Billelis’s distinct visual style serves as a testament to his unconventional inspirations. Drawing from a diverse array of influences including religious iconography, Tarot symbolism, sci-fi aesthetics, demonic imagery, Renaissance masterpieces, anatomical illustrations a la Da Vinci, classical Greek and Roman sculptures, Baroque extravagance, tattoo artistry, and adorned saints, his work resonates with a haunting beauty that defies categorisation.
Bill’s recognisable artworks have captivated audiences across the world, propelling him into collaborations with industry titans such as Nike, Warner Music, Netflix, Red Bull, Sony, and Apple, among a myriad of others. Through these partnerships, he continues to push the boundaries of artistic expression, leaving an indelible mark on the creative landscape.
We sat down with Bill for a cup of tea, (yes he drinks tea… just like us 🙂 ) to find out more about the most prominent moments of his career and hope for the future.
What’s the most exciting place one of your artworks have lived in?
Choosing between Times Square and The Dart Milan art gallery is a tough decision! Both hold significant moments in my career and are iconic in their own right.
What is something you’re looking forward to exploring or learning more about when it comes to your craft?
Discovering the fulfilment that arises from achieving a genuine balance between life and work has been a game-changer. Over the past decade, I immersed myself in work, but it took a toll on my personal life. Recently, I’ve made a conscious effort to prioritize my free time, and surprisingly, it has led to heightened productivity and inspiration. It’s as if setting self-imposed deadlines at the age of 35 has proven to be incredibly effective for me.
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Do you have any dream illustration projects? What are they?
We love a glass ceiling, don’t we? I have been so fortunate to work with many aspects of Hollywood and the gaming industry, coupled with the music industry and publishing book cover scene, I found myself spoilt for choice.
I have recently really enjoyed working on more collaborative projects like beer can artwork, stage art for bands and personal illustrations.
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I would love to create a coffee table book with my entire body of work, but focusing on commercial opportunities I would have to say more gaming projects and perhaps a curveball would be fashion. The tangible aspect of my work out in the world is very fulfilling.
Animators are the magicians of filmmaking – to animate means, quite literally, to bring to life after all. So today, we wanted to celebrate one of our animation directors Alicja Jasina, who fills our creative hearts every time we get to speak or see her work!
“A line is a dot that went for a walk”, as famously stated by Paul Klee, deeply resonates with Alicja’s artistic journey. For her, a line serves both as a medium and a distinct way of thinking – often defying conventional linear perspectives. Alicja’s films received many prestigious recognitions, including the shortlist at Oscars in the Animated Short Film category for her short film “Once Upon a Line”. With a blend of elegant designs, sharp wit, and a unique conceptual approach, Alicja’s boundless creativity consistently captivates and engages audiences. Commercially, her line animations have earned her campaigns for renowned brands including Google, Casper, Disney, and Airbnb.
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How did you first fall in love with animation?
Animation is part of my everyday diet, though I don’t always consume it as ferociously as in the picture below :D.
I vividly recall my first time at school at Kingston Uni when I crafted a few frames in Flash, creating the illusion of movement – it was truly mind-blowing.
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For me, in animation, the focus isn’t solely on a single frame, not even on the in-betweens, but also on what’s in between the frames – the flow, the potential, something hard to express, less defined, more ‘in the movement’.
At times, I catch myself getting caught up in the technical aspects of animation. That’s why I prefer to keep it simple – to stay grounded and remember the core essence of what I do.
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To this day, I remain intrigued by the concept of motion, and I sometimes conduct quick film experiments, treating my body as if it were an animation element – akin to being part of software moved by a cursor.
Tell us about the animation project that kick started your career?
It was my thesis project created at the University of Southern California, “Once Upon a Line.” It received numerous awards and was shortlisted for an Oscar. This recognition brought up many work opportunities and gave me the confidence I needed to pursue this career.
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From your perspective, what’s the key to animation that really lives?
Energy and thought behind it.
Show us your favourite or most impactful project that you’ve worked on – tell us, what is it that makes it special and what were the memorable moments or challenges?
“Turbo Love” was a fun personal film with a well-defined concept behind it – the kind of project I like. The real challenge for me was the shoot day.
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I asked the crew to redo certain shots many times to achieve the precise outcome I envisioned for my animation. There were moments when I sensed some frustration from the DP – you can see it reflected in his expression in the picture above :D. But perfection we did achieve!
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I learned that providing explicit instructions to our actress, Dominika, about each gesture might not be the most effective strategy for the most satisfying performance. Unlike my animated characters, who don’t require such independence. Although at times, they do take charge and start to take actions by themselves – that’s when the real magic happens, in my opinion.
