Monday, April 14, 2014

Blackbox Visual Brings a Unique Aesthetic to Milwaukee

By Kristina Byas
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Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design graduates and former classmates Erik Holman and Vassi Slavova have been producing short films and award-winning animations together since 2009. After deciding to take their passion even further and step away from the freelancing business, Holman and Slavova founded Blackbox Visual just two short years ago. Crème de le Coulee, Don Ford Productions and Milwaukee musician Old Earth are just a few of the clients that their independent production studio has worked with since then.

“We slowly started working on and creating a dream and made it come true,” said Slavova.

Holman’s background in animation, visual effects and film, along with Slavova’s experience in branding, package design and illustration, allow the multi-disciplinary team to provide services in the areas of branding, production and print.

The duo has recently started to make a name for themselves on the Milwaukee scene, providing an animated presentation for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin’s 2013 Make a Promise Gala, which generated funds for medication support for the ARCW. The team also competed in the 2013 48 Hour Film Festival. Given the genre “horror,” Blackbox Visual produced the short film Foreclosure, which was shot in an empty, classic theater in downtown Milwaukee. This was the first year Holman and Slavova participated on their own team in the festival.

“We like to participate in the 48 Hour Film Festival because we get the chance to make a short film,” said Slavova. “It is also a great opportunity to get together with friends and artists and generate work.”

“It tests your skills a little bit,” added Holman. “You walk away with a completed piece after only two days, which is pretty hard to do. You definitely need a solid crew to spread the work around.”

As the Blackbox Visual’s client list continues to grow, the company’s strong background in animation has made them stand out among competitors.

“There aren’t a lot of people doing animations in this area,” said Holman. “It’s one of our big suits. Animation is a rare skill to find. It is a niche that we fill pretty well, but we are also able to branch out and do everything.”

“We have a strong background in character design and more traditional arts. We try to use that in our work and make it as fun and creative as possible,” he said.

With most of their work currently being in the production area, Holman and Slavova are eager to work with more Milwaukee artists and residents to create something original and unique in all areas of their disciplines.

“Milwaukee is where our network is. We are trying to expand on that and put our names on the map. We want to spread awareness about who we are and what we do,” said Holman.

“We really like to work with local people and show support. We are always excited to do amazing work,” said Slavova.

Along with traditional services offered to clients, Blackbox Visual also has a line of posters that features various city maps and Milwaukee themes. Posters are available at The Waxwing in Shorewood, Sparrow Collective in Bay View and online at VassiSlavova.etsy.com.

Upcoming projects for Blackbox Visual include an animated presentation for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin’s 2014 Make a Promise Gala on Saturday, April 26, and the album artwork and music video for Milwaukee musical group Field Report.

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