J. Paul Peszko interviews the artists at Canadian firm Global Mechanic about their works and expansion into the U.S.
Global Mechanic feels at home mixing techniques in its work, as in this image from Wrong Number Phone Message, an independent film by Bruce Alcock, which recently screened at Sundance. All images courtesy of Global Mechanic.
We make art work is not just a catchy slogan but represents the intrinsic core value that separates Global Mechanic from the typical commercial producer. In this age of specialization, where companies attempt to excel in one particular area of commercial production, be it animation or live-action, Global Mechanic stands apart as a production entity that can do it all and apparently do it very well. By working in various media, they are able to blend techniques and styles with the goal of creating an emotional connection with their audience. Not tied down to one particular style of production, they feel comfortable using a range of techniques, including cel-drawn animation, 3D, CGI mixed-media, stop-motion/motion-control and live-action. Furthermore, commercial producers rarely venture into long-form or independent production. But, here again, Global Mechanic excels at both.
Bucking this trend toward specialization has served the Vancouver-based firm especially well, and the blending of the two forms has set them apart from run-of-the-mill commercial producers. Nothing points this out better than Global Mechanics recent expansion, setting up a new U.S. office in Boston. The firm has experienced such dramatic growth in all aspects of its business commercials, television programming and independent film that it has become imperative to expand both their capacity and talent base. Matthew Charde, Global Mechanics exec producer, who heads up the new Boston office, believes the expansion will give the firm easier access to both talent and clients. Our presence in the U.S. will be a tremendous asset to the studio, since we will be more fully able to service our clients with an East Coast presence while at the same time broadening creative and production opportunities for our teams in Vancouver.
Canadian natives Ann Marie Fleming (left) and Bruce Alcock (center) founded Global Mechanic in 2000. Matthew Charde serves as the companys exec producer.
The founders of Global Mechanic, Bruce Alcock and Ann Marie Fleming, are both Canadians. Ann Marie is a native of Vancouver while Bruce hails from Newfoundland. Ann Marie, who has worked mainly in independent film, first met Bruce, a commercial animator, while using the Toronto facilities of Cuppa Coffee, an animation studio that Bruce founded. They met again some years later when Ann Marie visited another studio that Bruce ran in Chicago, Tricky Pictures. The pair decided at that point to blend their talents and their lives by getting married and returning to Vancouver where they established Global Mechanic in 2000.
We really didnt know how things were going to go when we came up here, Fleming says. Im surprised at how much work followed us up. We started off very small as a boutique shop, and we feel now that were ready to expand into a larger market and bring on more directors, more producers. Thats why we teamed with Matthew, hoping that his experience on the agency side and his many years of production with Olive Jar will help us be able to do this.
In that regard, one of the first things Charde has done since opening the Boston studio is to add two new directors, Dan Sousa and Rich Ferguson-Hull. Both fit in well with the eclectic style that has become the trademark of Global Mechanic. Sousa, who animates in cel, 3D, CGI and mixed media, has done six Nestle Quick Bunny spots for McCann-Erickson and many of the Marsha Campaign commercials for Marshalls and Hill Holiday. He also has a huge portfolio of character animation work, which includes Bugs Bunny, The Power Puff Girls and various other Looney Toon and Hanna-Barbera characters. Ferguson-Hull also works in traditional, 3D, CGI and stop motion. His credits include work for Kraft, Pillsbury, Staples and Citibank and for major agencies such as J. Walter Thompson, Leo Burnett and Young & Rubicam. He has directed and animated work for both Universal Studios and Disneyland Theme Parks, two animation pilots for Cartoon Network and one for Fox Networks, as well as numerous network promos and IDs for TCM and Cartoon Network. They join the creative roster that is already in place in Vancouver, which, besides Alcock and Fleming, includes Marv Newland and Nathaniel Akin.
Alcock says he is thrilled with the addition of Sousa and Ferguson-Hull. With both Dan and Rich working with us, we have now completely rounded out our animation offerings as a production company. They are two of the best cel and character animators working today.
