ASA recently chatted to Simon Hanson of Inspired Minority. A veteran of the film industry, Simon has a master plan to share his company’s workload of local and international production work with competent collaborators in a shared space, while training up the next generation of talent. We asked him to unfold his vision…
Tell us about yourself and your company.
Inspired Minority thinks of itself as a 21st century film production entity with skills that span the production-post production divide. In this century we believe the idea of pre-production, production and post production will be constantly eroded until only content companies remain. We want to be one of those companies. It is with that future in mind that IMP works on digital VFX supervision and VFX production working with film directors and producers, VFX artists, SFX supervisors and companies all over the world.
You have an interesting workflow of offering your contractors and subcontracted companies the opportunity to pick shots off your board. Tell us about your philosophy and how you’ve refined it over the years.
We have built an open access workflow that engages artists at all levels on a host of work. Beginner or expert, our system gives artists an opportunity to do work at their level, in the time they need, so they can learn and grow in a sustained and supported way. Take a shot from our list and try it – if you later feel the money is too little or the shot is above your current skill level, toss it back and take another more suited to do. The idea is to keep moving and earning without getting tied up with shots that lose you money or time. If you want to push yourself, notch it up and take something more challenging – we’ll help you. We make tutorials for many of our workflows and we are always there to help artist and companies grow. In our world a win is having many more contractors who can produce solid work because this means we have more to offer.
Roots – one of Inspired Minority’s recent projects.
You’re looking to move into a new workspace with creative collaborators. What’s the vision?
In the last year we realized that, for our business to prosper, we needed to train and mentor many more new artists and companies to the level we require in the international VFX market. We are a small operation as we provide production, management and supervision services only. We want artists, post houses and boutique shops to grow up around us as autonomous suppliers. We are putting together a consortium which is more than the sum of its parts. We’re looking for collaborators not only for animation but sound and music, 3d scanning and printing companies, writers and artists – people who will be energized by the access we have to one another’s skills and tools. We encourage those interested to contact us as we have some exciting properties in mind that are ideal for this type of cohabitation.
Tell us how you got to where you are today. What was your biggest break? What’s been the toughest lesson you’ve learned in business?
I have paid a lot of dues in my career. I have succeeded spectacularly and fallen a few times. It takes a lot to get back on the horse again but those who do learn quickly that the breaks do come if you persist. I lost everything in 2007 and had to restart my life. It was a difficult thing to do but with hard work and luck I managed to get a break with CHRONICLE in 2011 and since then my life has changed. I am not glad for the pitfalls but I do appreciate their value and probably wouldn’t wish them away because they have shown me that the only person whose belief you can control, is you. Most, if not all the battles we fight, are in our own heads.
What are your current projects?
We are working on some sizeable projects for the next year and since completing all the VFX for Tutankhamun (ITV), Accident (Forefront Media) and Roots (History Channel), we have been busy applying what we have learned, preparing ourselves and our suppliers for the coming challenges and setting up training and mentor-ship programs for our community to ensure that we can all perform at the level required. Our initiative to create a common space with others is an important part of this future. I am also personally seeking an assistant/producer’s assistant. We believe that the next few years will be definitive for our sector in SA and that we have an opportunity to establish ourselves in the global community in a way we have never done before.
How would you describe South Africa’s VFX industry? What are the opportunities, and what’s our biggest stumbling block?
In VFX, our Day Rates are and always have been lower than US, UK and others. But what we get done in a day is not on par with what is done elsewhere in the world. Artists that do are the exception, not the rule. We have some very talented people but we don’t have many industry drivers who can push that talent to excellence. We are still, in some ways, living in a bubble where the industry functions the way it did ten years ago. VFX has diversified, and technology has become way cheaper and more accessible, yet we are still thinking about VFX today in bulk and in a fairly simple way. Films are digital and there is a lot of regular work to be done that is relatively uncomplicated but still needs to be done right. The high end stuff is probably way less than half the entire business. It may surprise many to learn that when we contract UK and US artists in our system we do not change our Rand quotas. A US artist gets the same bounty a local artist gets. And they do the work – well. In essence, there are more skilled artists who are more efficient than most of our local artists in many places in the world. We need to change this and we intend to.
If you’re interested in being part of this vision, contact firstname.lastname@example.org