Becoming Citizen North

Last October we talked with Matt Chick and Aaron Macrae of Rolling Van Creative about their adventurous creative agency, and how their work has brought them on travels around the world. We check back in with them, at this time of social distancing and quarantine, about their rebranded agency, Citizen North, and how their lives and work have changed and adapted to the current time we are living in (hint: coffee is still a big part of it). 



Last time we spoke, in October 2019, you were in the process of a rebrand and operating out of Montréal. Can you tell us more about where you currently are located, and how your rebranding work has evolved since?

Time flies! We’ve relocated to a town in the Laurentians about an hour north of Montréal, QC. We have great access to lakes, hiking trails, rock climbing, vibrant mountain towns, farmers markets and more. The location is extremely desirable for our lifestyle - we’re really finding ourselves the most creative far away from any Starbucks. The rebranding work has certainly evolved since we last spoke - we’ve recently launched our creative agency called Citizen North. We were really focused on separating our social handle from our freelance work. 



How has your work adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic? 

The way we live and work looks very different from when it did months ago. As with most people, the pandemic totally caught us off guard. Operating our business in the freelance world, there’s always been a certain level of risk. The pandemic only exacerbated this risk. Our upcoming projects were either put on hold or canceled. We quickly determined we had to pivot our approach towards what a typical workday looked like for us. Long story short, we adjusted our hustle and placed attention on areas we previously weren’t focused on. 



How do you work with clients, and create video and photo content, during a time of social distancing?

Similar to many 9-5 workers moving their work from office to home - we’ve had to get creative with our projects. We’ve moved away from our traditional projects and have been focusing on partnerships with brands. We’ve been bringing their products into our home and have either filmed them indoors or within our local neighbourhood. We've really had to create and produce projects within our small team of two and avoid anything that would put ourselves and others at risk. 



In the past, some of your film work has taken place in remote regions like far north Alaska, and the Yukon. Has this been a type of work, away from spaces most people venture to, that you’ve been able to continue during this time? 

As certain restrictions have been lifted, we’ve certainly seen interest in potential projects that may bring us to more remote areas. However, nothing as far north as the Yukon or Alaska. The projects are still hyperlocal and focused on encouraging Canadians to explore their own backyards. We were supposed to be in the Yukon come September, but this project has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. The Yukon Territory has strict travel restrictions for out-of-province/territory visitors.



How have your daily routines shifted to adapt to more time at home? How do you continue to collaborate with one another? 

Spending more time indoors has been challenging. Since we already work from home, opportunities to escape or engage in some downtime became few and far between during this pandemic. We’ve really had to sit down and discuss how we can make the most out of our days. We’ve added in more exercise for personal growth and have really been trying to expand our expertise. We've placed focus on leveling up our expertise by participating in more tutorials and workshops.



How has coffee remained an important part of your creative (and centering) at work, and at home, practices?  

Coffee is integral to our workdays. Or any day for that matter. Pre-pandemic, we would visit different coffee shops to experience a new environment. This would ultimately help engage our creative processes. Since the pandemic, these visits quickly disappeared.The Ratio Eight has certainly brought an element of having our favourite coffee shop within our own home. We’ve really taken more time in learning the best means for producing superior brew results. This process has allowed us to momentarily focus on something unrelated to our work. Once we finish a fresh batch and have that first sip - it helps kickstart our creative flow.



As professional adventure seekers, what is your best advice to those of us currently seeking adventure close to home? How can we find excitement in our own backyards when it is safe to do so? 

Typically, we've always felt that we either need to travel somewhere far, exotic, or unique to seek adventure. Our advice is to embrace the new norm and engage in travels you never thought would be of interest. It’s more important now than ever to support our local communities and take pride in what our beautiful country has to offer. It’s truly amazing what kind of itinerary you can create for discovering adventures close to home. On Instagram, we always look at nearby location tags, follow local creatives and/or tourism handles for inspiration. We've created location-specific collections filled with ideas, which ultimately are the building blocks to our next road trip.


Instagram: wearecitizennorth