Creative Directors, Gentleman Scholar
TRUST talks to Gentleman Scholar’s William Campbell and Will Johnson about mind melding, Spring Breakers, and positive energy.
Famous duos generally have contrasting but complementary personality traits. How would you describe your dynamic? More Oscar and Felix or Chip ‘n Dale?
I think when we started in this industry together there was definitely a much larger separation between our personality traits. Over the years we’ve slowly blended into one train of thought, one mind really. Where once there was an introverted Will and an extroverted Will, now there is an organic flow of introversion and extroversion, finding the right balance of inside and outside thoughts, as well as loud mouth moments.
How would you say your collaborative work differs from work you’ve done or would do on your own? What does one Will bring to the other’s output and vice versa?
Although we both started in relatively the same manner, we had begun on different ends of the design spectrum. Campbell was much more cinematically driven and a technically gifted thinker, while Johnson came from a more minimalist graphic design background – much more type-driven and more concerned with color, shape and composition.
I think that distance was reflected in our personal work for a very short period of time. We realized that, collectively, we could cross a wide breadth of genres in storytelling when we combined those different abilities. It wasn’t long before Johnson dove deep into his emotional cinematic side and Campbell began playing with type and simple shapes. It still shows up in our work from time to time, one of us pushing for one thing or another, but we’re always able to balance out and find a great pairing of the two.
You started Gentleman Scholar together at a relatively early point in your careers. How would you say this is reflected in Gentleman Scholar’s creative output and company culture?
I think we always look at ourselves as bringing a lot of energy to everything we do. This may or may not be a reflection of the point at which we started Gentleman Scholar, but it’s definitely a take on how we view the company and our place in the industry.
I think we’re the type of people who always need to know how something is done, so we’ll see something we like, learn how to accomplish it quickly and regurgitate it into something driven by our strange creative brains. This type of culture has been important to us from the beginning, because it takes a certain type of person to be “on” like that all the time – constantly searching out and learning about new things. We wanted to fill the place up with that kind of positive energy. We work hard and often pretty late in this industry. When you find individuals who all share that type of inspiring energy, you always have a nice flow of creativity – people are talking, collaborating and staying inspired.
I think we’re the type of people who always need to know how something is done, so we’ll see something we like, learn how to accomplish it quickly and regurgitate it into something driven by our strange creative brains.
What project would you say represents your most effective collaborative effort, and why?
It’s tough to say. There have been a few, starting with our work for Salt. It was a long process and involved so many of our favorite things – requiring some really creative storytelling through a variety of technical and artistic processes. We had a chance to aid in the concepting process, and to help define the look and feel of the piece in general, building an awesome motion piece as well as the print campaign that accompanied it.
I’ve also really enjoyed the collaboration we had with Harmony Korine on the Spring Breakers title sequence. His ability to discuss ideas and concepts on such a level playing field was incredible, and his charisma was inspiring.
Campbell, what would you say is Johnson’s best quality? Johnson, what you say is Campbell’s best quality?
Johnson: It’s funny, when you’ve have shared an office with someone for so long, how difficult it is to think of one single redeeming quality. Of course that being said, I’d have to say that Campbell’s best quality is his approach to problem solving. Creative or technical – nothing really fazes him. The process becomes so much easier in general when you know that any problem has an ultimate solution.
Campbell: Johnson definitely has the most insane work ethic of anyone I have ever met. There is always a point during a production where everyone has been grinding, and to make the job truly shine it needs that last 10% push. Johnson never fails to get in there, dig deep, and inspire everyone on the team to push our work to the next level.