NAME: Maria Rapetskaya
COMPANY: Undefined Creative
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Undefined Creative is a Brooklyn-based media production agency specializing in motion graphics.
Our portfolio spans television, digital marketing, social media and live events, making us the perfect studio for big brands, agencies and networks looking to establish holistic creative partnerships. We deliver premium-grade motion media, at fair and transparent prices, on time, on budget, on the mark and with a personal touch.
WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
There are two sides to my job: the entrepreneur and the creative. The “entrepreneur” is the founder part, and that makes me responsible for nearly everything, even if only in a supervising or approval role.
I am responsible for the majority of business development. I set the company vision and work on the strategy to get there. I work in tandem with my executive producer on marketing. I oversee finances and operations, and do a good deal of maintaining client relationships.
The “creative” part of my job is being the creative director of a boutique. This encompasses setting the aesthetic direction of the studio in general and each project in particular. Communication with clients about all aspects of a project, and guiding the creative along the production process and — since we are a boutique — a good deal of hands-on production. I love that last part, since I never wanted to get away entirely from actually DOING what I love.
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
Being both an entrepreneur and a creative director is primarily about managing people. I have to manage our clients by setting realistic expectations without creating negative sentiments, or guiding them effectively through the process so that they understand and appreciate the creative decisions and directions we’re taking.
I also have to manage my team, making sure that everyone understands, for example, that there are objective and subjective comments when it comes to my critiques. The objective comments are not a judgment on anyone’s aesthetic, but a way to develop the best solution for the problem at hand. If I fail to do any of these, all I wind up with is miserable clients and miserable co-workers. So, in essence, the success of this studio depends in a large part on my ability to communicate accurately, efficiently, courteously and emphatically.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Getting unsolicited happy feedback from our clients. We’ve gotten such amazing notes following project delivery. It’s part of our company mission to never forget that our clients are people, so knowing that we made them look good, that their experience of working with us was enjoyable… that they’re less stressed out because they know we’ll take good care of them. All these things really inspire and encourage all of us here.
WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
Experiencing a project I was really excited about become drudgery. It happens and it happens everywhere, to all creatives. There’s usually a combination of factors that contribute to this, like deadlines getting pushed up suddenly and significantly, or a lot of voices in the approval process pulling in completely different directions that are incompatible. I’ve learned over the course of my career to keep a healthy distance from my work, and that helps me manage my reactions, stay focused and motivated. But I’m still human, and even if I don’t get bummed, it’s hard to see the occasional disappointment in the team when this kind of stuff happens.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Whatever I can squeeze in before 9am. Zero distractions, plenty of caffeine.
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I’d do something that combines people, travel, teaching/mentoring and health/wellness.
HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I was always into, and good at, art. So once I recognized that the only high school classes I was super-excited about were my art classes, I knew I could do this for a living. I come from a creative family of people who love to work for themselves, so even starting a company of my own wasn’t a big surprise. However, with respect to the specific discipline I chose being animation and motion graphics that was pretty random. I picked animation as a college major by default, on the advice and encouragement of an older friend who was graduating from the animation department when I was a freshman. And I didn’t discover motion graphics until about a year after I graduated.
CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
This summer, we branded the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas, creating all of the live-event animations for multiple screens on the show stage. We re-branded the Maury Show for the seventh time, creating new graphics packages for on-air, marketing and social media. We did a couple of cool broadcast promo spots for A&E. We worked on an animation for the US Navy and Men’s Health that described some fun facts about sailors (did you know the fitness test includes two minutes of pushups?)
Most recently, we created a graphics package for the United Nations Equator Prize to play on stage during their 2017 Awards Ceremony.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
That’s a very hard question to answer. I don’t think it’s an individual project, but rather our commitment to doing work pro bono for social causes. We’ve created 10-plus (I am actually losing track of how many) awareness videos since 2010, as well as a number of other projects for organizations and missions we care about.
NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My iPhone, although I am now very conscious of when and how much I’m on it. My analog alarm clock that ensures my iPhone can stay out of the bedroom. My MacBook Air, which lets me get away from my desk even if I’m still working.
WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
None, if I can help it. I don’t have much love for social media, and if not for needing it to run a business, I would gladly disconnect all together. I do appreciate LinkedIn as a business community, but I try to not get sucked in.
DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK? CARE TO SHARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO WORK TO?
Funny you ask. In my twenties, I listened to music while working… loudly and all day long. Now, I just love silence when I work. Helps me focus.
THIS IS A HIGH STRESS JOB WITH DEADLINES AND CLIENT EXPECTATIONS. WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I’ve been a professional creative for nearly 20 years, and coming up with fresh ideas on demand and all the time isn’t easy. Neither is running a company, which is a Ferris wheel ride of gaining clients, losing clients, getting jobs, not getting jobs. People depend on me to pay their bills. My job can be either exhilarating or exhausting, and which it will be depends on my ability to stay creative, productive and encouraged.
If I don’t take care of my mind and body properly, consistently and thoroughly, I’ll burn out. So I take control of my time. I don’t work after hours unless it’s actually necessary. I meditate every day. I try to get a workout in daily. I disconnect whenever I can. I stay off my smartphone when possible. I don’t have a TV — in fact, I rarely watch anything once I’m done working. Staring at a screen all day for work makes it far less enticing to stare at one for leisure. I love what I do, but I take time off to travel whenever I can, and I never guilt myself for wanting a life outside of work