Directing on a live shoot was a truly unique experience, quite distinct from my usual routine of drawing on my Cintiq. That’s when I feel I have proper control of my work. Just like in the illustration above, during the creative process, I like to be comfy and keep my feet warm 🙂
I also really enjoyed working on Swiss Life. Animate! With Alicja Jasina 37 - Nerd Blog
What sort of briefs or projects do you find more personally satisfying to work on?
Something “in line with my line”, which is a client hiring me specifically for my distinctive style. This was the case when I was approached to direct a commercial for Swiss Life bank. The client had liked my previous films a lot and desired the minimal, quirky, “smart” line animation that defines my work. When you see a big “chunk of yourself” in a bigger campaign like this, it is truly satisfying.
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Currently, I’m immersed in the creation of a short film with the potential to evolve into a show, supported by the Polish Film Institute and Pomeranian Film Fund. It tells a story of a 20-year-old Lotar who is crushed and overwhelmed by the reality around him and through immersing himself in rap music, he gradually discovers his voice. I’m lucky to be working with a talented crew of animators; without them, it would be hard to pull through – the aesthetics are much more intricate than my usual work. Even at the design stage, there were moments when I felt I might be buried under the layers of the project :D.
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Outside of the field of animation, what really inspires you?
Illustration and art. I love being outdoors as well – running, biking, roller-skating, hiking – that all gives me a breath of “fresh air”, inspiring new ideas to bring into my creative practice. Nature, traveling, spending time with friends – all that recharges my batteries.
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And to finish off, tell us a NERDy fact about yourself!
Recently, I enrolled in a course in Spanish law – pretty NERDy, right?
The winner of Portrait of Britain 2024 and now a part of the Museum of Youth Culture, we’re excited to welcome Ellie to our growing photography roster. From documenting British subcultures to partnering with brands like Adidas and Nike, Ellie’s work resonates globally.
Her unique touch lies in her use of film processes, adding a certain depth to her storytelling. She sparks conversations, challenges stereotypes, and crafts to create authentic narratives.
We sat down to chat about her inspiration and favourite pieces!
Portrait Of Britain 2024 ’Reiss Nelson – Versus”
Your focus primarily lies in capturing people, especially through portraiture. What draws you to this particular craft?
A fascination and interest in people, wanting to learn from and understand everyone & anyone around me!
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Tell us about your favourite project to date and why it has a sweet spot in your heart.
The first long-term project I worked on was photographing and interviewing women in the grime scene. I was in university when I started it and was still very much learning how to take photographs and had never interviewed anyone before. I learnt so much from that project, how to create a visual style through my imagery, how to organise shoots, how to design and self-publish a photo-book, as well as learning so much about myself, those I was photographing and the scenes I was immersed in. That project will always have a special place in my heart, and is a reminder of how far I’ve come as a photographer on my journey.
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Are there any emerging photography styles/trends you are currently interested in and looking to introduce to your work?
I’m interested in taking a deeper socially engaged approach to my work, making it a more collaborative experience. Whether that’s through adding elements they’ve created, such as their own artwork or writing, or working together to create an aesthetic that they feel honestly represents them in an authentic way.
What are your career hopes and goals for 2024?
I would love to start a new social documentary project, and to hopefully get it funded.
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And to finish off, tell us a NERDY fact about yourself.
I get very excited about alternative printing methods, for instance taking a two-day algae printing workshop with photographer Laura Pannack last summer. So much fun!
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Coming in hot is a new signing at NERD Productions – fashion, beauty & editorial director Rodney Rico. With an honors degree in Filmmaking from Kingston School of Art, Rodney made his mark crafting videos for top magazines and luxury brands worldwide. Inspired by classic films and French New Wave cinema, Rodney’s style stands out from the rest and we can’t wait to see his next creative adventure as part of our creative family. We sat down with Rodney to chat through our ‘get to know’ questions and what can we say, he really is a true NERD!
How would you describe your approach to storytelling and visual style as a director?
I’m still very traditional when it comes to filmmaking—I try to be efficient but also bring a sense of realism. I can think of many ways to set up my camera movements to convey the visual storytelling, but I usually end up just holding the camera (handheld), and it becomes more personal to the viewer.
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Tell us about your favourite project to date and why it has a sweet spot in your heart.
I wrote an essay about Disney as part of my final year project, specifically about The Little Mermaid (1989). I was approached by the producer who was organizing an editorial shoot with an actor starring in the Live Action version, so I was super keen to join. It was a full-circle moment, and I was happy with the results.
