Joe & Mikon at Sibling Rivalry

Sibling’s work is bold, clear, and smart. But as with any creative business, the work is – at most – half the story. 



Joel Pilger (VO): This is a story about storytellers, creators, filmmakers, and Fable finders. Those intrepid creatives who launched a business only to wake up one day and discover they had created an empire. As a former studio owner myself, I once competed with these people fiercely. Yet I was always inspired by them. Now in each episode, we will reveal the people behind the world’s most interesting studios and production companies.

It’s quite a list. Who are the gutsy creatives steering these businesses? What drives them? And what does it take to helm such a fabulous creative enterprise that it makes the list? I’m Joel Pilger, and this is the fabulist.

Joel Pilger: So I’m saying to you guys, congratulations, you made the list, but I’m curious to hear from. How does [00:01:00] it feel being on that crazy journey?

Joe Wright: Oof that’s a big question. 

Joel Pilger: Yeah. 

Joe Wright: Um, I think awesome and shit at the same.

Joel Pilger (VO): Say hello to Joe Wright and Mikon van Gastel, founding partners at Sibling Rivalry. They are positioned as a quote creative agency combining the rigor of a global practice with the agility of a boutique studio. So when these two creatives talk about inspired thinking, that drives innovation and culture for their clients, well, which clients?

Google, Etsy, HBO, Amazon, Nike, Lexus, Ford. Target, Apple, Bugatti, BET. Now when this studio claims to be quote a strategic and creative partner, pay special attention to that word strategic. As for me, I’ve always admired Sibling’s work. It’s bold, clear and [00:02:00] smart. But as with any creative business, the work is at most half the story.

It was on 39th Street in Manhattan where I huddled up with Joe and Mikon to hear the story behind Sibling.

Joe Wright: We met 21 years ago in New York. We had both only been here a week or so when we met and what ensued was about two weeks of solid drinking, I think, and going out every single night. It was kind of a good start. This was long before we ended, you know, realized we were gonna own a company together. And of course we made that cardinal sin where we became very good friends over that 10 years. And then we started a company as friends, which can really not be a good idea.

Mikon van Gastel: Those 10 years were filled with talking about work, looking at each other’s work, talking about the business, the goods, the bads. Having partners like, you know, I had Saffron. He was at Trollbäck at the time. What do you like about that? What do you not like about that? How you, so by the time that. [00:03:00] Saffron wanted out of a very small office, which was the production company that I opened after Imaginary Forces, and the first person I went to, literally, I still remember the walk from IF to Trollbäck, which was a couple of blocks in Soho.

The first guy I go to is Joe, and I’m like, dude, you know, Saffron wants out. I’m thinking of closing a very small office. He kind of leaned back. I still see it like it was yesterday. And he walks over to his sliding doors as all of Trollbäck is sitting right out there and closes the door and he’s like, mate, what about starting an office together?

And I’m like, Well, there’s an idea. Now, granted this was 2011, as the market is going down, we didn’t even think of that. Like the idea of starting an office at that point was probably the dumbest idea. You know, you talked about like what’s one of your craziest ideas you’ve ever pitched to a client, I think is Joe pitching opening Sibling Rivalry in [00:04:00] the heart of a recession is probably the craziest idea we’ve had, and we never look back from that point onwards.

Joe Wright: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s such a good point. I hadn’t thought about it before up until you just describing that, but in a way, 10 years before we started the company was almost like subconsciously laying the foundation for the company. 

Joel Pilger: Sure. 

Joe Wright: We just didn’t know it at the time.

Joel Pilger: Well, I’m just guessing you probably were having a lot of conversations with a lot of people in those 10 years

Joe Wright: Of course.

Joel Pilger: But the conversation you had with each other led to some sort of a trust alignment. Something so that when that moment comes and he says, Hey mate, you thought, wait a minute, maybe that’s a not the craziest idea in the world.

