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New Deal Studios is where the line between illusion and reality disappears. Come along for a peek behind the magician’s curtain at one of Hollywood’s top visual effects houses. In this Creative Inspirations documentary, find out how key scenes from Martin Scorsese’s film Shutter Island were created, as well as segments of The Dark Knight and Night at the Museum. Using a combination of models, miniatures, computer graphics, and digital effects, New Deal Studios was designed from the ground up to be a place where effects professionals could do their best work, and where filmmakers could have their visions realized.
(Music playing.) Lynda Weinman: Hello! I'm Lynda Weinman, and I'm here on a Creative Inspiration series with New Deal studios. I'm very honored to get to have an interview with Shannon Gans, who is the CEO and co-founder of New Deal Studio. Welcome and thank you for joining us. Shannon Gans: Thank you for having me. Lynda: I'm always so intrigued with a creative company that is led by somebody with a business background.
It's a little better rare, I think, and I'm curious if you could talk a little bit about how that part of your background has been effective in your partnership with your studio. Shannon: For me, being the business side is very creative, so I actually find running the business to be my art. And that has helped because, you know, my two partners are the creatives, and having a business perspective balances our ideas, and you know our plans for the future and how we run our projects.
So it's like 'I really you really want to do that' and it's like 'Well, we kind of these parameters you have to work within,' and evening having parameters kind of makes you exercise creative muscles to get done what you want to get done in a certain schedule and budget. Lynda: Did business school prepare you for the real world? Shannon: It did, to some extent, because I went through the entrepreneur program, Lynda: Uh huh. Shannon: so half of our class was people coming in and sharing their experiences, which made it very attainable, because you got to hear the good and the bad.
And that aspect of it I think really prepared us, but there's certain things, like I only had two classes in accounting. Accounting is a big part of business, and having a nice advisory board has been helpful for me in that area. That's not necessarily a natural aspect for me of business is accounting. Lynda: How has the business had to adapt in the digital economy, and also in the new economy? Shannon: We've adapted with using the technology to help make us more efficient and to work with the new techniques, like laser cutting and rapid prototyping and using 3-D modeling programs to help us plan the projects so that we are more efficient, as well as using technology to help make the operations more efficient with cloud computing and, you know, backing up our data and, you know, using online calendars to get everyone on board has really helped us become more efficient, where you've had to be.
There's downward pressure on schedule and budget from the studios, and that has helped us a great deal to continue to be relevant. Lynda: One of the things that our filming crew noted about New Deal Studio was just how all of the employees seem to like working there so much, and what is your business philosophy about having that respect of the employees and the importance of that? Shannon: You know, have to have a place you love to go to, and as a creative person, you want to open up and give to a project.
And I think if you create a space that's safe and fun and comfortable, people will be able to open up and really give more to your project. And I want to have fun where I work, so that's part of why I own a business. And so that's part of my philosophy and what we've put into the culture of the company. We come from all over the world to work in Los Angeles and work in the film industry. It should be fun, and you know, putting a lecture effort into managing yourself and your resources so that you do have time for fun I think is important, and that you just create a better project.
So it's a matter of economics, as well as, you know, like a want to have a great place to work. Lynda: I think it's a great philosophy. Do you work with a lot of freelance people, or do you prefer to work with in-house employees? Shannon: We work with both. We have a core team and then 15 or so people, and then it depends on where we're at and what projects we're working on. And then we will expand to 125, and so each person is an individual, and they all work, you know, hard and come to the company with enthusiasm and excitement, and so it doesn't matter.
But I look for people who are passionate and have a good attitude. I can tell within 10 seconds whether I'll hire you. Lynda: Wow! Shannon: I know that sounds strange, but it's true. And whenever I have been indifferent, then there's always a reason, and eventually that person grows out of the company, but we're us a stopping place for people in their careers. They come in, grow, and learn, and contribute to our projects, and then we help them move on, and so the having that 'we'll help you when you help us' attitude really makes a big difference I think, as well, in getting people behind an idea and our concept of our company and where we're going.
