‘Must know’ facts about NERD Productions animation director Sharon Liu

Sharon Liu on visualising the core values of a brand and using her skills to enhance the power of women.

Earlier this summer NERD Productions spoke to Sharon Liu about her experiences, director tips and tricks, and a few opinions on recent changes in the world, and how it impacted her career.

 What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

I get excited by scripts that are full of emotion and might be challenging to describe in words.

How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

I read the deck over and over again, to get a feel for what the client wants to achieve (both aesthetically & technically). Then I will thoroughly do my research to find a connection between what I think would be the coolest approach but still effectively reach the client’s goal. Once I have that connection/idea in my mind, I can start sketching out some style frames. Most of the time the thinking takes longer than creating.

 If the script is for a brand that you’re not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you’re new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

I always think one of the greatest parts of being a director is that I get to work on projects/ campaigns in areas that I’m not familiar with. It keeps me curious and learning.

Therefore I take research very seriously, it helps me to visualise the core values of the brand. I compare the brand’s ad campaigns from the past to the more recent ones. Then I brainstorm with my colleagues and constantly mix and match ideas until the best creative solution appears. I will take notes about the brand’s target audiences and try to find out what people like the most from the brand so I can enhance those aspects as well as delivering the message from the campaign creatively.

Nina Simone – Colour is a beautiful thing

For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

It will have to be my producer, she forms a solid bridge between me and the clients, manages the technical side of the project so that I can execute the creative side.

What type of work are you most passionate about – is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

I’m open to all kinds of collaborations, I like to use my skills to support things I like and believe in. In particular, I like to use my skills to enhance the power of women. I really enjoy drawing and designing female characters.

What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

In the past I’ve had people comment that my work doesn’t have a ‘style’ because I don’t use the same materials/methods for every project and I don’t draw the same character over and over. I would like to think I do have a style but perhaps not in a conventional sense.
As well as being an animation director, I am an artist and I like to creatively challenge myself all the time, so that my work will consistently morph to improve and keep up with trends. I like to use different techniques/styles to create bespoke designs for every client, I think my strengths lie in an exciting use of colour and an elegant style of storytelling.

Lady Florence Boot

 How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

As a creator, I have always believed that it’s part of the fun to be able to deliver the idea in multiple ways. I see the project/idea as everyone’s baby (client, agency & production company). We all share the same goal which is to make sure the baby is safely delivered and grows healthily. Therefore I have trust that other’s opinions and criticisms are in the best interests of the project and I hope that my clients have the same confidence in me.

What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent?

I think that would be the best way forward. From my personal experience, a woman of colour in London, it would be a dream come true to see diverse talents exchanging ideas and supporting each other. I believe together we can create something really special.

Your work is now presented in so many different formats – to what extent do you keep each in mind while you’re working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)? 

In a way, a different format means a different canvas. It’s almost impossible to keep the artistic composition the same on every screen. However I will always try to design my shots with extra artwork at the edges of the frame so there is wiggle room for me to reposition the shot if I need to.

See more from Sharon here.

Whole Earth ‘WE’RE WITH YOU THE WHOLE WAY’

We’re proud to announce that our latest TVC for Whole Earth goes live today! This collaboration was made in peanut-buttery heaven as we love the brand’s creativity, heritage, patriotism, love of sport, and dedication to making the Earth whole again. 

There is nothing more we enjoy than using our creative skills to craft visuals for feel-good brands that have sustainability at heart.

Milana Karaica, EP.

This film was a true collaboration with creative agency Isobel featuring Joe Fraser, Holly Bradshaw, Helen Glover and Zoe Smith; four outstanding Team GB athletes living the Olympic dream and training relentlessly for the upcoming Games in Tokyo.

The tactile film transports us across the globe to a quirky, sunny and earthy animated rendition of Japan dreamt up by the animation and design team at NERD where we get a glimpse into the lives of our Team GB athletes. We feel their passion come right through the screen as we see them vault, split and heave their way to victory.

NERD’s very own Shay Hamias directed the charming, handcrafted film, his playful sense of fun and whimsy visual approach is a natural fit for the spirit of this film. 

“I had a real blast creating this film! We used hand-drawn animation, photography, cutouts and all sorts of different textures and layers to craft this mixed media universe. The hardest part was probably arranging to film the athletes as their busy schedules, difficulties with access to their usual training spaces and double-safe COVID production measures made for a real challenge!”

Shay Hamias, Director

The creative process was made particularly enjoyable by the agency team who gave us a lot of freedom to explore the best visual ways to bring different elements to life, like when we had to come up with novel ways to incorporate jars of peanut butter into an athletic routine. We also needed to find ingenious methods to get the required live-action footage, including digging up a vintage rowing machine for Helen and figuring out clever ways for Holly to simulate some vaults. Whole Earth generously provided us with an overflowing supply of peanut butter on set – we just chalk it down to the perks of being a production company!

The real fun came after all the footage was captured and we went into post-production as we needed to get just the right blend of smooth animation and organic, crunchy textures for Whole Earth’s lovable, delicious product. We wanted the visuals to be every bit as authentic as the yummy spread itself. Animating the athletes was no easy feat either, but we luckily had help from another NERD director Peque Varela. She perfected their playfully natural cartoon movements and made sure the object tracking was on point.

We were lucky to work with friendly, fantastic, best-in-class talent on every side and we’re really happy with what we’ve all created. It’s always a fun, collaborative process when we get briefs like this from perfect agency teams and we’re always down to cook up new approaches and try out-of-the-box routes! 

The spot airs nationwide from today, if you happen to see it do cheer our team on. Watch the spot here and join the journey!

NERD Productions is a creative production company in London. We represent a diverse roster of hand-picked directors, illustrators and photographers who craft memorable, engaging and award-winning animation, illustration, live-action, mixed-media and photography for television, digital, social, editorial and everything in between.

Paloma, The Directing Duo Who Sparks Creativity Remotely!

Self-isolation and social distancing are the new normal. Offices are indeed closed, live-action productions cancelled yet our audiences are going to be online for many hours more and it’s the best time to reach out to out to them through animation &  illustration. In short, self-isolation might mean disruption to working life, but also means new opportunities and exploring new horizons!

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Toast Tells All on The Effects of Climate Change & #FramesForFuture Awareness Campaign

Climate change is a hot topic lately, and for very good reason. While all of the issues we face in today’s society are extremely important, this is something that we felt needs as much attention as possible and immediate drastic action before it’s too late. The more we can help to raise awareness, the better.

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Founder Milana Karaica Speaks on Female Empowerment in Frozen 2

Discussions are high from the anticipated release of Elsa and friends in Frozen 2 and the (not so) hidden messages and plot twists of the movie. Our very own embodiment of female empowerment Milana Karaica talks diversity, the struggle to success as a woman in creative industries and what we can really take away from the Disney motion picture.

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