Digital Media Career Advice from the FIDM Alumni at the Motion Graphics Division of Create Advertising

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(Above) Trailer for The Green Hornet by Create Advertising.

After the sudden and tragic loss of Michael Jackson, one of the most pivotal music icons of the 20th century, people all over the world anticipated the release of “Michael Jackson’s This is It,” a film documenting behind-the-scenes rehearsal coverage of the artist as he prepared for the concert tour that never came to fruition due to the star’s untimely death.

Columbia Pictures had acquired the film’s footage where it was being housed under tight security at their lot. The film studio quickly needed a trailer for the upcoming limited release of the film, which is where Create Advertising stepped in. Knowing that the trailer’s graphics and editing needed to capture the mood of the documentary and reflect the nature of this larger-than-life music legend, Jonathan Gitlin, the Creative Director of Motion Graphics, embraced the challenge. The trailer was a success and subsequently Gitlin, a FIDM Digital Media Alumnus, and his team were invited to the film’s premiere at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.

“I remember sitting with Creative Director, Jake Black. We went in there, and we’re in this huge theater and Will Smith is there, and all these huge stars,” he says. “And we look up on screen and while everyone is walking in, our title is there on-screen. That kind of stuff is always exciting.”

At Create Advertising, Gitlin oversees a staff of 25 visual artists– including three other FIDM Digital Media Alumni Justin Hamilton, Mario Hernandez and Ryan Verseman. Founded in 2005 by David Stern, Carrie Gormley and Tim O’Neil formerly of Intralink, Create Advertising has certainly carved a place for themselves amongst other creative entertainment powerhouses.

Managing partner Stern credits Create Advertising‘s level of passion and dedication for its success. “We are entrusted to build some of the most known entertainment brands; the icons we create become part of pop culture– this is a big task and a big responsibility. We look at it this way,” he says. “Our clients respect the passion and the environment. They know our level of commitment. They know we are in it for the work– which means in it to do the best work possible.”

The best work possible has led to the development of iconic trailers for film studios Universal, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros., Disney and 20th Century Fox; and video game distributors Sony PlayStation, NAMCO, Square Enix, Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft, and Konami.

The Create Advertising team tackles every aspect of trailer campaigns to sometimes include developing the mnemonic (a.k.a. tagline), overseeing the trailer’s video production, editing and motion graphics including developing stereoscopic 3-D animated titles (as seen in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides trailer). For video games, the process gets even more intense as the team reworks video game assets, creating every single pixel to create a cinematic trailer.

Gitlin’s team, in conjunction with Create Advertising’s Editorial department, has developed trailers for the films “Hancock,” “The Green Hornet,” “Iron Man 2,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “District 9,” “2012”, and “Hitman.” Create Advertising can also claim bragging rights for developing video game trailers for “God of War: Ghost of Sparta,” “God of War 3,” “Twisted Metal,” “Killzone 3,” and “SOCOM 4.”

What’s the most rewarding part about being a Creative Director? To Gitlin, it’s all about creating video game trailers.

“The CG (character generated) video game work that we do is my favorite,” he says. “It’s the most challenging and the most satisfying because we’re creating every single pixel on screen. And we get to tell a story and almost be directors in our own way.”

The Path to Success

For someone who had anticipated a career as an attorney, Gitlin’s career has certainly taken a bold turn.

After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in political science at UC Santa Barbara, Gitlin was aspiring to attend law school when he discovered his passion for graphics after designing a newsletter for a market research firm.

“All of a sudden, I found my calling,” he says.

It’s clear that he had a natural talent for creative expression. Gitlin entered the annual “Designer of Tomorrow” scholarship competition sponsored by FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, and won the contest, earning a full-ride scholarship and a slot in the one-year Professional Designation program as a Digital Media major.

After visiting Create Advertising on a field trip during his Editing course at FIDM, he spoke with a Motion Graphics Designer at the firm and landed an internship. His position as an intern led to a full-time staff position as a Motion Graphics Designer. Later he would be promoted to Associate Creative Director and then to current position as Creative Director of Motion Graphics.

“Jonathan is the ultimate success story,” says Stern. “He showed up here as an entry level designer with all the ambition in the world. Beyond designing, Jonathan is a true leader.  People love to work for him and are inspired by his enthusiasm.”

