Highlighting the creative superstars that make up the class of Young Guns 18
2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year, but fortunately, the spirit of creativity can't be dampened. Want proof? Check out the winners of Young Guns 18!
Beginning with our largest and most diverse jury in history, acclaimed creatives from across the globe spent three months reviewing hundreds of submissions from insanely talented young professionals seeking validation for all of their hard work. After narrowing down the field to 83 top-notch finalists, the jury engaged in virtual discussion and debate, deciding who will win one of the most career-impacting honors in our industry.
In the end, we are honored to present the 31 incredible winners of Young Guns 18, a diverse collection of artists, filmmakers, animators, designers, illustrators, and others, all of them representing some of the very best that their fields have to offer.
We invite you to learn about all 31 Young Guns 18 winners in this series of interviews.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
When did Young Guns first pop up on your radar?
It was my junior year at Art Center, when we won our first student cube in the ADC awards. We flew to New York for the ceremony not really knowing what to expect. As we sat in the audience marveling at the quality of everyone's work, the Young Guns category came up. It seemed like such a great idea - shining a spotlight on young creatives during their most turbulent and hardworking era of their careers. After looking deeper into it, I discovered that so many artists that held the Young Guns title were artists I admired, including some of Art Center's faculty and alumni. It seemed like a great, distant goal to set for myself - one I thought would probably not come true - unless I made sure to work my butt off. It kept me motivated as I was getting ready to enter the industry as a professional.
You're a first-time entrant — congrats! What made you enter this year?
I'm highly critical of my work, almost to a fault, so I felt like my portfolio needed to be up to par before I even considered applying. This year felt like the right time. My first few years in the industry were focused on being a better maker of things - becoming a better painter, photographer, and image maker. As I got more and more into directing, my focus shifted on getting better at writing, sequencing, and ideation. I wanted my work to show that arc and progression of my skills before applying. Plus, I'm still a few years off from 30, so I figured I'd have at least one more shot if it didn't end up winning this time around.
Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you go about deciding which pieces to submit and which to leave out?
Outside of demonstrating my growth as a creative, it is really important for me to show a variety of creative approaches. I'm classically trained in graphic design and typography, but I also have a passion for painting, CGI and live action filmmaking. The projects that allow for an intersection of all my passions are the ones that make me feel the most alive. It's the reason I'm so drawn to crafting title sequences, becasue I get to wear all these different hats and I never get too specialized in one solitary thing.
What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns?
It's hard to pin point it to a single sentence, but I imagine it was the usual cloud of self-doubt and deprecation. I live for what I do, but I always see the flaws to improve upon in the next project - it's an endless cycle of growth through sometimes self-imposed struggle. I figured this would be a good benchmark to test, and possibly calm, my self-doubt. It didn't work, but I'm definitely glad I tried.
If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?
It would probably be the title sequence for The Politician. I remember reading the scripts of the show, and images of a hollowed out shell of a mannequin coming to mind. As I let this thought evolve without poking and prodding it as I usually do, it grew organically into a series of images, and finally a story - touching on notions of the main characters' sociopathic tendencies. I felt a little crazy sharing it with my team of friends and collaborators, rambling on about Pinocchio, woodworking and Zegna suits. Once we all jumped on it and started de-tangling it together is when the magic happened. When I work as a director, my top priority is to fully include people into the project, and let them take ownership of it with you. It's exactly what happened with this one, and it's why it turned out into such a fun sequence. Shout out to my dear friends Heidi Berg, Carlo Sa, Yongsub Song, Joe Paniagua, Rachel Fowler, and many others for making The Politician with me.
If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you”, what would it be?
I try to avoid having a certain visual "style" to my work, as I feel it would get quite boring to make the same thing over and over again. I do put a strong emphasis on craft - whether its precisely composing a frame, laying out a paragraph, or tweaking a shader in CGI. Rulers and decimal number increments are my friends.
Conceptually, I try to draw as much from my background as possible - growing up in Croatia and transplanting myself into the polar opposite that is Los Angeles at 19 years old defines a lot of my personality. That inner conflict between the two places I call home routinely spills out into the images I make.
Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career, people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?
My instructors at Art Center played a big part in who I am as a creative today, especially Sean Adams and Ming Tai. They not only helped me acclimate to life in the United States and the culture shock that came with it, but also they encouraged that my discomforts of not fitting in were a strength and not a weakness - they showed me how to channel it all into my work.
Once I transitioned into working professionally, all my friends at Elastic played a big part in shaping me into a creative professional and evolving my taste. Heidi Berg and Lisa Bolan taught me how to lead with grace through inclusion and encouragement. Observing Raoul Marks and his way of dealing with light and texture inspired me to get better every day. Kate Berry recognized that I could do more and reignited the sense of confidence I was missing. I could list so many people from my time at Elastic who influenced me in one way or another, and I'm grateful for them all.
Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?
Too many to count! It feels unreal to be in their company. Stefan Sagmeister (YG1) is a big influence, especially from a career and work-balance point of view. Out of the more recent winners, I love the work of Evelyn Bencicova (YG17) and Joyce N. Ho (YG17), as well as my friend Marco Prestini (YG16).
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty crazy year, with a global pandemic and social upheaval shaping so many facets of our lives. Aside from the positive news of winning Young Guns, how has this year been for you?
Outside of the general awfulness and despair that 2020 has been so far globally, the best thing it brought was time. Time to learn, time to work on myself, and time to self reflect. It broke every pattern of our daily life, and allowed us to reevaluate those patterns. That in itself is a luxury, and I think we will re-emerge from this a little wiser and more critical of our former habits. It's all so very scary and exciting at the same time. I'd also love to get on a plane and go home for a few weeks!
Name a creative/professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!
I'd love to write and direct a feature film - that is the faraway goal on the horizon. For now, I'd love to make a short film with a team of creatives I admire.
WORDS FROM THE JURY
"Felix's work shows an impressive range of style grounded in both creativity and flawless control -- ultimately allowing each title sequence to truly tell an engaging story on its own. From live-action to complex modeling, each element is thoughtfully conceived and tightly executed, all illustrating Felix’s thorough command of his craft."
Young Guns 4 Winner
"Felix Soletic’s animations are short films within a film. They are incredibly well crafted narrative pieces, able to distill the essence of the larger story in a highly aesthetic and memorable way. His work combines the development of artful and highly detailed visuals, the design of interesting compositions, and the use of rich textures, to finally create visually captivating scenes, where each frame has an artistic value on its own. All these frames come to life with an elegant and carefully crafted motion, that helps the viewers dive into the details of these pieces and creates the perfect visual frame for the stories we are about to watch."
Cristina Rodriguez Reina
SVP, Executive Creative Director
McCann New York
"Having worked on some of the most dazzling main titles in recent years, it was clear that Felix was already working at the top tier of Motion Design. What's striking about the work is his ability to weave intelligent visual storytelling with well composed, gorgeous imagery, which elevates the titles beyond just spectacle. In his submissions, Felix demonstrates a strong understanding of the nuances of 3D and design, crafting frames with rich textures and lighting, helping to bring these worlds to life. Cheers, and welcome to the Young Guns club!"
Senior Motion Designer
Node Motion Design
Young Guns 17 Winner
"Felix Soletic is an expert in showing the overall content of the story in title design with implications. As shown in the ‘One Dollar’ Title Sequence, the detailed movement, the expression of speed, and the dramatic transitions of the screen look very sophisticated. In ‘The Outsider‘, abstract yet aesthetic marbling effects provide a perfect harmony with background music. I look forward to more of his works."
Make sure to check out all the Young Guns 18 Winners in the archive!