We find ourselves in a world where asylum seekers face formidable challenges, where political decisions can exacerbate their plight, as evidenced by recent developments in the UK.
We sat down with Elmaz Ekrem to talk about her film ‘The Law of the Sea’ that makes us shed light on the interconnectedness of the world crises, urging us all to reflect on the choices we make as a society and to embrace the notion that compassion and empathy must guide our actions in these turbulent times.
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What is the story behind making ‘The Law of the Sea’ ?
This film started life as a graduate project but ended up being televised by Channel 4 as part of their Random Acts series in 2016. It is not a pleasant origin story.
In the summer of 2015, the European refugee crisis was escalating in response to the civil war and attacks by ISIL in Syria. I was on holiday in Turkey. That September, the bodies of drowned children washed ashore a few hundred miles away from where I sat on the beach.
The sadness and grief I felt were overwhelming and I decided I needed to use the opportunity to make my graduation film about this. To make a film about anything else felt like an act of inhumanity. How could I not acknowledge what was happening in the world?
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The team went to Lesvos, one of the Greek islands to receive thousands of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea,and interviewed many people involved in the migrant crisis from volunteers to medics to fishermen. It took a lot of interviews before we found the angle of the documentary and it emerged while translating and transcribing the interviews. We realised that the perspective of the fisherman of Lesvos had been rescuing refugees while going about their usual schedules, and spoke of their unique and heroic experiences with the same level of nonchalance as describing their occupation.
The film, once a dream born out of empathy, found its way to Channel 4, where it would be broadcasted to a wider audience, touching hearts and minds around the world in December 2016.
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What would you like to share to our audience about advocating for migrants and refugees?
After making this film, using art, documentary and filmmaking as a form of activism to advocate for migrants, refugees or displaced indigenous communities became the forefront of my practice, and something I’d like to share is how the climate crisis is something that intersects through humanitarian and social injustices.
A quote from the Zurich Group on how conflict worsens the climate crises, or vice versa:”This domino effect was felt in Syria, where the desertification of formerly fertile farming land between 2006 and 2010 meant crop yields plummeted, 800,000 people lost their income and 85 percent of the country’s livestock died. As people lost their livelihoods, food prices soared and 1.5 million rural workers moved to the city to find jobs. Those left behind facing poverty were an easy target for recruiters from the Islamic State… societal issues caused by climate change worked to exacerbate existing tensions. The result was a conflict that fueled the world’s worst refugee crises in decades with around 6.6 million Syrians (roughly a quarter of the population) forced to flee their country.”
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My main message is ‘REFUGEES ARE WELCOME’, and should be granted safe passage. But if you’re reading this you probably agree with me.
The horrible truth is that there are people who disagree. As recently as August 2023, the UK home secretary Suella Braverman refused to endorse a scheme that would help asylum seekers in the UK, despite it being described by the UN as “more humane” while she pursues increased detention capacity for immigrants, a programme which is estimated to cost billions.
As we navigate the climate emergency, we must recognise that global conflict and migration are intrinsically linked. Together, we can create a world where refugees are not only welcomed but embraced, where the threads of compassion bind us as a global community, and where the darkest of times can give rise to the brightest of futures.
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Introducing Justine, the latest addition to our NERDy family! Going by the motto ‘if it can be crafted, it must be made’, Justine is a dog-loving and an award-winning director with a diverse portfolio, ranging from heartwarming moments to action-packed car sequences.
Get to know Justine in just 3 mins below!
What are 2 things our readers should know about you?
I used to teach kids’ drama lessons to raise money for my gap year. It was my “Steve Jobs typography” moment. At the time, I thought it was to make a quick bit of cash and it ended up being a catalyst for a lot of my career/work.
I love the research and pitch process as much as the production process – it is where the heart of all work starts. It is a time for learning, discovering and dreaming (before all those pesky logistics set in).
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Tell us a short story of how you became a director and your journey so far.
I spent a few years cutting my teeth in creative research and becoming an advertising NERD. My catchphrases are all still from those good old ads and they make sense to no one except my husband, bless him.
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About 8 years ago, a producer I had met through this research journey, the very brave Brenda Wilson, approached me to start a company and we became an all-female partnership along with production legend, Lebo Mabuela.
The three of us built our reel from scratch and found niches we never thought we would – kids & cars being top of the list.
My research background opened many doors into conceptual and smart work and we managed to pull off some super interesting work like Siemens Fabric (through King James).
