When The Cirkus Comes to (Auckland) Town
An international production company based in Auckland, New Zealand, Cirkus prides itself as a place where imagination takes centre stage. The award winning animation house is fortunate enough to enlist an experienced troupe of animation directors that, true to its name, believe in mixing up styles and teams to keep the studio’s output fresh and varied. Cirkus artists use a diverse range of techniques to provide concept storytelling, modeling, character animation, environment, live action shoots, graphic design and visual effects.
Cirkus producer and ringmaster Marko Klijn catches up with LBB to get us up to speed on the company’s latest endeavours.
LBB > The majority of your work doesn’t come from Auckland, or in fact New Zealand-based clients. What attracts global clients to Cirkus?
Marko Klijn> I guess there's a certain unique, quirky approach to our work that attracts a global audience. Our latest and greatest spots use design and mixed media to create a point of difference. Our production pipeline is truly global using talent ehhh really from anywhere so every person that works on a project adds his or her own flare to the piece. Then again what else would you expect from the Cirkus?
LBB > Why did you originally choose to set up in Auckland NZ? Or, better still, why do you choose to stay?
MK> Well I moved over from the Ol Country of Dutchland to New Zealand and started an animation career here. In the 20th Century we called this emigration. I wouldn't put it in this emotive perspective, but I did go here as a lifestyle choice and NZ does agree with me (and my family) so I'll stick around some more. Our office is at the beach in Takapuna – apart from the beautiful people, the Cannes beach does not compare well to our home location.
LBB > Animators are remote creatures… and can basically work anywhere they wish to. While the positives are pretty obvious, are there any set backs to this?
MK> Not really as long as there's a core team in one space on a daily basis working with one another and bouncing off ideas. We have that in Auckland and the team ensures that the Cirkus standards are upheld and drive the creative process and this is where the grunt-work of the production pipeline (rendering, compositing) takes place.
Additional design and illustration, character animation, 3D modeling and texturing, miniature (set) building all these things can be done anywhere by individual freelancers, directed and or quality controlled by the Auckland team. Many of these off shore freelancers have been with the Cirkus family for a long time and are familiar with how we work.
LBB > Romain Borrel and his animators have certainly been hard at work on the Jack of All Trades series and you guys have just released a new episode, ‘The Butcher’. Is the hope that the series will be picked up by a network? How do you go about securing this?
MK> Yes the ambition is to turn this into a longer format – it's easy to glue the episodes together into a series with Jack progressing from one episode to the next. We're talking and networking to people who know what to do to make this into a series. Meanwhile, the first goal is to build a body of work that showcases the depth and creative scope of the series. Once we've rolled out the Postman, Zookeeper, Fireman and the Vet we will have a strong body of work to start promoting so we can take it to the next level.
LBB > How did this amazingly quirky idea come about and how will you continue to fund the series?
MK> Ah - c'est Romain. He's mad as a snake with a talent for fascinating characters! Our in house animation director and Human Cannonball is always busy with developing characters, ideas and looks. With 'Jack', the idea was to create one simple 3D character that would be easy to 3D animate and set this against a simple illustrated background.
We put all these illustrations on 3D planes enabling us to create a 3D scene and put in nice lighting etc making it look pretty in the process. Predominantly we fund Jack in-house utilising our core team. Additionally, we have a tribe of overseas students wanting to intern at Cirkus, which helps to keep pushing the project along.
LBB > What advice would you give to producers and other animators on undertaking such rewarding, but I imagine, very time consuming love projects?
MK> The answer lies in the question :). I do not drive a big f**k off white metro sexual range rover but get to chuckle at great animation. It's a BIG project and will always cost a LOT of money so you've got to take off your accountant’s hat and embrace it. Of course it contributes to great IP and helps develop a unique look and feel that always resonates with creatives, writers and producers at agencies.
When we do our marketing we find it important to showcase a full body of work that is current and fresh – Jack of all Trades and the Popcorn Machine are key components in our presentations to agencies showcasing how to do things not the same. Simple, affordable with the design taking centre stage.
LBB > Ogilvy UK chose you to help out with its new Snuggle Intense campaign created for the Netherlands with adaptations for European regions. How was it working with The Sweet Shop director Jeff Wood on this one; what’s that collaborative process like?
LBB > Cirkus is heading along to adland’s biggest celebratory festival. What kind of work do you hope to see winning at Cannes this year?
MK> Our Airbnb spot of course!
We like to keep fresh and see what else is happening out there. There are some very talented people in our industry globally and one of the main reasons for Christian (our Juggler and animation director) to attend Cannes is to take a break from our own reality and check out the work of our peers.
LBB > How do you successfully promote your company at global gatherings such as Cannes? Any tips on what to or what not to do?
MK> I think it's nice to have "something to say" – for the past six years we've been inside the Palais and provided content by means of an animation workshop and a booth. This year we're out of this comfort zone and it will be a different experience with you guys. We are still offering up the "content component" by means of the virtual reality rendition of the 'Butcher' that people can check out and this can be a conversation starter. I would recommend relaxing and trying to enjoy the experience for what it is.
Genre: Animation , Comedy , Tabletop