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The Influence

Mirada is no shoestring operation; it's a 25,000-square-foot studio (and former bottling compound) in Marina Del Rey. Operated by Guillermo del Toro, Mathew Cullen, Guillermo Navarro and Javier Jimenez, the independently financed studio employs about 150 animators, designers, digital artists, writers and filmmakers. Mirada has the capacity for many things -- production, special effects, creature development -- but more than anything else, it's intended to be a laboratory for the future of transmedia filmmaking.

"Our focus is the convergence of design, storytelling, and technology," said Cullen. "We tried to bring in a lot of smart, conceptual thinkers who can push the technology in 16 different ways. We attract people who are a mashup of different influences. They're perpetual disruptors. It's just a way of thinking that's very different from the way I grew up and I'm the youngest [of the four principals] at 37."

Independent Mirada projects general fall between budgets of a half million to as high as $10 million. Some of Mirada is devoted to work-for-hire for clients like Google, but the company's true love lies in discovering the intersection of storytelling and technology. "The iterative nature of using the stories we love is very similar to the way we develop software. Characters can be tagged with all kinds of data. The stories that we tell have the ability to be more connected to people -- you can go as deeply as you want into things, be able to learn and teach each other creativity."

Like Del Toro, all of the Mirada heads are creatives in their own rights; Navarro is Del Toro's longtime cinematographer, Jimenez is a producer and Cullen is preparing to direct the feature adaptation of Martin Amis' "London Fields." "We're all outsiders," he said, "which gives us sort of a passion that I think is essential to the way we grow our business."

Biggest Success

Right now, it's all about Del Toro's "Pacific Rim," which will be released July 12. "Guillermo let me direct the prequel/prologue -- a two-minute sequence that tells what happens with all sorts of creatures and robots and explosions," said Cullen. "Kind of grounds the film."

Biggest Disappointment

"Everybody's so cautious," said Cullen. "There's a culture of uncertainty and fear. It's had a real effect on some of the most interesting things I'd like to see come to life. We're seeing the entertainment business seep out of Los Angeles and skill sets are being lost. It puts a lot more pressure on our society's value of the arts."

Biggest Challenge

"With an independent company, you're balancing between ingenuity and a thriving studio," Cullen said. "You hope to be ahead of the curve, but you don't want to be so far ahead that you can't build a healthy business. We don't want to be just work for hire; we're generating creative and technology IP."

What's Next

A transmedia adaptation of Cornelia Funke's best-selling "Dragonrider." Said Cullen, "We're doing some pretty interesting things with it. But for us, it's a slow burn."