Spending their days messing around with technology and building wacky inventions, the guys at Finch have come up with some of the most innovative stuff to hit the market, as Lucy Clark discovers
Finch epitomises tech geekiness. Arriving at the production company’s quirky Paddington offices, you’re greeted by a life-size Lego clown and a robotic arm that writes. There’s a lab where tech inventions are built and tested, and there are dozens of pairs of plastic glasses lying around.
Geeky, is might be. Cool, it most certainly is.
“Everyone is here to have fun,” says founder and executive producer Rob Galluzzo. “We like to make dumb shit. People can get too serious.”
In Finch’s two-and-a-half-year history, it has grown to two offices (Sydney and Auckland), 12 full time staff, and has some mind-boggling technology inventions to its name.
Built on a principle of Storytelling, Entertainment and Technology, the company is behind ground-breaking work such as 37 Degrees dual-vision glasses, The Most Powerful Arm Ever Invented, the Lynx Anarchy house, Snake the Planet and The Great Crusade for Qantas.
“I am fascinated by good creativity and how it can move people,” explains Galluzzo (left). “It’s not just about technology for technology’s sake – it’s about learning more about human behaviour.”
Finch has no clients, and therefore no retainers. Its work comes direct from ad agencies.
“It can get scary,” says Galluzzo. “But, because we don’t have retainers, we own the ideas. The real power of Finch is that we are proactive. We go ahead and make things, then share them.”
The brains behind many of Finch’s inspired ideas belong to Emad Tahtouh, director of applied technology – and former professional poker player. Two years after leaving his poker face behind, Tahtouh was on the judging panel for the innovation category at Cannes 2013.
One of his most successful brainchilds is 37 Degrees. The technology has been licensed globally to Mars, and deals have been signed with cinema advertising companies in the US, UK and Japan.
37 Degrees was first used in cinemas by Pedigree Adoption Drive. By adapting 3D technology, two films about an abandoned dog were shown at the same time – people in yellow glasses (who donated to the charity on the way in) saw the dog recued, while for those in red glasses he was never found.
Finch is now working with Will Speck and Josh Gordon, from US production company Furlined, on a romantic comedy piece of branded content for Valentine’s Day 2014. Male and female cinemagoers will see different films at the same time.
But it’s The Most Powerful Arm that Galluzzo and Tahtouh are most proud of.
Tahtouh built the robotic arm to write in the handwriting of Sydney teenager Jacob Lancaster (above, pictured with the arm), who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The arm signed the names of more than 32,000 people who logged on to join a petition asking the government to match the $1.75m raised by Save Our Sons for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
“Apart from everything else it’s given Jacob a new lease of life – he feels validated,” says Galluzzo, who left Radical Media to set up Finch.
So how does Finch come up with such innovative ideas? “Surprisingly, it’s not challenging coming up with ideas,” comments Galluzzo. “We are coming up with too much – it’s a case of filtering them.”
Being nimble is key to Finch’s success. “Rob’s mandate is that we are nimble, which means we can navigate through the changing environment,” explains executive producer Karen Bryson.
A culture of encouragement helps.
“There are zero politics here,” adds Galluzzo. “If I was ever to say I’ve had any success, it would be the culture and the people who have chosen to come on this journey with me. Everything else is a by-product of good people.”
The plan for Finch is simple: to continue developing “shit” and storytelling. The company is working on some top-secret TV documentary formats, and is experimenting with biometrics, looking at how the body behaves in different situations.
Galluzzo says: “The future will see us partnering with agencies earlier, making our work more relevant. It’s expensive making these things, but I believe in progression and proactivity. And these things separate us from the competition.”
Tahtouh’s predictions sound a bit more futuristic: “Robotics is huge and is going to get bigger. They are getting cheaper and easier to build – especially 3D printing and laser cutting.”
He also cites gaming – in particular a game called Minecraft, a bit like computerised Lego – as big in future. “The architects of the future are going to be the kids who are playing Minecraft now,’ he predicts. “It’s exciting and scary to contemplate what they might think of in the next 10 years.”
Galluzzo will be speaking at MAD Week’s Innovation Afternoon on July 15.