As 2018 begins to ramp up, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year and the businesses and brands that we helped to shape in 2017. We want to thank you and all of the amazing companies we’ve partnered with for an outstanding year of collaboration! This year we’ve completed a total of 34 productions.
Our productions have taken us on some adventures, as we worked alongside top NYC agencies and brands like Schick and SYFY Channel during San Diego’s “Comic Con.”
We also explored the motivational products of life style guru Tony Robbins, by producing a short film. We blended spokesperson videos with narrative, short scenes to bring the ideas to life. We’ve captured leadership conferences for high level organizations like Marsh McLennon & Companies, and done top secret, internal projects for companies like Hewlett Packard.
As always, we pride ourselves on our continuous partnerships with amazing brands. We were proud to launch several new products and create a series of Amazon videos and social media films for the entire product line of one of our most creative partners, R+Co, who happen to be one of the fastest growing beauty brands in the industry!
And finally, this year we wanted to mention a special collaboration we did with Victorinox Swiss Army and the Wounded Warrior Project. Check out some of the content we created and reach out to us for all of your most important filmmaking and videography work! January is going by in a flash, and we’ll be in the middle of Spring before we know! So take a moment and enjoy the projects that made 2017 so special.
— Stephen Alberts, Co-Founder/Creative Director
The San Diego film and video production community is a small, but tight-knit group, made up of many talented individuals, but when it comes to professional productions, our city is often over-looked. There is a deep pool of production veterans and talented up-and-comers producing quality work, often on-par with what is being produced with our larger northern neighbor: Los Angeles. As a co-owner of a San Diego-based filmmaking agency, I often ask myself, why aren’t more productions taking place in our beautiful city? It’s a question that frequently surfaces amongst my local production peers whenever we’re working on sets. Nearly everyone within this community, my company included, supplements our income and project load with out of town, and even out of state work. Why, with our amazingly consistent sunny weather, stunning locations, and a talented roster of crew members, why can’t San Diego attract the high-caliber projects that typically end up in Los Angeles, New York, or Atlanta?
I’m a transplant from Northern California, and don’t claim to be an expert on the history of San Diego’s involvement in the film/video production industry. But I do know someone who has been here long enough to have ridden the good times and the bad. Martin Banks was once the owner of Video-Gear, a local production equipment rental/retail house. I should also mention that for many of us, it was the rental/retail house in San Diego county for years.
Martin has since shuttered the doors on Video-Gear and moved on to his next chapter; this interview was conducted just weeks before he announced its closing. The thoughts and insights he shared with me still ring true, and in some ways, since Video-Gear’s closing, the conversation hits even closer to home now. Hopefully, the dialogue between Martin and I inspires some conversations of your own, with your production peers, and your local elected representatives. As Martin says towards the end of our interview, there is much work to do…
Carlos Foster – What’s interesting to me is that San Diego’s like the sixth or seventh largest city in the United States —and we’re in such close proximity to Los Angeles— but there are so few large productions taking place here. I’m really curious to know why do you think that is.
Martin Banks – I think there are a lot of reasons why we have so few of those really large productions – like a TV series or even production work from Mexico—that we used to get and we don’t see anymore. San Diego, from my point of view, is at an inflection point where we had been… it’s almost a cliché… it was a tag line… “Hollywood’s backlot.” And we were that. We were accessible, close by and easy to work with. A great local crew base. We had all that and the city, frankly, just got into some trouble politically and we had a great administrator, Jerry Sanders… I don’t want to get off into much of politics, but in my opinion, he was a great administrator and we have a city council that has worked diligently over the past how ever many years to get us on track as a good, physically sound, responsible city. That’s taken the attention away from a lot of the smaller industries and businesses in San Diego. We’re still well known for our biotech and high tech industries and those have been self sustaining because they had that mass. But film production in particular when you’re talking about large TV projects, large shows, series, larger TV commercials, those sorts of things… That’s not an industry that has any type of mass in San Diego that could be self-sustaining. If you’re in a city like Los Angeles or New York, there’s enough mass there that they can continue on without a tremendous amount of support from the city.
I said that we’re at an inflection point and I believe that to be true because I see new leadership from our city government. They are much more responsive to the smaller segments of the San Diego economy. It’s easy to be biotech up on Torrey Pines and have the big research projects and all that. And that’s glamorous in it’s own way, and it’s easy to forget about our industry- film and television here. Because while we are glamorous, it’s not self-sustaining and we need the help from the city.