Mikon van Gastel: And I think it’s funny you mentioned the word trust, because we literally, that’s why he’s shaking his head. He already knew what I was gonna say. We were just, you know, there’s a lot of stuff going on in the company, right? Especially in the last two years. It’s been so crazy. Like in the first nine years of sibling, we had zero turnover, then Covid hits and all hell breaks loose, right? The [00:05:00] energy completely shifts and you have to protect the culture of the company. There’s all these new people, you know, excitement, but also insecurity sets in. Every time we think it’s like, okay, you know, we’ve kind of landed, everything’s good, the team’s awesome. Something else happens.

You know how it is. 

Joel Pilger: Be careful. 

Mikon van Gastel: And the thing that Joe said, mate, the most important thing that we have is trust. We trust each other blindly. And that is at the core of the company. It’s so important.

Joel Pilger: So when people characterize the difference between you two, right? Like are you sort of left brain and he’s right brain, or you’re the numbers guy and he’s the people person, is there any sort of characterization that fits.

Mikon van Gastel: Joe, really at the end of the day, I feel is really the creative brain behind the company. Now, I am also a creative, we’re both Directors, we’re both creative directors. We’re both very hands on still believe it or not. We still do our own treatments and write our own treatment and like, so we’re not just, you [00:06:00] know, the guys that are looking at 30,000 foot view down to the No, we’re very involved.

I think at the end of the day, yes, I lean in a little bit more into the running of the company and dealing with people that deal with the numbers. Like I deal with numbers but I still need a cheat sheet to make sure I deal with it accurately. We’re still both creatives at heart, and that’s been, I know you have a lot of companies as part of your podcast that are creatively led.

We are also creatively led. We are also smart enough to know what some of the pitfalls of that are, right? So,

Joe Wright: I mean, we are learning all the time. 

Mikon van Gastel: All the time, all the time.

Joel Pilger: I mean, isn’t that the journey of the creative entrepreneur is just lifelong school? Like, just get ready. You’re never gonna stop learning. It just keeps coming.

Joe Wright: sometimes you, you go to yourself, how the fuck did I not know this?

Mikon van Gastel: But there’s nothing worse than getting bored.

Joel Pilger: No, that’s right. I agree that that’s the kiss of death. Right? And maybe that’s a personality thing with the creative types, but we get so much energy and vision from what do I get to do next? [00:07:00] Where are we going now? What can we do? And as soon as that stops, it’s like slow death starts to set in.

Joe Wright: It’s a blessing and a curse. I think that’s kind of a little bit what you’re getting at. I mean, I hate it in a way. I never feel satisfied.

Joel Pilger: Mm-hmm. . So I was gonna ask you this question, but I don’t wanna put you too much in an uncomfortable spot. So I’ll ask it vicariously through myself. When people ask me how many projects, you know, that you did over those 20 years, are you, were you really, really proud of I can count it on one hand. I mean, it’s two or three that I would say we nailed it.

And I wouldn’t change anything that’s out of hundreds. So that, that, that perpetual dissatisfaction was, I don’t know, part of the journey.

Joe Wright: I mean, in a way, I don’t feel like I’ve ever done one project that I’ve completely nailed.

Mikon van Gastel: Or what, shoot have you come back from that you were like, I got everything I wanted. There’s always that like, God, if I’d only told to talent this, or if I’d only done that, why didn’t I shoot it from that angle? Like every job, you know, like there’s something.

Joe Wright: it’s just the nature of the beast i think.

Joel Pilger: [00:08:00] Well, if we go back to the beginning when you guys started, how has just the overall expertise, the type of work you’re doing, the types of problems you’re solving, if you were gonna try and sum up how that’s evolved? Cause I’m thinking even three years ago you go back and think, oh my God, I’ve learned so much in three years.I would now do it this way. 

But if you go back 10 years from where you started to where you are now, how, how has the nature of the problems changed?

Mikon van Gastel: I mean, All, we all try to project forward, right? And the thing we all underestimate is how much the world around us is changing. And that is so true for the last 10 years. Like we all grew up in a certain area, we all had a certain work ethic. People now that we are employing new voices, new energy, their worth ethic is completely different.What they value is completely different than we are, right? 