So they'll support us more. They say people come to work with 40% discretionary effort. How do you get that out of them? And so that's part of how I work with it is to just kind of help people develop themselves so that they can move on. And we've had people come back and hire us. Artists that have moved on in their careers will come back and hire us, which is exciting. So you know you're doing a good job. Lynda: Yeah, that's it that's a very unusual philosophy. I don't think of many companies that really encourage their employees to go out and, you know, go beyond what they're doing.
I think a lot of businesses are so self- centered, just thinking, you know, how can I get the most work out this person? But that's, that philosophy sounds like it's really paid off. Shannon: It has paid off in spades. We give them the lynda.com subscriptions so that they can enhance their skills because they - everyone has a dream of what they want to do, particularly in creative fields. People have to have a day job, but they always have their projects that they want to work on, so helping them helps us. Again, I love people and respect people and you know, being able to work with the artists is a big part of why I do what I do. But I also know how I'd like to be treated and just exercising my philosophies through managing the company I have seen like, you know, a great way to get the most efficiency out of people as well.
Again, it's economics in addition to a philosophy. Lynda: Mhm. And what is your philosophy in regards to clients. What do you do for client retention? We try to make their lives as easy as possible. There's so much pressure on a director, and his career and producers, and even in new media as well. People are always building their careers and developing a new economy with the web, and so our job is to anticipate needs and listen and deliver the best product possible at a great price.
And if you can make someone's life easy, they'll always come back to you. Often people, our clients will say, "Oh, we know we can just give you a sequence and walk away, and it'll be done great, and we can to shut up and smile and drink coffee." And that's what we want. And they'll always refer us because that's all about repeat clients and referrals. Lynda: And relationships. Shannon: And relationships. People do business with those that they trust and they like. Lynda: Absolutely. And with your background in the entrepreneurial program, do you have any thoughts about education and teaching business skills to others? Shannon: Absolutely.
I think, just in general, for artists, since this is Creative Inspirations, I have found that artists, technologists, scientists and entrepreneurs all kind of think the same way. The mind of the muscle, in my opinion, so our minds are kind of developed the same way, and so it's easy to jump around I have found. I have family that are, were scientists, and I'm a tech geek, my father was an engineer, and we all just kind of think the same way. And so I find that you manage them the same way. And so I believe I have a strong just kind of personal mission to to help with education, to help people help themselves, constantly working with our artists to educate them on business as much as I can.
We have kind of our informal New Deal university with articles and books and lynda.com, which has been amazingly helpful. People just, some people just haven't thought about like continuing education. You need education and coaching your whole life, especially these days with things changing so quickly. And I find that artists really do respond and understand business concepts. It's often common sense. And just kind of helping them understand and frame some of the concepts for them in their own language or how it applies to their business makes a big difference.
And even I'm volunteering for SIGGRAPH Vancouver in 2011, and putting together an entire day based on business and bringing keynote speakers and talking about finance and creating an advisory board and working with them. Lynda: Wow. I think that something that is so needed. Congratulations for getting that going. That's exciting. Shannon: I love education. I'm passionate. That's why I'm so excited to be here. Lynda: And what is, what is the future looking like for New Deal? Are there any upcoming projects that you're excited about? Shannon: There are.
We always continue to expand and evolve of our company and often are looking at our business plan, several times a year now. And we are working on creating our own content, so not just being a service provider, but creating our own projects and not just a film project but developing the whole transmedia plan around that. As I said, I'm a tech geek myself so creating iPhone applications and rich Web sites and games and just, you know, applying our perspective, our creative point of view.
We've done quite a bit of creative agency work as well. And so that's what we've been working on. So we have a feature film and a television show that were working on. And we have this digital agency and we're producing commercials as well. And our goal, when I wrote the business plan at USC in undergrad, was always to produce our own content. So it's nice to be there, at that moment, at the right time. That's kind of how I feel where we're at. Lynda: Well, congratulations on all of your success and also kind of doing business the way that you think it should be done and that you want to do it.
You know, it's inspiring and we really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and philosophies with us. Thanks so much for having me!
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