Kristian Mercado: Pitch Junkie
New York director Kristian Mercado, who made the move from 1st Ave Machine to CHRLX in early 2012, takes us inside his pitch process and reveals how he stays positive even in face of creative defeat.
“UPS Monkeys” style frames
Studio: 1st Ave Machine
Tell us about your approach and philosophy when it comes to pitching.
While sometimes it’s cool to play it straight, I definitely like bringing a bit of something unexpected to the table. I like to try to weave narrative into a single image, I give the audience a small piece, but I make sure that glimpse allows them to visualize the rest of the world, so most of the work ideally happens in the imagination.
I also have strong leanings towards concept, the avant garde and narrative, so often when I first get a brief, I try to find the opportunities to explore those moments, sometimes mixing and matching.
I’m of the philosophy that a good solid plan before going into the nitty gritty goes a long way, so I definitely like to take a day to just hash out doubts and fears and ideas so we hit it boldly and with the utmost confidence and certainty.
I think doubt and a lack of belief in a pitch can ultimately be it’s downfall. The vision to me should always have a cohesion and direction.
You put a lot of work into this UPS Monkey pitch, tell us more about the process.
UPS Monkeys is one of my favorite pitches. I only had four-five days to work on it and slept very little. The pitch was done with 3D artist Ihsu Yoon, a long time collaborator of mine. We flow super well whenever we work together even though we have a bit of a language gap.
I spent a day sketching out all the ideas, and narrative bits which I thought would really shine. The brief had a few narratives and pieces and I found myself drawn to the one about the UPS slips being a team of monkeys. I thought it would make for an adorable piece, and so I fleshed out clever moments in my head. But I only had Ihsu for a day, so I had to do a lot of the heavy lifting myself.
I used the iconic logos and branding as a tool and implemented them into the uniforms. I thought that was a nice touch as it wasn’t a forced branding moment, but rather a natural one. Basically it was a lot of strong planing that really helped me come up with a game plan to pull this off with such a fast turn around. I did obsess a bit towards the end on getting the paper texture and authenticity just right.
Give us some insight into how you designed and built these characters?
It all started with a series of sketches and explorations. I watched a few monkey videos online to catch patterns of behaviors and catch a broad gesture of it. I gathered a ton of references of paper art and origami as well as some character design images I enjoyed. I also drank a lot of green tea, coffee, and some beer too.
In terms of the more direct process, I used a combination of live action and CG. I used a lot of paper scans and imperfections to add into the frames over the 3D elements. I also shot backplates of astroturf using a macro lens to get the desired almost tilt-shift aesthetic. I wanted the world to feel small enough to happen on top of a welcome mat, so I actually bought a green one and used it for these plates.
Then I built the characters and set the scenes out with hits of narrative littered about. I made a few hero models which I was able to tweak slightly and thus get the most bang for my buck, based on the sort time frame I had. After I had all the elements put together, I was able to go in and paint in and refine some of the more subtle details that really made the piece shine for me.
Having the UPS job cancelled must have been a major disappointment. Walk us thru the highs and lows of the pitch.
Finding out it wasn’t going to happen because of money was a major blow for me as I thought it had the potential to be a fantastic spot, but ultimately I’m happy with what I pitched regardless of the outcome. I’d much rather have a solid set of boards than a mediocre spot.
I think we were all super-pumped when the brief came to us and I was delighted to pitch on it. The narrative points were very fleshed out and exciting. Even though it was a lot of work, I kept a very jovial spirit during the duration of it – an against all odds kinda feeling which I relished.
If you could change one aspect of the creative pitch process what would it be?
If I could change anything about pitching it would be a greater sense of collaboration and dialog between creatives regardless of platform or venue.
I feel sometimes we pitch blindly with little choice and ultimately that leads to a lot of difficult issues we all have to look at carefully. I’m always happy to create good work, but I do feel getting a strong dialog going goes a long way to more fruitful and collaborative work.
I’ve grown to love pitching but like a girlfriend, you have to take the good with the bad under the guise that the good is worth all the bad. Whether that balance is right or wrong I can’t say. Since I’ve pitched in the past as a designer and switched to pitching as a Director I find they both have pros and cons.
To speak candidly, I find pitching as a Director is a more rewarding experience as it is high risk, but high reward… I find that facet to be exhilarating because you have more on the line, and like a pitch junkie I honestly live for that rush a bit. Once you do win a pitch you feel a sense of bliss, but it’s like the first step to a long journey.
Tell us about your new home at CHRLX.
I plan to start creating a lot of unique work at CHRLX. It’s my hope to bring a lot of exciting prospects to the table under the vision and leadership of Ryan Dunn the new ECD. Our approach to work is very exciting and I think CHRLX will be someone to keep a close eye to in the years to come. I got some treats and goodies in mind… Should be an rad time.
“Trojan” style frames