This week, we spoke to Stefan Fitzner, a Basel-based videographer, art director and motion graphic designer who owns video production label ReRe| Motion Design. He’s done lots of awesome work for a variety of clients, including video for Clariant’s marketing campaigns and music videos and promos for musicians including Benne and Still Parade.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
“I‘m a Motion Graphic Designer and Art Director. I create and direct animated videos, documentaries, title sequences, music videos and sometimes commercials. Recently I founded a small production label. Generally I like projects that aim to please the eye of the viewer. Whether it‘s commercials, music videos, or opening title credits, I‘m a hopelessly aesthetic person.
I started making videos around 2004 and later studied video and animation/motion design. The way I got into it sounds cheesy, but it‘s a true story. Back in the early 2000s, after finishing school, I started working for a hi-technology company that developed carbon parts for high performance machines because I initially wanted to become car designer. I met a colleague there and we became good friends, discussing things like good indie music (and girls) after work. We shared all the music albums we possessed: Pink Floyd, King Crimson, DJ Shadow, Oasis, UNKLE, Ash, Feeder, and Coldplay‘s first 2 albums, just to name a few. One day he gave me a DVD box with the social documentary from the 1997/98 OK Computer Tour by Radiohead ‘Meeting People is Easy’. It literally blew my mind and totally changed my perspective. It was the most intense music documentary experience I had ever had up until then. From then on I knew I wanted to become a videographer.”
Can you tell me about some of the projects you’ve worked on?
“Most of the projects I’ve uploaded to Twine definitely have a business purpose. Some are both personal and business-related because I don‘t consider artists or bands who I collaborate with to be clients as such. In the latter type of projects you can definitely see and feel a more personal approach.”
Animated music video for musician Benne’s single ‘Schmetterling’.
“Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have worked with creatives, agencies, and sometimes even directly with big companies like Adidas. They all share the value of giving space and time to creative processes instead of following a rigid corporate course during a project. For this reason I’ve been very fortunate.”
An athletes promotion spot for Adidas Outdoor featuring Julian Zanker (Ice-Climber & Base-Jumper).
“I get ideas from doing all sorts of things, but especially when I listen to music, watch amazing films, or view art. The city of Basel has the highest density of Art Museums in Europe I think, so I often take the opportunity to visit contemporary art exhibitions.”
Trailer for We Invented Paris’s ‘Rocket Spaceship Thing’ album
We spoke to We Invented Paris about the awesome trailer and they told us a bit more about Stefan’s work with them: “Stefan is part of the We Invented Paris collective since the beginning in 2010. The interdisciplinary exchange with him as a visual artist has had a huge impact on what we do and how we do it. As the art director he tailors the clothes for our songs. Together we aim to create an experience that is more than just about the music – together we invent Paris.”
What are your top tips for other filmmakers and creatives?
“That‘s difficult, but I think it‘s always beneficial when you are open to all artistic influences. Don‘t always surround yourself with design or art that you’re totally comfortable with and that you know you like. Try to switch from time to time and look at everything that has quality and excellence, even when it‘s not your cup of tea. Whether its paintings, or performance art. It‘s totally OK if you don’t find it attractive even after giving it a chance, but more often than not it may start to inspire you and that‘s how you expand your creative horizons I think.
If you want to be a freelancer or found a startup, I think relentlessness is an attribute that opens many doors. Plan what you want to do and what you need to get there, from equipment to manpower to skills. At the same time it’s important to be patient, which may be challenging. Give yourself at least 5 years to achieve your goals. Give yourself time to develop your skills but also time to recover after setbacks.
As for clients, it depends depends where you want to work or what kind of projects you are interested in. From my experience, if you want to attract clients – even the big clients – it helps to be confident and show it without being arrogant. Use all the available tools in your digital belt and on the internet, and really go to events you think are important. Festivals, concerts, art venues. Meet people in person. Meeting people is easy and it will pay off! And once you’re working with a client,, don’t hesitate to tell them, in a professional way, what you really think about a project or a draft or an idea. Be honest. Because I think integrity is sometimes more important and can be valued even more than design skills.”
Social media promo for band Still Parade’s new album.
What’s it like working as a freelance filmmaker? What do clients need to do to make a project a success?
“Well, I think it is critical that the client becomes familiar with the work and style of the filmmaker. Then, almost as important than as to know the filmmaker’s work is to actually meet the person and see if he or she shares the client‘s values and meets their professional expectations. As for briefs, of course there are a lot of rigid points that go into briefings like budget, schedule, deadline, and so on. But there was always one thing that was most critical for me: How much room do I have for creative ideas and designs? How much space does the client give me? That‘s always the the most important question to me when a kick off meeting or briefing takes place. Do I have a narrow margin for creative freedom or do I get a complete carte blanche?
I think sometimes clients have unrealistic expectations or opinions on how long certain processes take. Especially video crafting. I find amazing that I have to explain and sometimes defend the length of a process, whether it’s editing or audio-mixing. Some people simply do not comprehend the amount of work and effort that goes into making a video. On the other hand I never knew a client that was still unreasonable after I explained the process in question. So I guess it all boils down to transparency and good communication.”
Stefan has worked with Clariant, on their international social media web series: “We created a web series for Clariant International Ltd. In 10 episodes, simple but never the less elementary things in ones daily life get explained by sweet, short animations inspired by illustrations from mid 20th century textbooks.”
Alissa Lorentz Arzner, Managing Editor and Online Communications at Clariant, worked with Stefan on the video:
“Stefan’s open-mindedness and flexibility makes him great to work with. He doesn’t hesitate to bring new ideas or suggestions to the table when necessary and always pushes the limits in terms of creativity while still delivering on time. I worked with him to bring Clariant’s “The Science Of” series to life, which aims to highlight the importance of science and chemistry in our daily lives. As a chemical company we want to help people understand that we need chemical innovations, that it’s nothing to be afraid of, and that chemicals can be found in everything from the reactions in our body when we fall in love to the advanced materials in our electronics. Having explained the concept and script for “The Science Of” series to Stefan, he immediately came back with a rough draft of a few “looks” and “styles” we could use for the animations. I love that he works in such an agile way which is what we need in this day of rapid content production for our various digital channels.”
Can you tell me a bit about your creative process?
A lot of planning and testing goes into making a film. Sure, some technical processes are a given and become routine, but there are hopefully always some creative aspects that are new to me and I‘ve never done before. So I try and fail sometimes. That‘s frustrating but I keep telling myself that nobody has ever learned purely from successes.
Another thing that I find crucial is drawing. I think every Motion Designer should also be a decent illustrator. There is no better way to show someone the essence of an idea than through drawings or a storyboard. You can explain with words but drawings are universal and a reassurance that everybody involved in the project is literally on the same page and knows where you are going with your concept.
I do a lot of different drafts before I begin finalising. I don‘t necessarily share those drafts with the client. It‘s just for me. This way it prevents me from having a “darling” moment and falling in love with the first idea that comes to my mind without checking out other options that may be better. So I keep exploring. It‘s a very traditional technique but it works very well. So I end up with 4 to 5 different versions. Then I kill another darling or two before I finalise a video edit, or a graphic design.
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