Impactist Interview

A little while ago I reached out to my friends at Impactist to see if they’d answer some questions about their work, their inspirations, life outside of LA or NY and balancing personal and client work. Daniel and Kelly have one of the most well defined voices as directors and designers that I know of. They’ve been a source of inspiration of mine since I first saw their work years ago now. Consistently making beautiful fun work in short films, music and commercials, and all of it feels like it belongs…

Have a look at their Work, download some of their Music, or click through to read the full interview…

GC: You guys do a lot of personal pieces, and many that are promotional for your music. How important has non commercial work been in finding clients and commercial work that actually appeal to you?

IMP: We know that manypeople separate themselves into two spaces.  One being a client directed work side, and the other being personal.  For us, those areas aren’t different.  In the end, you’re still dealing with an arbitrary creative problem for which you’re setting up a set of arbitrary rules with which you work within.  Sure, you’re working with an outside voice, the client, but that’s just it.  You’re working with them, just like you flex with the weather in a live shoot, or the particulars of a given medium that you are working with.  The work, regardless of what initiates it, is integrated into our lives without separation.

Client or not, each project feeds the next.  That feeling of satisfaction at the end of a project encourages us to continue.  There is a feedback loop that forms and it’s this loop that we’re trying to maintain and keep going.  Sometimes the loop needs more music, or calls out for paint, or photography.  It’s an internal thing, maybe chemically it’s just a dopamine release.  We’re not neurologists.  But, it’s what we respond to.  The highs and lows of the actual process can be like a micro narrative with it’s own plot points, twists where unexpected results cue emotions and you find yourself manipulated by your own work, if you’re lucky.

The non commercial pieces are where we are most free to develop and try new things.  We’ve been able to do more with actual story which may not be possible to fully play out in a short commercial or graphic bump, so these pieces give clients a larger field of view on our overall work and new options they may have not thought of.

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Since you often do music as well as visuals, how often does a client expect you to do both? How often do you want to do both? Does that make things easier or harder by giving you that much more work on a job? Or do you like having more control that way?

Sometimes people are drawn to the visuals, while others have cited the overall gestalt of the motion, still, and audio work together as their reason for reaching out to us.
Doing everything can be a mixed blessing.  We believe there is a unique value to maintaining the type of authorship that comes from making picture and sound simultaneously.  We enjoy it, so the opportunity to make both is fantastic.  By the time a client contacts us, they’ve usually checked out our work enough to know what to expect.  We are not generalists that you’d ask to make a sound-alike of an existing track or crank out a genre piece.  We make what we make, and we’ve been fortunate to have clients that come to us for that reason.

How is it working outside of the typical NY/LA hubs affect your ability to find work? Where are most of your clients?

Most of our client work comes from other places.  It’s funny that Portland has become such a hyped up location and yet we’re usually dealing with clients and licensees out of state and out of the country.  New York and Los Angeles are definitely the big ones, but clients understand that working remotely with us is not much different than if we were across town from them.  So much is delivered digitally, actually everything we do is delivered digitally, with hard copy duplicates shipped for redundancy at a project’s end.

Oregon is great.  Portland is just a tiny piece of it.  Whenever we hear somebody is moving our way or visiting, we can’t help but encourage them to check out what the rest of the state has to offer.  It’s vast in variation.  Everything is here.  Ocean, rainforest, rich valleys, dry deserts, and mountain peaks.  But, let’s keep that a secret.  Shhh.

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Name a few of your big influences. Designers, studios, films, music, locations, anything…

Hmmm, big influences.  Well, that’s hard to pin down, but we do know broadly what we like.  Modern art from the 30’s to the present, old movies, overlooked small towns, sad stories, documentaries about people, under-hyped restaurants, cats, small block neighborhoods, narrow streets, rural highways, coffee, painters, the weather, new friends, used books, medium format, road trips.

For us, we view inspiration as something that is always happening, you don’t start it and you don’t stop it.  It’s the entirety of your existence all day, every day.  Whether you are aware or not.  It’s the weather, it’s color of the wall in front of you, it’s whether or not your mom called you back, it’s the music in the background, it’s the music in the foreground.  It’s what you ate or didn’t eat for lunch.  It’s everything.

