Profile: Chris Lunney - Creative Director


Chris Lunney is Creative Director and Head of Graphics at NVIZ. Chris has an instinctive and experienced understanding of the filmmaking process, and his role is pivotal to the company’s creative strategy and direction.

What do you do?

As Creative Director I oversee the creative output and strategy of the company, including branding, showreels, pitches and PR. I’m also involved in various aspects of the day-to-day running of NVIZ, working closely with Luke Kaile, our Head of Studio, and our amazing Production team to develop new business, grow teams and cultivate a strong company culture.

In my Graphics role I oversee all graphics projects in partnership with Ian Sargent, our Graphics Supervisor. I also handle sales, client meetings and, if time allows, some actual design work!

What did you study?

At College and University I studied Graphic Design, which at the time (1996-2000) still used a lot of analogue methods. My University wasn’t particularly well resourced, so we had to book precious time on a Mac, meaning when you got the opportunity to be ‘on the box’ there wasn’t a huge amount of time for experimentation - it was more about digitising your sketched ideas and thoughts. As a result, my final graduation projects hardly touched a computer, and involved screen printing, analogue photography and lots of Letraset. Doing this made me realise that as far as design is concerned, learning software is something that can come later - having a good eye and design sensibility is something that needs developing first.

What was your path into the industry?

Whilst at University I applied for work experience on the Harry Potter films. I didn’t expect to be able to contribute in any meaningful way as I had no idea that more traditional graphic design skills were needed in film Art Departments. I spent my breaks from University sleeping on sofas and helping out in any way I could. It turns out I was incredibly lucky with my timing - digital imaging was becoming more accessible and affordable, and the (then) analogue Art Dept needed someone to help them transition into digital workflows. As a recent graduate with some computer knowledge I was in the right place at the right time, and started working to digitise the already vast archive of drawings, concept art, photographs and research while also ensuring new visual information flowed correctly from the Art Dept throughout the various Departments.

It was a great education in how large scale films, and teams, are put together, and I was surrounded by some of the most talented artists in the UK Film Industry.  After a few years doing this (and designing a few small graphic Potter props) I started to move into graphic design for film and TV full time - creating props, signage, fake websites etc, which then led me into the design, animation and programming of on-screen graphics.

What's a typical day for you?

It’s a cliche but every day is different. I’ll start by checking in with Luke to get any headlines from the previous day and work out priorities for the day ahead, and then will jump on daily calls with the VFX and Graphics teams to discuss active projects and make sure there aren’t any obstacles in our way. 

I block out a few hours of focus time for Graphics related projects each morning and afternoon, which allows me to bookend the day with NVIZ related business.

Who's your favourite filmmaker/visual artist?

I don’t have a favourite per se, but a few people I love are Chris Ware, Gerhard Richter, Paul Verhoeven (1987-97, mainly) and Ryoji Ikeda. A special mention goes to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Polaroids book, which I look at almost every day - basically Instagram before Instagram.

Is there a show you a working on right now that you can talk about?

It’s incredibly busy right now and therefore I’m across a number of projects, including the second season of Avenue 5 for HBO and a few I can’t yet talk about!

Are you exploring any new workflows, Production, personally and company-wide?

We’re in the process of updating our Graphics pipeline here at NVIZ, which is quite exciting for the team. Company-wide, we’re exploring new avenues within Visualisation and Realtime work, which continues to move at an incredible pace - it's a really interesting space to be working in. We’re incredibly proud of the team here for not only creating amazing work day-to-day but also staying on the cutting edge and keeping an eye on the future.

What's your work highpoint/achievement/proudest moment?

I always feel a bit uncomfortable seeing my work on screen, so it will have to be a couple of things which are more like  ‘how did I get here?’ moments - my first credit (for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) rolling up at the Odeon Leicester Square, and the time working on Jason Bourne where I was invited to sit in on the string section of the soundtrack being recorded at Abbey Road Studios. 

Additionally, having the opportunity to first rebrand and then help lead a company that I joined as a freelancer is a huge honour, and watching the company grow and evolve gives me a steady succession of proud moments.

What's special about NVIZ?

What I love about NVIZ is how our culture informs the approach we have to the work - we collaborate closely with each other and our clients, with a focus on the process rather than racing to the finish line. People are expected and encouraged to help each other out, be candid, and look for new ways of working. We hope that enthusiasm and passion is then present in the work we do. 

What's the best piece of advice you've recieved, or would like to give to aspiring visual artists?

My main piece of advice is - learn to love the process, it will save you a lot of heartbreak if you have to start again or your work doesn’t make the final cut. Understanding the reasons and context behind a sudden change of brief or a flurry of critical notes will develop your skills as an artist and a collaborator, and allow you to not take these things to heart. My other piece of advice sounds simple but is not always easy - try to be a pleasure to work with, and stay positive!