How to have an ‘anything-can-be-done’ attitude and do anything!
New York, February 3rd, 2017
Chris Sullivan and Guy Peires founded Kworq at the end of November 2011. They had known each other for almost a decade and, after finding they shared solid work ethics and a ‘anything-can-be-done’ attitude, they decided to start doing projects together and created Kworq.
Prior to this, Chris had a small production company, 903 films, that he sold to Code and Theory, where he later became Director of Post Production.
Guy was a Director of Photography with dozens of commercials and a few feature films under his belt.
“I always think back to my teenage aspirations to be a rockstar,” confesses Guy. “Aside from learning to play guitar, this was the time when I started exploring performance, writing and ultimately storytelling. That evolved and I went to drama school and then film school. There, I pretty much focused only on cinematography and came out wanting to do just that. Armed with a small reel of work I started knocking on doors. By the time Chris and I met I was DP’ing broadcast spots. I was always into the whole process and began offering other services to my clients and that’s when Chris and I started working together more. That eventually evolved into Kworq. I still shoot some of our projects, but it’s now a small part of what I do. I joke that Kworq is the first full time job I’ve ever had.”
By 2013 Kworq had established itself and was carrying out big projects.
We spoke to Chris and Guy to learn how they manage to produce all their work with a modest team of eight people at their SoHo, New York offices.
“We value quality, craftsmanship and learning. Our vision is ever evolving, yet the mission remains the same. We want to build the team and culture to support those values” commented the pair.
Can you describe your agency in three words?
Story-driven. Tenacious. Resourceful.
In your opinion, what ingredients are key to creating a successful team?
For us, key to success is understanding that without failure, we’re not trying hard enough.
• We have to learn from our mistakes.
• We believe that no matter what role you play, you are a creative force.
• Creativity is problem solving.
• Everyone needs to be able to fight for what we think is right.
• If the direction doesn’t go your way, believe in your leader.
We always ask “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” This is not because we think people coming to us are not ‘grown ups’, we expect people to be on a journey to something else.
We don’t believe in micro management and handholding.
We want to be surprised and delighted by someone’s initiative and if you can’t handle it, you will walk.
Can you share an example where you have had to resolve an issue between a creative team and a client?
Guy: A couple years ago we started working with the National Basketball Players Association Specifically we worked with their foundation.
They wanted to launch a campaign that focused on altering the clichéd image many players faced that saw them as absentee fathers where most of the time the opposite was true: they were involved fathers and many came from homes with great fathers.
The campaign was to centre around a yet to be decided hashtag. The foundation wanted to avoid associating it with basketball. We disagreed and pushed for something that did. And then pushed one time too many, which garnered a response that I will never forget.
It was a lengthy email from their Executive Director, who was our main contact at the time, and in the most respectful and informative way, ripped me apart. I took that email – sans the ripping part – and distributed it among everyone involved – making it our mission statement for the campaign.
It was the first time we fully understood her intentions. I still think on that interaction and the mistakes that were made to fully understand our client without it coming to a head. Luckily we were not fired and were able to produce a campaign that I believe exceeded their expectations.
I am thankful for that exchange and wouldn’t change a thing.
How would you deal with an angry customer? How do you communicate bad news?
Straight up. Listen to their misgivings and offer a solution. And it depends if we think they are out of line or not. You always tow the line of being confident and gaining further trust or burning a bridge. Sometimes the risk is worth it.
Credibility and dignity are valuable traits.
When hiring, which qualities of creativity are you most sensitive to?
Our starting point is an understanding that everyone is creative and that creativity doesn’t stop at a job title.
People working with us must be fearless. They need to have drive, determination and a passion for learning.
How do you distribute responsibilities?
Chris: I randomly shout around the room at people as thoughts pop into my head.
Guy: And then of course no one listens…. Being a small company, that is an ever-evolving framework. As founders, Chris and I do what we can when we can. We’re obsessive learners and look for people that are always self improving too. Up until recently we considered everyone their own department. Everyone would discuss the objectives and opinions and brainstorm. Chris and I will have the final say.
C: We expect our employees to create tasks for themselves that enable them to achieve those goals. Our Wonder Women Producer Robin Baudreau is the eye in the sky and manages resourcing.
How would you describe the creativity culture at your agency?
We strive to cultivate an open and exploratory environment. Whether you’re an accountant or an art director every job or project has an array of objectives and with that a series of problems to be solved and this is where you creativity can come into play.
How is that culture cultivated and maintained?
We encourage everyone to bring all their interests to the table. Their job description is just that, a description. It rarely qualifies who each team member really is and has to offer. If someone has an idea that was completely from left field, bring it. More often than not it leads to an idea better than had we continued on the obvious path.
What is the most interesting project you have worked on?
A couple of years ago we did a job for Verizon and the NFL. Throughout the 2014 season, including Super Bowl XLIX, we were tasked with creating the activations and associated content for in-stadium experiences across four stadiums and Super Bowl Central in downtown Phoenix. One of those activations was dubbed ‘Join The Team’.
The idea of ‘Join The Team’ was to put you, the user/fan, in an advert that took the point of view of a newly drafted player. The participants would choose one of the five teams they would like to join, and the rendered video would show them at the centre of the action on their chosen team.
We had to produce, direct and shoot the spot for all of the five teams (Jets and Giants share Metlife Stadium).
When a user walked up to the 80’ touch screen they were asked to type their name, email address and signed a ‘draft contract.’ Once submitted, they were presented with a commercial video featuring several personalized shots with their name on the back of a team jersey, their initials on the helmet, them signing an autograph photo for a fan, etc. Everyone can feel an emotional attachment to his or her names being displayed on a video and in this case on a big public screen as belonging to one of their favourite teams.
Independently, after the project wrapped, we ported the experience over to the web. If you go to https://kworq.com/JoinTheTeam you can experience it yourself. The project really packaged all of our best abilities into one seamless experience.
What tools do you use as a manager to plan your activities as well as that of your team?
Slack and Dapulse. But really Robin.
Name a challenge your team is currently facing.
Chris: Resourcing. Backing up a bit, about 18 months ago we realized we needed to be in a better position to lose a client. So, we moved to focus on acquiring smaller to medium sized clients. And now that the curve is moving in that direction, we need to make sure we have the right people with the right support to fulfill those goals.
What inspires you in your work?
Chris: My inspiration comes from seeking knowledge. How can we build on past successes. How can we accomplish a task we have never attempted before. What can I learn today.
Guy: A few years I got the bug to learn to code. It is now an obsession. Aside from family time, any spare moment I have I spend advancing that knowledge. It’s that marriage of science and creativity that keeps my brain ticking. Cinematography is similar in that way. Being able to build stuff yourself and do it from anywhere excites me to no end. And then that allows me to be inspired by everything else we do, as every discipline bleeds into the next.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Chris: For us, everyday is a pursuit for a different profession and an opportunity to learn new experiences and expand our capabilities. OR short answer, mechanical/electrical engineer.
Guy: Whichever one gets me to Mars.
By Geny Caloisi.
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