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Trailblazers: Finding solutions without drama, there's no fear at PostPanic

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From humble beginnings, PostPanic has come a long way since its graduate roots. Specialising in integrated, mixed media projects, this commercial film production company now has its own long-format label, a program for emerging talent and one of the leading inspiration-led film festivals in the world. Partner and Executive Producer, Ania Markham, told us how they’ve managed to achieve all of this, with a team of less than 20 people.

PostPanic is a very multifaceted studio with lots going on. Can you tell us about all your different working parts and how you guys have grown since starting out in 1997?

The core passion right from the beginning was film and our name came about from a graduation film made by the co-founders Mischa Rozema and Jules Tervoort called A Time For Panic. In true Dutch-style lateral-thinking, the guys had to come up with a name for themselves at the Chamber of Commerce following their first commercial commission and that’s how ‘PostPanic’ came about. It’s managed to confuse people and also define our attitude ever since.

We’re not a post-house and we’re not your typical production company either. I guess the easiest way to understand us is as a hybrid film company with the in-house capability to make whatever form of creative project we want to immerse ourselves in. We are a company of creatives and producers ranging in specialisms from live action direction and production through to high-end specialist VFX, working across multiple platforms.

We essentially have four arms to the PostPanic family: PostPanic, the main commercial film production company (with its director roster, live action producers and dedicated in-house CG/VFX/post team); Panic Program, the younger commercial label which champions emerging international directing talent; PostPanic Pictures, our longer format label which was founded in 2015 following the debut of Mischa Rozema’s sci-fi film project SUNDAYS; and The PanicRoom, a bi-annual inspiration event which is curated, hosted and presented by PostPanic both in Amsterdam and on tour at festivals internationally.

How do you all work together when a brief comes in?

We’re small and efficient! Our permanent in-house team is 18 people made up of the partners, producers, directors and 2D/3D designers & artists. We work pretty tightly together right from the moment when a pitch or brief comes in. We have the luxury of having all the technical disciplines available with which to brainstorm with a director at the very early conceptual stages of a creative treatment, and this means we can facilitate our directors being really ambitious with their visual storytelling.

We’re also in a good position to visualise our director’s ideas in these early stages and that feeds into how the team works from that point on - we always have a clear visual direction which is not up for misinterpretation.

Most of our team started at PostPanic as interns and have never worked anywhere else so we have our own specific way of working with live action and VFX which means we can be incredibly intuitive and super productive once in the workflow. We’re also quite zen about stuff I’d say - that’s where the ‘post-panic’ element comes in I guess. We’re big believers in finding a solution to everything without making it into a drama.

What you guys do differently to everyone else?

I think the most significant differences are our creative ambitions in visual storytelling and how we achieve them. We’ve never been a post-house and we never want to be. Our directors think in visual directions rather than technique specific and that’s because we have the luxury of choice in how we technically execute our work. If a project is VFX heavy then we start operating differently to a specialist post-house. Most of our specialist 2D/3D artists have never worked in a post-house so they don’t use any of the problem solving approaches that are necessary in a normal post-house set-up with large teams. We tend to cheat in VFX as we’re a small team and our CG team are generalists with a specialist secret weapon.

We’re all about finding the quickest and easiest way to make the end result look exactly like the director wanted. That said though, we’re also craftspeople and so I guess we invest our time in the right places and cheat where we can.

Can you give us an example of one of your films or projects which really epitomises the kind of content you create?

Well, SUNDAYS is not a commercial project but it is probably the main reason why many people are here or are led to PostPanic. We always wanted to make a feature film, right from the very early days and in 2012 we decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to film the concept-short part of co-founder Mischa Rozema’s philosophical sci-fi feature film project, SUNDAYS.

He always thought that the SUNDAYS’ world would be based in Mexico City and so that was the place we needed to get to and start filming. Over the years we had made a name for ourselves amongst the international creative community and that Kickstarter campaign was an opportunity for us to reach out to them and ask for their help to realise this dream. The amazing thing is that they responded way beyond our expectations and we raised 50,000 US Dollars which funded two weeks of filming in Mexico.

When the team came back to Amsterdam we embarked on everything post-challenge (which we invested our own time and resources in, as well as receiving volunteer support from some of the best VFX artists out there). It was finally released in 2015 via Vimeo, sparking international press attention. Most people in the industry couldn’t get their heads round how we’d achieved the ambitious story (with its high production values) for a fraction of the budget normally seen in major sci-fi movies.

It resulted in a frantic bidding war between the major Hollywood studios during the first week of release. Finally we made a deal with Warner Bros as a co-production with Chernin and Mischa directing, and the film is currently in development. This was also the start of PostPanic Pictures and we have another very exciting sci-fi concept-short coming out in November, combining the brilliant talents of directors Ash Thorp and Anthony Scoj Burns. Watch this space...

Are there any new areas you guys would like to explore in 2017?

Mischa’s been getting us all excited with his television series ideas. That’s a whole new territory for us to get involved in.

What's been the most creatively fulfilling project you guys have worked on recently?

Lost Boy has been keeping everyone creatively fulfiled I guess - the concept shorts are always an opportunity to show what we’re capable of and this one is not going to be any different. We can’t wait to see what the community’s reaction is.

Tell us about the PanicRoom festival, what was the initial idea and how has it grown?

PanicRoom came about from a desire to share the stuff we’re into. Not just in our own world but with people all around the world (even if they’re our commercial competitors). It started off in 2009 with an evening here in Amsterdam where we invited 100+ key members of the city’s creative community to be in the audience and then we flew in three directors whose work we thought was great (Shynola, United Visual Artists and Pleix). They each had 30 minutes to NOT talk about their own work within, but instead to talk about stuff that was inspiring them. This could be anything from stupid YouTube clips to LP record sleeves to scientific research. Just whatever was making them tick at that time.

It was really well received and the event just grew from there. We now hold it bi-annually in Amsterdam and it tours internationally at festivals. Our speaker list to date has included some of the best directorial, photographic and design talent from across the world and we manage to get people to take part who otherwise shy away from traditional festival speaking. It’s great. It’s also brought us into contact with fellow like-minded creative souls with whom we’ve since gone on to collaborate with on other ventures such as PostPanic Pictures.

 

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