Mike Woods, founder of the digital department at Framestore, one of the world’s best visual effects and computer animation studios, has been propelling the company’s digital capabilities forward for the last ten years. Working out of London and New York, he's helped transform the fledgling digital department into one of the most creative and nimble in the industry by channeling Framestore’s twenty-plus years of TV and film knowledge to generate quality and innovative content and creative for all digital platforms. Mike’s passion for all things Internet led to him to form Cartel Communique in 1999 as one of the first ever exponents of made-for-web video material; working with one of London’s first MPEG departments, Cartel was producing virals years before the advent of YouTube.
Neck Deep in Smart People
Do you have a degree and if so, in what field is it in? Yes, I have a BA in film, media and culture from Brunel University in London. It gave me the chance to play out my infantile Stanley Kubrick devotion, and also taught me that college equipment is rubbish, and if I want to do this seriously, I should take to the streets in search of the world's best facilities.
What’s the best site you’ve seen lately? What's so great about it? There are two types of “best” sites: there’s the one that becomes an indispensable daily resource that changes your habitual life and another that you love instantly but is forgotten within a week. So, following this criteria, I couldn’t live without Tumblr, purely because it allows people to easily curate the most wonderful collections of things (imagine the Internet without ConsumeConsume). Then today, for example, I saw Threaded, which is incredible, but I probably won’t remember it next week.
If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? I’d be doing something in music. I’ve always had an unhealthy obsession with copyright and breaking it. I would have loved to create some sort of KLF-style industry hoodwinks, which is the idea of setting up some populist cultural event (reality TV, bad pop music, etc.) and then subverting it hugely with some kind of anarchistic manifesto.
Design or technology? Which is more important? Why? Technology because it allows me to create unbelievable digital experiences. With design, one needs a canvas to paint on; overall, design anchors itself to technology. At Framestore, we plow ahead finding ways to offer new technology platforms to our clients.
From where do your best ideas originate? The pub. No man can truly say otherwise. When the booze burns off the stuff at the front of your brain that is troubling you, the rest of your brain can run riot in freedom. All of my best ideas have come to me during enthusiastic and spirited conversations. Of course, a crucial aspect is who you surround yourself with; I try to surround myself with brilliant people as much as I can.
How do you overcome a creative block? Two-thirds of my day job is working with other people’s ideas, so I’m never really impacted by the full pressure that other creative people experience. It allows us some breathing space. But for that other third, I’ll bury myself neck deep in blogs, the Internet and smart people.
In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new project. Probably the best word: Giddy.
What well-known site is most desperately in need of a redesign? I think Vimeo’s lost the impetus that made us love it more than YouTube.
Do you have creative outlets other than Web design? I am the better looking half of the infamous music group known as Cartel Communique. We play music and perform whenever we can.
What music are you listening to right now? Right now? Nothing actually. But good old Soundcloud last played my best friends, Pirate Soundsystem.
What product/gadget can you not live without? Well, I’m just going to say my Galaxy Nexus, even though I don’t have one yet. Verizon still hasn’t given it a release date in the US, but it’s out in the UK and I already know this phone is a game changer! I just know I can’t live without it.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve bought online? There are so many. The winner probably has to be the giant chair that was so big I had to saw down my doorframes just to get it in the house.
What’s your favorite quote? I have an unhealthy obsession with the Situationists and Guy Debord was a quote machine. But one quote that’s particularly relevant to my digital world is the following: “Art need no longer be an account of past sensations. It can become the direct organization of more highly evolved sensations. It is a question of producing ourselves, not things that enslave us.”
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Yes. Great choice!
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? All projects outside of one’s day job are always relevant to one’s actual day job.