CF – When I talk to other filmmakers or people in San Diego production, they all really wish that this city could be something like Los Angeles, and retain the quality of life we have down here, but I think everyone is kinda resigned to the idea that it will never get to that point. Do you think it is possible to push for that status? Or will San Diego always be different?
MB – Well, if we have the right political leadership, and the political will to push for it, we could do that. We don’t have the corporate industry here to have private enterprise take that lead. It has to come from the city. If it doesn’t… then it’s not going to happen. We’ve kind of shot ourselves in the foot unintentionally because (pause) wow, did we have some talented people. We still do. But when I’m talking about talented people I was thinking more of crew members. People that work crew positions. Very specialized jobs. Those jobs went to Atlanta… and Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Vancouver. When those jobs went there, those people followed. They really had no choice. It was either leave the industry and do something else or go where the jobs are. And so many of those people chose to go where the jobs are.
Fortunately, we still have a lot of really creative people here. We have an abundance of creativity that, from my point of view, is really untapped and that’s what I think is really simmering beneath the surface. So, while we may not attract those big jobs from outside of San Diego as much as we have in the past, there is an opportunity to begin creating those jobs here locally — if we have the political will to build up an identity within the city for more than [just having] amazing micro-breweries, wonderful beaches and high tech and biotech.
CF – Because of your unique position as [an equipment] supplier in the city, you’ve come in contact with just about everybody who’s involved in any level of production. So, do you privately shed a tear for anyone who says, “Well, Martin, I’m moving to LA, so I may not see you so much.”?
MB – (chuckles)
CF – You know that guy or girl that makes you say, “No! You had so much potential to bring something great here!”
MB – I’ve made those moves myself, for other reasons. So I totally and completely understand that. There’s one person who comes to mind that moved about two years ago and now he’s back because he wants to work on his own projects. I know someone else who was just immensely talented and it was just… no other choice but to move to LA… and he’s still in and around San Diego but really doesn’t work here because the opportunity just isn’t as abundant as it is in LA.
CF – We see that a lot with many of the people that we crew out ourselves… they’ll spend about half — or maybe less than that – of their time working on productions in San Diego, but they all have a friend or family member in LA who they crash on their couch and do a production there… And sometimes I think that almost creates a stigma for the hometown – San Diego – because I’ve had clients who when they come to us, it’s almost like they found water in a desert and are like, “Oh my god, I found a production company in San Diego that can do this job!” And it’s almost like a surprise to them. How do you think we can start getting away from the perception that we are just the backlot of LA or the “second-rate” LA? Because we’ve even had clients who say, “No, don’t cast in San Diego. The top talent is in LA.” But we’ve found equally talented people here.
MB – You and I both know that those [talented] people are here both in front of the camera and behind the camera… Those folks are here but they are hard to draw out.(sigh) Your question is such a good one. There is no easy answer. It’s gonna take a lot of hard work and dedication by the people who live and work here, and the people who have the opportunity to promote San Diego as a destination spot. I totally understand your analogy to the desert. We get that a lot as a supplier. It’s a frustrating situation. And the only solution I know of is gonna be years of dedication and hard work. Not only by the people in our community but by the people in leadership. We need to find a champion who can get out front and drive this thing.
CF – How aware is our filmmaking community that the real key to turning this engine on lies with our civic leaders? I hear a lot of people saying it’s gotta be a grassroots movement – and that may be partially true – but I don’t often hear other filmmakers say that we need a film commissioner or a mayor who really supports the [production community]… or are aware that there is this untapped source of revenue here and jobs. Is it a combination of both? Production companies just pushing harder to bring jobs here? Or is it split evenly between the city and [filmmakers]?
MB – I think you’re right. I think it’s a combination of both. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of the local talent we’ve got have just sort of resigned themselves – as you said – [to thinking] it is what it is and there’s nothing I can do about it. So they stop showing up and they stop caring and they stop being involved, and they frankly just kind of give up on San Diego. And in a lot of ways I can’t blame them because it is a challenge here in San Diego.
Let me put it this way and go from a different direction… With all the other cities, states, regions, countries promoting themselves as production destinations… If our city, our region, is not showing up to promote ourselves as a production destination, we won’t even be thought of. It’s not even a consideration. We’ve got a whole list of folks who are going to show up and work hard to get that business and bring it to their region and if we don’t show up as a region, or as a city, then we aren’t even gonna be thought of.
CF – And we know it can be done – because if a city like Atlanta can – and we have the superior weather, proximity to… I won’t say “superior” talent but probably a deeper roster.
