Ernie Schenck is jazzed about JWT’s animated poetry project, featuring the work of former U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins. It is mesmerizing work.
According to a Fast Company feature from June 2006, the project grew out of Rosemarie Ryan’s and Ty Montague’s efforts to revitalize JWT and their desire to see creative for creative’s sake.
Toby Barlow, the firm’s executive creative director took his bosses’ wishes to heart. He persuaded Collins to let him set some of his poems to animation, with the writer himself reading the work. A few weeks later, at a dinner, Barlow mentioned the project to someone from the Sundance Channel, who was interested in using the short films to fill the 10-minute gaps in Sundance’s programming. Back at JWT, a producer connected Barlow with eight animators willing to do the project on the cheap, given the subject and the potential for national exposure. The whole thing began to feel like fate.
Last September, Barlow surprised Montague and Ryan with 11 artsy shorts that drew on visuals ranging from Japanese art to smoke rings. “A lot of times, agencies shut you down,” says Barlow, amped up by the memory. “They’re like, ‘We just want you to work on the prescribed problem.’ But it’s really only by going out and being as creative as you can be, and showing that to the people you work with, that inspiration and cross-pollination start happening.”