Director Graham Elliott (BFA Advertising and Graphic Design Department faculty member) captures the energy and drive of individuals involved in the motion graphics industry with his new documentary New York in Motion. Fifty interviews with industry bigwigs, including executives from TV networks and top studios, portray the evolution of motion graphics, its current state and its potential for future development. The Briefs caught up with Elliott via email to discuss the project.
Why did you choose this project? What was your goal going into it?
I teach a motion graphics portfolio class at SVA and I realized the discipline had gotten rather murky as to what exactly it was and what was out there for the students. I went to Richard Wilde, the chair of the BFA Advertising and Graphic Design Department. I asked if I could get his and SVA’s backing to make a short documentary about the field and the practitioners. He was very enthusiastic, and President David Rhodes also gave his backing as executive producer.
How did you select who to interview? Did you discover anything new through the interviews?
I asked my students to look up who was doing the best, most innovative work. I also asked Matt Lambert from Motionographer for his selections, and I threw in my faves. We ended up with a list of 52 designers, studios and networks. I emailed them, and 50 replied with full support and enthusiasm. Incidentally the film was originally going to be a web-based, 12-minute piece. I ended up shooting more than 100 hours. The rough cut was three-and-a-half hours.
How do you think this documentary will impact the audience’s understanding of motion graphics?
That’s a great question, and I think it is the biggest revelation I discovered. A quote from the film by Charlie No (BFA 2004 Advertising and Graphic Design), an SVA alum and owner of Alien Kung Fu studios—“My mother doesn’t even know what I do.” I thought the film would be embraced by the design community but didn’t realize that the general public would be so interested in the topic. Putting faces behind the work really brings the field to life. I was recently talking to the New York Center for an Urban Future about proposing the city put some backing behind the industry as it does with sports and fashion. Think “Fashion Week.” Why not a “Motion Graphics Week”? The field is growing every day as the ubiquity of all the delivery mechanisms grows and grows. The explosion of iPods, iPads, giant [TV] screens and the global reach of the Internet is making motion design an essential part of a designer’s repertoire. The fact the film got into the biggest documentary festival in the world [International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam] shows there is a great interest in the subject, even outside of the motion graphics and design industry.
What are some of your upcoming projects to look out for?
I am pitching the idea of The World in Motion as a TV series or short film series, an exposé into the global effect of the industry…I am also interested in resurrecting a project that I think I was too close to when I made it 10 years ago for it to reach its full potential, the documentary Greyhound to Cuba, about life in the back streets of a country in exile. I am also teaching a new motion portfolio class next fall called New York in Motion…The students will be immersed in the industry practices and standards.
Watch the trailer for New York in Motion below.