MB – A deeper roster definitely. It wasn’t long ago that you could show up in Atlanta and be proficient in a crew position and go to work the day you landed. That was really the word on the street. If you need a job, go to Atlanta. And we’ve got that in spades right up in LA. There are plenty of people who are working up there who, if they could find the same quality of work down here, they would be in San Diego. So it’s not a lack of talent. It’s a matter of a perceived lack of talent.
CF – What do you think production companies in San Diego are doing “right”? Have you seen progress – or maybe you’ve seen a lack of progress? But we know that the industry in San Diego is changing and there has been a movement towards the boutiques over big studios [like the one] out in Mira Mesa…
MB – Stu Siegel productions?
CF – Right. Those aren’t popping up anymore. Rather, it’s smaller places a lot like our own [Blue Barn Creative]. People are buying good equipment. Generating good ideas. Do you think that might be the direction we are heading in film production – specifically in San Diego?
MB – We’re actually talking about a different segment of the industry now. We moved from talking about episodic production, feature film, TV commercials – those sorts of productions, now into a more (like you said) boutique production houses or production companies. And I think you’re right – we do have quite a few of those and quite a few really good ones. It’s surprising to hear clients say, “My! We found so many good ones in San Diego. They can do amazing high end production.” And I know you’re one of those guys, and there are others. And all of you as a group do really first-class, amazing work. It’s wonderful to see. The change that I’ve noticed over the last number of years, in the boutique production companies, is so many of them have moved from being just a production company to a digital marketing company. Dare I say “agency”.
So – while they still do production for hire – and that could be a lot of their work – they’re branding themselves now more as a total solution either through partnerships with other companies or just building in house – the ability to provide a total solution for a client. And I’m gonna go off on this just a little bit…
CF – Please!
MB – What we have now in San Diego is a really unique opportunity because while we don’t have those big corporations… we still have Qualcomm – which does a ton of video production. It’s amazing how much they do. We have Illumina – which is the company to watch here in San Diego. They will be the next Qualcomm, in my opinion. Other than that, what we have are just scads of small and medium-sized corporations. They are just everywhere. And what these small and medium-sized corporations need is an understanding of the ability of video production to brand and promote their business better than anything else. It’s an open field of opportunity to develop that business and to take these corporations to their next level and bring them up. And I see it as a real opportunity that is being overlooked because it’s not glamorous; working for some company that has 200-300 employees, and nobody knows their name. And so what? They need you! They need your videos and your marketing! They need your help!
As more and more companies begin to understand our [industry] better and what it takes to really produce motion pictures that are of a high quality and are consistent with the brand that they have, and have already established – the tide will begin to turn. Video production is not going away and is gonna become ever more relevant to the branding of businesses worldwide but specifically these small and medium companies who need attention here in San Diego.
CF – What can these [boutique production companies] do to get themselves out in front of potential clients, to create a presence just so that they know that there are local production companies who produce high quality imagery and get the results they need? That they don’t need to go to LA or hire an agency to then bring in a production company who was probably just right around the corner from them anyway?
MB – One of the frustrating things I know for a lot of production companies here in town have been their relationships with the agencies. These are agencies that do the creative work, and the planning, and the media buys, and all that sort of thing. The traditional agency/production company relationship doesn’t seem to be strong here. I spent twelve years in New York City where I worked in an agency and we had immensely strong ties to our production companies that we would hire for different projects. And that sort of loyalty doesn’t seem to exist here and I don’t know why.
I hear time and time again stories about these production companies in meetings with the agency, and the client, and the agency says, “Ya! I know somebody that can do that in LA.” And the production company says, “Uhhh. We can do that here in San Diego.” And the agency says, “Oh yeah – but these people up in LA are amazing.” So why did you call us to this meeting? And that’s just one anecdote but I’ve heard this time and time again from boutique production companies here in town. So a little more loyalty from our own local agencies – and I don’t want to put all the onus on them, but come on guys! Have our back a little bit!
CF – Yeah, it definitely goes back to what we talked about earlier, where it’s this misperception that the best talent is not here. It’s somewhere else.
MB – Sure. And I believe that’s also driving this transition from production company to total digital media solutions company. Where it’s like, if we can’t work with the agencies, and they’re not gonna back us up, then we’re just gonna go after their work.
CF – Absolutely. I want to bring it back to the way that San Diego is changing and talk a little bit more about the city because that seems to be a big part of this conversation. What are tangible things that you think production professionals in San Diego could do to start moving towards a more positive or stronger production industry?
