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Opinion and Insight
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Investing in People is Key, So It’s Time to Commit Already!

the STUDIO NYC, 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Mary Nittolo, CEO and Founder of the STUDIO, on how investing in people is the secret to their success

Investing in People is Key, So It’s Time to Commit Already!

For New York digital production company the STUDIO – collaboration is king. Mary Nittolo, CEO and Founder, has developed a model driven by education and an immersive development of new skills, and she believes this investment is the very foundation of their success: “We are very committed to the ‘studio model’; it has existed since before the Renaissance and it is a truly collaborative approach. We’ve followed this model for over 20 years now, and given the results for our clients, I can’t see us changing.”

Unlike many of its competitors, the STUDIO employs an in-house staff of 15 multi-disciplined illustrators, designers, editors, 2D and 3D animators, and fx artisans. This commitment draws a stark contrast to the predominantly freelance-driven industry and relies on a long-term investment in the artists.

“The fact that we maintain our staff here and provide extensive training to our artists, allows us to be really responsive to clients’ needs,” says Mary, “It also allows our team to work within budgets that are challenging to a lot of other companies. We are a truly integrated and collaborative team who are always sharing our expertise and hence don’t suffer from the lapses in communication that might affect a team of freelancers. To work in a team you can rely on is great. I do think that I tend to push people to do more than they even thought they could do, but I think the artists that I hire like that. Our creatives are usually delighted at the end of a project.”

Despite being built upon a core team of in-house staff, the STUDIO continues to utilize the skills of freelance creatives and Mary explains: “At times we can be incredibly busy and we often receive briefs which require a real specialist, so we do have a wonderful team of freelance talent that we rely on for these projects. There is huge benefit in being able to pull together a larger team, but without a finely tuned core team of full-time artists that work together so well, I don’t think our work with freelancers would be as collaborative or efficient.”

Mary’s staff have been nurtured under the STUDIO’s broad wings and boast a skillset that can tackle virtually any project. “There are a tremendous amount of projects that are touched by every hand that works here.”

Before founding the STUDIO in 1988, Mary worked as the Deputy Director of The Publications/Marketing Department of The Brooklyn Museum and at a boutique design company.  A graduate of New York University, and Columbia University’s CCCB Program, she also sits on the Board of Directors for Vison Ed Inc. - a New York non-profit that brings technology education to undeserved public schools. Mary’s philanthropic work fits firmly with her belief that education is essential to growth: “I always hire artists both for talent and for their curiosity. If you combine this with the opportunity for them to learn new skills, you can achieve remarkable things”.

Cross-disciplinary education is constant at the STUDIO, and presently their 3D animators are immersing themselves in the editing process, something Mary sees as vital: “I feel that people can often fail to anticipate the edit, so we’re guiding them through the process. They won’t become editors, but they’ll understand what the editor does; this communication and education is critical to our model.”

By keeping their talent in-house, and also providing training that catalyses the development of new skills, the STUDIO has been able to tackle major projects swiftly and efficiently – something far larger companies can sometimes struggle with.

“Of course there is always a need for talented freelancers” Mary concludes, “but I truly believe building a core team of full-time artists is what gives us the capabilities to deliver large campaigns, under difficult constraints, and continue to exceed our client’s expectations. It is a long-term investment that has ultimately shaped our business.”

The collaboration within the in-house team helped the STUDIO complete a project for Corporate Rewards, in which they provided a full service beginning with their renowned storyboards, through to the production of the 3D animation. Concept artists, modellers, animators, editors, and motion designers all contributed to the project, and by having nothing outsourced, a consistent STUDIO feel ran through the film.

Pushing people to do more than they thought possible has been central to Mary’s vision from day one, and she doesn’t plan to take her foot off the gas anytime soon. “We need to be in continuous education mode,” she says, “the whole team is always looking to learn new skills and collaborate on more projects.” Illustrators are learning from animators; 2D designers are training in 3D; and everyone is looking to add more strings to their creative bow. 

Genre: Strategy/Insight