10 years later: iam8bit co-founders on success, growing-up, and starting a revolution

Founded all the way back in 2005, which we’re struggling to believe was actually 10 years ago, iam8bit is an LA-based production company helmed by entrepreneurial duo, Jon M. Gibson...
Street-Fighter-art-show-Iam8bit
Street-Fighter-art-show-Iam8bit

Founded all the way back in 2005, which we’re struggling to believe was actually 10 years ago, iam8bit is an LA-based production company helmed by entrepreneurial duo, Jon M. Gibson and Amanda White.

By combining a love of video games, original art, and the gallery scene, the duo have inspired a generation to start a revolution, building an open, inclusive platform where budding artists can create and share work on a regular basis.

As if that wasn’t enough, the team have also collaborated with some of the biggest names in the world: helping HBO ramp up the hype for True Detective season 1, producing content for the Drake VS Lil Wayne concert tour, firing satellites into space, and, of particular interest to us, releasing exquisite collectors edition soundtracks for games including Journey, Hohokum, and Hotline Miami.

Impressed by just how much the company has achieved in a decade, we caught up with co-owners Jon and Amanda to find out a little bit more about the journey so far.

Side One: What inspired you to found iam8bit? How this all start?

​Jon: The story is about the collision of a lot of worlds.

I’d been a tech journalist for many years, writing for mags like Wired and Electronic Gaming Monthly, so games were in my blood – both personally and professionally. But one of my other passions was animation, so I transitioned into writing scripts for cartoons on Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Along the way, I met a lot of talented artists – all who were invisible to the public. These are artists that draw and paint hundreds of things daily, yet had no outlet for their personal work. So, I got to thinking – what if those artists made art in tribute of retro games?

Until iam8bit, themed group art shows didn’t really exist. Galleries were mostly for the rich, while young people had no place to shop for art that was meaningful and affordable to them. There were a lot of young artists in the emerging scene, but the only place that existed that put them all together was a one-night-only event called Cannibal Flower. It was basically an art party – people getting drunk and buying original art for insanely low prices, sometimes $20.

So video games, eager artists, and the gallery scene all combined to create iam8bit. It worked because it was authentic, but since then hundreds of shows have followed in the footsteps of the original iam8bit, which, honestly, is pretty rad. We inspired a movement and that’s neat.

iam8bit has since evolved into a full-on creative production company. I credit that evolution to meeting Amanda along the way.

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What sort of challenges did you face getting where you are today? Did you ever come close to throwing in the towel?

Amanda: ​In the early days, things were pretty loose in terms of organisation. We did really cool projects for clients and we had a ton of fun, but we weren’t as reliable as we probably should’ve been.

It took a year or two, but after missing some key deadlines and facing the threat of losing a big client, we really battened down and got our sh​i​t together. We got organised on every level, from internal company structure to legal matters to external communication. This is probably the biggest change that washed over the company and turned us into the fully functional and professional entity that you see today.

​Jon: Amanda understates. I was a reckless idiot and she straightened my shit out.​ But luckily, people stuck with us as the company matured.

Amanda: Well, lets just say that Jon and I are great partners because our skill sets are super complimentary. Neither of us would be where we are without the other person pushing us forward.

“I was a reckless idiot and she straightened my shit out.​ But luckily, people stuck with us as the company matured.”

Did you ever come close to throwing in the towel?

​Amanda: ​People are drawn to working with iam8bit for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes those are good reasons – creative synergy, inspiration and so forth. Sometimes the reasons aren’t as good. Jon and I have been through some challenging experiences with former partners, with some clients, with some artists. It​’​s a part of the job that we do in collaborating with all kinds of people, to navigate the psychology in each of those pairings.

Usually, we love it, but ​occasionally it​’​s less fun. That being said, we’ve never wanted to give all of this up. Challenges just make us work harder. They make us refine our approach to collaboration, and they make us look deeper ​within​ ourselves and figure out how we can personally improve.

What’s been the most memorable moment of your adventure so far?

​Amanda: ​For me, it was when ​a​ satellite that we created art for got launched into space.​ ​That felt pretty amazing.

Jon: For me, it was meeting Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I actually haven’t met him, but now maybe it’ll happen. Joe, seriously – let’s grab a churro together!

I think it’d be fair to say that yours is a success story, but what does that success mean to you?

Amanda​: ​Success means a lot of things to us – happy collaborations, enraptured audiences, a full gallery, an expanding business, going to work everyday with a smile on our faces.

True Detective Mailer

What’s been a favourite project of yours? Assuming you’re allowed to pick favourites, that is.

​Jon: ​Oh man – producing content for the Drake VS Lil Wayne concert tour last summer was pretty insane. We got to create animation, shoot a live-action short, design a bunch of background visuals and coolest of all, develop an app that allowed the audience to interact with the show. We worked with a lot of great people on that tour… and Drake gave us a ton of freedom to be inspired and just create. It’s a great feeling when an artist of that caliber simply trusts you. Amanda still won’t let me have an entourage, though.

​Amanda: ​I loved the True Detective mailers that we created for HBO for the first season of the show.​ ​HBO is an awesome collaborator and just like Drake VS Lil Wayne, we were trusted to create high impact, handcrafted, personal​ ​and​ ​unique​ ​pieces on par with the artistic brilliance of the show.

You’re 10 years old and going from strength to strength, where do you hope to be in another decade?

Amanda​: ​Overseeing an ever​-​expanding iam8bit from the comfort of our mountaintop compound.

Finally, looking towards your immediate future, what are you working on at the moment? Anything you can tell us about?

Jon​: ​Aside from lots of cool licensed merch releases coming up – all of which are pretty secret at the moment – we’ve actually developing a lot of our own IP for film, TV and streaming. We have a live-action project and a couple animation projects in the cue. Can’t say what they are, but we’re pretty damn excited about ’em.


Thanks to Jon and Amanda for their time. You can find out more about their work by visiting the official iam8bit site and following the team on Twitter.

[image credit: collider]