The budgets have changed. Clients have started in-house agencies. Agencies have started production companies. We’ve started [00:09:00] strategy departments. We’re all eating each other’s lunch. All this stuff is happening while you’re trying to do work, trying to build a company, trying to mentor people.

I mean, it’s kind of insane. 

When you’re working for someone, you’re kind of focused on your own thing and your project and the next project. When you are an entrepreneur and you’re in this business, the forces around you are fucking with everything you’re trying to build. And that I think is the thing that I’ve learned over time that is just incredibly powerful.

Joel Pilger: Now, you know, when people ask me, do you miss it? My default answer is no. That is a massive hamster wheel in your brain. But I have enormous respect and admiration for you guys. I mean, the level at which that you are just continuing to evolve and grow. You know, I look at the body of the work and like everyone else, I think, how could this be any better?

This is brilliant.

Alex Hawley (Vignette): They’re raising the bar.

Lauren Hawley (Vignette): Sibling rivalry is killing it.

Joel Pilger: You see it and say, no, I, I would’ve [00:10:00] done this. I would’ve gotten that shot from where I sit. And I think people in the industry sit, we say, oh my God, what a beautiful body of work.

Joe Wright: I think that’s why having a partner is so important, right? To do that on your own, you know, it would be too tough. But then the other thing is to do it with a partner, that can also be hard as well. If you don’t have that symbiotic relationship and you don’t see eye to eye and you don’t almost like finish one another sentences, right?

That can become an energy suck as well.

Joel Pilger: The classic dilemma, I would say, of partnerships maybe outside the creative industry. I’ve never looked at the numbers, but Right. Most partnerships fail because the partners at some point or another are no longer aligned and yeah, and they break.

Joe Wright: And I’ve gotta be honest with you, like we haven’t spoken about this much, but our relationship has definitely changed over the course because in the beginning we don’t hang out nearly as much. Now outside of work, Right, 

Joel Pilger: because you’re sick of each other.

Mikon van Gastel: Staring at his mug all day long. That’s enough. Good enough. [00:11:00]

Joe Wright: Exactly. Cause we both have families and all of that stuff, right? So like, you know, there’s a part of me that’s sad about that in a funny way, right? I was actually just thinking about it the other day, like, we’re tighter than ever. But it’s a different type of friendship from those first 10 years.

You know, it changes into something else.

Joel Pilger: Let me shift to something for a second for anyone listening that doesn’t know much about sibling rivalry. If I’m standing on the curb and we’re just sort of looking from the outside in, what is it? Is it a team? Is it a a co-op? Is it an agency? What’s the term you use? What’s sort of the makeup of the team?

How many bodies go in and out of this place and so forth?

Mikon van Gastel: Oh man, that’s the question we don’t know how to answer.

No, listen, we, we call ourselves a hybrid agency, and what that means is we very consciously made a decision to separate live action as one of our companies. It’s not a discipline under just sibling rivalry, it’s its own company. 

Now, on the other side, we [00:12:00] have a studio slash agency. The two entities can work together and collaborate, but they can also, and they do all the time work independently. But together they’re a hybrid agency. 

Now, the reason we made the split, cuz a lot of people build it under one roof, right? The whole under one roof trend. Is that we truly, as directors, right, the thing that makes us kind of unique is that yes, we, you know, we are the creatives that head Sibling Rivalry, but we’re also still directors. 

So for us, we really believe it’s a discipline on itself. It deserves its own Executive producer, Darren Foldes runs it as the managing director. We have a whole team on that side, and the agency studio side has its own team at Joanna Fillie, Lauren Hartstone, you know, as the creative at the top.

And that was a very conscious choice. Doesn’t make our life easier because it means it’s not one company, it’s two companies that you’re running. On a day to day basis there’s about 30, 35 people walking in and out of the building. Once [00:13:00] we’re back, we’re very close, right? We’re waiting for walls and windows because we moved offices.

However, you can double that with freelancers. So the joke is we keep saying that we’re a 35 person company, we’re really not.

Joel Pilger: Right. Any given day, there’s probably that many freelancers.

