2 Minutes With … Michelle Craig, Founder of UNIT9

On investing in people

Michelle is an award-winning director, writer, creative director and founder of UNIT9, a multidisciplinary studio working across films, experiential and digital. Her directing efforts include campaigns for Samsung, Netflix, Spotify, Lionsgate and Amazon, among others.

We spent two minutes with Michelle to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Michelle, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up all over the place! Germany, The Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Hong Kong. I now live in a city of incomers, the beautifully complicated Los Angeles.

How you first realized you were creative.

When I felt most at home immersed in stories. Reading them, writing them, making them up on long car journeys … I loved getting lost in a narrative world. Everything is a story.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets. I lived for those characters.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

Getting arrested by the military police. Long story. More than 2 minutes!

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Beverly Glenn-Copeland. Pure magic.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Salt Slow, a collection of short stories by Julia Armfield

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on. 

"Most Shocking Second a Day." The film was created for Save the Children to help audiences understand the devastating effect of the humanitarian crisis engulfing Syria's children during the war. We did this by shooting in a "second a day" style and shifting the conflict to a dystopian London as a narrative device to really shock the audience and make sure the message hit home.

A recent project you're proud of. 

"McEnroe vs. McEnroe." The fact that UNIT9 created this tech-packed, Emmy-winning magic is a huge source of pride. We created a world-first real vs virtual tennis match by pitting the modern-day John McEnroe against his digital avatars from the past. AI, game engines, robotic arms, particle mist screens—this one had it all.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 

This was when I really got turned onto using different tech platforms to tell a story—watching the video for AC/DC's "Rock N’ Roll Train" in ExcelVision. I thought the genius of the creators was wild. Their insight was that fans of AC/DC were mostly middle-aged men (I'm paraphrasing!) who worked in offices and, at the time, probably had content blockers and/or would be on an email marketing list. They found a way to send a music video to folks who had limited access to content at work: They created the video in Excel. 

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

I admire Kelly Bayett, founder of the sound and production studios Barking Owl and Love Song. She has the most incredible energy, taste and passion for the industry. Kelly's focused on talent and how to get the best out of them. It's her holistic approach to creativity that I most admire. I loved everything Love Song did for Channel 4 in the UK. Barking Owl has been working with me on a personal project—the artistry is INSANE. I'm so lucky!

Your main strength as a creative person.

Seeing glimmers.

Your biggest weakness.

Seeing glimmers.

A mentor that helped you navigate the industry.

Piero Frescobaldi, founder of UNIT9, my business partner, friend and mentor through all adland adventures.

How you're paying it forward with the next generation of creatives.

I believe in investing in people. I'm also proud of the work I do with Young Storytellers here in L.A. It's an arts education non-profit that focuses on making young people the leaders and owners of their narrative. It's one of the most fun things I get to do. 

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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