MB — I see a little bit of a genesis of a creative community developing here. Unfortunately, I’m not in other cities to see how that’s transpiring around the states or if it’s just us, or if this is a nationwide cultural shift. But new programs like UCSD’s new design lab that is not just cloistered on the UCSD campus; they are active in things all over San Diego. We have a creative mornings chapter here in San Diego that is now a year old. Hundred and hundreds of people show up to their meetings. I just so enjoy these events and they’re [full of] really creative people who are so on top of their game, and they’re engaged and they’re thriving. I don’t see the production people at these events. And if we are going to brand San Diego as a creative community because clients want something that is not a four-door sedan, they want a sports car or an SUV – they want something unique and different in their video and their branding – then our video and production community needs to create that awareness from within and become more involved in this creative renaissance, if that’s the right word.
But this genesis of a creative community here in San Diego? It’s happening. And hopefully production won’t get left behind. But that’s up to us to be involved and help drive this, and see it move forward. We still have a lot of work to do.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list was just recently announced, and taking the top spot for the first time was none other than New York’s Eleven Madison Park. It was only a couple years ago that our team was commissioned by Victorinox Swiss Army (VSA) to travel to New York and interview the genius behind the amazing dishes, chef-owner Daniel Humm. You see, Daniel uses Victorinox knives exclusively to create his sublime dining experiences, and the VSA team wanted to feature him as part of their brand ambassador campaign.
The video footage we captured would eventually become part of the branding film “I Choose Victorinox”, which featured three other equally talented brand ambassadors. Touring the kitchen of Eleven Madison Park was a real privilege, and the project became the kick-off to our partnership with VSA. It’s no surprise to us that a place as passionate as Eleven Madison Park would earn the acclaim that now seemingly cascades into “best of” lists around the world. Daniel’s dedication to his craft was apparent in every shot. And he makes a mighty fine roasted duck too.
Hope you enjoy watching the video again as much as we do. Congrats Daniel and everyone at Eleven Madison Park!
Link to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants: http://www.theworlds50best.com/The-List-2017/1-10/Eleven-Madison-Park.html
About a year ago our team was invited to film in the famous AVALON Hollywood theater. Once the stage for icons such as the Beatles, Judy Garland, The Jackson 5, and more contemporary acts such as Nirvana and Calvin Harris; the theater has undergone many name changes and many reinventions over its decades long history. On this day, the AVALON would be another stop on the multi-city tour for the R+Co brand.
R+Co is a hair product company that prides itself on reinvention, individuality, and creativity. In short, they are a group of highly talented people that do things their own way, rules be damned! Our team has been fortunate to work with this group of mavericks since the company officially launched the brand with our “Prospect Film”. Since then we’ve gone on to film all of their product knowledge films, social media videos, and behind the scenes documentaries. This particular film would capture the swirling energy of putting on a live show and, for the first time, showcase all three R+Co founders in the same setting, with their distinct personalities.
To best capture the action without missing a moment, we decided to dedicate a camera operator to each of the three R+Co founders: Howard McLaren, Thom Priano, and Garren. From setup to the official wrap of the live stage show, our cameras followed the action. We made the conscious decision to adapt a “fly on the wall” approach to the film. There would be interviews interspersed to give context, and a chance for viewers to hear from the founders themselves, but a healthy portion of the film would be simply watching how an event like this is put together and what unfolds behind the scenes.
The edit was a massive undertaking of weaving essentially three stories together, and finding the common themes between our main players. Luckily, Howard, Thom, and Garren are all such pros, and united in their vision for the R+Co brand, so finding commonalities wasn’t so daunting. And of course, their differences of opinion and approach to their craft were interesting moments to showcase as well.
The final result is a short documentary that follows three exceptional hairdressers, at the top of their game, launching a brand and connecting with their audience: salon owners and hairdressers. It is especially inspiring for up and coming stylists to see a brand that celebrates the “new”, and invites them to become part of “the collective”. While we may not be able to pull off a bowl cut to save our life, we left the show feeling just as energized in our own creative pursuits and, after watching the film, hopefully you do too!
Collectively, Steve, Vic and I have all had our share of production adventures both great and small, but we have always carried a soft spot projects that involved our other passion: music. We make no attempt to hide our obsession (there’s a guitar or bass in every room of our office), and our hallway is frequently filled with the plucked notes of our instruments as a long day winds down. So, when our good friends (and frequent collaborators) from the band The Black Market Trust came to us with another project, we immediately said YES, no questions asked.