Joe Wright: Yeah, we, we actually looked at it the other day. There’s, on any given day, there’s between 68 and 70 people working for the company.

Joel Pilger: That’s interesting cuz that’s, that’s a very normal thing. They usually take the permanent staff and there’s usually just as many freelancers coming and going, and that’s actually a healthy dynamic.

Mikon van Gastel: Yeah.

Joel Pilger: The type of clients that you work with, with, do they generally fall more under Brand Direct?

Are they more agencies, more…?

Joe Wright: When we first started on the agency side of the company, we used to work 90% with advertising agencies and 10% client direct. Now that’s completely flopped. We’re 90% client direct and then probably 10% agency work. So, you know, not that much agency work, but on the film side,[00:14:00] 

Mikon van Gastel: It’s the

Joe Wright: opposite. It’s

Mikon van Gastel: It’s

Joe Wright: the opposite.

Joel Pilger: On that flip from now working 90% for brands, is it more interesting to solve those types of problems? Cause the, the nature of the engagement and the way you work with them is, right, it’s totally different.

Joe Wright: It really depends on the client. You know, sometimes it’s good to have an A, you know, a traditional agency there. Right? Cuz they act as the buffer between you and the client.

Joel Pilger: Sure. Yeah.

Joe Wright: So some clients that you’re working with, client direct, I mean it is a process, cause you’re having to educate them every step of the way. And especially if you’re dealing with a startup, for example, who’s never done any type of brand building of their brand before you’re doing naming for them, you’re then coming up with the brand itself.

You’re then talking to them about campaign work. This is a new journey for them.

Joel Pilger (VO): Well, Joe recently spoke at Advertising Week, New York. With one of their favorite brand collaborators. Kimberly Evans Paige. She’s the EVP and Chief Marketing Officer [00:15:00] at BET.

Joe Wright (Archival Clip): For us, it was a cultural project as much as it was as a brand project. You know, it was really redefining the brand and really coming up with a new way to think of it. The brand has always been very forward looking. And, uh, as you were saying, the idea of future-proofing things is, is so, so important.

You know, you, you wanna have something that can evolve as the brand grows and the brand is growing very fast and adding new divisions and stuff. So for us it was very important to come up with a solution that really spoke to that and really enabled that to happen.

Kimberly Evans Paige (Archival Clip): And I think the, um, just to build on that, you know, we are operating in the most dynamic and competitive marketplace. I say, you know, basically everybody’s chasing black, whether you sell wine or widgets. Our, our audience is highly coveted. And so we often say, you know, people want our rhythm, but they don’t want our blues.

And so there was such a, a responsibility and an obligation quite honestly, that we personally feel in terms of stewarding this brand. It was being real around, well, what are we trying to be and what is that North [00:16:00] Star and you guys came with great thinking. I believe whether it’s a s an agency or anyone that you’re gonna spend time with and decide that you’re gonna co-create something towards a objective, um, you gotta, you gotta have a real relationship.

Joel Pilger: It’s interesting because I’m finding strategy to becoming more and more of. An offering, if you will

Mikon van Gastel: Oh yeah, yeah.

Joel Pilger: in our industry, right? 

Mikon van Gastel: Yeah, yeah, of course. 

Joel Pilger: As part of a, a trend. I’m curious, was there, when you think back, there was a day when you didn’t do strategy, didn’t offer strategy, I’m guessing, and then

Mikon van Gastel: No, we gave it away. Names we gave away for free taglines we gave away for free.

Joe Wright: I mean, we’ve always done strategy actually. 

Joel Pilger: Okay, but you didn’t call it that, maybe? 

Joe Wright: but through a design lens. And maybe we didn’t call it that. You know what I mean? So

Joel Pilger: It was the lost the lost leader. It was part of the pitch or something.

Joe Wright: Yeah, exactly. And then we suddenly, like, we started to make a shift about three years ago where we realized that we wanted to be much lower down on the, on the ladder, so to speak.

[00:17:00] You know, we were often going in on the 10th rung and instead we wanted to be on the first rung. 