Anybody with the courage to do something new, make something different and then put it out there for the public to see gets an applause from us.  We’re happy to enjoy the labors of others and we always appreciate the work that goes into making something new.

The core of our creative interests are motion based with all the other still and sound projects feeding into that.  We’re most often struck by work outside of the motion field.  We probably spend more time looking outside of animation, away from motion design, away from short films and music videos.  We do see all that work as it pops up and is being published, but if that’s inward looking, we’d say that our view outwards feels more energizing and motivating.

We watch and listen to a lot of stuff, but we don’t try to consume everything.  You can’t.  So being realistic, we’re probably most consistently influenced by the natural environment around us here in the Northwest including human influences like architecture and agriculture.  Kelly’s upbringing in history-rich Tennessee is also always present in our minds.

Media wise, we take in a lot of older films courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.  If there ever was a reason to pay for cable television, it’s Turner.  There is something to be said for a constantly cycling broadcast channel since it can turn you on to something you may not intentionally pick yourself.

The lives of family members, like parents and grandparents, are also big contributors to our interests.  Artists, educators, soldiers, and pastors.  Each one is a story with highs and lows, turning points and endings.  There’s a lot to dig through and learn from.

And of course, past projects affect the next.

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Is there anything in particular that you are aspiring to? I find that most of my friends, even and especially the successful ones are always plotting on the next thing they want to try or conquer… ie live action / fine art / music / directing / feature films…

We live in amazing times.  Every medium is within reach and the logistics of each have gotten cheaper and easier.  We are so lucky to be alive right now.  We have our hand in a lot of pots that continues to expand.  At a minimum, our overall goal is just to maintain the constant output of projects.  We are always creating and there’s a lot of work that doesn’t get seen.  A lot is made for ourselves.  We truly love what we do and hope we can continue to do so long into the future.

At any given time, you’ll find we have several projects in various states of completion.  Right now, there are motion pieces and music tracks underway.  Additionally, there are paper projects being assembled for photography along with a series of paintings on canvas.  We’re also preparing files for for a bound book of images.  It can, at moments, feel a little overwhelming so a Jeff Koons type of factory operation doesn’t sound all that ridiculous after a while.

So if you know any venture capitalists that want to toss some money towards a creativity-factory, let us know and we’ll be there to catch it.  We’ll throw a party for the opening and everyone will be invited.

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Did you ever get compensated for that kpop band’s music video using your song in their intro? That was random huh?

We can’t really address infringements that may or may not be occurring, but we can speak generally to the issue of unauthorized use of music.

People do take our work without license and redistribute it from time to time.  We take a ‘broken windows’ approach to things and try to remedy as much of that as possible.  Not following up on things like this can lead to the establishment of a bad precedent.  It’s usually small infringements by younger folks who’ve had teachers and mentors that have failed them in regard to understanding copyright and respecting the work of other artists.

A little wish of ours would be for teachers to please stop using terms like ‘fair use’ and ‘public domain’ if they’re not going to fully explain to their class what they mean especially if they don’t understand them themselves.  Students need to learn about copyright to avoid future legal problems and also to protect their own work.

It’s so easy to contact artists directly these days.  Most people have multiple points of contact that are easy to search online, so there’s really no excuse for not asking permission.  Plus, the metadata in a music file like ours will have artists names, links, dates, etc. making this all even easier.  We’re in the camp that says artists should be the ones to control how their work is used and be compensated for it.  We thought this was a no-brainer, but it is surprising how entitled some folks feel.

Things get interesting when people sync our work to video, upload it to video sharing sites like YouTube, and then make profits from per-view and per-click ad revenues.  This isn’t just redistribution, it’s also direct profits.  There are also paid downloads and video on demand services that are recent developments that content creators should be aware of.  Some of our work has even been repackaged and resold on iTunes by other music artists without permission and license to do so.  That’s pretty bold.

We understand mistakes are made, but ignorance isn’t a defense you want to test out.
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Thanks for your time guys. We really appreciate it.
ED