Catching up with Gunner

The past few years have marked a huge influx of people going it on their own, teaming up, and forming small studios.

As the industry continues to evolve and people no longer need to be in New York, Los Angeles or London, I can only imagine this trend will continue. Gunner is a shining example of how this is done right.

Based out of Detroit, Gunner is a small studio who does anything but small-scale work. They just released a new website and reel so we wanted to use this as an opportunity to catch up and see how things are in the Midwest.

Interview with Ian & Nick of Gunner

Congrats on the new reel and site, it looks amazing! Can you tell us what Gunner has been up to this last year?

We put the baby clothes away and became full blown toddlers. Mommy wow. We’ve been very fortunate to find extremely talented artists and work with clients that we can hug.

How old is Gunner now and where did the motivation come from to go out on your own and start a new studio?

May 5th was our third birthday, but we’ve been in our studio space for about 2 ½ years…. Before that, we were all crammed in Marcus’s spare bedroom / Nick’s garage. The thought of starting our own studio has always been in the back of our minds. For us it was a matter of finding the right partner, we recognized the sparkle in each other’s eye over a slice of pizza and a couple years later Gunner was born.

You started Gunner in a fairly unconventional place, for motion design at least. Why Detroit?

Family for starters, and secondly – Detroit was kinda like the ol’ west… you arrive back home and there are some dusty bars and empty buildings looking for tenants. When you hear the price on some of the space it’s laughable compared to where we spent the last 3 years (NY & LA) For example: For us, 1,600 sq ft. of studio space costs $1,600 a month. That’s something that really helps us decide the kind of work we want to spend time on, and makes it a lot easier to say no soul-sucking cash grabs. Pair that up with an incredibly supportive community and Detroit’s just a really special place. We like it here, come visit. :)

You’ve been in our industry for a long time as freelancers, what has been the hardest part about the shift into being a studio owner?

Actually, freelancing kinda gave us a good understanding different kinds of schedules, workloads, and types of client work. The hardest part was building the right team and then realizing that we’re actually responsible for their well being (healthcare, workers comp, etc). Scary at first, but awesome people like Jay (Giant Ant), Orion (Buck), Dan (Dress Code), Ryan (Wonderlust), Chris & Colin (Oddfellows), and more have helped us along the way. The goal is always to strike a balance between time / creative / and monies.

And the easiest part?

Giggles, the Gunner fam has got all the giggles.

Looking toward the future, what’s next for Gunner?

Really want to put the Gunner love into some different types of projects. Whether it’s longer narratives, movie titles, fun shorts, or shiny 3d. Anything to delight our eyeballs and get those good tummy feels. Also – hoping to grow the team a bit, and collaborated with new friends!

P.S huge thanks to Stephen Kelleher and Lucas Vocos for the massive help with our brand refresh and website.

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About the author

Joe Donaldson

Joe Donaldson is a director, designer, and animator who worked on Motionograpgher from 2014-2020. Previously, he was an art director at Buck. Over the past decade, he's lived and worked in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles and has directed work for clients such as Apple, Google, Instagram, The New York Times, Unicef, Etsy, and The New Yorker. In addition to his creative work, in 2018 he started Holdframe. He's now working as a professor at Ringling College of Art and Design and when not teaching he can be found spending time with his family or out running.