Mikon van Gastel: On the ground floor.

Or we wanted to be building the fucking ladder in the first place. But it, this all aligned with other thinking and I think the strategic portion of that was one a bit like why are we just giving this shit away?

Joel Pilger: I don’t want you to reveal too much in the specificity of it here, but is that a good business to be in? Because again, most companies, when they start, they’re just giving it away. They don’t really think of it that way. They think, well, this is what we have to do in order to win the job.

Mikon van Gastel: Listen, it’s a frustration for us. So I’m, we’re not sitting here telling you we. But yes, acknowledging the problem is the first thing, which is we need to charge for it. How do you do that? Well, you have to change the thinking internally around it, right? It needs to be its own discipline. You have to be very smart about when you, how you lay it out in terms of the journey with the client so everybody understands it to be its own thing. 

Doesn’t mean strategy isn’t integrated with design within sibling. Of course it is. How could it [00:18:00] not be? But for the client, you have to call it out. And then I think by hiring Becky and Kari, Kari comes from a, a digital agency, and Becky came from a strategy firm. So they’re coming with all that knowledge. They’re not thinking about giving it away. So now you’ve changed your mentality completely by bringing in people that think about it completely differently, right?

Joel Pilger: That’s interesting you put it that way because I’m thinking how many founders do it, again, like an implied value add. Right? But it’s a loss leader kind of a thing. But the day that you hire a strategist is clear the day you’re charging for strategy. 

Mikon van Gastel: Correct. Yeah. 

Joel Pilger: And it’s become now like one of your core disciplines, I’m guessing

Mikon van Gastel: We want it to be

Joe Wright: We’re not fully there yet. You know, in all honesty, we’re, it’s a work in progress. I mean, everything we do has strategy kind of involved as kind of the core to it, but both strategy and insight, right. The whole data side of everything is becoming a much, much more front and center component. It’s a process for us and it’s [00:19:00] something that we feel very strongly about.

And you know, also as business owners, I think. You know, you never wanna look at your company five years down the road and it be the same company, right? There’s just no interest in that for us. We wanna have a company that’s evolving and changing. And what a company is today is completely different from what it was when we started it.

The type of work we are doing, the clients we are working for, the way we’re operating, it’s completely different. And in another 5, 7, 10 years, I would like to see the company being different again. You know what I mean? The everything is evolving so fast that you want to,

Mikon van Gastel: Joe wants to be Bob Greenberg. Swap it out every seven years. Seven years. Yeah.

Joe Wright: think it’s just what keeps you interested as a creative right, or as a creative person that you just feel this evolution in what you’re doing.

Joel Pilger: Yeah, I can imagine there’s a maybe a cultural value that you’re instilling in yourselves and your [00:20:00] team called, just because we’ve always done it that way, doesn’t make it right. And by the way, we are gradually reinventing so. The sacred cows are up for, for slaughter at any given moment. 

Something else I noticed in you, Joe, when you were talking about data and insights is I was waiting to see if there was a little bit of a groan or a, oh god, you actually were sort of excited and energized in a way about strategy insights, like it’s, that’s cool.

Joe Wright: Well, my, my groan was gonna be a delayed groan. I just hadn’t got to it yet.

Joel Pilger: alright well give it to me

Joe Wright: [groans] We’ve done a few jobs lately where we’ve also been partnering up through Google Labs and stuff, and it’s been really interesting to get a deeper understanding of the insight and how the importance data plays in the whole process.

Is it something that I wanna bury myself under and become an expert in? No, but I think [00:21:00] I personally have definitely become more conscious and aware of the fact that data, analytics, and insight is playing a bigger and bigger role, and clients are wanting to back stuff up with it. you know what I mean?

It’s very important to them.

Joel Pilger: Do you find the data is often the thing that affirms your intuition and therefore gives you more confidence? Or does it actually bring a surprise?

Joe Wright: I think when you get the affirmation of it, it’s great. And I think sometimes the data’s gonna make you realize that you are wide of the mark, and I think that’s okay too.

