2 Cents: M.A.R.K. 13 Stuttgart

M.A.R.K. 13 has begun to do feature film work on a more regular basis only recently.They are better known for commercials, music videos and the like. There were ventures into film, but things seem to be really picking up now, with Germany finally paying more attention to animated films.

One of the producers I’d previously worked with at another company approached me in the spring of 2013 about a more or less responsible position on “Maya the Bee”. At the time, I had already confirmed other projects and wasn’t available for quite some time. That changed later that year, and after meeting the team (many of whom I already knew and value very much, both personally and professionally) and one of the executives, I quickly signed on for the remaining couple of months.

M.A.R.K. 13 have two separate offices in Stuttgart, with the feature film team sitting right in the heart of the city in a pretty old and pretty run-down building.  There was ample space for every artist (I’d guess there were 20-30 at the time), with exceptionally large desks, several 3d-capable TV sets for reviewing one’s work and – it seems important to note – a football table in a separate room. The machines we got to use were top-notch. There’s absolutely nothing to complain, there. The render farm was small, but sufficient for most of the time (there were two or three times when things got a little chaotic but, it all worked out in the end). The in-house pipeline and integration with Tactic were outstanding, extremely well thought through, and embedded tightly and seamlessly. Writing comments, flagging or kicking back shots or renders right out of Nuke? Priceless!

“Maya the Bee” felt in many ways like the “Sandman” movie I worked on years ago: Artists were given a great deal of freedom (artistically speaking) and there was ample opportunity to put one’s mark on shots or sequences. We would communicate directly with the makers of the film and it was an open dialogue in most cases. There were clear guidelines and concept art to give us a good idea of what was required of a shot but, no shackles. If we wanted to go bonkers with something, we could, and were encouraged to be creative.

Naturally, with great freedom come long hours. Towards the end of the project, we had to deliver two shots a day. As a result, days got rather long. But it was far from the worst hours I’ve ever worked. And because the work itself was so much fun, I didn’t really mind. The rates were a bit below average, but not by much. Animation simply doesn’t pay as well, it was to be expected. On the plus side, invoices were paid very promptly, often within only a couple of days.

M.A.R.K. 13 may not be a big studio and may not have the most high-profile Hollywood work to offer. But with the team they had, the creative freedom they gave us, and the overall work climate, they are a boutique shop that I would not hesitate to go back to and warmly recommend to any fellow artist.