entire piece had been shot with Shaq running left to right, but Joe wanted to have him run the other way. Initially, they simply tried to flip the film, but that meant his number was backwards and things just didnt look right. Anyway, we took care of it.

So impressed, in fact, that Pytka offered the new wunderkinds a true plum: the video for Free As A Bird, a new song from The Beatles. The video is still revered today for its innovative look and effects, and went on to win a Grammy award. It was also a turning point for the young company of two:

It was pretty much just the two of us back then, added Taylor. Johnnies work was absolutely groundbreaking on that video. We did things that people didnt know you could do. Johnnie just sat down and tried to figure it out with the software. From the beginning, I think both Johnnie and I were sufficiently ambitious and astute to recognize great opportunities when they showed up. First there was Shaq, then The Beatles and that moved us into the many Super Bowl ads that weve been doing ever since. No matter what, we did whatever it took to get the job done well. We still do.

Every year since their inception, Quiet Man has been part of the battle. By the 2001 game, the company was working on no less than a dozen of the highest-profile commercials produced, including three spots for Pepsi, three for Federal Express and one each for Doritos, Cingular and Visa.

The team recently worked with Pytka on an eco-friendly spot for General Electric, the centerpiece of which is a full-grown African elephant dancing flawlessly to Singin in the Rain.

Im very proud of the work weve done over the last 10 years, said Semerad. I also think were doing our best work ever, right now.

New York-based Quiet Man ( is known for the high level of aesthetic and technical finesse they bring to its seamless vfx work. Founded by Johnnie Semerad and Taylor, the award-winning company has created some of the most memorable spots with Joe Pytka for clients such as HBO, Fox, Pepsi and GE.