April 26th, 2015

F5 is a two-day creativity festival founded on the ideal that true insight and lasting inspiration comes from unexpected places. Ave Carrillo, producer at The Mill in New York, helped curate the speakers for F5 Fest 2015, putting together a lineup of the thinkers and doers that are breaking ground and shaping new standards in media, design and beyond. She shares her experience finding the brilliant artists, authors, scientists and storytellers that took the stage at NYC's Terminal 5.

Back in December of 2014, before even considering being part of the Mill family, Justin Cone, Founder of and co-founder of the F5 Festival, asked me to help curate the speakers for F5.

Before becoming a VFX producer, previously at Psyop and now at The Mill, I had a career for 12 years as a cultural public radio producer for NPR, PRI and WNYC. In this case “producer” means something completely different than it does in the VFX world. I was essentially a journalist. I pitched stories, researched and booked guests, wrote, edited — mostly my job was to understand (or *try* to understand) and tell stories about the cultural landscape: art, music, writing, design.

F5’s core audience comes from the motion graphics world. It’s “the physical manifestation of the spirit of” However, F5 does a bit more cross disciplinary travelling than Motionographer. F5 recognizes that the motion graphics field is a vital but ultimately small part of a massive tribe of folk who do one thing: tell stories.

I found myself asking (begging) favors from everyone, scouring the web in search of guests who could contrast with and complement the incredible roster we already had booked (Patrick Clair, Giant Ant, Erin Sarofsky, Julia Pott, Block & Tackle and Gmunk and music/sound masters Antfood).

So after many, many late nights, here are just a few highlights of the amazing people I helped round up:

Scott Carrier, a Peabody award-winning This American Life contributor and storyteller responded to my epic explanatory emails with single sentences. But when we spoke, he tells me my emails kept him up the night before in a dream-like state as he thought of the start of a story: his memory of his father plunging his bare arms into a bucket of congealed cow blood. He agrees to finish the story for F5. Wow. Yes, please.

"They asked me to explain how I write stories. The easiest answer to that was I have no fucking idea. It's a mystery but I can make something up..." — Scott Carrier [via F5]

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The Mill’s own Rama Allen, his mind constantly on creative overdrive, agreed to speak about the fear and faith needed to be a creative director for projects that no one else in their right mind would take on. His projects range from films (easy for him now) to experiences in the virtual and built world. Here are some words to live by: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

"Fear is part of my experimental process but I needed to own it. Let go and accept the fear." — Rama Allen 

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Design personality Debbie Millman is undeniably a badass. Her résumé will make you feel you’ve wasted your life. The writer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of radio show Design Matters, came to speak about how rejection and the worst moments of your life can also become the most formative.

"You could be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be someone who hates peaches." — Debbie Millman quoting Dita Von Teese [via F5]

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Ben Rubin, who helped conceive the astonishing Moveable Type installation in the lobby of the New York Times building spoke about the inherent humanity of data. Zoe Cormier, author of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll: The Science of Hedonism and the Hedonism of Science reminded us that sometimes it’s ok to indulge; it’s what makes us human. Eddie Opara, a partner at Pentagram, spoke about moving beyond graphic design and into… robots (wait for it)… mixing drinks. Internationally renowned artist Fred Tomaselli spoke about the fantastical and beautiful collage paintings he makes from drugs (no, not just aspirin). And Darius Kazemi, internet artist and bot-maker spoke about making things with honor and soul.

"What exactly is Music? "Organized sound, beautiful math, an exquisit illusion" — Zoe Cormier [via F5]

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A personal highlight came from a conversation between Brannon Braga, EP/Director of Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey and Dr. Michelle Thaller, Assistant Director of Science Communication and Higher Education at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Lest we get too wrapped up in insane deadlines, creative challenges or client requests of our projects, it brings a serious dose of perspective to hear Dr. Thaller say, without a shred of doubt, that we are “within 10 years of proving there is life beyond earth… we have the champagne chilling.”

The Broad Perspective

Perspective. That’s really the point. F5 takes a stand against the pressure to close ourselves off to new ideas. While liberal arts education is under attack in the push for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, a conference like F5 is a chance to understand how worthwhile it is to know how to write, read and communicate thoughtfully about the rest of the world. Which in turn, makes us better storytellers. Writing about Fareed Zakaria’s new book, In Defense of a Liberal Education, New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof quotes the 2nd US President John Adams from 1780:

“I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History and Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.” 

Yup. My thoughts exactly. Except for Naval Architecture. What’s that… houseboat building?

- Ave Carrillo, Producer & Storyteller

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