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Tell us about your favourite project to date and why it has a sweet spot in your heart.
It must be a spot for ‘Toyota’ – MARS.
Creatively, the job spoke to so many things I love – cinema, landscapes, kids, storytelling, science vibes…who DOESN’t want to nerd out in Star Wars land?
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Personally, it was remarkable to scout and shoot in such an isolated part of South Africa. The landscapes were truly out of this world. Filming in harsh environments with day time temperature going up to 39C and torrential downpours the night before shoot, comes with its own unique set of challenges, but motivating crew to work through it and achieving the most gorgeous shots makes those days extra sweet.
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And to finish off, tell us a NERDY fact about yourself.
There are few things that are not NERDY about me. 🙂 I love anything that will keep my hands busy – embroidery, paper flowers – if it can be crafted, it must be made.
Step into a world where magic, laughter, and creativity converge. Join us as we uncover the magic behind the making of SpinMania – a journey that promises laughter, wonder, and a truly enchanting experience. Discover a captivating journey of a director whose background includes legendary animated shenanigans featured in Hollywood franchises like Madagascar and Shrek.
Light & Mathematics aka Peter S, as someone who has contributed to iconic franchises like Harry Potter and Star Wars, how do you plan to infuse the magic of those worlds into this commercial while still keeping it fresh and original?
I approach every project as an opportunity for world-building and storytelling. Who are these little characters? Where do they live? How do they move, play, and explore? In the case of this commercial, my goal was to draw upon the whimsical charm and fantastical elements of these renowned franchises in order to imbue these fantasy figures with a life all their own.
Click the image to see the spot
Drawing inspiration from the rich storytelling and imaginative settings of the Hollywood films I’ve contributed to, I sought to create a world that resonates with audiences on a nostalgic level, evoking the same sense of fantastical, somewhat medieval wonder these beloved franchises offer. At the same time, I aimed to introduce a unique and innovative narrative that captures the spirit of Migros and the playful concept of spinning top characters.
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It’s a delicate balance – maintaining the action and humour that fans of these franchises adore while weaving in new layers of creativity that elevate the commercial to its own level. Using classic story-telling techniques, we build on a solid foundation of narrative fundamentals, while introducing new and clever ways for the characters to interact. We want to keep the audience captivated by the new ways they interact with each other, and the vast world around them.
Ultimately, my experiences have taught me the art of storytelling and world-building. With this commercial, I aimed to channel that knowledge into a project that captures the heart of the Migros brand so beloved by the Swiss viewers, delighting and surprising audiences while offering them a truly enchanting experience that feels both familiar and original.
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The concept of SpinMania sounds exciting! The medieval festival setting with knights, mermaids, and Cyclops sounds right up your street. Can you share any quirky behind-the-scenes anecdotes or fun moments from the set that capture the playful atmosphere of the commercial?
One of the most memorable moments transpired during our early character-testing phase. As we explored how the various spinning top characters interacted, we had a whimsical idea to infuse even more drama and excitement into the narrative. While the unexpected twist in the script was that the Mermaid emerged as the victorious champion, we thought it might make things even more fun if we drew the scene out and had them collide more than once, with the losing characters flying entirely out of the scene.
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Picture this: the characters spinning, twirling, and manoeuvring in an epic battle, and then, with a carefully calculated spin, the Mermaid comes out on top – quite literally! Such a good twist, and since we dialled the action by extending the duel scene, the laughter and cheers from the creative team helped us realise that this approach injected an extra layer of fun and surprise into the storyline.
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This playful experimentation not only added an element of excitement to the commercial’s concept but also perfectly captured the essence of the entire production process. These moments of spontaneous creativity define the spirit of SpinMania and genuinely reflect the dynamic and imaginative approach we took in bringing these characters to life.
How did you plan to add unexpected comedic elements that take the audience by surprise and leave them laughing?
One instance where we’ve harnessed the power of surprise and humor is with the character interactions. Take the playful duel between the characters, for example. In a sudden twist, the Cyclops, after being skillfully knocked out of the ring by the Mermaid, ends up soaring skyward, landing comically in a tree. This unexpected turn of events alone should get the audience chuckling, but the comedic touch doesn’t end there!
As the Cyclops settles into the nest, his rather abrupt landing inadvertently prompts a tiny Phoenix chick to emerge from its egg. This whimsical touch adds a layer of lightheartedness. It creates a delightful visual gag that catches the audience off guard, sparking genuine laughter while introducing and highlighting another of the collectable toys.
