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5 minutes with... in association withAdobe Firefly
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5 Minutes With… Meghan Lang Bice

11/06/2024
Post Production
New York, USA
356
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LBB’s April Summers learns how Meghan’s formative experiences leading her high school rowing team to victory prepared her for the fast paced world of production

After moving to New York as a post-grad, Meghan Lang Bice’s first role at a production company led to her unearthing a whole new range of skills. Discovering that she possessed all the qualities required to make it in project, talent and brand management, things naturally fell into place - as things often do - and she has never looked back. 

Meghan has spent the last 22 years finessing these skills as an executive producer: pushing things forward, fostering and supporting talent, and building the momentum of a shared goal. With deep experience in the production and post production world - coming from MPC, The Mill, and TRAFIK - she brings extensive experience of both the industry as a whole and the LA market to her role at visual effects boutique, Blacksmith.

Joining the ranks as managing director and EP at their new LA office in 2023, Meghan has advanced the company's growth in the market alongside creative director and partner, John Shirley. Working tirelessly towards bringing attention to the team's expert finishing and colour capabilities, she is ensuring every aspect of Blacksmith's offering garners the same revered reputation.

Looking back on her journey so far, LBB finds out how Meghan's experiences growing up in Washington helped her develop a ‘tuned in’ approach to production, and why her diverse experiences make her the perfect person to manage Blacksmith's versatile creative offering. 


LBB> Congrats on your one-year anniversary with Blacksmith! How does it feel? 

Meghan> Thanks! We’ve had a really incredible year both in LA and New York, building momentum and relationships on the West Coast and working on some incredibly creative projects with awesome partners. Stepping into year two, we’re finding a great rhythm in the West Coast market, and I’m excited to create the space to now focus on growing our LA colour team to support the great VFX and finishing work. Having spent eight years as the senior executive producer for the colour team at MPC, and then Trafik, this is an area that is especially close to my heart.  

I feel lucky to be part of a culture that attracts people who appreciate community and who want to be a part of something more meaningful than just a job. I feel very happy, inspired and at home here. 


LBB> Let’s go back to the very beginning, shall we? Did any of your childhood experiences suggest you might make a good producer later in life?

Meghan> I grew up in Seattle, walking distance from Lake Washington. I rowed crew in high school and my team actually won the US Rowing Nationals two years in a row! I became very determined during my time on the team, practising before and after school, five to seven days a week. I took on the role of one of the leaders of the boat, which was an incredible experience that taught me a lot about commitment to a team and a craft, as well as work ethic.

There are few things comparable to moving in a boat with seven other rowers. It takes incredible concentration and discipline – everyone in the boat has to be really tuned in and connected. It is the epitome of a team sport. And like any sport at a certain level, it requires a high tolerance for pain and suffering, but the reward was so worth it. Similar to production, you can’t row an eight person boat on your own... 


LBB> Your work in the industry has seen you turn your hand on the front line and behind the scene – gaining experience in everything from live action production and offline editorial, to animation, VFX and colour. What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of your career so far? 

Meghan> I’ve loved so many projects over the last 22 years, but the one thing I’ve consistently enjoyed across all my roles is the relationship-building piece, which extends to brand and team building. I’m good at keeping the story moving, pushing it forward and helping to drive business, regardless of the project. I have always been a natural connector of people and things - I love to dig in, solve problems and provide support behind the scenes.


LBB> Tell us a bit about the launch of Blacksmith LA. How does it add to and compliment Blacksmith New York and what are your main aims with it?

Meghan> Blacksmith LA is an extension of Blacksmith New York. Each studio compliments the other. The New York studio was launched close to ten years ago on the strength of our incredibly talented and robust CG team who has also always done 2D work but it hasn’t been the main focus thus far. So, in LA, we’ve been focusing on building out our 2D and finishing team, which supports all the car and tech brands that are popular here on the West Coast. The two studios share one centralised server, meaning we can work seamlessly as one studio across the two coasts, utilising artists in each studio based on what a project requires vs where the job or client is located. 

One thing I’ve been working to shift is the perception that Blacksmith only does the biggest VFX jobs. While we do love a big juicy CG heavy project, we also love the beautiful finishing and colour projects, and are equally happy to jump in on any project - no matter the size.


LBB> Is there a specific campaign or project from your first year with Blacksmith which stands out as especially memorable or significant for you? If so, why? 

Meghan> Our work for Liquid IV with Anomaly + Julien & Quentin at Magna was a really special one. We’ve been doing a lot with Anomaly over the last year and each project has been different from the last. Liquid IV is one of those magical VFX projects that creates something spectacular and uses so many tools from our toolbox. The concept is great – having the characters propel up into the air from water shooting out of their feet. The team at Anomaly are such a dream to work with, and Julien and Quentin, and the team at Magna are amazing partners as well. This was a project that allowed us to flex our collaborative NY and LA team approach to jobs, bringing together artists from both studios to bring this one to life. And Mikey Pehanich brought it home with an amazing colour grade. 