Mikon van Gastel: We talk about like instinct and intellect. The pendulum is constantly swinging, and I think our work sort of exists in between. You know, you want to have strategists on your team that will help you navigate that, right? If the data says something, but the instinct, success something else, where do you meet?

Joe Wright: I think the guttural instinct on things can never be [00:22:00] underestimated because if you think there’s so many examples in the world of great products or great companies that have started, not from overanalyzing it, but just from instinct, from a feeling and from just like, I know the world is missing this or lacking that.

Joel Pilger: And I’m thinking of like what I learned in, uh, the Malcolm Gladwell book, Blink. About, wow, this thing we call intuition is really an incredible super power.

Joe Wright: Well, it’s funny you bring up Malcolm Gladwell, he did Outliers, right? as well. 

Joel Pilger: Yeah. 

Joe Wright: So like the whole 10,000 hour theory, right? Which I absolutely love. You gotta remember like you’ve had years and years of practice. You know, in our case is way more than 10,000 hours 

Joel Pilger: I was about to say 

Joe Wright: you know what I mean?

Joel Pilger: Sometimes it feels like 20

Joe Wright: Yeah, no, exactly. But I mean that isn’t for not. Right? You can’t speed up that process. I’m fascinated by the 10,000 hours cuz you, you can’t suddenly, just like I was telling my nine year old son about the whole 10,000 hour theory the other day, and he just, Was like,

Joel Pilger: Right. He’s like, I haven’t been alive for 10,000 hours [00:23:00] 

Joe Wright: But like to him, the idea of needing to practice something that long, you know, or to hone your skills or something like, was just horrific. But the reality is that you, we’ve had all of this knowledge built up over years and years and years, and there’s just a feeling about stuff. And I, for me, in the creative process that’s hands down the most satisfying part of what we do.

Joel Pilger: Yeah, that is, I mean, there’s something very optimistic about that. On the one hand, it’s daunting to think 10,000 hours, like, oh my God, doesn’t that, it’s roughly…

Mikon van Gastel: Yeah, you just wanna be Trinity in the Matrix, whereas like load helicopter program. Yes. Right, right.

Joel Pilger: What I tell people is like, focus on your genius. Right? That thing you love doing and that produces really big results. But you know, focus on that for five to 10 years and you will be a recognized leader in your field. You almost can’t avoid it if you put in the time, and the commitment, and it’s something that you love, right?

It’s something that you genuinely love. It’s like the human brain is gonna just assimilate and find all [00:24:00] those crazy patterns and that we call it intuition. But for someone like you, I’m because a client says, here, I got this problem and I’m not really sure what to do. And you’re already like, formulating and thinking and have a sense of it and can almost visualize it.

Joe Wright: No, but I, and I think that’s what I’m saying. When I remember when I was younger as a designer or even as a director, actually, same thing, like doing treatments or, something. You would get the brief and you would look at it and sometimes it was like a fight to come up with an idea. And you would kind of like – it’s almost like you didn’t have the tools and now pretty much always something’s put in front and there’s an initial thought straight away or pretty quickly. And that tends to be what you go with, that first initial thinking. Often it can be, I’ll be talking with a client on a call and something will come into the head on the call, and that will normally end up being the thing. That’s all of that knowledge that you’ve built up over time or the failures you’ve had, the successes you’ve had, the things you’ve tried. That nearly [00:25:00] worked but didn’t quite work. It’s these layers of things that are built up, and I think that’s what gives you the confidence and the knowledge and the guttural feeling of like, yeah, I kind of think I know what this should be. You still can still get stuff wrong. Don’t get wrong, but like,

Mikon van Gastel: But I think that also is, the 10,000 hours is also about recognizing when the road is not a fruitful road to go down. You know, like how often do you, you’re down the road and you, you really think that’s it and then you start to realize it really isn’t. And I think when you’re not experienced, you, you get so invested in something, it’s hard to talk yourself out of it. Whereas with experience, you kind of, you know, you’re down to pat at a certain point. You’re like, you know what, I gotta bail out from that. 