Over the course of a year, The Black Market Trust graduated from playing local gigs at clubs and restaurants to touring the US, and now booking shows at performing art centers. We designed an Electronic Press Kit (a branding film for musicians) to show off what they can do, and give potential bookers a little background info on the band. I won’t go into too much more detail, because you can read about the outcome of that project here, but suffice to say, it was a success for both parties, and helped to launch the band’s evolution
With their newfound credibility, and enhanced status, the band wanted to go “bigger” for their next video. The sound of The Black Market Trust is rooted in swing and big band crooners (among many other influences), so there was only one choice, the legendary Capitol Studios. I don’t even want to know what had to be done to get an act who is not Katy Perry or Brian Wilson a slot in Capitol’s calendar, but the boys did what they had to do, and soon we would be driving through the hallowed gates
of one of Los Angeles’, and the music industry’s, most iconic buildings.
Before the production date, our team dedicated ourselves to memorizing the songs the band wanted to showcase. We were going for a less staged, or “locked off”, visual style, and the only way to get the type of organic camera movements we needed was to be able to “feel” the music ourselves. So the team and I spent hours listening to the music, which wasn’t a big ask, as we love the tracks, and began to visualize where the camera needed to be, or big moments we wanted to showcase. This helped to inform how we would tackle a tight one day shoot schedule as efficiently as possible, while still allowing the band to stay loose and improvise.
There have been a few times in my career where a location has stopped me in my tracks, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Machu Picchu, and now Capitol Records: Studio A. Walking into the same studio where Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole once sang demanded a moment of reflection. Our team walked the floor with the type of curiosity and reverence usually reserved for a historic monument; in many ways it is.
We knew the look of our film had to match the reputation of the studio itself, so we brought our RED Scarlet Dragon and Canon 1DC cameras for the job (the same camera systems we use for our national commercial projects). Both are 4K capable, and both have truly stellar treatments of light and color. Our trusty Kino Flo Celeb 200s, and 201 illuminated the players, and the studio itself provided the best backdrop possible. The Capitol staff staged some of their oldest microphones on the floor to capture the throwback vibe. So when you see frontman Jeffrey Radaich singing through his mic, it’s actually Sinatra’s old U48 microphone.
That sense of history was something no manufactured set or props could have provided, and it definitely influenced the group’s performance, pushing them to their absolute best with every take. For our little crew of musician/filmmakers, we were filming on sacred ground. We couldn’t help but imagine the countless stories that had taken place in this same room, and we were grateful to add our own to the list.
We recently had the opportunity to create a promo for CBS and Victorinox Swiss Army for their Huntsmen Boy Scout Swiss Army Knife. Our goal was to make a hybrid promo that featured the new reboot of MacGyver on CBS, and end it with a promotion for the Swiss Army Knife. Everyone knows that MacGyver is a lifelong Boy Scout and his trusty knife is always there to help him get out of trouble, so what better way to remind people that a Swiss Army Knife is an essential piece of kit? The edit had to be short enough to share on social media and Youtube, so we had to make it visually engaging and fun to watch.
Our collaboration began with the CBS team, as they provided the skeleton of the promo for MacGyver. We then took it, refined the edit, and recreated the MacGyver title in Cinema 4D and After Effects. We added sound design and some extra touches to bring it all together. The second half of the promo we created from scratch by doing some smooth macro shots of the knife in 5K with the RED Scarlet Dragon. We were able to get some incredible detail with the Zeiss Milvus 50mm Makro and put some extra reframing of the compositions in post production. The Kino Celebs provided us with some really nice soft lighting and a variable speed cake spinner allow us some great rotating product shots. The graphics were derived from Adobe Illustrator files and redesigned in After Effects.
Overall, we really like the idea that MacGyver relies on his Swiss Army Knife to come up with some wild escape plans, and that some of that ingenuity might inspire the audience. “Always Be Prepared” is the tag line, and a good Swiss Army Knife allows you to do just that.
Don’t you wish all of your conversations took place entirely in song? Well, the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus does! The chorus contacted our team with a fun approach to a serious topic: HIV testing. The chorus had partnered with the makers of OraQuick, the first in-home HIV test you can buy over the counter. Both the brand and the chorus knew they wanted something that was light and engaging, something that would break the ice for a topic that is not talked about openly enough within the gay community. We were thrilled to bring our video production talents to the chorus who, now in their 31st year, are kinda local celebrities.
