A hookah gurgles and gargles in Chris McKinlay’s basement. McKinlay passes the hookah to Justin Longoz, but it is largely ignored as the two excitedly launch into our conversation, often saying the same thing at the same time. Longoz and McKinlay are friends, and the film production duo 1998creative. Working for Global Mechanic, the filmmakers produced their Ten Commandments series, for which they were featured on the Huffington Post and in Juxtapoz magazine earlier this year. 1998creative and their unique films have remarkably captured the limited attention spans of web video audiences around the world.
Their internet fame—and their creative partnership—has been years in the making. Born and bred Vancouverites, McKinlay and Longoz met in grade one while attending Vancouver College, an all-boys, shirt-and-tie Catholic school. “The whole origin of [1998creative] came in high school when we would work on social studies video projects,” says McKinlay. “We got better marks than we ever had in school.”
“Period,” Longoz continues, “Whenever we did a video project, we got As.” Their long friendship would be apparent to anyone who meets them today. One instant, Longoz is complimenting McKinlay’s mad cow illustrations, the next, McKinlay is locking Longoz out of the house in the midst of brotherly warfare.
Following high school, the pair attended Langara College with the intention of studying psychology and transferring to UBC. “Wherever we go, we kind of puppet the other [one] and follow to the same place,” says McKinlay. The friends soon encountered boredom with the traditional academic route, and McKinlay enrolled in a film program at BCIT. Longoz quickly followed suit. “Even when we were at Langara taking psychology, we were still doing video projects,” says Longoz.
Never ones to settle anywhere for too long, Longoz and McKinlay quickly realized that they would learn more about film through experience than in the classroom, and spent most of their time at BCIT away from BCIT. “I failed out of film school because I didn’t want to go to all the law courses and we’d be out screwing around with a video camera,” says McKinlay. Longoz laughs, “I want it to be on record that I didn’t fail film school. I passed the law classes.”
The friends abhor wasted time. For them, the best route is the one that leads quickly to the joy of creation. This explains their choice to work as a collaborative team for Global Mechanic, a relatively small studio, rather than for large institutions, which Longoz describes as “dinosaurs.” McKinlay, nods, adding, “The workflow is just archaic.” The two go on to explain the standard flow of film production. A large studio will create a concept and delegate the work to various other large studios – each accomplishing just one part of the project. “They hand it off and hand it off,” Longoz continues. “It’s a game of telephone that’s passed on and the message is lost,” says McKinlay.
Under Global Mechanic, 1998creative aspires to be a full-service film production operation. “You come to us and we can do your creative, we can do your production we can do your post-production, we can do everything on top of the fact that you haven’t gone through eight different people and the message doesn’t get watered down through each step,” explains Longoz.
Longoz and McKinlay formalized their ventures as 1998creative two years ago. The name channels their love of nostalgia—it was the year they began social studies video projects, and a year bursting with movies and music that continue to influence them today. They have worked on a variety of projects from backing videos for musicians to award-winning animation shorts, to painting murals in McKinlay’s soon to be destroyed house. The Ten Commandments, one of their most popular projects, is reflective of their religious background.
Roughly two minutes long, each stop motion short enacts a Commandment with fruit. The shorts are funny, poignant and universally relatable, much like 1998creative themselves. “Without being hyper sacrilegious or hyper-religious, we just wanted to tell the story,” says Longoz. “It’s part of the nostalgia. To go to a religious Catholic all boys school for twelve years,” says McKinlay. “Kind of influences you a bit,” finishes Longoz. “We like to take the serious part away and show it for what it is,” McKinlay continues. “… like, ‘These are the Ten Commandments—with fruit!” Longoz exclaims.
Most of their projects are released with a post on the Global Mechanic blog detailing the creative process. This is in part because of Longoz and McKinlay’s shared sentimental values. They want to share the personal investment made in their art. For a mural project, the duo created a time-lapse video of the production process in McKinlay’s kitchen. “When we did our wall mural, it could’ve just been this photoset that doesn’t tell the whole story of all the love. I look at the mural and it’s beautiful, but when I actually watch the video I have the fond memories. I hope there are people watching the video who can have that same appreciation, and be there alongside us when we create it.”
Sharing the more technical aspects of their work, Longoz and McKinlay exude a confidence that comes from experience. “I think that’s something a lot of people are afraid of—the idea that you can’t be bad and then get better,” says McKinlay. “Rather than hiding from a past project that fails or not you can actually tangibly look your past work and improve upon it. We see what we love and what we don’t love and we extrapolate what we learned from that and move forward. There’s no fear from us.”
“Nope,” says Longoz. “I just hope that when we do stuff like that other people will see that and think, ‘well they’re not afraid, maybe we shouldn’t be afraid either!’ Because if there’s a collective sharing of how people do things everyone’s going to get better, right? You can make money off of it, but there’s no point if you’re just going to hoard it. Then, nobody learns anything.”
They just want to fill the world with great art—regardless of money. Not that they’re worried; they’re having a good time. McKinlay smiles, “successful or not, at the end of the day, you realize what makes you happy and I think for us, we’ve found it.”
Written by Rebecca Slaven.