Sirius XM with Kim Gehrig at Somesuch is another great example of a beautiful finishing and colour project. It was a super collaborative process with both the client and Kim, the director. If you watch it closely you can see the outline of the city skyline in the windows behind our dancer, which wasn’t something they had planned for but decided they wanted during the post process. Our team came up with a few different options to address this request and landed on something perfectly subtle and lovely that adds some nice dimensionality to the background. And the transitions as the dancer ages are seamless and of the course Mikey nailed it with the color.

It's also been really exciting to build some great new relationships with the team at W&K Portland. We’ve been so lucky enough to work on a handful of projects together over the last year, including 2x VRBO campaigns with Miles Jay at Smuggler and Autumn de Wilde at Anonymous, and a really beautiful and moving Eli Lilly project with Yann Demange that will air later this month. I am in awe of the quality of work we’ve been putting out and continue to be amazed by the talent who make up Blacksmith on both Coasts. It’s really gratifying to work with a team of people who are not only wildly talented and intelligent, but also such a joy to be around.


LBB> The post production industry in the US in recent years has seen a number of more boutique shops pop up - a bit like the wave of smaller indie agencies that are appearing. With this in mind, how important are relationships to Blacksmith and how do you go about nurturing them?

Meghan> When everyone else was still big, Blacksmith took the leap first - we set the trend.  And the success of Blacksmith then and now is built both on the strength of our relationships and the talent that makes up our brand. You can have a ton of talented artists and a studio full of amazing people, but without strong relationships, it’s impossible to find momentum and to differentiate yourself among all the competition. On the flip side, you can have great relationships, but without the right people on your team, the work won’t come. Just simply knowing people isn’t enough either: relationships are built on trust, which takes time and isn’t something that can be rushed. 

With the Blacksmith team, I know that if I can get us an opportunity to work on a new account or with a new agency or director, that one job will create exponential growth based on the all-in positive experience that team will have. We’re so lucky to work in an industry that loves to celebrate great creative and great ideas – how amazing that we get to come together over and over again to help tell all these incredible stories and bring so many amazing films to life.

LBB> Tell us about your vision for the future of Blacksmith LA in 2024 and beyond? In what direction are you trying to take the LA office?

Meghan> I’d like for our LA studio to become the preeminent destination for the best VFX, finishing and colour work on the West Coast. And we’ll do that by continuing to focus on the work and the people, and quality over quantity.

LBB> What have you learned since joining Blacksmith? And what have you found most enjoyable about your role?

Meghan> When I met the team for the first time (just over two years ago now) I was impressed with their vision for the company and the fact they were a seven year old company who had managed to maintain an intimate and tight knit studio culture, which can be hard to do given the demands of the VFX space. Joining the team has taught me to slow down and be thoughtful, so that when projects come in, we can be considerate about the schedule, the creative, and the staffing. We always like to think about the best artists for each project, and never bid jobs without first mapping out who the team is going to be. Casting and creative are two really important pieces for us. It's important for us to curate and uphold a high taste level too. 

We look at each job as an opportunity to not only grow our body of work and relationships as a team, but also to help each artist continue to grow and learn. I think there is a perception that all VFX artists have the same skills, but it’s such a nuanced piece of the business and each artist has very distinct strengths and areas of expertise, even within the same specialty. Bidding VFX is a delicate dance since schedules and scope can constantly shift so it requires strong communication both internally and with the client and director. It also requires trust and the ability to problem solve on the fly during the bid process, through the entire production.

I’m so proud of our team, the level of work we’re doing and the calibre of directors we’re working with. Each project we’ve done over the last year has been uniquely different from the last which keeps things fun and interesting for everyone involved.

LBB> And finally, on a more personal level, is there anything you are hoping to achieve or get better at in the next year? 

Meghan> My main focus during my first year at Blacksmith was to help build our team, the culture, and our studio here in LA. Blacksmith was founded nearly ten years ago on the combined talents of Iwan (2D), Tom (3D) and Charlotte (production), so the primary focus for the early years was VFX. That all changed in 2018 when Mikey Pehanich joined the team and expanded the Blacksmith offering to include colour. Similarly, this first year in LA has mainly been about expanding our VFX and finishing offering, and year two will have a stronger focus on building out our color team in LA. As much as my producer brain likes to multitask, I’m a strong believer in focusing on one thing at a time and doing it really well. 

On a more personal level, I think because so many of my professional responsibilities concern moving things forward and pushing ahead quickly, something I want to work on is learning to be more patient and slow down sometimes. It’s not always a race to the finish and taking that space to let things settle before continuing to move forward is an important piece too.

Post Production / VFX