The production would be a musical of course, with the chorus providing the singing, and their signature wit, and us capturing the story. It all takes place during a holiday party, where one man’s curiosity inspires a fun singalong style melody, all to describe and raise awareness of OraQuick (just in time for the holidays). We brought out the RED camera for this one, to better capture the cinematic “holiday special” we were aiming for. The chorus really stepped up, and the crew couldn’t remember a shoot where we laughed so much on set.
In the end, “OraQuick” captures the humor of the chorus while informing their audience of an important product. And we dare you to not get this song stuck in your head…
The “live event” video. The genre is a bit of a misnomer; we are capturing a client’s event as it happens on the day, or series of days, but the result is a repackaged film shown weeks later. Many production companies offer this service. After all, if you the client put so much work into pulling off an event for your company, why wouldn’t you want it captured by a talented team of videographers, and shared with your employees forever? Typically, after the event has wrapped and a week or so has passed, you receive a montage of what happened on the day, it’s set to music, there’s the company logo, and your team tries to find your faces in the background, and hope you’re not doing anything too embarrassing or pulling a weird face. While, we can’t promise one of your co-workers won’t be caught in the back of shot scarfing down a donut during the CEO’s presentation… We can promise that we approach our craft with a storyteller’s mindset. It’s not just what happened on the day, but the purpose and intention behind the event. What does it mean to the people in attendance to be here? In some cases, this is the only time the entire staff is gathered in one place, and it feels like the family is back together again.
At Blue Barn, our production team strives to peel back the layers of your event, to bring you more than just a montage set to music. And get to the heart of what made your gathering, gala, or conference special in the first place. I have included two recent examples of live event videos we were recently tapped to produce. The clients couldn’t be more different from each other, and we think the results capture the unique energy of their respective events and brands. See for yourself and then hire us to film your next event! We never turn down a killer buffet…
I know a lot of musicians at all levels of success and exposure, and we all know it’s a tough profession to truly “make it”. Many try to take the “hobbyist to professional” approach. They have another job, play a couple gigs a month, and then hope that it works out. How many musicians, or any other type of creative professional, do you know actually found success with that approach? As a filmmaker I know I didn’t really start directing or shooting with any level of success until I actually went ahead and invested in quality gear, software, and truly devoted myself to my chosen craft. So it frustrates me to see a musician spend countless hours writing a song, a great one, and then totally skimp on the music video, which just ends up bringing down the quality of the song, and the musician’s “brand”. Which makes me think, why even do the video at all? I’m sure there are a few musicians reading this thinking, “Easy for you to say, Mr. Filmmaker. Of course you want me to spend more money when I work with you!” Look, I’m not suggesting you break the bank, but why not treat your video project with the same respect as your album? The music is, of course, the most important aspect of your “brand”, but everything you produce is a part of it too.
Do you need a professional video to been seen as a serious musician? No. But if you’re going to the trouble to make a video that represents you, your band, and your BRAND, as a serious honest-to-god creative professional, you should take it as seriously as you do your music.
I want to present a short case study. We recently wrapped our second collaboration with the group The Black Market Trust. When they first approached us, the band knew they wanted a video that was slick and well-crafted, it needed the eye of a professional team. (Full disclosure: I met frontman, Jeffrey Radaich, years ago when he was the sideman to the guitar virtuoso, Gonzalo Bergara, and I was shooting a short documentary about the group.) There were a lot of ways they could have approached this, and much of the visual media that had been produced for them in the past wasn’t of a real professional level (sorry Jeff!), but their musicianship definitely was. The point being, the band was ready to invest in a high-quality video that matched their musical standards because they wanted potential audiences and venues to see them as professionals.
So I sat down with Jeff and had a conversation about video as a direct representation of your band/brand. For The Black Market Trust, and the type of audience/venues they were trying to reach, it was a great success story, and they very much view the moment they decided to truly invest in quality branding material, as a turning point in their career.
Carlos Foster: Usually bands come to us for music videos, but our first project together was something different. What was the purpose of that project?
Jeffrey Radaich: I think the purpose of the first video was to introduce… Uh, I hate to say “the world” (laughs) It sounds goofy, but it was to introduce the world to the band; here’s our music, listen to us. More of, this is why we’re doing what we do, and how much we love doing what we do… Basically, we were trying to strike a deeper chord with people.
CF: Why was it important for you guys to do that with video?
JR: I think video, for me, it tells a story. On top of that, I love that media form. When you get somebody who’s good, like you guys are, being able to tell stories through images is just very powerful. I think you guys do that so well.