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These unexpected comedic elements, carefully woven into the narrative, aim to surprise the viewers and evoke genuine amusement. By leveraging creative twists like the Cyclops and the Phoenix Chick, we ensure that SpinMania is not only visually captivating but also a source of true delight, engaging the audience in a way that’s both memorable and light-hearted.
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With the rise of humorous ads, how do you see the evolving role of humour in advertising today compared to traditional approaches?
Humour in advertising has evolved significantly with the rise of humorous ads most recently, moving from a sporadic element to a strategic cornerstone. Unlike traditional approaches that convey information directly, humour engages audiences universally and memorably through positive emotions, kind of like what we do in films made for younger audiences like Madagascar and Ice Age. It captures attention in today’s media-rich environment, fostering emotional connections and brand loyalty without being overly sales-y. Humorous ads entertain, humanise, and amplify brand personality, creating relatable narratives that resonate and endure. In a landscape where authenticity matters, humour is a powerful tool to forge lasting and enjoyable connections with modern audiences.
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In a world saturated with ads, what is the single most important thing when making a commercial you want to be remembered?
The most critical factor in creating a memorable commercial is the ability to evoke a genuine emotional response. Amidst the multitude of ads, those that elicit a heartfelt emotion – whether it’s laughter, inspiration, empathy, or awe – are the ones that etch themselves into the viewer’s memory. An emotional connection transcends fleeting visuals and catchy slogans, leaving a lasting imprint that resonates long after the ad has ended. Crafting a narrative that tugs at the heartstrings or triggers a relatable sentiment is the key to making a commercial that stands out and lives on in peoples’ minds and hearts.
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Is greener production just a myth? Join Ira Giorgetti, a creative producer and photographer from NERD Productions, as he shares his experiences and thoughts on sustainability in his career. Learn how simple changes can make production greener and discover ways to embrace eco-conscious practices.
Ira Giorgetti In The Middle Of A Shoot
Can you tell us about your own personal journey when it comes to getting involved in sustainable production – how did you get started and where has that journey taken you?
Growing up in the Philippines, a country directly affected by climate change, sustainability became a deeply personal and relevant issue for me as a creative producer. My family elders instilled a sense of responsibility for nature, which influences every aspect of my production planning. To reduce the environmental impact, I prioritise eco-friendly practices, source from environmentally conscious suppliers, and use energy-efficient lighting and recycled props. I also manage resources efficiently, minimising waste, implementing recycling and composting programs on set, and promoting low-emission transportation options to reduce carbon emissions. Alongside environmental sustainability, I advocate for diversity and inclusion, aiming to create fair and inclusive working environments in my productions.
By integrating sustainable practices into my work, I aim to minimise environmental impact while staying true to our company’s values of diversity and inclusion.
Ira At Work
What are the conversations that clients are having with you about their desire to reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact of their content production?
While the demand for sustainability varies from client to client, many of them now consider it a crucial aspect of their content creation strategies. Some may view sustainability as a checkbox exercise, but a significant number take these concerns seriously, understanding the urgency and the need for substantial changes to mitigate environmental impact. This growing demand is partly driven by younger generations, who are more environmentally aware and passionate about sustainability, and are pushing for brands and companies to take action to reduce their impact on the environment.
Rachael Olga Lloyd ‘Pain Care’ For Nhs
Because of remote production and the impact of transporting people and kits, I guess most sustainable production conversations are limited to live action, but what are the challenges and opportunities on the animation front?
Sustainable production conversations typically focus on live-action productions due to the significant impact of transporting people and equipment. However, there are also challenges and opportunities in the realm of animation. One challenge is the collaborative nature of the work, but advancements in technology and remote collaboration tools have made it more feasible and efficient.
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On the other hand, animation offers unique opportunities for sustainability. By creating virtual worlds and characters, they can reduce reliance on physical sets and props, lowering energy consumption and waste production. Studios can also prioritise renewable energy sources, like solar or wind power, for rendering farms and computer systems. Embracing remote work allows for tapping into global talent while reducing the need for extensive travel. By leveraging technology and making conscious choices, the animation industry can promote sustainable practices and reduce its environmental impact.
What advice would you give anyone working in production, whether for the production company, agency or brand, who is struggling to get buy-in from their clients and colleagues on sustainable production?
When seeking buy-in for sustainable production, focus on personalising the conversation to connect with clients and colleagues on a human level. Engage in one-on-one discussions to understand their values and concerns, emphasising the direct impact sustainable production can have on their lives, their loved ones, and future generations. Share stories and evidence of successful sustainable projects to illustrate positive outcomes for the environment, well-being, and cost savings. Address specific concerns and objections, collaborating to find common ground and align solutions with their goals.
