You might not (yet) recognize the name Adam Patch (no, not Patch Adams), but there’s a pretty good chance you recognize his work. Patch is an incredibly talented director, designer, and animator. He’s been directing for several years, working with some of the biggest companies and brands such as Starbucks, Comcast, Twitter, Paypal, Dockers, and even the 4 hour guru of...well, everything, Timothy Ferriss. However, it wasn’t until Patch created an animated video from a joke his wife told while inebriated, that catapulted him to the top of people’s radar.
I’ve had the honor of working with Patch on a couple of commercial shoots, and not only is he a remarkably down to earth, laid back, and approachable guy, but he has undeniable talent oozing out of his ears. He knows how to get the right shots, message, and feel for any product, and it shines through in his work.
He kindly took time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions about how he got started in directing, and talks about his most well known video, “Two Chips!”
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got your start in directing, design, and animation.
I grew up in Tucson, AZ. When I was in high school I took a video production class and pretty immediately knew that that was what I wanted to do with my life. When I graduated, I moved to LA to go to film school at Cal State Northridge, but, after a year, I realized I wasn’t really a good fit for a regular 4 year program. A couple good friends of mine were moving up to SF to go to the Academy of Art University, and they talked me into transferring up there. It was a good school experience – I met a lot of great people (many of whom I still collaborate with today). I started doing small commercials and music videos for actual clients while I was in school. At the same time, I was learning design and animation on my own time. I’d do motion graphics and visual effects (VFX) projects for friends or random side jobs here and there. So, by the time I graduated, I had enough on my reel to just start freelancing full time.
2. Can you tell us your process/involvement when working on a project, from pre-production, shoot, and post production?
It varies from job to job. When I was starting out (like most people) I would do a ton of different jobs. I’d produce, direct, edit, do the animation or VFX, sound design…everything but DP (Director of Photography), basically. With time (and better budgets), I try and let go of as many of those roles as possible and bring on people that are better at those roles than me. I still really enjoy editing though, and try and edit my own stuff whenever possible.
3. What are your favorite equipment/tools you use with you on a shoot?
Again, it depends on the project. There’s a different tool for different jobs. My favorite camera to shoot on is the Alexa, but I most often end up using the Red Epic these days.
4. What are you favorite programs you use for animation, editing, etc.?
I do all my animation in Adobe After Effects. I’m still editing in FCP (Final Cut Pro) but will probably make a switch to Adobe Premiere in the near future. I also use Photoshop a ton when I’m doing boards, or art-direction mockups, or style-frames.
5. If you could shoot anything you’d like (with no concern to the budget), what would you shoot?
I want to do a feature someday, so that’s the end goal. I’m working on a script with a writer friend of mine right now. If budget wasn’t an issue I suppose I’d just jump into shooting that right away.
6. How do you choose the teams you work with on projects? What qualities do you look for in a person that makes you want to work with them?
I just choose people that are good at their job and cool to work with. I love it when people are willing to collaborate and throw out ideas. I remember on a recent job, our 1st AC (assistant camera team member) threw out some random idea for our talent to do, and it ended up being great and we put it in the spot. I like to think that I’m a really laid-back person and easy to work with, and I try to be aware of giving off that energy on-set. So I can’t stand when there’s a bunch of egos going on, or people that are just generally negative.
7. Where do you get your inspirations from?
Man, it’s sad to say, but mostly the Internet. I’m constantly looking at blogs, tumblrs, and other websites that curate good art and pull a lot of inspiration from that. Not just necessarily video, but also photography, design, fashion, etc. I’ve had a habit over the years of pulling images that particularly inspire me into a huge folder on my computer. So whenever I hit a writer’s block or just need a good jolt of inspiration, I just thumb through the folder of all these great images. I also keep a good collection of design, photography, and architecture books around, so I pull ideas from those a lot, too. I like pulling inspiration from other mediums or genres and reapplying them in an unexpected way.
Haha, yeah, that was pretty crazy. And it’s really funny that it’s gotten so much attention. It’s weird because I’ve been working in the industry for years, but THIS is the one thing that puts me on the map, hahah.