CF: When we were making the film, what was the experience like working with the Blue Barn team?
JR: Honestly, here’s the way I describe it to people: I didn’t have to say anything — I didn’t have to tell you guys to do anything. You guys showed up, did what you had to do… it was almost like you guys weren’t even there. The project was over, and then the first cut you guys sent me was amazing! It was just a wonderful experience. And I think, I don’t know if it’s the fact that you’re all musicians as well, but you just get it. You just really get it.
CF: Let’s talk about the initial response to the video. The reaction was pretty quick, you guys put it on your FaceBook page and immediately there were comments and “likes” coming in.
JR: It was really great because, as you know, in the Gypsy Jazz world there’s a lot of content out there… But, in this day and age, when everyone has a computer and a camera, when you do something professional, it really sticks out. And I think, in this style of music that we play, people put stuff out all the time, but as far as presentation there’s not a level of professionalism.
So, I think it was kind of a shock to a lot of people, who knew us from what we had been previously doing, to have this very polished, professionally-shot video, and yeah the response was pretty amazing.
CF: I’ve talked to a lot of musicians before, and their approach is generally: “We’re going to let the music speak for itself, so we want the cheapest crew that we can get…” But with you guys, you were willing to invest, and get that higher quality. Why was that important for you?
JR: It was important for us to do it this way because, with this new band, we wanted to project a very polished professional image. And yes you’re right, bands spend so much time practicing with the attitude of, “Hey man, if we just play and we’re great, everything will happen for us.” But I’ve been doing this long enough to know, that’s not always the case. You want to have as much as you can in your corner, helping you out. And a very polished video is a huge thing. It’s a huge thing.
It all goes back to what I said earlier, that anyone can cut a video on their computer now, or make their own records — When you send this to a promoter, and they see how thoughtful it is, how beautifully shot it is, they automatically say, “Oh, these guys are serious! These aren’t just some guys playing for a hobby, these are serious guys who want to be successful and try and do something.”
CF: How did the video change things for your band, like with booking new venues? I know you went on a tour with the group soon after it came out.
JR: It changed everything. Everything. And I’m not making an assumption, I’ve been told this from bookers: We will play some place like say Green Valley, Arizona, and we’ll have a packed house. And all of us are surprised, like what’s going on here? And the promoter will say, “You guys gave me material. I took that video, posted it, and that’s what got everyone out.” So, it’s not a theory, the video has worked for us.
CF: We recently collaborated with you guys again, why did you want to come back to Blue Barn? I mean, you have a great video you could take to somebody and say I want replicate this, but you went back to the same filmmakers.
JR: Pick your reason, man. You guys are easy to work with, your results are proven, and I go back to you guys being musicians too… I think you understand a lot that, from my case, is what I’m looking for. The sensibility of your whole team is just great. And for the third video I’ll be using you guys again, it’s just the way it is (both laugh).
CF: Last question, what would you say to other musicians who are on the fence thinking, “Do I really want to spend the money for a professional video or can I just get anybody with a camera?”
JR: I have been playing music, professionally, for ten years… I had the first video done with you a year ago, and I’ve had more success in the past year than I have had in the past nine because of the video! I would definitely say to anyone on the fence wondering if it’s worth the investment, it is. It has been for us. I don’t regret a minute of it, and would do it again in a heartbeat.
– Carlos Foster / Project Director
Yes, content creation can be powerful. Filmmaking can be powerful. And social media distribution takes it all to another level.
Films are the perfect way to share the highlights and features of various products, the missions of different organizations, and the stories that drive us to buy things, to donate, to volunteer, to vote, to change our thinking and change our ways, etc. And when you only have a few seconds to grab your audience, what better place is there to broadcast your films and videos than on Facebook and Instagram? The fact that the films autoplay as people view their feed means your audience doesn’t even have to click the PLAY button any more. You can grab them as they scroll past!
We assume, of course, that you are up to speed with building your following and sharing things with your people, keeping them engaged and looking at the things you find share worthy. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 followers or 1 million followers, as long as you are building up your presence you are going in the right direction. There are a ton of strategies on how to do this, and we won’t get into that here. The aspect that most concerns us is this: WHAT ARE YOU SHARING and WHY? The answer will be different for everyone out there, but in the world of brands and business, this is a very important question. And we aim to help our clients solve it.
