Mar 20, 2017

Sitting in the client’s break room, I shoved a tea bag up my nostril, clinging to any moment of relief I could. 

Filming on-location always has surprises, but getting a staph-infection in the tequila fields of Jalisco was one I did not anticipate. Fortunately, I had my trusty crew (aka Francisco) to provide moral support for my throbbing nose.

In contrast to filming in central Mexico, I can recall more comfortable memories of sipping Starbucks from a director’s chair under a shaded tent for a shoot at the University of Cincinnati. Although I didn’t have “Franny” Francisco, I had an all-star lineup including 10-15 of the Queen Cities’ finest film crew. 

These two productions were not only a tale of two cities, but they serve as a great case study, showcasing the difference between small and large-scale production.


Both projects have been generously awarded at the Cincinnati Addy’s — an American Advertising Federation organization. Their executions, however, were completely different. There is no right or wrong approach in filmmaking, there are only creative decisions that yield aesthetic results. The art is matching the right point of view and production value with the project to create something that is in line with the three B’s: brief, brand, and budget.

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati charged us with creating a broadcast TV commercial that would air on major sports networks. The ads were going to run during UC football and basketball events. 

The size of these national events hosted in a stadium called for something equally as grand. We recommended a cinematic concept driven by aspirational copy. Each scene was carefully set up to create a sense of awe and wonder with the viewer.  
Our approach required a robust crew that could film three set-ups in different locations each day. 

To capture our creative direction, we chose to shoot on the Arri Alexa Mini with anamorphic prime lenses. This cinema-grade camera package required adding a camera assistant or AC to build/prep the camera, pull focus and swap lenses. By having an AC the production moves more efficiently and the director of photography can focus on creating a beautiful image. 

Camera movement also impacted our approach. We decided everything would either be locked down or on a dolly. Dolly shots allow the camera to remain in a fixed position while moving forward, backward, left or right. The end result can increase the feeling of drama in a scene. 


But the choice to film on a dolly also ensured we would need enough grip and electric crew to move swiftly between locations. 

Each layer of complexity in production has a direct effect on how many days you will need to shoot and how many crew members you need to execute your production. Filmmaking tools have become more affordable and efficient, but in most cases you can assume complexity will also increase cost.

Considering our creative direction, lighting was the most important factor. To create each unique scene, we needed total control of light. With locations ranging from a hospital operating room to a college stadium, you need every thinking light to be on the truck, if needed. 

The power to shape and create light can be the difference between a project feeling premium or lack-luster. On this particular shoot, the most creative lighting set up happened when the crew set up a rig to simulate the flickering light of fireworks.

After aligning on our cinematography approach, we focused on the story. We needed to show students embracing “experiential learning.” With this in mind, we chose to remove them from the traditional classroom setting and place them in moments that were aspiring and relatable to prospective dreamers. 

We decided to use real students from the university, but wanted them to match the aesthetic of our narrative approach. So we made their normal everyday looks pop on screen with full hair and makeup. We did want to keep it real, so our talent came wardrobe ready with their everyday looks. 


Since we only featured one main character in each scene, we were able to get by with a single hair and makeup stylist. Typically, if you more than two people in a scene, you might want to consider expanding you glam squad to accommodate for all the hair and makeup. It never ceases to amaze me how long hair, makeup and wardrobe take. 

With nine locations or setups, we had to think strategically about how to film all of the content in the least amount of time to control cost. Every production day has to account for the equipment and day rates of all crew and talent, therefore overtime or additional  shoot days could break your budget. 

We were able to capture three set-ups each day. Keep in mind, this often means your
project will be filmed out of sequence — your first shot could be the last scene. 


The University of Cincinnati project was a great example of a high quality, large-scale commercial production, which operated on brand, brief, and budget. All of the components discussed culminated to create a desired aesthetic. Any thing less or more would have altered the production value, which would have directly affected the creative direction. Anything less may have made it feel too pedestrian or commonplace. Anything more may have come off as too glossy or overdone. The goal is to capture the heart of the creative direction while controlling cost and maintaining quality.

Lunazul Tequila

Lunazul began with wanderlust. When a client asks if your wiling to travel internationally for a project, you always answer with a “yes.” 

The goal of the project was to capture the heart of Tequila Mexico, the home of — you guessed it — Tequila. We were going to capture the basics of tequila production but the culture was just as important. For this project our approach to production was drastically different than the University of Cincinnati commercial. 

