Digital Media Grad is President of Create Advertising Group
After earning a B.A. in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara in 2003, Jonathan Gitlin was preparing to attend law school. The Valley Village, California native's plan quickly changed after he discovered and became "almost obsessed" with Photoshop and Illustrator while working for a market research company. Upon seeing an ad for a scholarship contest at FIDM, he entered and ended up winning a full one-year of tuition toward a Professional Designation degree. While at FIDM, a pivotal class visit to Create, an entertainment marketing agency with offices in Los Angeles in London, led to an internship at the company. After graduating from the Digital Media program in 2005, he was promoted to Motion Graphics Designer and later Creative Director. Today, 14 years after starting his distinguished career at Create, he is President. We caught up with Jonathan to hear more about his inspiring story.
Tell us about your journey since graduating from FIDM: It’s been a long journey. I started there as a Designer and I rose up within the department and eventually was the head of the department as Creative Director. I’ve always been split down the middle between creative and business and saw there was an opportunity within the gaming world because at that point we were only doing films and a bit of TV. I took this one guy, my right hand at the time, and we started going after games work and built that department up. I was a creative and in graphics, but I was also really into selling and pitching and all that. Create's CEO has always been a mentor of mine and he’s brought me up in the business and molded me and we’re very similar with similar backgrounds. I continued to rise up within the company and take on more and more opportunities.
Since you've worked in various roles at Create you must have unique insight as President. I’m able to understand what it’s like to start at the bottom. I understand what it’s like to get coffee or rotoscope for hours. I look for the right kind of characteristics within people. I absolutely empathize with people’s situations and know how hard it is within this industry and how grateful I am to have gotten where I’m at.
What have been some of your favorite projects to work on over the years? The first one was a graphic teaser for a 2007 movie called Hitman that was exciting because we won a lot of awards. Also, Michael Jackson’s This is It. We were doing the trailer on the Sony lot and did all the marketing for that movie when it came out. Spider-Man 3 was a really big one for us and a really great moment because in trailers you’re always competing against other agencies and the client will ask for trailers from five different agencies at once. We also recently redid the FX logo as a polygonal abstract structure based on the original logo.
Why has it been important to you to return to FIDM for events like Career Connections? FIDM really gave me my start. For a person like me, it was a perfect amount of time to be back in school. I already had my bachelor’s and was eager to be in the industry. Originally, I wanted to major in Graphic Design and my Advisor talked to [Digital Media Chairperson] Gene LeBrock and he came into the office and convinced me to do Digital Media. I’m still in touch with Gene and [Digital Media Director] Paige [Adamczyk].
How has Covid-19 affected your company? Our company is able to function completely online. All of our editorial staff and designers and other service departments are working. Our offices are closed, but video games and series are still doing really well and are very strong. But since movie theaters are closed and release dates are being pushed, our movie business is probably down 50 percent and unfortunately we’ve had to contract because of that, which is a bummer, but we’re still doing okay. Everything is as good as it can be.
What advice would you share with current Digital Media students? Technical skills can be learned and as exciting it is to think that you’re a pro with those skills, the things that stand out to me are the ability to conceptualize and being able to put a creative argument together and support why it’s the best creative solution. Communication skills are a huge part of it and working with others is massive because in our industry it doesn’t matter how good you are because, typically, if you aren’t liked, people aren’t going to work with you. Everything we do is subjective, how we decide who's going to cut a trailer or do the titles; it’s all about who you connect with, so your ability to be a kind and thoughtful and humble person will get you very very far.
Learn more at createadvertising.com