And it’s funny enough translates exactly to live action, also. So often I’m on a shot and I think it’s a very important shot and I get completely stuck and it’s not working.

The hardest thing is to go up to the client and say, I know we all want this shot. [00:26:00] It’s not working. I want to move on. There is such a power in that.

Joel Pilger: Right. But you’re very vulnerable moment

Mikon van Gastel: Very vulnerable, I thought.

Joel Pilger: this I was wrong. Correct. Can you hang with me while we solve this?

Mikon van Gastel: Yep. So

Joel Pilger: takes got a lot of confidence. Yeah. Cause you know you’ve done it before and you’re like, I’ve been wrong before I figured it out. And like everyone’s here, this is our moment.

I just gotta let, let this go and we’ll find the shot elsewhere.

Mikon van Gastel: we’re not gonna get it and it’s jeopardizing everything else that we still have on the board. We have to move on.

Joe Wright: But in that case, I mean, I think there’s often that in creativity, right? You have an idea in your mind, but then when you come to execute it and in that case, you know, it could be on a screen, but in that case, through a camera, it just doesn’t translate. That’s just life what happens inside of here, inside of the brain, and the reality don’t always align.

You know, it doesn’t always pan out, and that’s okay.

Mikon van Gastel: And I think that’s, you know, working one of the great joy. We talked a lot about this [00:27:00] during covid. One of the things that made me really sad about Covid as it relates to our business is the human connection completely evaporated once it was through Zoom.

Alex Hawley (Vignette): Can you guys hear me okay? Oh, I, hold on. If you’re trying to say something, I think you might be muted.

Mikon van Gastel: And there was nothing more satisfying than walking through the the studio and talking to people and the reviews were just happening. They didn’t need to be scheduled. People walking, we always have open doors. Right? All that went away and all that culture was gone, and I really missed that. It’s like the great joy of being a business owner at the end of the day is the people that you work with.

Joel Pilger: I don’t know about you, but in my experience, the way that I learned as I was coming up through the industry was side by side with somebody

Mikon van Gastel: Yes, of course

Joel Pilger: Right. Like, here, grab the mouse. Let me show you. And there was this transfer of knowledge and energy and thinking and everything that happened because we were in the same space.

If I had not had that, [00:28:00] I would not have grown and matured as the creative, as the professional, whatever that I’ve become. So I, I worry about the younger generation, like if we don’t have that, how do we replace that? Cuz it’s such an important part of building that team and transferring the knowledge and the skill and all those things that come from interacting in the same space

Joe Wright: it is. I, I think. Everything’s changing so fast, you know what I mean? That I think people are also doing things in a different way, and I think that’s also okay too. You know what I mean? We can’t

Joel Pilger: you gotta be open to embrace it

Joe Wright: Yeah. We can’t just hold on to exactly how things were done before. You know what I mean?

There’s, there’s, and that’s exciting too. I mean, I think

Mikon van Gastel: you get energized by that too. Yeah.

Joel Pilger: Well, yeah, I think you’re right. It’s not gonna be a going back to, it’s gonna be going forward towards something. We don’t quite yet know what it is. But yeah, if we just mourn and long for the old days, we won’t be open to 

Joe Wright: There’s no time for mourning.

Joel Pilger: Yeah, no time for mourning.

Mikon van Gastel: No, and it’s also, I mean, I do think, and I’m sure you’ve heard this from [00:29:00] a lot of people that you’re talking to, I think Joe and I were all, and our core people, I think we’ve all been kind of stunned by how well we did, you know? Like, I mean, there was a moment where Joe and I are like, cuz we, you know, we gave up our lease. We’re in a new studio on Thirty Cooper Square, which is really exciting. 

But there was a moment, Joe, I remember, he’s like, do we still need an office? It took five seconds for us to go. Yeah. Now I forgot about that, but you know. Yeah. I mean, could we continue like this? Yes. But it’s not where the joy comes from and I think that that was the big thing for us.

Joel Pilger: So this is sort of a nice segue to one of the final things I wanna ask about. Where are you headed? What are you excited about? Because you’re talking about the space here in New York, but there’s other things.