The first differentiation to consider was the distribution channel. From it’s inception, the Lunazul branded content was meant for social media outlets and one, very important internal meeting.

The brand team wanted to bring the experience of visiting to the Lunazul distillery stateside. Considering the media buy would be limited, it didn’t make much sense to invest heavily into a production budget. Luckily, a scrappy production budget paired nicely with the documentary style creative direction. We didn’t want this content to feel glossy and polished, we wanted it to feel authentic. 

Our camera / gear decision was simple. It had to fit in a carry-on flight case, it needed to be rugged and self contained. We chose the Canon C100 Mark II. Its Canon’s base level cinema camera fully equipped with built in ND (neutral density filters). This means  when the sun is blasting in the Agave fields, we can put sunglasses on the lens to keep the image from being overexposed. 

The camera also has a beefy internal fan with vent to keep it cool in the hot, Jalisco sun. 

In the flight case, I was able to stuff three lenses. A 70-200 zoom, 24-70 zoom, and 50mm prime. This was the backbone of our production package.

To achieve a more realistic aesthetic, we decided on filming primarily with handheld camera support. Unlike the Cincinnati project where everything was on a tripod or dolly, the handheld shots make you feel grounded, as if you’re actually there. 

In real life, things don’t magically slide from left to right. Things get a little bumpy. When telling the story of a premium estate tequila, however, we didn’t want everything to be handheld. So we packed a small, 3-foot slider (a small dolly) to capture some smooth camera movement with mainly the product. 


To show scale, we packed a small GoPro mounted drone. Whenever you are trying to capture a landscape, drones are a good way to set the scene. And the perfect balance of handheld cultural content, smooth product slider shots, and vast drone landscapes, combined to capture an authentic tequila experience.

Also unlike the University project, traveling the back country of Jalisco was an unknown factor. Along with the documentary production budget, we needed to stay lean, so there were only two of us. I served as the producer / director / director of photography / gaffer. “Franny” Francisco supported as the production assistant / grip / translator. We only brought what gear we could carry on our person. Each of us had a backpack and two carry-ons. I handled the camera, laptop and tripod. Francisco had the slider, drone and duffel bag. Both of us got production credits for Sherpa.

The purpose of our project was documentary in nature. This also worked out with our budget. We left behind the glam squad — there was no need for hair and make-up when we wanted to capture people authentically. 


Additionally, Not having to wait on hair and make-up allowed us to capture a significant amount of content over the course of three days. With our university project, we captured three locations each day. In Tequila, we probably averaged 5 -7 locations per day. 

In addition, our run and gun production unit allowed us to have unlimited setups. We could just pick up our gear and move. On the Cincinnati project, we had to pack up an entire grip truck just to go up the street. 

In comparison to the University project, we only had two lights. Eighty percent of the project was shot with natural light, only in the barrel warehouse where its dark did we use portable LED lighting for an interview and B-roll. 

By leaning mainly on the sun as our primary source of light, we were able to travel light. But we were subject to sunrise and sunset to capture “magic hour” lighting conditions. The warmness of natural light supported our creative direction to capture the heart of the people and the land.

The Lunazul Tequila project was a great example of classic documentary filmmaking. Like the UC project, it too operated on brand, brief and budget. The two spots were miles apart, both literally and figuratively, but  both worked for the unique creative direction set out by the creative brief. The end result yielded in two award winning videos. 


I didn’t write this to post to boast. We’re not talking about winning a Canne Lyon or One Show Award, but they were both recognized as being excellent on some level, and I thought it would be a good exercise in understanding the range of film production.

As a director, I look at cameras, crew, and gear as instruments. Depending on how you select and mix these instruments, and their players, you can create Mozart or Metal, Hip Hop or Handel. 

The tempo, framing, tone of a piece can shape an emotion. There are some conventions and rules for filmmaking, but rules are made to be broken. 

The true tale of these two cities and projects is compelling content can be created with a spectrum of budgets, briefs, and brands. Or maybe there’s a less noble lesson, but one that is none the more true. Universities and Tequila are probably a lot closer than most parents ever want to imagine.

Mar 15, 2017


Brands are trying to understand live video. With 166,071,431 views, Facebook is touting “Chewbacca Mom” is the most watched live video of 2016. 

