Sunday, 11 March 2012

A rather inspirational friend

Dom teaching OK GO how to dance.

He may be the creative director, but Dom stays true to how it all began, a few drawings a day.

I sat down for a chat with Dominic Minns in his boardroom or as he prefers to call it his ideas room, after a brief tour and introduction to the company he started 7 years ago. The company of which he is Creative Director is Plug In Media which has earned itself 2 BAFTAS for interactive entertainment and lists the BBC, Tate and Sesame Street as just a few of their clients.
Dominic seems an unlikely candidate for such a successful business; he had what he himself calls an unconventional first stage of life. He dropped out mid A levels at the age of 17 when his daughter was born. In his 20’s when all his friends travelled the world he had two choices be just a father or make something of himself, so if he couldn’t experience the world he would make do with gaining as much experience as he could right where he was.
Dominic spent his 20’s dabbling in music, working on film sets, on story boards anything that could keep his creativity flowing. He spent his downtime with his best friend “who is very funny” and two other friends drinking beers and writing comedy sketches for the radio, some of the sketches were published in magazines, it started out as mostly fun but little did Dominic know that this would lead up to his big break.
It was around this time that Dominic left London for Brighton to be closer to his daughter and, “the dotcom boom, everyone wanted a piece of the internet” he approached a company with a portfolio full of illustrations. Dominic recalled the first meeting. “The director took a look at my portfolio and said ‘there is no space on the web for illustrations, it’s all graphics’, luckily at the bottom of my portfolio was the comedy writing which started out as just a bit of fun but ended up getting me a job in the company as a writer.” 10 days into his new job the director came up to him and said “we need animation” from then on Dominic was back to his roots as an illustrator.
Dominic’s strongest believe and advice to anyone wishing to be as successful as they can is “If you want to be creative, you have to make yourself creative, creativity is like a muscle that needs to be trained every day, I have heard so many people say I wish I could draw or play an instrument, the truth is no one is born able to draw or play an instrument you learn how do that.” Dominic encourages his staff who are all very talented and passionate about their roles in Plug In Media to sketch anything they want for 6 minutes every day and no one else is allowed to see what they have drawn. “We live in an anti-creative society thanks to programes such as X-Factor, where other people’s failures are laughed at and if you sing badly its entertainment and at the end there is only one winner, this of course is intimidating to anyone who is not confident enough to show their talent.” One of the games that Plug In Media created which subsequently won them a BAFTA was for the CBeebies show Zingzillas which introduces pre-school children to music, in the game there is no competition children don’t win or lose, “if a small child is being told specifically what to do and they can’t get it right they get frustrated and you could ruin their interest in music for life.” Eliminating the idea of competition is what has sent Plug In Media to the top of their field and is what attracts high profile clients to the company.
When I was on my tour of the office I was introduced and given an explanation of all the work that the animators are working on, one of my favourites was an interactive game for Sesame Street, the stars of the game were the band Ok Go who recorded a song about primary colours. Working with Sesame Street took Dominic to New York to work with the band, “I was given the opportunity to make the guys in the band do the most ridiculous things.” With the help of the members of the band and their song about primary colours children learn how to identify and mix colours. The game goes live on the 30th January. 
At the moment children’s interactive games is what Plug In Media are working on and what interests Dominic and Managing Director Juliet Tzabar the most. I asked what he expects for the future and what he has in store for Plug In Media. “At the moment we are an agency, clients come to us with proposals such as a programme on Cbeebies and we come up with a game and we get paid. What we want to start doing, but which is a big risk, is to become more of a production company, where we have the idea build it up, pitch the idea to companies and as the game is played we get paid.”
It is obvious that Dominic is passionate about his career and having the opportunity to speak with and be given a personal tour of the company is proof that hard work and passion can take you a long way, and in his own parting words, “you have to be prepared to live on air for a while but it is immediately obvious when you look at someone’s portfolio if they have spent time and genuinely enjoy what they do or if they have done the bare minimum, I can’t tell you enough a day without being creative is a day lost.”

Thursday, 5 January 2012

I vote yes to 'super jury'

I very much enjoyed reading Damian Carrington's post about a possible 'super jury' to act on climate change, as I spend most of my time feeling infuriated by the squabbling leaders of the world who can't seem to get their act into gear regarding the state of the planet.

You could respond and say maybe I should spend more time actually trying to do something about the awareness of climate change rather than shaking my fist and scowling at world leaders, but that is what 3 years worth of journalism is building me up for ways to put shaking fists and scowling into words.