Umbrella Pro is a Calgary-based multimedia powerhouse of creativity and inspiration. The duo consists of Alana Thorburn-Watt and Levente Kovacs, who met at Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) in the Media Arts and Digital Technology program. Seeing a need to venture out on their own, outside of the traditional expectations of an artist, and due the lack of any business education at art school, they started Umbrella Pro. They have applied the technical skills they developed at ACAD with a keen business acumen and entrepreneurial zeal that has put them at the forefront of creative multimedia offerings here in Calgary. Despite Alana only having just graduated, and Levente still in his last year their portfolio is already packed with successful and adventurous projects.
Local artists and makers alike can learn some valuable lessons in combining passion and creativity with entrepreneurship to turn something they are passionate about into a lifelong career.
C: Your body work is a wonderful amalgamation of multimedia, design, and fine art. I see a lot of progression in every collaboration that you’ve done. How do you both take advantage of your schooling/training, creativity, and collaborative opportunities to develop and refine your work?
A/L: Ever since Levente & I started working together a Umbrella Pro there was a dramatic increase in collaborative projects for both of us. We had been working as a duo on art projects at ACAD, but gradually we began working on commercial projects with larger groups of 10 or more people. The result: a huge, social learning experience. Working collaboratively means I get more feedback on my work, and get to expand my network, which means more and more freelance projects to learn from. So, I believe we take advantage of our education, creativity, and collaborative projects to refine our work by working very hard, hardly ever saying no to a job, and by maintaining relationships with our clients and friends.
C: In maker culture sharing and teaching is a huge part of giving back to the community – what types of projects do you think that you have done, or will be doing really embrace the concepts of open source and making?
A/L: Currently we are producing a second video for Operation Eyesight Universal (http://www.operationeyesight.com/), a charity organization that aims to eliminate avoidable blindness in developing countries. It is an important project to me because it is in support of education and social awareness, and makes me feel like I am making a positive difference in the world through my work.
Another project that comes to mind was a multi-media mural and short film I made with an Aboriginal youth group. The group was facilitated through Antyx (http://www.antyx.org/) and USAYhttp://www.usay.ca/). I got to teach a group of 6 teens aged 15-17 some photography, audio, video, drawing, remix, and graphic design. As much as I inspired them, I think I learned more from them than they did from me. I, in turn, learned about their histories, culture and some of the social issues these teens face in society today such as racism and structural violence. Here is our demo reel: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=4121438194924
Finally, we recently finished one of our most ambitious projects ever with the Alberta Association of Colleges and Technical Institutes! It was a very interesting project: we did the post production for over 100 video interviews with passionate individuals carrying out research in Alberta’s post-secondary institutions. It was interesting because it’s not everyday you would get to have a conversation with these fascinating instructors from around the province. It was inspiring to know that so much research and innovation is being carried out in our Alberta community. The project exists here on their website:http://www.aacti.ca/CAPtalks.php
C: So far you’ve taken on some pretty epic projects, being just out of school (Levente finishing his last year) what would you say is the most important factor driving your success at the very moment?
A/L: Good question, haha. It is hard to say because I think there are a couple things that have made Umbrella Pro a huge success… Firstly, Levente and I have extremely complimentary skill sets. We are both knowledgeable about the technical in video and photography (big thanks to my dad who has worked in television for 35 years and who has been an important mentor for us over the past few years, as well as the MADT instructors and techs at ACAD). We are both good at graphic design and motion graphics. Levente is extremely good with typography as well and I have a background in piano and musical composition so I often write custom soundtracks for our projects. We are successful because we can do all of these things together and provide an artistic product.
The second reason why I believe we are successful is social media. We get most of our jobs because of Facebook and linkedin. We are constantly updating our Facebook page with new photoshoots, videos, and press.
C: What do you like most about the emerging art scene in Calgary?
A/L: What I like most about the emerging art scene in Calgary is the diversity. It’s great to see people still having painting and drawing shows along with public projections and new media exhibitions. There is always so much to see, from bad-ass knit pieces in the Peanut Gallery to independent film screenings at Eau Claire Market. People in the Calgary art scene are friendly and interesting to talk to. As Umbrella Pro we want to continue to support local artists and musicians by documenting live events and making music videos!
To see some of our work please check out our website: http://www.umbrellapro.ca/
In developing countries, being visually impaired is not a disability, it’s a death sentence – especially for the very young and old.
by: Casey Hughes