Grant Sputore: The Penguin Empire

It’s not all black and white: The Penguin Empire.

Since taking command of the family video camera at age seven, Grant Sputore has gone on to produce award winning film clips, work on numerous acclaimed film and TV projects and establish his own production company The Penguin Empire, with business partner Sam Price.

“I started early. I think I commandeered the family video camera when I was seven and my parents never saw it again. From there I started making movies with Plasticine, then action figures and finally with real people. They’re harder to direct I’m sorry to say. And expect to be fed more,” Grant says.

After graduating university in 2007 with a degree in Film and TV, Grant and Sam decided rather than taking entry-level jobs that would see them doing work vastly different to what they wanted to do, they would create their own opportunities.

Grant explains: “We took inspiration from companies like Motion Theory, Shynola and Mathematics and just set about finding work that appealed to us and people that would trust us with their money!”

He continues: “For some unknown reason we were going to call ourselves Emotional Robot for a longtime, but then at the 11th hour we had the good sense to change it to something more respectable like The Penguin Empire.”

And in the two years since they started, The Penguin Empire has worked on numerous critically acclaimed film and TV projects and been responsible for creating the film clips for numerous Perth bands. Acts they have worked with include Birds of Tokyo, Antistatic, Eleventh He Reaches London, and Downsyde for their 2009 WAMi Award winning “Fortune and Fame” clip.

When making the clips Grant and Sam take on the roles of Director and Producer respectively.
“Having said that the lines blur massively. Inevitably I help with producing, we both come up with the concepts for clips and lately we’ve been doing our own production design – which despite being a lot of work is massively rewarding. We do all of our editing, post production and effects in-house.”

And in being involved in the additional aspects of film making Grant says it ultimately helps them create better productions.

“It sounds silly, but any experience you have, in whatever field ultimately makes you a better a film maker. Film making at any level, particularly at the lower end of the budget spectrum is largely about problem solving. Whatever experience you have only opens up your knowledge base to more inventive and interesting solutions.”

He continues: “Outside of that, most of the stuff we do is connected in some fundamental way. I’m as influenced by my design principles when it comes to framing a shot as I am by film’s that I’ve seen. By the same token, when it comes to designing a movie poster or the like, I think specifically about creating an image that communicates something to the viewer; the same way I do when I frame up a shot. It’s harder to make that defense when it comes to websites but I’m convinced no one in the world actually enjoys making websites.”

Having worked with an eclectic mix of bands, Grant says that while their approach to making clips doesn’t change – repeated listens, coming up with a concept and then determining if the concept is feasible – each clip requires unique consideration.

“Obviously you take into consideration the type of music and the artist’s tastes when thinking of ideas. Different bands are involved to different degrees during the concept phase. Some bands have really strong ideas and others are happy to leave it up to you. It’s usually helpful to have some kind of framework when you start. “

He continues: “Even if the band or label doesn’t claim to have an idea or preference inevitably they’ll have some idea of what they like, what they think might work or what is appropriate, so it is best to find out what you can before you take a step in the wrong direction. In that case if you’re given a clean slate to start with it’s usually worth probing a little further to see if there is a little more direction you can squeeze out of them.”

With so much under his belt in such a short period of time, Grant’s advice to those wanting to get into film making, and in particular making clips for bands is to go out there, start making films and get in touch with the bands you like to see where it takes you. He credits the Internet with helping to make it easy to get in touch with bands and video clips a must-have for musicians.

“With the Internet now every band has a reason to have a video. Where previously there was a bottleneck in exhibition that meant only the bigger bands could justify the expense of making a clip, now anyone who is interested in a band is interested in seeing their video and almost always expects to see it online… The other great thing the Internet has done is made it so easy to get in touch with bands.”

He continues: “Another tip. When you’re starting out and you’re not paying people, good food goes a long way!”

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Copyright (C) 2009 Christina Ballico.

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