As it was for many businesses, 2020 was a year of change and adaptation for us at The Great Wanderer Studios. We began the year as a single consolidated studio and by the end of a rollercoaster year, we'd transformed into three specialized studios. We’d like to take a little time here to explain that journey and the inception behind our newly minted Commercial, Entertainment, and Architectural divisions.
When we sat down with our founder Josh in early 2020, he put forth a vision for the coming year that was ambitious if nothing else. He had a plan for expansion and restructuring that seemed unfathomable to the rest of us in the moment. Our studio team was comfortable at this time, never worrying about where our next project would come from, but like the protagonists of so many stories, we would soon be pulled from our comfort zone by circumstances outside our control.
At this point, TGWS was a mixed group of talented artists and 3D generalists. Our motto was ‘Anything is possible in 3D’ and true to form our clients asked us for anything and everything. Like a crew of mercenaries, we traveled all over the creative map to fight whatever battles our clients needed fought. One month we would be doing architectural animations for a €20 million commercial development and the next month we would be working on a stylized music video filled with character work, scaling up as necessary to handle any opportunity that came in.
We had clients from a wide range of industries flowing in, and while the creative talent or technical know-how was never in short supply, our lack of specialization had us switching gears frequently and often reeling from the metal jetlag of constantly having to reinvent ourselves.
Our story could have played out like this in perpetuity, but then in February/March the unthinkable happened: a global pandemic forced most of the world to go into an unprecedented lockdown and teeter on the brink of economic uncertainty.
Like many, our team members were concerned about our ability to keep afloat as economies and companies all over the world desperately grasped for stability. We prepared ourselves for the worst and we were all quietly making sure our portfolios were in order. We couldn’t have been more wrong about where we were headed. Knowingly, Josh reassured us with a plan.
The world would still need media.
With the world going into lockdown, traditional photography and video shoots would be impossible, but our clients would still need video and photorealistic images if they were to continue business without disruption. As a 3D animation studio, we were perfectly positioned to meet this demand while staying socially distanced. We had been saying it forever, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IN 3D!” Now was the perfect time to show the world how true our mantra really was.
We immediately dropped our rates to help ease the economic burden of those affected and we offered any clients that were in troubled economic waters a six-month grace period on any invoices. Then the unthinkable happened yet again: we got busier than we ever could have imagined.
Tons of potential clients that had relied on traditional media finally woke up to the possibilities of 3D animation. While many came to us initially out of what they felt was necessity or self-preservation, just as many stayed with us once they realized the tremendous potential of 3D animation that had gone previously untapped. Working in partnership with us, agencies that had never done 3D work in the past were suddenly able to offer 3D as a solution to keep their customers afloat without ever missing a beat. We were doing 3D product renders in place of product photography, Virtual Tours for a paralyzed real estate market, animated music videos for records being produced in lockdown, and most anything else our clients could imagine. At the same time, many of our clients were quickly realizing we were more than a service provider, increasingly coming to us for ideation and creative strategy as a trusted partner..
But as we suddenly had more work than we knew what to do with, it became abundantly clear that the way we operated our studio in the past was unsustainable in this time of growth. Our systems and our organizational structure had to grow with our workload and adapt as they scaled. We realized that among other changes, we could no longer avoid specialization and so it became necessary that our studio split into a few dedicated teams.
We took a step back to look at the totality of our projects and we were able to identify 3 clear divisions that made sense: Commercial, Entertainment, and Architectural.
Our COMMERCIAL studio would handle all the product and commercially oriented work that came in. If a brand or an agency needed creative work to support a company, product, or service they would go through this division. Things like product visualizations, broadcast commercials, digital ads, and strategic brand development would all be coordinated here. This studio would also act as the strategic headquarters of our united studios as well as the catch-all home for anything that didn't neatly fit elsewhere.
Our ENTERTAINMENT studio would handle all projects related to the entertainment sector. The development of our show LAZERKID, as well as our work on any other television or film projects, would happen here. Here we would also produce all of our music videos as well as our 3D character-driven work, which tends to be heavy on research and development. Not so secretly, quite a few of our internal passion projects would also gain footing inside these walls.
Lastly, our ARCHITECTURAL studio would deal with any projects that pertained to real estate or property development, including pre-construction services like 3D architectural visualizations & animations, but also 3D visualizations services for existing properties such as our Matterport 360 photography and virtual staging. If a realtor wants to set up a Virtual Tour for one of their properties it will go through our architectural division.
These newly formed dedicated divisions were designed to benefit both our clients and our team. With increased specialization, we were now able to work more efficiently by building sector-specific systems & processes, while avoiding the inefficiency that came with switching modes regularly. We were also able to start staffing our respective teams with people who were not just generalists but experts in their particular fields. We could hire the best Architectural Visualizers even if they didn’t know anything about character work or Mograph. Over the course of 8 months, our combined team had grown by 500% and we were still working in our pajamas.
The divisions also allowed us to function with greater transparency and present our services in a more intelligible fashion. We could still do ‘ANYTHING’ in 3D, but we could now describe the scope of our work with a few distinct categories that made it easier for our prospective clients to understand.
Importantly as well, while these three divisions would be capable of handling their respective domains, by existing under the unified umbrella of The Great Wanderer Studios they would also benefit from the ability to share resources and expertise. Having grown from a small collection of interdisciplinary generalists, we recognize the inherent value that comes from having a diverse team in conversation. If one of our studios runs into an obstacle, the full force of our studio is able to unite our resources and know-how to help overcome the challenge. All three divisions would also benefit from access to our international network of freelancers and creative partners.
With 2020 coming to a close, the outside world is still dealing with the challenges of life in lockdown, but at The Great Wanderer Studios we are optimistic about the future. 2021 is already poised to be a year full of exciting new opportunities and continued development. Like a lot of people this year, our TGWS team took the lemon that was 2020 and made lemonade. We've worked on ourselves, learned new skills, focused on how we could help others, done some overdue housekeeping, stayed optimistic, and we've come out the other side new and improved, with the light at the end of the tunnel in sight.