BUCK co-founder Ryan Honey talks about their story so far

Buck is a design-driven production company with an integrated team of designers, artists and storytellers, who believe in the power of collaboration; ‘the special alchemy that only happens when working together toward a common purpose.’

Ahead of his appearance at Us By Night festival, we interview the highly talented animation director and Buck founder Ryan Honey about their journey from modest beginnings to the 250+ strong studio it is today.

Buck founder Ryan Honey

Can you tell us about yourself, the history of BUCK and how the studio started? 

Buck was founded in 2003 by myself, Jeff Ellermeyer and Orion Tait.  Jeff was in L.A and had a small interactive shop called Fullerene and he was looking for a creative director.  I applied for the job and he flew me out from New York to meet with him. Over dinner, we decided to start Buck and the next day I called Orion to come along for the ride.

Buck is currently around 250 staff across 3 offices in Los Angeles, New York and Sydney.  I think it is safe to say that we no longer have any typical clients as we work across many disciplines including design, animation, creative technology, branding, live-action, gaming, system design, UX/UI as well as internal initiatives to create content and IP.

(Left, centre and bottom) Buck’s new Augmented Reality app ‘Slapstick’ that lets you ‘slap’ animated stickers onto the world around you.

What have you been up to recently? Can you tell us anything about the projects currently underway? 

A good portion of what we do is confidential, but I can say that we are currently working on about 80 client projects across all the offices and we have around 10 internal projects that include games, content, and social cause initiatives. Some clients I can mention include Facebook, Google, Linkedin, Amazon, Verizon, Pepsi, At&t, US cellular, Coca-cola, Samsung, GoDaddy, Oculus, and Bankwest among many others.

Buck is a style agnostic creative company with a plethora of talent that is capable of working in a variety of styles. Part of the creative culture here is to encourage our artists to grow and experiment when possible, so the desire to mix mediums to create innovative work is always top of mind.

Ryan Honey

(Left and below) “Share Your Gifts” Holiday Advert for Apple

One of the things we love about your work is the mix of mediums, from 2D cel animations to puppetry, how do you cultivate such a variety of projects?

Buck is a style agnostic creative company with a plethora of talent that is capable of working in a variety of styles.  Part of the creative culture here is to encourage our artists to grow and experiment when possible, so the desire to mix mediums to create innovative work is always top of mind.

Who were your early clients? Was there a specific career defining moment?

We started in broadcast motion graphics for channels like Fuel, G4, MTV, and the NFL network. I would say all of the defining moments have been fuelled by self-funded or “investment” creative projects like Good Books, Seed Matters, Childline, f5, David Blane and Tinder.

Buck is a style agnostic creative company with a plethora of talent that is capable of working in a variety of styles. Part of the creative culture here is to encourage our artists to grow and experiment when possible, so the desire to mix mediums to create innovative work is always top of mind.

AppleBuck Artist Film from Buck

Can you describe your creative process? How do you typically approach a new project?

As previously mentioned, nothing is very typical these days but in general terms, when an opportunity comes in there is an evaluation process by committee that looks at the pros and cons. If we decide to take it on, or in some cases pitch a concept, we assign one of our creative directors that is appropriate and build a bespoke team around them to make it happen.

There’s a real spirit of collaboration within BUCK and the work that you do. What has been your proudest moment of the last 5 years?

I was very proud when we were chosen by Apple to create a film for the iMac Pro.  The ask was to just do what we do using their hardware so we took the opportunity to get over 90 of our staff artists involved. I think it was a pretty pure representation of who we are and what we can do.

Buck team behind the scenes

Maintaining our creative culture and not losing sight of what makes us Buck has been something that we have to work at every day, especially as our capabilities and interests grow.

Ryan Honey

What are some of the challenges involved in running an animation studio? What has been the most ambitious project to date? Can you tell us about it?

I think the biggest challenge has been the transition from a design and animation studio to a creative company.  In the past 5 years we have grown from about 80 people to our current size of 250 and we are continuing to add people weekly.  Maintaining our creative culture and not losing sight of what makes us Buck has been something that we have to work at every day, especially as our capabilities and interests grow.

BUCK has been voted #1 place to work for animation on Working Not Working for the 5th year in a row. How important is it for you to create a fun, collaborative and ego-free work place?

We like to say that we are in the talent business.  The only way that we can consistently create amazing work is by attracting and retaining the most talented people.  Those people need a home that helps them feel fulfilled and happy, so that is always our focus and I like to think, a huge reason for our success.

Tinder – Invention of Together from Buck

Breaking into the creative industries can seem a monumental task at the best of times, what would your advice be for emerging animators who aspire to work at BUCK? What do you look for when you’re hiring? 

That is a tough question since we hire all sorts of different artists with different skills.  It’s really about showing us that you have the understanding and ability to create work at the level of the work we produce. For animation, I have made hires based on one amazing 10 second piece and for design positions, we generally look for great creative thinking and stylistic range.

The one piece of advice I give is when applying to Buck take pride in how you present your portfolio. Even if you are a rigger or a coder, it really helps to spend the time to design your site so that it feels professional and thought through.

I think now more than ever it is harder to get that first opportunity, the talent pool is completely global and a lot of young artists have an incredible passion for their craft.

Ryan Honey

Paint Chips | Sherwin-Williams

What do you think will be the biggest challenges faced by the next generation of creatives in terms of finding work and building a career? 

I think now more than ever it is harder to get that first opportunity, the talent pool is completely global and a lot of young artists have an incredible passion for their craft.  In order to get an opportunity out of school, they will have to do much more than just do their class assignments.

If you could go back in time and give some advice to your younger self what would it be? Can you share something you have learned? 

It took me a while to figure out that hiring the most talented people no matter what the cost will always pay off.  There are some people that I turned down because I was scared that we didn’t have the work to support them and now I am kicking myself.

Where do you hope to take the studio in the next 5-10 years? 

My goal in the next 10 years is to open more offices and continue to grow using the Buck ethos and culture to attract the best people in the world so we can continue to service our clients and create some significant work in the film, tv and game industries.

You’re lined up to speak at the upcoming Us By Night this September – have you been to Antwerp before? And what are you going to talk about?

I haven’t been in almost 20 years, so I am very excited. My talk is titled “What the Buck?” and basically I am going more in-depth about who we are, what we are doing, how we have changed and where we are going.

buck.tv

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Us By Night is a unique nocturnal experience combining an inspiring lineup and an endless nightmarket guaranteed to provide 3 nights you can’t miss. Come for the talks, stay for the experience. Explore the arcade, a wide range of local and delicious food, get tattooed or play some fluorescent ping-pong. Tickets on sale now: usbynight.be/tickets

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Posted on Sep 6th, 19 by | Twitter: @lisahassell

Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.

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