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Sustainable production is a collective effort requiring patience, empathy, and effective communication. By connecting with people personally, demonstrating the tangible benefits, and addressing their concerns, you can inspire and motivate your clients and colleagues to embrace sustainable production practices and positively impact the world around us.
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Milana Karaica, executive producer and founder of NERD Productions, shares her journey as an immigrant and reflects on her past and present. As a child of war, Milana faced challenges during the many transitions in life but discovered her passion for creativity and a drive to make a positive impact. Despite obstacles as an immigrant and minority in our industry, she remained determined to bring diversity and inclusivity to her work. We spoke with Milana about her experiences, including childhood struggles, relocation, creative beginnings, and how her early life has influenced her as a woman and founder.
Please tell us a short story as to why you initially left your home and what the future looked like for you at that point?
I left home for the first time when I was about five years old. As a child, I didn’t think much about the future. All I knew was war, and it made it hard to imagine what the next day would be like. My family had to move from the city to the countryside because it was safer there. Even though we had good times playing and exploring, we didn’t understand the real reason we had to live there. When we left, it was sudden and scary. We had to grab our things quickly, and my mom told me to take just one thing. I chose a picture of my dad because I worried about him being dead and not seeing him ever again.
I never really thought about the future because every day was tough. I tried my best to support my mom and take care of things while waiting for my dad to come back, even though we didn’t know when and if that would ever be. The future didn’t feel like something that was meant for me and my family. Every time we came close to some normality and safety it was snatched from us for reasons beyond our control. Just breathing or existing it seemed…
Milana With School Friends
What factors influenced your decision to build a new life in the UK rather than return to your home country after fleeing the conflict? Were there any specific opportunities that made you stay?
The civil unrest in former Yugoslavia was fueled by conflicting interests and differing opinions, causing unimaginable hardships for everyone involved. After 5 long years of living in a war, my family was forced to leave our home in Croatia. We fled to Serbia, seeking safety and relying on our Serbian heritage. But we faced discrimination and were treated as outsiders by many locals. In many ways, it was no different than back home. Living in Serbia was challenging, and we struggled to make ends meet, as refugees and immigrants often face exploitation and difficult labour conditions.
Milana With Family And Friends.
Eventually, Serbia was bombed by NATO, only adding more trauma and suffering to still sore wounds. We had limited options for a new home, as immigration policies often reject refugees. We made the decision to move to the UK, as it was relatively close to our home, allowing us to visit the rest of the family. Leaving behind our most loved ones was incredibly difficult, as the bonds formed during those unimaginably hard times are stronger than anything you can imagine. When you have nothing, and less than nothing again and again you learn to cherish the people you had left.
Milana With Her Sister
Our move to the UK was driven by the need for safety, without any clear plan or prospects. It was a daunting experience, filled with fear and uncertainty, but my parents had to reassure us that it was for the best, despite not knowing anyone or speaking the language. The transition was horrid, and I initially resisted the idea, wanting a stable home and acceptance. However, my parents had to make difficult decisions in order to protect our family. There were no opportunities waiting for us; they simply hoped to find work and provide for us. Despite societal views seeing refugees as burdens, I strongly disagree, as my family and I have proven our ability to contribute to society and go even beyond that by creating opportunities for others as well as empowering them to be their best selves.
Milana At Her Desk, Studying Hard.
Knowing that you immigrated quite early in your life, how has living in the UK impacted your creativity and career pursuits? Did you always want to work in production despite the country you lived in?
I always wanted to work for the UN and fight for human rights to change the world into a better one for future generations. But I felt disappointed by the UN as a kid, expecting them to save us and failing so short in every aspect. As I grew older, I realized that dwelling on my past wouldn’t let me live a somewhat normal life I so desperately wanted.
During my teenage years, I tried to hide my complicated background and fit in. I spent a lot of time lying and wanting to be seen as ‘normal’. Slowly, I discovered that being creative made me happy. It allowed me to imagine and escape, creating my own worlds and being true to myself. This made me want to give others the same opportunity and bring joy to people. So, I decided to pursue a more creative path. My parents may have been disappointed because they wanted me to do something great, but I found satisfaction in creating beauty.
Milana At The Animation Festival
Can you describe any instances where your immigrant status has intersected with your creative journey? Did you face any unique challenges or opportunities as a result of your background?