From its very inception, Global Mechanic has striven to create a synergy between commercial work and independent productions. Having artists in the same room working on different kinds of projects creates a stimulation, Alcock believes, that leads to more interesting and creative work than found in the run-of-the-mill production studios. When we were working on commercials over the past year, Ann Marie was producing her feature (documentary) The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. So there were animators in the studio animating sections of her film and doing title work, and at the same time we were doing time-lapse photography for a Dove commercial and pixilated work for Bell Mobility spots. According to Alcock, whose background is in using experimental animation techniques in a commercial context, this kind of stimulation is intentional and not haphazard. Were trying to push things a little, trying to learn as much as we can job-to-job and cross-pollinate between the energy and focus on the commercial end and the creativity and wider breath of vision on the independent side.
Global Mechanic produces pixilated spots for its ongoing Bell Mobility campaign for Re-Think Advertising.
While this energy and breadth of vision are evident when one views the companys reel, which includes commercials, independent films and music videos, Alcock is especially proud of his commercial reel. Whether its pixilation for Bell Mobility or mixed-media for Coca-Cola International, Coffee Mate and Tampax, or stop-motion/motion control for TCM or time lapse for Dove Soap, the reel showcases the many techniques that Alcock has mastered as both an animator and a live-action director. The commercial work thats on there is really solid. Theres a lot of variation, a lot of different kinds of techniques. A lot of people say, when they get my reel, that theyre surprised that its one director thats done all the stuff because I really do like to push in a lot of different directions. I think the reel is reflecting that now and makes a really strong presence out there.
Charde agrees and believes the reel will not only attract a greater volume of work but the kind of work that sets Global Mechanic apart from the specialty producers. I think that, whether they acknowledge it or even know it, agencies need to work with companies that have that energy, that have the cross-pollination of artists and filmmakers. Thats where the more interesting stuff is coming from, at least in animation and effects. Charde, who formerly served as exec producer and general manager of Olive Jar Studios in Boston and later as a svp at Euro RSCG, adds that this is an important aspect of the companys growth. Its just as much about the work as it is about the contractors and the employees and the artists who work with us. Its about attracting interesting work from clients. Its creating an environment where the workers and the suppliers are all of the same mindset.
Coming up with creative solutions is a large part of Global Mechanics business. Alcock points out, They (clients) have got an idea, but they dont know how to present it. Or, theyve got an idea that theyre kind of iffy about and they say, Look, how would you do it? And well come up with an alternative. Charde believes that its a blending of the various techniques that leads to more creative solutions. Were designers who can animate; were animators who can design. We know live action; we shoot live action. Were a true mixed-media business. And once a solution is reached, the company has the wherewithal to carry it out. Being animation people, directors, designers and compositors, we know how to composite, we know how to rotoscope, we know how to put cel animation on top of live-action, we know how to make things look believable and real.
Now that Global Mechanic has gone international as well as bicoastal, Fleming says this will broaden the companys vision even more. We always wanted to have an international presence, not just with clients but to work with people from all over the world. Theres nothing like being able to collaborate with different people who have a different vision just because of where they stand in the world. Of this new international presence, Alcock agrees, It makes your life more interesting and your work more interesting.
As for working globally, Alcock has no worries when it comes to handling the logistics. Coca-Cola International involved working with many, many animators and different kinds of production people simultaneously doing work for Japan and India. Fleming added, That was an example where animators, clients and agencies were in all different parts of the world and it worked pretty seamlessly.
Whats in the future for Global Mechanic? Well, Fleming is working on a feature-length script based on her documentary about her grandfather, the magician-juggler Long Tack Sam, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Shes also working on animation for one of her short stories. On the commercial side, the company is continuing to work on Bell Mobility spots through Re-Think Advertising in Vancouver while the Boston office is finishing a production for a major footwear client Both offices have bids in the pipeline with a number of Canadian and U.S. ad agencies. The company is also developing ideas for television projects and hopes to have an animated series ready to go within 12 to 16 months. In addition, they have opened their doors to local filmmakers providing facilities and services for independent projects and are looking forward to working with the burgeoning creative community in the Greater Boston area. Global Mechanics reels can be viewed on their Website at www.globalmechanic.com.
J. Paul Peszko is a freelance writer and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. He writes feature articles, interviews and reviews as well as short fiction. He currently has a feature comedy in development and has just completed his second novel. When he isnt writing, he teaches communications courses.