Quick Chat: Humble’s ECD Sam Stephens

At the end of March, integrated content studio Humble acquired production house Paranoid US, and at the same time launched sister company Postal to officially handle visual effects and post production.

We thought now was the right time to check in with Humble’s executive creative director, Sam Stephens, to tell us how things are progressing.

Humble has always provided full production and post services. What led to the decision to launch Postal as its own banner?
Historically, we had posted about 75 percent of everything we shot at Humble in-house. As Humble began to work on bigger campaigns, the post asks got bigger as well. Full CG spots, high-end VFX and long-form editorial projects all meant that post was going beyond just servicing our directors.

The post team was creating its own content that was design, concept and/or character-based. We were proud of that work and felt that it needed its own stage and its own brand behind it. We are always going to provide post service to Humble’s productions; that hasn’t changed. What’s changed is that we are also doing more than that. With Postal, we are offering a full-on creative partner and a content creator, not just a provider of post services.

How will clients benefit from Postal being its own brand?
We are all still under the same roof, so the best parts about being a one-stop-shop still apply. Postal is heavily invested and involved from the initial pitch to the ship date. What’s nice for both clients and our directors is that we now have a creative studio model and this roster of double-threat talent who serve as directors, creative directors, designers, animators and VFX artists. We can build these custom-designed teams across both Humble and Postal to collaborate with agencies on whatever they need from concept through post. And our directors have all the support they need in-house regardless of the type or length of the project.

What tools are in use at Postal?
We do a bit of everything here. We like pen and paper. We like our still cameras, our exacto knives, our whiteboards and our brushes. When it’s time to plop down in front of a box we use the typical suite of stuff. Offline and online edits are in FCP and Avid Media Composer. We use Dragon for stop-motion. VFX is either via Flame or Nuke. 3D animation is Maya with rendering out of V-Ray. For 2D goodness we employ the usual collection of Adobe CC programs. We’re also testing out Arnold for 3D rendering these days, and really like what we are seeing so far.

Humble also recently announced an expansion into original feature length fare. Can you elaborate on this expansion, and on how Postal will play into upcoming original content projects?
Moving from festival shorts to features just felt like a natural progression for us. Directors from both Humble and Postal will be pursuing original projects, and for any project Postal will of course provide any design or post production work that’s needed. Postal just did the edit on our first documentary feature Son of the Congo, which had a really successful premiere at SXSW, and we are currently working on poster design and pitch decks for the upcoming narrative feature Humble is producing for roster director Marc Raymond Wilkins.

Son of the Congo

Son of the Congo

Between Humble and Postal we have 18 directors, each one of them overflowing with ideas for shows, features and one-offs. A big part of my job, along with our VP Persis Koch, is to identify which ones should be developed further and then make sure they happen. Over the past year this has become part of who we are as a company, not just something we do in our spare time.

Where do you see Humble and Postal a year from now?
I see us in a hot tub at Sundance, straight from our first premiere. I see Postal’s name getting some real traction, attracting even more A-list talent and A-list work. I see all of us showing up at work every day stoked to be here and proud of the work we’re churning out. And finally I see that attitude catching on to the point where we’ll need to buy a bigger hot tub.

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