Meet the Team

Create Advertising Motion Graphics Team/FIDM Alumni

(Above): From left, FIDM Alumni Mario Hernandez (Senior Motion Graphics Artist), Jonathan Gitlin (Creative Director, Motion Graphics department), Ryan Verseman (Motion Graphics Producer) and Justin Hamilton (Motion Graphics Artist) at Create Advetising headquarters in Culver City, CA.

“One of the biggest things I consider when hiring people is not only showing that you can produce quality work. Ask yourself, ‘are you going to show up on time? Are you going to be receptive, are you going to have a good attitude?’,” says Gitlin. “All these things are so important when you’re working so many hours with somebody.”

hancock-titleThe dedication and work ethic of Create’s motion graphics team members is evident, taking on as many as 20 projects at once, sometimes working weekends or even overnight to meet a deadline.

In addition to Gitlin, Create Advertising hired FIDM Alumni Hernandez, Verseman and most recently, Hamilton.

Hernandez was hired a week after graduating from FIDM in 2006 as a production assistant and now works as a Senior Motion Graphics Artist.

The first big design project he took on was the title design for Hancock (shown right).

Hernandez says his biggest advice to aspiring creative professionals is to maintain a professional attitude when faced with feedback.

Create Advertising Offices“Don’t take criticism personally,” he says. “There are always things that you think will be amazing in your eyes, but people are going to criticize. Just be prepared.”

Verseman graduated from FIDM’s Digital Media program in 2006 and today plans and coordinates video shoots for various trailers including “The Green Hornet.” He credits his success to his ability to stay laser focused on his career objective as a producer.

“Once you get into the industry, you really have to set your course. It’s definitely an industry of specialization. The sooner that you figure out the exact path you want to go on, the quicker you’ll succeed,” says Verseman. “Pick the area that you feel most passionate about, and learn as much as you can.”

He adds that design school is a perfect place to explore your areas of interest.

“One of the good things about FIDM was that it was nice being able to get a taste of each part of the industry,” he says. “I also like that the faculty and the teachers involved were currently working in the area that they teach.”

Hamilton, the newest addition to the Create team as a motion graphics designer, graduated from FIDM in 2010 and was promoted from production assistant to a full-time staff member last month.

“I had decided to pursue graphics for a career by going to FIDM, which allowed me to meet the people who work here,” he says. “With design, you’ll get out what you put into it. Try to find your strength as early as you can.”

To see Create Advertising’s full portfolio (and there is SO much more than what’s in this article!), visit

To see the highlighted work by Create Advertising’s Motion Graphics department as well as behind-the-scenes photos and development sketches, visit

Project Brief: “With its rocket launchers and hood-mounted firearms, the Black Beauty is an integral part of the Green Hornet’s crime-fighting antics, making it a worthy vessel for our copy. While all 3D car components featured in the cards were created in-house, we also had the opportunity to work with one of the actual Black Beauty models featured in the film. For the end title sequence, we gathered footage during a special shoot, then developed a scene wherein the camera moves past our heroes and through the Black Beauty, with the city showcased behind them.”

Green Hornet Development Pieces

(Above) Trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides, by Create Advertising.
Project Brief: “The reappearance of Jack Sparrow and crew called for a custom chrome skull, integrating both the mysterious and mischevious elements of the movie. We began the process with a very basic 3D model, and a great amount of time went into fine-tuning the texture, lighting and overall appearance of this skull. One of the greatest challenges during the process was making sure that the details came through and read cleanly in both the 2D and stereoscopic versions of the piece. All of the small elements meshed together smoothly in the end, resulting in a dynamic representation of pirate life and the quest for adventure.”

Pirates of the Caribbean Development Pieces

Pirates of the Caribbean Process Stills

(Above) Trailer for Twisted Metal “Behind the Masks,” by Create Advertising.
Project Brief: “A blend of (literally) explosive gameplay and heavily stylized footage, “Behind the Masks” builds backstory and gives viewers a look into the evolved and exponentially darker world of Twisted Metal. Our trailer for the latest installment of this car combat powerhouse dives into the dark histories of each of the main characters, placing Sweet Tooth, Dollface and Grimm in their respective worlds. It also delivers a solid look at the style of the in-game cinematics, as well as the dynamic gameplay that we can look forward to in the upcoming installment. After blending live-action footage shot by Sony San Diego (many thanks to their awesome team), and the CG worlds we created in-house, the core characters were given a layer of grit and brought to life.”

Twisted Metal Stills



Learn More…

Would you like to learn more about earning a degree in Graphic Design or a degree in Digital Media from FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising? Click the link below…

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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