Fantastical creatures, absurdist costumes, bringing the extraordinary to life. This is the territory of one of the UK’s most creative ‘effects’ studios, Applied Arts, whose mission it is to create impossible and compelling worlds – for television and live audiences.
At the heart of this operation is Bob Saunders, a man with vision, technical know-how and a big sense of humour. Inspired by what most of us would find impossible to even imagine he is keenly aware that the magical output from his workshop depends entirely on the creative process. 'I see our approach as being similar to the one an actor will take,' he explains. 'It’s just that while the actor works with a script we interpret designs and visuals.'
And it is in this exploration of illusion and reality where Bob Saunders sees that Applied Arts does some of its most exciting work. 'We produce original concepts, models and designs for advertising agencies, commercials and the movies – work which is hugely enjoyable and requires us to be at our most creative. So, for example, we created Bollo for the Mighty Boosh TV series which was a character that underwent several iterations before we got it right and it took on its own personality. And this attention to character also translates to the area of live performance, where the appearance of extraordinary creatures or otherworldly reality often has the audience sitting back in wonder.'
'People approach us because they trust us to work with them and in this respect we always have the overall performance in mind,' he explains. 'However, as you would expect, people come to us with different briefs. Some creative directors come with strong designs, scaled drawings and references. They know what they want and while there is a strong creative element in the production the room for our interpretation is more limited.'
'And then there are those projects where we are introduced to a concept and that’s where we will bring all of our creative talents to bear in order to produce something that has the feel, the look and the impact required. Not surprisingly this requires a level of trust that we can produce something that will have the effect intended; and we work extremely hard to ensure that we know what the finished product has to do as well as providing a level of professionalism that delivers a stunning result.'