Genius at a Breakneck Pace: Matias Alvarez and Mark Hofeling had to become bricks and mortar in order to work for bricks and mortar. Their space has a touch of whimsy with the vintage letter lights and lots of warehouse space to play and create.
In the world of creative production, there are a couple words nobody likes to hear: budget and deadline. These concepts sound too much like another word no one likes to hear: limitation. None of us likes being limited, yet limits seem to be part of everyday life. The real genius is to make something so breathtaking that people forget that there were ever limits involved at all.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting them already, here’s your chance to get to know two individuals who have displayed limitless creativity in the face of all kinds of challenges—and done it in style. With more than 50 cumulative years of film production and design between them, Matias Alvarez and Mark Hofeling of the Creative Services Bureau have seen just about everything. Their client list boasts names like Walt Disney, National Geographic, Warner Brothers, Showtime, and ABC. “Our specialty is creating a lot of beautiful and interesting stuff—fast,” says Matias.
They’ve been working together for more than two decades, and between film projects, they’ve recently began working with businesses small and large in mediums ranging from video to print to the wide world of the web—and everything in between. They specialize in delivering immersive, experiential solutions within budget under extremely tight deadlines, again, thanks to their background in the rapid-turnaround world of film. “We’re taking our skill set to the civilian world,” says Mark.
For example, Airbnb came to them about building a space for Sundance in 2014. However, rather than wanting a booth where the company could push something on visitors, Airbnb wanted a homey, comfortable place where people could escape the madness of the rest of the festival and unwind for a bit.
They were then put in touch with a local architecture firm, and together they renovated a small storefront into a beautiful space that felt like a down-to-earth Swedish cottage—start to finish in just 24 days. The setting proved to be a success, and Airbnb came back to them to work their magic again for 2015.
Mark and Matias form a dynamic duo of designer and producer. Mark’s specialty, honed through 60 lms in the course of only 25 years, is production design. He knows how to envision something beautiful and then manage a crew to make dreams into reality. Matias has won lm- making awards from the Director’s Guild of America three times thanks to his ability to orchestrate and manage all the moving pieces of a production—from creatives to laborers to office accountants.
Because of their background and skill, they are invited to create and produce short-term, one-off projects with a defined lifetime, projects like The Living Room—the Utah Film Commission’s activation space on Main Street in Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Festival. These projects come naturally for the duo because of their history with film production and having perfected the art and science of creating the interior of illusion. And while in-store design isn’t a set on a soundstage, Mark and Matias know how to design a space to create an immersive experience—and how that feeling needs to evolve over time.
Recently, they’ve been exploring a new outlet for their creative immersion through museum sets and other, more permanent pieces. For example, The Leonardo, a local museum, hosted nearly 30 different exhibits in just three years and was ready for more permanence. Needing a quick turn and a spectacular result, they approached Mark and Matias about building an exhibition space that would stand for ve years and then travel. In providing guidance to the duo, the museum visioned them with the concept, “Flight”—and that was it. With one word, a tight deadline, and a small budget, Mark and Matias were turned loose to create something beautiful, transformative, and lasting—something that the museum could later send around the country as a traveling exhibit.
Building such a space is a new challenge that pulls on their combined skills and keeps the duo sharp. They have the challenge of designing a space that incorporates the museum’s content while also providing both a physical and a metaphysical experience to patrons. But the real challenges come from the real-world aspects of the project.
With a film set, there’s no real concern that 200 first-graders might come in and jump around for an hour; the set will be torn down again in a matter of days or weeks anyway. With a museum space, that’s a very real concern, so it’s an additional realm building to code with all the safety and fire-suppression concerns that come into play. Layer upon layer of red tape is a new challenge, but it’s one that they conquer daily. Never afraid of new challenges, they look at each other, shrug their shoulders, laugh and say something clever and sarcastic—wit and humor being the glue that keeps the two aligned and moving forward.
Atlas Architects engaged them in a one-of-a-kind project. Atlas’ new office space will have a restaurant and bar as well as be a bricks and mortar, living and breathing monument to Utah’s unique history of labor—particularly the hand-crafted work. For Mark and Matias, this has become an opportunity to reach back through the timeline and depict it experientially through stunning visuals.
Who knows what else will arrive through the doors of this versatile bureau, but we’re going to keep an eye out. Could be a full-scale feature film or a temporary space to conduct a focus group.
The two joke about how they would run the business into the ground without each other, but together they form an ironclad whole. Their skill sets complement one another very well, making them a lifelong team that can solve nearly any creative problem.
To sum up their work in a single word, you could simply say, “Genius.”
By Jonathan Richards