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Behind the Title: Artjail CD/owner Steve Mottershead

NAME: Steve Mottershead (@stevemotts)

COMPANY: New York City’s Artjail @Artjail

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
We do visual effects for commercials, films and video art. Recently, we have done production as well.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Creative Director/Owner

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
As creative director I am the creative leader of our studio. Big picture it involves thinking of initial ideas, technical and creative solutions, or just executing creative projects that we have been tasked with from an ad agency or director.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I guess the versatility that is involved. One day you are designing a character for an animated spot and the next you are helping a director figure out what camera gear to use on specific shots for a commercial shot.

Artjail_space_01

Or bouncing back and forth from clients in the studio to three or four conference calls briefing us on potential new projects. Mentally, there is a lot of changing gears throughout the day. Then throw the owner hat on and you’re in a room discussing an employee’s benefits package.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
The moment when we get a project to a point where you need to keep playing it over and over again right when you finish it because you are so pleased with the result. And I’m not saying that happens every time, but for those ones times when it does, that’s what it’s all about.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
That moment when we agree to do a job that was under bid and on an impossible timeline. And by under bid I mean agreeing to do the project for what they have, even when we have our doubts. I’m learning not to make that mistake as often.

Oh, and cost consultants.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
I used to be a night owl… but then I had a daughter. She wakes me up pretty early everyday, no matter what. But that time I get to spend with her before I head off to the office is the best part of my day. I love my job, but family comes first.

Before my daughter was born, my favorite time was at night when mostly everyone had left the studio and I was able to focus on what I didn’t get to on my first shift of the day.

Speaking of kids, when I first opened my company it was like having my first kid in a way. It needed constant attention and nurturing. We didn’t have a lot of help at first, so it was just a couple of us trying to gets things off the ground and keeping our heads above water. But now things have grown nicely, we’ve added more staff and matured a lot. We also really dialed in our workflow and pipeline.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would be either designing houses or furniture. Or a golfer on the PGA tour, ha!

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I was always into art a very young age, but that was more traditional painting and drawing. My big break/realization happened when I was 16 and my grandparents introduced me to a VFX studio in Toronto called Axyz.

Yup, me and the grandparents took a trip to the big city. When we got there I was completely blown away by what I ended up learning was a Discreet Logic Inferno in action. What they were doing with it and resolution on the broacast monitor. I was instantly in love. From that point I knew I wanted to be a Flame artist, so I traded in my paintbrush and pencil for a Wacom tablet pen. I started at Axyz as an intern that next summer.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Recently we’ve worked on a Motorola spot for the launch of the Moto 360 smart watch for Park Pictures and Droga5.

Currently we are in the middle of a 16-spot campaign for 3M via BBDO NY that I directed the live action for, and we are working in the Flame and CG between Artjail and our new London affiliate Analog.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Probably the Morgan Stanley spot I directed and did lead VFX for.

Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My Wacom tablet/pen, the Autodesk Flame and my French Press coffee maker.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
My favorite music to listen to at work is a Canadian band called Sloan. They have this song called “Coax Me,” one of my all-time favorite songs.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Luckily I learned very early on that you have to be cool under pressure. I had a great mentor in Toronto… Dave Giles. He always seemed so chill, even when producers or clients were freaking out. That always stayed with me. The thing I always say to myself is that you can only work as fast as humanly possible, so clouding your mind with stress or negative thoughts isn’t going to speed things up by any means.

YOU RECENTLY PRESENTED A TECH TALK WITH MEWSHOP. WHAT DID YOU COVER?
Yeah I actually just did that last week, and it was really cool. I basically took the audience through a few projects where I had used VFX to solve issues with budget and schedule while retaining a high level of production value.

From foregoing motion control and going the route of poor man’s moco to relighting live-action cars using a normals map generated in CG but used in Flame to more precisely grade every detail of the car.

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