I knew it would be tough from the start, so the difficulties didn’t surprise me. People warned me that the industry was male-dominated and not welcoming to ethnic minorities. I faced discouragement from teachers and others who believed advertising was for men or not a creative field for women. Initially, at entry-level positions, I didn’t feel much discrimination, but as I advanced, the cracks started to show. Colleagues from privileged backgrounds made subtle jabs at my school, neighbourhood, and accent.
Milana Embracing Her Countryside Roots
Despite facing such obstacles, I embraced every mico- opportunity and worked hard, even when I felt undervalued in every shape and form, professionally. I recognized the importance of making the most of these little opportunities for myself and others who are marginalized. I felt a sense of duty to prove myself and show that everyone deserves a place in the room, regardless of their background. The stigma of being an Eastern European female has followed me, with people assuming I’m a cleaner or even mistaking me for a sex worker at ad festivals. It’s disheartening when colleagues laugh, not realizing the hard work it took to get there. People’s judgments based on appearance and nationality can be hurtful, but I’ve learned to stand strong and challenge those perceptions.
Birth Of Milana’S Second Child
Having built your life and business in the UK, how do you feel it shaped you?
I’ve reached a point in my life where I embrace my uniqueness, my womanhood, and my challenging background. I’ve grown into a strong and resilient person who empowers others rather than seeking personal gain. My focus is on helping people find peace within themselves and expanding their horizons. I’ve come to realize that gaining diverse experiences brings great satisfaction and inner peace. Embracing learning and being open to new things is the winning formula for personal growth and self-reflection.
Milana With Shay Hamias, One Of Nerd’S Directors And D&Amp;I Advocates.
Being a diversity and inclusion advocate, how do you imagine your future contributions and impact on your home country, if any?
Recently, I’ve come to realise that limiting ourselves to a single country or border is an unhealthy mindset. It isolates us and doesn’t contribute much to our satisfaction, happiness, or overall fulfilment. Instead, we should focus on experiences, embracing inclusivity, and broadening our horizons. Let’s encourage our children to study wherever they choose, explore their interests, immerse themselves in different cultures, and not restrict themselves geographically. By doing so, we can connect with others, understand their perspectives, and create commercials that truly resonate with a global audience. After all, we are here to talk to everyone not just a handful!
Minority Mental Health Awareness Month: How Immigration Can Shape Creativity, Embrace Diversity And Empower Others - Milana Karaica 141 - Nerd BlogMinority Mental Health Awareness Month: How Immigration Can Shape Creativity, Embrace Diversity And Empower Others - Milana Karaica 142 - Nerd BlogMinority Mental Health Awareness Month: How Immigration Can Shape Creativity, Embrace Diversity And Empower Others - Milana Karaica 143 - Nerd BlogMinority Mental Health Awareness Month: How Immigration Can Shape Creativity, Embrace Diversity And Empower Others - Milana Karaica 144 - Nerd BlogBritish Animation Awards, Team Meet-ups and Parliamentary screening of ‘All Up There’ directed by Bonnie MacRae
Following on from Immigrant Heritage Month, we had the opportunity to connect with Lana, one of our talented illustrators, from Ukraine. As she navigates her life amidst the ongoing progression of the war, we sparked a conversation, seeking to uncover the intricate realities of being a creative in Ukraine. Through thought-provoking questions, we aimed to shed light on the challenges and aspirations that shape Lana’s journey. Join us as we embark on an insightful exploration of her unique perspective and the resilient spirit that fuels her creativity.
Please tell us a short story about your experience of learning about the conflict and then making a decision to leave.
We anticipated the conflict but didn’t truly believe it would happen until the last minute. During the invasion, both my brother and I were in Kyiv. We quickly found a car and travelled to my hometown in central Ukraine. I stayed there for around 3 to 4 days before making the immediate decision to leave, as advised by my mom. I went to Poland, to begin with, where my cousin had been living for several years.
Art In War - Lana Dudarenko 164 - Nerd BlogArt In War - Lana Dudarenko 165 - Nerd BlogAnother goodbye, one of dozens in 1.5 years. Work/sleep setting for the first two months of war
What motivated you to return to Ukraine despite the ongoing conflict? How did you find the courage to face the challenges associated with going back to your life there?
After staying in Poland for a little while, we decided to go further and the idea of staying in a safe country like Portugal was wiser, but the unbearable thought of being far from my family made me decide to return to Ukraine after months and months of struggle and tears. It took me days to travel across the country, but after months of emotional struggle, I bought plane tickets without telling my family and came back to be with them. We can’t predict the future, so being together was my priority.
