Interview: Johnny Kelly on Dropbox “Creative Freedom”
Nexus wunderkind director Johnny Kelly talks to Stash about pulling together 100+ artists, designers, craftspeople, architects, engineers, scientists and musicians; assigning them each a scene, then merging it all into a hypnotic brand film for Dropbox.
Stash: Working with over 100 collaborators seems overwhelming. How did you select them?
Johnny Kelly: Finding contributors was a fun task.
My first step was to trawl through my bookmarks folder, but this was mostly illustrators and animators. Dropbox and 72andSunny wanted to show the sheer diversity of their users so we spread the net wider to include architects, engineers, musicians and more.
This meant looking into the different kinds of people using Dropbox, and approaching friends, friends of friends, and other connections with a view to gathering all of this in a very short period of time.
When I tendered on the project I put together a little pitch video. This proved really useful to send out to contributors so they immediately understood the broad idea behind the film, and also to make SUPER CLEAR that their work would only be on screen for a nanosecond. Everyone seemed okay with this, thankfully.
Did you create any of the vignettes yourself?
I had my grubby mitts on quite a few of them, but resisted the urge to do more. I wanted to make sure it felt like a mix of different creators’ work, and making most of the vignettes myself would have broken that rule.
That said, I did thumbnail out a storyboard at the start of the production (I’m incapable of directing without doing some kind of board) in order to plan out the flow and balance of different techniques.
How did you handle the logistical problems of so many assets?
Part of my initial idea was to make a film that could only have been made using Dropbox. So genuinely, the product was a key part of the production (I can say the same for a Bacardi ad I did a few years ago) and it allowed us to sync a bazillion shot folders on our local server with dozens of contributors around the globe.
What was the greatest creative hurdle to making such a collaborative piece?
The traditional production of a 60 second spot involves tight storyboarding, design and shot approval. On this project, these luxuries weren’t possible because we gave our collaborators complete ‘creative freedom.’
We did have an animatic – but each shot was really just a compositional guide with an indication of what we might see – like ‘food photography’, ‘music’ or ‘data visualization.’ It wasn’t the most exciting thing to watch!
Any client would be nervous watching this animatic, let alone a client embarking on their first brand campaign. Thankfully Dropbox and 72andSunny understood, and encouraged us to make the leap, and it paid off I think/hope.
Chief Creative Officer: Glenn Cole
Group Creative Director: Matt Murphy
Creative Director/Designer: Robert Teague
Creative Director/Writer: Claire Morrisey
Senior Writer: Dave Carlson
Designer: Nick Marx
Senior Film Producer: Angelo Mazzamuto
Senior Film Producer: Perrin Rausch
Film Producer: Emilie Talermo
Design/Production Company: Nexus
Director: Johnny Kelly
Executive Creative Director: Chris O’Reilly
Senior Producer: Isobel Conroy
Production Manager: Lucy Banks
Production Manager: Thomas Cullen
Studio Director of Photography: Matthew Day
Locations Director of Photography: Matthew Fox
Project Lead: Elliott Kajdan
Project Lead: David Walker
Editor (60): David Slade
Editor (30): Nick Gartner
3-D Animation: Eaton Crous
3-D Animation: Joao Monteiro
2-D Animation: Tom Bunker
2-D Animation: James Hatley
Compositing: Bence Varga
Compositing: Pete Baxter
Postproduction: Time Based Arts
Compositor: Sheldon Gardner
Colorist: Simone Grattarola
Music & Sound Design: Human
Mix: Formosa Group
Mixer: John Bolen
Mixer: Hermann Thurmann
Executive Producer: Lauren Cascio
Assistant: Jeff King