THE KANEX PROJECT
Recently, we created two short one-minute films for a brand out of Orange County called Kanex. From their website, Kanex is an “innovative leader in connectivity solutions for Apple, iOS, PC and Android, we have thrived on creating functional products that fit seamlessly into your everyday life…”
We considered the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, WHEN and HOW breakdown for this project, and as always, we encouraged the client to help us answer the WHAT and the WHY. After that, it became our job to handle the WHO (people in the film), WHERE (locations to film), WHEN (dates for filming and delivery), and the HOW (how will we execute the plan? how will it be filmed? and how will it look?)
Kanex develops some brilliant technology products and they wanted to showcase two of their latest designs. This is the WHAT and the WHY for Kanex. Rather than just hoping people will stumble onto the product page within their website and read all the text regarding the cool features of their products, they realized that they could grab a bit more attention by putting out a polished, narrative-driven film full of lifestyle imagery that puts their products into the real world.
This is really effective because the viewer doesn’t have to read about the product, they can actually see it being used by people in real world scenarios. The films are meant to show how the products make our character’s lives better, which hopefully inspires the viewer to relate to that and possibly see the product making their own lives better too. If we have done our job well enough, and the feeling is strong enough in the viewer, well, then Kanex might have a new customer.
The first product is a portable battery charger for Apple MacBook, and the second is a portable charger for Apple Watch. Both are small and light, they have a beautiful matte gray finish and they can power your iPhone too.
Both pieces were meant to be lifestyle films that were short enough to put on Instagram, Facebook, as well as YouTube, their website. Yet they had to be long enough to tell a short story while showing off the features and benefits of their new products. It was also very important to us that the viewer be pulled into these small journeys visually. So big, flowing camera movement was huge for us.
Our first story is about a girl studying photography in college who needs to be out in the world, exploring and taking pics, but doesn’t want to have to go home in order to process and retouch her photos. She needs battery life! She’s got a small Apple MacBook, her charger, her camera and her favorite photography book to guide her on this adventure.
The second film is based on a hard-working man, late twenties who starts everyday by going for a run through his neighborhood before work. He has goals and is driven. Not a minute of the day is wasted. For lives that don’t stop, you can’t have a watch that dies halfway through the day, so the portable Apple Watch charger is there when he needs it. But he’s not all about work, he spends his evening enjoying the sunset on the beach with his special lady friend. She, by the way, happens to need a little charge on her iPhone in the middle of a selfie, the charger saves the day once more.
THE PRODUCTION DETAILS:
We had two production days to film both pieces. One day of filming for each! So we had to create a pretty tight production with storyboards and an efficient schedule. We started early morning and shot into the evening with our actors John Dewall (@divinelyaligned) and Karol Martin (facebook.com/karol.priscilla.martin). Dean Hall (@deanhallstyle) was on set as our stylist and the rest was accomplished by myself, Vic and Carlos (@bluebarncreative). We utilized natural light whenever we could and used reflectors to dial it in. We found ourselves hanging out of the production van with the 3 axis gimbal stabilizer for some awesome guerrilla filmmaking. The locations were scouted the week before the shoot and the client had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to accomplish, as ambitious as it was.
For the photography, I used two cameras that we had never mixed in a production before. The Sony A7RII and the RED Scarlet Dragon. I decided that for all the wide angle, steadicam shots I would mount the A7RII on the Helix gimbal stabilizer with a stabilized, wide angle lens. For all the medium and close-ups I went with the RED. All footage was shot in 4K and 5K, and I was pleasantly surprised at how I could color grade the footage to a decent match.
The Sony was great because we could shoot in LOG (which allows us to retain a ton of highlight information), and it was so light! Spending hours a day operating 3 axis gimbals can be rough, but the Sony is a light, full frame mirrorless camera that takes fantastic footage in 4K. The codec is a little wimpy so getting the exposure and the white balance right is critical while shooting since it can’t handle much tweaking in post-production.
The RED however, is a different story. The raw footage looked incredible and the skin tones are just amazing, So for those tighter shots I really wanted those flattering, rich colors shot through a 50mm Makro Zeiss Milvus lens. The sharpness of that lens is incredible by the way (it’s my favorite lens at the moment). The combination of the Sony A7RII in 4K plus the RED in 4K and 5K worked perfectly for these films. They allowed us to get all the filming done in the two days of production. It allowed us to travel light and get those sweeping camera moves we wanted. We kept the crew small and we operated fast. We knew what we wanted going in and that allowed us to play around with it to get some really fun, cinematic shots that pushed the films along.
-Stephen Alberts / Creative Director
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