I had the recording of my wife telling the joke on my phone for a few months. I would listen to it every once in a while just for a laugh, and I think it had become a bit of inside joke within my family. I had some down time between jobs and wanted to do something just for fun, so I started working on an animation for it.
I don’t think I put this together at the time, but, looking back, there’s two things that directly influenced my doing that. One is the popular “Drunk History” series which is an obvious comparison. The other was this fantastic video I found on Vimeo a while back called “The Scared is Scared.” I just loved how she took that “drunk history” style and applied it to something so innocent with such a creative approach.
Depends. Sometimes I do a fully live-action piece where there’s not a key frame of animation involved at all. Other times I’m doing a fully animated thing where the entire piece is just motion graphics. I think of animation as just another tool for the job. It’s all about telling the right story or selling the right product - sometimes animation works better for that and sometimes it doesn’t. Since I have an animation and design background, I think sometimes my mind just gravitates naturally towards incorporating some kind of animation into the story-telling process.
10. What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on and what made it so memorable? Do you have any crazy stories you remember about a particular shoot?
One of my favorite projects was a series of 4 spots I did for HP several years back (Here’s my favorite of the four: http://www.adampatch.com/hp-reimagine-roi-chicken). It was one of my first “big” directing jobs. The agency only had a script and said, “Each one has to be focused on a different color” – and I just got to run with it. I got to come up with the entire creative concept, and board it all out, and see it all the way through. In the commercial world, this is pretty rare - there’s usually a pretty specific brief already, sometimes even the storyboards are already done. So it was very fun to be able to come in, and, from square one, just do everything, and then pitch my original ideas to the agency. It was also one of my first shoots that really had extensive production design. I just fell in love with it. I would do some mock-up in Photoshop, and the next day it was just there on set. It was a very cool feeling to have something in your head just instantly manifest like that.
I don’t know if this is a particularly crazy story, but, on that shoot, we had to film a couple shots of a chicken. Throughout the day we would hear it doing all this loud squawking and clucking, and the chicken wrangler was like, “Oh yeah, she’s just laying another egg.” I guess I was ignorant to the whole thing, but I had no idea that chickens could lay multiple eggs in one day.
11. What do you love most about being a director?
I like the challenge of finding a balance between selling something (or giving the client whatever they want), and actually making something that I really like and am proud of. It’s always a creative challenge and I like that aspect. I love the feeling of having some random idea in your head, and then, putting all these moving pieces together, to make that idea into a real thing. The whole process is always different with each project; it’s like a big puzzle that never gets solved the same way twice.
12. What are your career aspirations, what would you like to be working on in 5 years?
Short term, I’d like to just keep moving up the commercial director chain: get bigger and better jobs, and get to the point where I can be really selective of which jobs I want to do. Long term, like I mentioned, I want to do a feature. In 5 years, I’d better be close to doing that.
I love eating and drinking, haha. I’m not obese, I swear. My wife and I love trying new restaurants and bars, and just finding new places to go. Second, I’d say traveling. I love working freelance because it’s easy to just take time off when I want to do small little getaways.
I guess I’d say to make sure you just keep doing the stuff that you like. Stay hungry, and keep pushing yourself! It’s easy to get swooped up and start doing a bunch of work just for the money and become complacent. Of course, you have to find ways to make money, and that’s important, but make sure you make time to do the things that you really feel good about, and you are excited by. Especially when starting out. I try and do an equal balance of “jobs for the money” and “jobs that I’m excited about, but might not pay that well.” The latter are the jobs that are going to get the attention of other potential clients, and lead to more of the work you want in the end, anyway.
See more of Patch's amazing work, and how to contact him at: www.adampatch.com
Patch also started a Two Chips website, www.twochipsanimation.com, where you can submit your own joke, and he might animate it! So get on it, you could be the third chip!
I want to hear from you, what do you think of Patch's "Two Chips" video and other work (there's MORE than chips, y'all! Shhheck it out)? Do you have any projects you're working on? Put them in the comments below!