Art In War - Lana Dudarenko 166 - Nerd BlogArt In War - Lana Dudarenko 167 - Nerd BlogArt In War - Lana Dudarenko 168 - Nerd BlogArt In War - Lana Dudarenko 169 - Nerd Blog1st and 2nd visit home, more goodbyes! This was the time Lana realised she needed to come back to Ukraine.
How has your experience as a creative person abroad influenced your artistic expression upon your return? Have you found new sources of inspiration or a different perspective that informs your work now?
The situation affected me, and I channelled my emotions into art, but I struggle to share it publicly. Despite knowing its importance, I find it complicated and have mixed feelings about posting my work online.
My friend and assistant, Gina, who had witnessed the power of my creations, urged me to post my work, recognising the value it held not only for myself but potentially for others as well. Yet, every time I approached the moment of clicking that “share” button, I just couldn’t do it. On one hand, I know it’s important for me to create and express myself. But when it comes to actually posting my work during the war, something doesn’t feel quite right. I can’t fully explain why, and it leaves me with mixed feelings.
Despite this confusion, I actively work on understanding my own beliefs about sharing my art. I remind myself that it’s important, even if it doesn’t have a big impact on the world. I push myself to overcome the hesitation and doubts, knowing that creating and expressing myself through art is meaningful. While the complexity of this issue may remain, I am determined to move forward and share my work with others.
Art In War - Lana Dudarenko 170 - Nerd BlogArt In War - Lana Dudarenko 171 - Nerd BlogThe series Lana created a few months after the invasion began, these illustrations were never shared publicly.
As the months passed and all events unfolded, did you experience a surge of inspiration to create more?
During the first wave of shock and fear, I created a series of three illustrations to express not only my own feelings but also those of fellow Ukrainians I knew. These artworks depicted various emotions such as anguish, pain, and fear. However, I never shared or posted them publicly. It felt like a personal creation, something just for myself.
As an illustrator, I initially focused on simpler art and commissioned work. But over time, my style evolved, and I began exploring more complex and expressive pieces. I am transitioning from being solely an illustrator for clients to embracing the role of an artist who conveys my own vision, thoughts, and mindset through my work. This shift in focus and artistic growth coincided with the experiences during the war, acting as a catalyst for this transformation.
Art In War - Lana Dudarenko 172 - Nerd BlogArt In War - Lana Dudarenko 173 - Nerd BlogArt In War - Lana Dudarenko 174 - Nerd BlogArt In War - Lana Dudarenko 175 - Nerd BlogWinter 2022, Lana’s work started losing colour before turning B/W
Can you share any particular moments or encounters that made you realise the importance of contributing to the artistic and cultural scene in your home country even during the war? How do you hope to make a difference through your creativity?
During such a challenging time, my primary concern has been the well-being and safety of my family and myself. The overwhelming nature of the situation has prevented me from formulating concrete plans or specific encounters that made me realise the importance of contributing to the artistic and cultural scene in my home country during the war. My immediate focus has been on survival and ensuring the safety of my loved ones.
In your art in general, past, present or future art, do you incorporate any symbols or colours that could tell people who you are and where you’re from?
That’s a great question because it made me reflect on my artistic journey. Previously, I didn’t prioritise incorporating elements of my cultural identity into my work. However, as I continue to develop my style and explore my art, I am beginning to recognise its importance. I hope to find the courage to share my cultural perspective with my audience soon. While I used to believe that my art could change the world, the current situation has made me question its impact. Nevertheless, I strive to be more socially active and understand that art can still influence various aspects of life.
Art In War - Lana Dudarenko 177 - Nerd Blog
Having worked with a number of amazing clients and being an important part of NERD, how do you think your decision to stay in Ukraine will impact progress in your career?
The situation definitely had an impact on my work, although not specifically with NERD-related projects. Due to the circumstances, I had to take on various projects to support my family financially during the initial challenging phase of the war. This heavy workload took a toll on my mental state and led to burnout.
Art In War - Lana Dudarenko 178 - Nerd BlogArt In War - Lana Dudarenko 179 - Nerd BlogSingle Cover commission
Looking ahead, I remain hopeful for the future of Ukraine. I aspire to see a time where we can build our lives and dreams within our own country, rather than seeking opportunities elsewhere. As for my art, I am focusing on transitioning from being solely an illustrator to embracing the role of an artist. I am open to where this artistic journey takes me, going with the flow and seeing where it leads.
One Of The Most Recent Illustrations From Lana For The Saddlehill Academy Book.