It’s always fascinating to talk to a department head about not only what they do but how they operate. Because there are rarely ever two creatives with a similar perspective or ‘typical day’. The only thing they really have in common is that there never is such a thing as a typical day.
Reaching into the world of computer graphics, this week we spoke to Stefan Gerstheimer, Head of CG at Saddington Baynes, the London-based video production company that specialises in “neuro-led production” and creating sensational visual content for broadcast, print and digital advertising.
Having worked both agency and brand side in a career spanning almost 20 years, Stefan is perfectly placed to offer up words of wisdom for us. And he’s also an aspiring hostage negotiator.
Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?
As Head of CG, I pretty much get to work with everyone right across the business from start to finish. Some days will be all about working with Production on determining scope of work and bidding for potential new projects.
When new projects are won I contribute to the careful planning and scheduling so that we’re making the best use of our Artists and are able to hit delivery milestones and deadlines. Often new projects bring new technical challenges.
I work with Pipeline Developers to find practical solutions that help the CG team be optimal with their workflow, creating efficiencies so our Artists can focus on what they do best – adding all the fine visual detail that goes into the creation of stunning CG work!
At project level, I try to work as closely as I can with the individual teams to support them and help guide them where needed, on any given day there are a number of projects in full swing so it’s not easy to be everywhere at once. I do my best to prioritise each day and make sure that I am doing what I consider the most important part of my role, the supporting of the team – They are the talent making it all happen and I’m here for them.
I wouldn’t really say there is a typical day, there are always new surprises and challenges, that’s what makes it fun!
What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?
There have been so many big challenges along the way, it’s the ability to consistently overcome them that takes you to the next level. I’m fortunate to have always had strong teams with me along the way, challenges are much easier to face with a strong team behind you - I could never have done it on my own.
The challenges never stop, if they did you would stop growing and advancing. It’s exciting not knowing what you’ll face each day!
What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?
I was studying Architecture and learning Autocad (on DOS) way back when it was all very new to draw anything at all on a computer. (Let’s not discuss what year that was!) When I didn’t have my head down all day drawing floor plans for buildings I was discovering 3D software, it was all very new and exciting to see things in 3D space.
I vividly remember the evening when I created a 3D object and put a camera and light in the scene – all inside a magic computer! It was a total game changer – oh the possibilities! After that, I stopped drawing floor plans.
What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?
It will sound corny but I’ll say it anyway, it’s always been a big win for me and still is when I can contribute to the growth of others. I have always loved being a part of all the super talented teams of artists, helping them get better and watching them thrive.
There is crazy talent out there at all levels, I’ve never considered myself the best artist in the room but I’ve always done my part well – the biggest win is still to watch everyone grow, see their passion for it, and be a part of the excitement that comes when a team really nails the work!
My biggest loss? I’ve lost a lot of evenings and weekends that’s for sure!
Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
From a creative point of view, there has always been so much inspiration around me, from Supervisors who I’ve been in awe of, to Junior Artists straight out of University who I’ve been in even more awe of!
It’s not just about the creatives, I can easily geek out over a well presented spreadsheet. I’m inspired by Producers managing to hold it all together when the chaos ensues and by leaders who lead with authority and respect. The inspiration is around every corner.
If you could go back to your teenage years, would you have done things differently? Do you have any regrets?
I can hardly remember my teenage years, does that say it all?
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I read this question as ‘What would I choose to do if had to get a proper job?’ I’m not sure really, this industry is all I’ve ever known and is such a part of who I am, I can’t honestly imagine doing anything else. If I had to choose… maybe a Hostage Negotiator?
What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?
That the robots don’t take over entirely!
What are your top tips for aspiring creative professionals?
It’s a fast moving industry and you can’t possibly be good at everything, but try everything and discover what works for you – some things will come naturally and others will seem arduous – work out where you fit, focus on that and it will never feel like a real job!
And most importantly, remember that it’s really not a competition, the best work is created with close and collaborative teams. Learn from everyone and share what you know with others – everyone wins!
What are your top tips for other creative leaders?
As leaders, our actions can have a real impact on others. Always consider your approach and continue to adapt your leadership style to get the best out of your team. There is no one right style but if you care about your team and they feel it then you’ve got something!
When you think about your team, what is the thing that matters to you the most?
I love to see artists in their element, creating amazing work because of their creative passion for it rather than because it’s their day job. What matters the most is that they find their place, enjoy being there, keep growing, and feel valued. If we can crack that then we’ve got an amazing team who will always excel!