Graham Elliot’s documentary debut New York in Motion

Published:  November 4, 2011
Bonnie Abbott
Graham Elliot’s documentary debut New York in Motion

The definition of ‘motion design’ is difficult to establish without also defining its place in contemporary creative culture, its online and offline contexts, and its boundaries shared with graphic design, illustration and animation.

To further attempt to define the current state of the industry, and within a single, complicated city, is no easy task, but a challenge met in New York in Motion, a newly released documentary dedicated to exploring the depth and breadth of the motion graphics industry within the thriving New York scene.

Director Graham Elliot enlisted a team of students from New York School of Visual Art to traverse the city, interviewing motion studios, individuals and academics in paddle boats, on the subway, in the rain, over Skype – the footage jumpy, affected, the dialogue distorted and drowned out by the thumping of the city streets that inspire them. Cameras filming the cameras filming, the documentary is a chaotic motion piece about motion, the tools filming themselves creating.

The documentary explores the topic in three parts: What is motion? What is it about New York? What is it to create? It is this approach that marks this film as relevant to our time – the unorthodox rise of the key players in the industry, the unfeigned surprise of many motion designers at finding themselves in paid work. Words of inspiration and motivation are shared by industry heavies, edited like rapid fire, battering you with optimism. The film touches upon issues raised by the limitless publishing opportunities of the internet, but ends concluding little. Yet these impacts and the spreading popularity of motion graphics (Elliot has elsewhere stated that motion graphics has now overtaken graphic design as the second most popular course at SVA) have lead to shifts in the understandings and identity of creative culture, and even in this film the motion work showcased varies from the beautiful to the clumsy, and leaves you wondering what the rules are.

While Steve Heller speaks measuredly from his office on motion’s history, Elliot divides the predominately young motion designers down the middle – those that produce sound and visuals that seduce, and those that see motion graphics as storytelling. 1990′s MTV is the nonsensical, but engaging, source of teenage inspiration to many, while others – marking themselves as “filmmakers at heart” – look to the arts, photography and illustration as their source material, in an industry where trend-driven clients want something that just looks cool.

To capture this motion boom within this famously hectic city, Elliot has taken a snapshot of a swirling, exciting storm – unregulated, boundless, and difficult to concisely define – with an uncharted future at the hands of each new year of graduates and the unstoppable, passionate practitioners. An educating and encouraging resource for motion designers, New York in Motion premieres to the Australian public at the year’s Pause Festival. Running in Melbourne from the 7th – 14th of November, the first year for Pause has curated exclusive screenings, industry talks, installations and parties, mostly all free.

Check out their site for more details.

Watch the trailer below:

‘New York in Motion’ Documentary Trailer from Graham Elliott on Vimeo.

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