Shifting Sands: The Post Model Reimagined
I had the opportunity to talk to LBB on ewanme and the future of Post.
Q> ewanme has been going for a good six years now. What made you set up?
Ewan> For a number of reasons actually.
At the time, I felt that there wasn’t a cost-effective solution for agencies and brands to create a high volume of video content. This was well before agencies started setting up their own in-house facilities in earnest.
The only option was to use the traditional post facilities, though with their hourly rate billing model proving to be prohibitively expensive and inflexible.
For a lot of the work we do, there is no need or budgets to hire an expensive suite in Soho and have clients attend. I think for most of our clients, the concept of sitting in a ‘suite’ all day is quite alien and antiquated. Before lockdown, we would if needed, go into our clients offices with the kit in flight boxes or work remotely, so that the creatives wouldn’t have to leave their desks.
We found that our clients want a ‘solution’ – be connected directly to the best talent(s) available and leave us to get on with it. By charging fixed day rates only, allows our clients to use the time as they see fit, regardless of the number of projects they’re working on. This particularly comes into its own with adaptation and versioning work.
Myself and my contemporaries; all VFX artists and colourists etc are of a certain age(!) so we were looking for a change of lifestyle away from the coalface, working long hours at the major facilities. This, coupled with technology that makes the equipment portable and financially available to individuals, enabled us all to go freelance and work from home/remote.
The skill sets and experience in the freelance arena grew rapidly and ewanme set about championing this talent and introducing them directly to brands and agencies as an alternative, cost effective video post solution.
Q> What is your background?
Ewan> Having been in post-production for 30 odd years, you gain so much experience working in different environments with different people. I started my career at MPC, then went to Click 3X in New York for a couple of years to come back and set up Golden Square Post with partners, followed by Prodigious. It was a journey that enabled me to take the best bits, learn from the bad ones and end up with something that worked both professionally and personally. ewanme is a culmination of that journey.
My time as partner at Golden Square Post gave me a fantastic experience in management, working on high end VFX projects with a portfolio of great clients and brilliant staff. But the model with top heavy management and high overheads sadly couldn’t survive the 2008 recession.
I promised myself after that, I wouldn’t have such crippling overheads, that wouldn’t be robust enough to weather another storm. Not that I saw Covid coming of course!
Equally, my time at Prodigious setting up their in-house facility, was my first experience in a corporate environment, managed by people who were not from a post background, who didn’t understand the talent and skill that post involves. So the politics was interesting, but nonetheless a valued experience in my career!
ewanme is a culmination of these professional experiences. As a result, we’ve gone back to basics, minimum overheads and stripped everything back to what’s important; championing the talent and skill of the individual.
Q> It seems now during the pandemic, your model is current more than ever! Did you have foresight that things would change rapidly in VFX production?
Ewan> I did think that after the recession the post model wasn’t moving with the times; the advertising landscape changed overnight, from the type of work to the budgets available. Yes, they excel as always in creating high end VFX work, but not offering a solution to marketeers to create high volume, quality video content. Hence why agencies have taken this work in-house.
Technology has changed the post landscape too, whereas before VFX was a ‘dark art’ confined only to post houses who could afford the technology, now it’s possible to own a flame or grading kit at home which of course changes everything.
Agencies are providing more in house production and editing facilities. Your model allows a much more flexible way of working without any overheads. Given your background in VFX and post, do you think this is the sign of the future and what’s to come?
There will always be a place for the facilities and for high-end VFX. They have incredible talent on site and can deal with large scale projects with their networking and rendering capability. Invariably, the top end VFX projects are director led and they want to use the best team they have a relationship with under one roof – so in that sense we are not right for every project!
It’s definitely a tough and competitive market, it’s where the talent is grown and nurtured. You’d be hard pushed to keep or afford a top flame artist happy working in-house at an agency.
Q> Do you think agencies are adapting to these changes creating more than ever more video content?
Ewan> Yes I do, and getting better all the time, though there is a big difference between what they are capable of and what a facility does. The danger comes from when they take on a project that they haven’t the experience or infrastructure for. (Unless you’re talking about network agencies in-house capability).
I see ewanme, sitting in the middle – we bring the experience and talent you would find at a top end facility; from editors, colourists and VFX artists etc and introduce them directly to our clients, working on anything from a TVC to online content at a fraction of the cost, enabling them to take post in-house with the best talent a available.
Q> Is there an example of work that shows how well the Ewanme model works?
Ewan> We worked with AMVBBDO on BT last year, bringing in the team to work in-house at the agency. We had a couple of CG animators, flame and a motion graphic designer working pretty much at the same desk as the creative team. This made the whole process efficient and seamless and at a fraction of the price of the competition.
Q> You’ve recently launched in Japan, can you tell us more about that?
Ewan> ewanme is about championing freelance talent wherever they are. We regularly work with artists in Europe for our UK clients for example. Geography isn’t really an issue, wherever the best talent is for a brief, we will find them, and equally, we provide solutions to clients who are international. With most of the industry working remote, geography becomes less of an issue.
I worked with Mick Nakamura at Golden Square who is now setting up ewanme in Japan. He has years of experience with the Japanese market and knows all the agencies and will be not only introducing our unique model to this creative and intriguing market , but also bringing more Japanese freelance talent to the ewanme fold.
Later this year we hope to have a presence in NY, again to gather talent and to offer our services to the US market.
Q> How do you source your talent?
Ewan> Mainly through word of mouth and recommendations. We are not a recruitment diary service, farming out freelance talent without any involvement. We are a post house that is set up to work remotely, so it’s important that we have a relationship with the team, know we can trust them with clients and know who is best for every project, as individuals or as a bespoke team.
For example, we work with Ollie Creamer at AKQA regularly and we needed to find an exceptional C4D animator for a RR project. After a few calls with an old friend Ben Leyland, we discovered Misha Shyukin based in Germany who worked remotely with Ben to create this lovely spot.
Q> What does the future hold for Ewanme?
Ewan> There is no reason why ewanme cannot operate internationally, building a global network of freelance talent, as we are already in Japan. In the long term, we’d like to move upstream to include agency producers and creatives into the fold and to create an ‘end to end’ video production service, made up of the best freelance talent available at every stage and by charging day rates only, cost effectively.
Who knows what will come along in the future? Hopefully not another pandemic, but whatever happens, ewanme will be agile and robust enough to tackle things head on.