Mikon van Gastel: LA. Yeah.

Joel Pilger: Tell us about that.

Mikon van Gastel: For years we’ve been talking about Los Angeles, but we always were like, God, it seems like such an old school idea because we’ve [00:30:00] seen so many companies open up bi-coastal and close because one office is basically pillaging the other office and they don’t really gel. 

Obviously. We do a lot of work in entertainment.We do a lot of work in tech and automotive, and all three of those are obviously heavily based on the west coast. So we felt that if we were to find the right kind of people, that this would be a good time to do it, because also Covid did prove that you didn’t need a 10,000 square foot office in Culver City.

You can do it with a much smaller footprint.

Joel Pilger: As you guys look into the future now, is there a sense of, gosh, I’m, I’m excited because maybe the next 10 years will be about blank.

Mikon van Gastel: I think for us, we’re growing from within the company, which is really exciting. And within that, A couple of our top people will become partners. So that’s a big change, right? So it’s not [00:31:00] just gonna be the two of us. I think within that, for example, Darren owns live Action, right? So he’s very excited about growing the roster.

We’re never gonna be MJZ or Park Pictures for 32 directors, right? We really believe in, you know, eight, 10 directors and, and we’d rather ideally all 10 working, but at least eight out the 10 working rather than there’s 30 directors and only six work. Right? So be dedicated to those people. And obviously live action’s also changing with episodical content longform content. Being in LA makes a lot of sense, right? That’s where all that is happening. So giving the directors of broader platform. 

Then I think on the agency and the studio side, ideally like Joe, Ground floor as much as possible, continue to do that. That allows us and all of our creatives to flex their muscles.That’s the exciting part.

Joel Pilger: Well, I was, I’m looking at this statement when I was doing my homework on the website, right, about being an [00:32:00] independent creative agency that believes in the power of. To drive emotion business and culture. Do you feel like that statement will be just as true for this next chapter or this next season?

Joe Wright: I think the human connection, the emotive connection, is always kind of at the center of what we do. Now, we do it through a design lens a lot of the time. So, yeah, I think it is still gonna be very pertinent. I mean, I, you know what I’m actually kind of excited also about the unknowns. Right? Of what the kind of future can bring.

You know, I just think as

Mikon van Gastel: and having some fun while doing it.

Joe Wright: Yes, exactly. It’s funny, someone, I did an interview a while, a while back and someone asked me like, what’s the most important thing in the studio? And my answer, I thought about it for a moment and my answer was, humor. Was actually the, what I felt was the most important thing.

And I still really believe that. And that’s why for us, I think when, when we had that heartbeat of do we need a space? What is a company, if it just exists in the, in the, in the [00:33:00] virtual sphere, you know. Where is the energy, where is the nurture, where is the, the humor? Where’s the fun that you are like, you know, between the interaction that you’re having,

Joel Pilger: Yeah, that was the word I was hearing also was fun. As you talked, right? Just and even seeing the look on your face.

Joe Wright: Yeah. I mean,

Joel Pilger: that you’re still having fun despite the craziness, the unknown, whatever. There’s still something I get from you too, that there’s a lot of fun. 

Well, I think one of you has a plane to catch, so I am gonna say thank you.It’s been a really fun conversation and kudos on the journey so far, and I and your peers and fans in the industry are excited to, uh, watch what’s coming next.

Mikon van Gastel: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Joel Pilger (VO): Congrats to all of my guests for making the list. The fabulist is a labor of love created by me, produced by creatives. Enjoyed by you. [00:34:00] Our host, well, that’s me, Joel Pilger, sound designer, Eric Singer, and the audio alchemists at Coupe Studios, senior producer Jocelyn Arem. Special thanks: Rich Macar at Buttons NYC, Dallas Taylor at Defacto Sound and 20,000 Hertz.

If you appreciate these contributions, be a good human and give them a shout out. Please like, subscribe and tell more creatives about the fabulist so we can keep telling more of these stories. Until next time, keep on living a better story.