#WFH Diaries: Emil Nava, Director and Founder of Ammolite Inc.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, we're checking in with creative people to see how they're coping. Here's an update from Emil Nava, a director who runs production company and "virtual studio community" Ammolite Inc.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

I'm a director, and I'm founder of Ammolite Inc.

Where are you living right now, and who's with you?

I'm in Los Angeles, in Sherman Oaks with my family—my fiancée, 2-year-old boy, and identical twin girls who were born on March 7. It's absolutely mad having three children. We had zero help the first three weeks of quarantine. But we had my fiancée's sister just join us from her own quarantine and my mother-in-law will soon move in as well. So we will have more family here to support the experience, quarantined together. It's unbelievably intense. 

What's your work situation like at the moment?

Because of the nature of my business, my whole team is all over the world. Our managing director is in New York, my creative team is in London, and we have collaborators all over. We've always used video to stay connected, so that aspect has not changed much. But everything else has changed. Right now I'm literally sitting in the corner of a room with a white wall and a faulty chair at a wooden table with a vat of coffee and a laptop, and it never evolves. I'd like to say I'm in a nice study with a mahogany desk and some lovely pens or something, but no, I'm in the corner. My 2-year-old son is right here.

It's interesting. Everyone right now is talking about how do we make things given the limitations. But our work has always had limitations and compromise. Creatively, I've never gotten exactly what I wanted. There's never enough time and never enough money. There are always limitations. So, in a way I've found this time to be extra free-minded. It's a time for blue sky thinking.

With so much fear in the world, it almost makes creativity fearless. We're not fearing anything, creatively speaking, because we're faced with the ultimate fear elsewhere. Creating with so much fear in one side of life gives you so much freedom in the other. I now have a clear creative brain because the other side of my brain is filled with madness. In one moment I'm looking at my kids wondering if I can provide for these little humans, and then in the next I sit at a desk a few feet away wondering how I can creatively change the world.

Describe your socializing strategy.

One thing that this moment has given me is a new structure to my day. I find myself waking up and calling my mom in London or my best friend and spending the first hour of my day with people I care about. Then I move on to something for work and do a Zoom call. Then I go back to my family and have lunch and connect again. I'm now structuring my work around my life, rather than my life around my work. Where usually it's the opposite—working all the time, I had trouble getting intimate moments with my family. 

I'm also really enjoying using Zoom for work because the conversations are deeper. We'll talk about the world for 20 minutes and then work. Work calls feel like dinner party conversation. We're talking about the future of the world and creative outlets. I'm having much more enjoyable conversations. 

How are you dealing with childcare?

It's a lot of jumping around. I'll be doing something on the business and my partner will have the kids while I'm working, but the reality of that is there are three children, including our 2-year-old, who is a madman. I'm right here and my son has clear view of me from the living room. So he's going to come over. He's right here.

I think it's helped business having my family around me. And I enjoy being on a video call with my agent or someone and seeing their kids around, running through the background, seeing people being mothers and fathers. It's like seeing the other side of everyone's lives. It's humbling. We all realize we're humans again. It helps you see past the business call, see all the flaws and problems each of us are faced with that we usually hide. 

What are you reading?

Mostly I'm reading scripts and decks. We have projects in development that continue to move forward, as well as projects that are further along that we are actively working on. In some cases we are rewriting and reworking creative so it can be executed within the limitations of the moment.

What are you watching?

I'll be honest and tell you that I watch a lot of reality TV because I don't want to think about anything. I always say I can't watch Ozark or something like that because I get too into it and have to analyze it so much. How did they do that? How did they shoot that? I can't switch off. So, I just watched Jersey Shore from Season 1 Episode 1 and now I'm on Season 6. And I'm watching Naked and Afraid. I'm four seasons deep. I guess the one exception is Dave on FX. I love it. I love anything that feels like reality mixed with fiction.

What are you listening to?

I listen to a lot of music to come up with ideas and I'm always listening for work. I'm finishing my feature film now and I'm right in the middle of the soundtrack. I'm loving working on that, and hearing unique music from artists. I also have a very random Spotify playlist going. It ranges from Frank Sinatra to Soulja Boy.

How are you staying fit?

I'm not. I'm eating a lot. But I do take my son out to the garden and run around there, and around the block. I try, though. I did a run the other day for the first time in two years. I haven't worked out properly since my first was born. Children are a workout. My son is a 30-pound weight that I lift up and down each day.

Have you taken up a hobby?

Spending so much time with my son. Family time with my partner and the twins. I spent two days at work after the twins were born before we got locked down for quarantine. I was right back at it with them two days old. So now, I'm just feeling so blessed with the amount of time I get to spend with all of them. The 2-year-old is amazing and just runs around the block. He is currently two feet away from me playing with a toy car.

Any tips for getting necessities?

Well, we're nervous about the twins, so limiting anything from outside is a must. I'm the one who goes to the grocery. It's a one-man mission with a mask and hand sanitizer doing an insane shop, filling the trolley up. The other day the lady behind me in line complimented me on my full trolley. Once you are there, you feel like you're on a mission: Get inside, get the necessities, and get back. 

Best work email you got since all this started.

The funniest one was from a big client/friend of mine deciding if he should quarantine with someone he doesn't really know that well just for some companionship. It was an insane question, deciding if two people should move in together just to have companionship for this mad time. Insane and yet completely rational at the same time.

An aha! moment since all this started.

I think the biggest is that I've been working on creating a business over the last few years that operates as a collective, a creative community that creates visuals and content that works the way that musicians work, with each bringing their special part to the project—and now suddenly, in this moment, this seems like the most beautiful and natural and necessary way to work. Bringing assets, tech and skills all together into one pot. Something I've been putting so much thought and energy into over the past few years is becoming real in this moment.

What's your theory on how this is going to play out?

I think it's clearer and clearer that it is going to take a few months to even be able to really leave the house properly. In that time, we are still going to have to create things. People still want to listen, watch, connect, be creative, have an outlet, have something to enjoy. So we need to be proactive in these few months and creative and make stuff. We are going to work out how we create in this environment.

I've been blessed to work with some of the best and most talented people in the creative and entertainment industries, and I know that every industry, every sector has the great minds, the superstars, the geniuses. So I know we have amazing people and minds in the medical field who are working tirelessly to fix this. They're working on a cure for this right now. So I have hope that we will get to the other side of this and learn some amazing things. Out of the darkness will come some positivity and new ways of living life.

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. He is the former creative editor of Adweek.

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