The problem with this marketing hype: The numbers are skewed. Most of the views happened after the video was no longer streaming live. Therefore, is it really a live video? I can’t seem to find the exact number of people who watched it live, and I’m still waiting for Chewbacca Mom to respond. Regardless of the statistics, people are talking about live video and brands want in on the action.

Live video is unique for two reasons: It’s real-time and it’s interactive. Some platforms, like Facebook, will archive the video in your feed, making it just plain, old video. So, understanding these properties, when should brands go live?

Timing Is Everything

Live video is a great tool when you need to be right on time. Like people, brands have special moments; launch events, anniversaries, sales, reviews and more. These moments no longer have to be shared after the fact. With strategic planning, you can invite stakeholders to share the moment. However, unlike edited video, you don’t have the luxury of cutting out the boring or offensive parts, so you have to start thinking like a live broadcaster. 

The first thing you want to think about is your host. Is he or she engaging, energetic and naturally conversational? This is the person that will represent your brand. Don’t be fooled by positions of leadership or titles. You want the best personality for the job. If you don’t have a “made for TV” personality on your team, don’t panic. Consider using paid talent to represent your brand when it goes live. 


The next thing you want to consider is content. Have a plan. When you’re talking to the world, have something to say and show. Live video is all about bringing people into an experience. Take them behind the scenes, show them something they normally wouldn’t have access to know. By connecting with people on live video, you have the unique ability to make fans feel special, because they are sharing a moment.

Being relevant doesn’t always have to be about a worldwide event. Make your own event! Being relevant on date-night means live streaming hair and makeup tips or how to tie a perfect bow-tie. Being relevant to gear heads means troubleshooting their truck problems. Find when your audience is active, and connect with them in a unique way that allows a real conversation to happen. Usually if one person asks a question, there is a whole group of people wanting to hear the same answer. Consider broadcasting at the same time and the same place to build a consistent audience, “Tuesday Tips” or “Monday Makeovers” — you get the idea.

Conversation Is A Two Way Street

If timing is everything, then interactivity is everything else. Live streaming is all about conversation. Comments, likes, hearts and angry faces are all a part of the language of live video. Assuming that you’re posting content worth talking about, be prepared to engage.  Ask questions, share responses and give shout-outs. 

When streaming, be sure to have someone watching the feed. Reading people’s comments on air is a good way to let people know you are talking to them, not at them. This type of interactivity creates a sense of community that cannot be achieved through non-live video and commenting. There is a sense of powerful connection when viewers get feedback. Unlike traditional live news broadcasts, viewers have a voice. 


Have conversations that matter. Don’t just live stream when you are showing off your new thing. Welcome your fans into the process. Use live video to test the market. Show products or services in the making, and ask your audience to make them better. Build buzz by releasing beta versions and get the internets talking.

Don’t Be A Traffic Cam

Regardless of your content, timing or willingness to interact, live video will fall flat without an audience. Remember, traffic cams have been owning the live video game for years! Before any live stream event, promotion is the key to success. People can’t join the conversation if they don’t know it is happening. 


You can see mob mentality occur during a fight or dance battle. People start to form a circle to gawk at whatever is happening. This same principle is at play in live video. The more people are liking, hearting and commenting, the more people will like and heart and comment, with the occasional angry face. Therefore, be sure to launch your live stream with a known audience of your team members or hardcore fans that will be sure to fill your feed with activity. If no one is on the dance floor, others will be hesitant to bust a move.

Marketing trends will come and go. Live video, however, isn’t going anywhere. Our world is becoming more, not less, connected and live video is just another way to do that through the Internet. So be brave and bold with your brand. Put on your Chewbacca mask and laugh with your audience. 

Mar 8, 2017

How does graphic design relate to film and animation production? I'm pushing to show they are one in the same. This is why LEAPframe focused so much time and energy on a re-brand.

This project started by working with LEAP. Together, we created a logo and color system that tied all LEAP companies together. Next, I wanted to discover how far I could push LEAPframe's brand collateral while it still lived within the LEAPgroup system.


The goal was to create an attitude and style that could be recognizable to our brand even without the logo present. The days of perfect logo lockups on stationary accompanied by a long list of rules and guidelines are dead. I wanted our brand to open up a bit of disorder. I wanted anyone that worked with our design to be able to add a personal touch without it breaking the style. 

I’ve personally always been drawn to unintentional graphics and elements I see in everyday life and using them as a purposeful design aesthetic. In the case of LEAPframe, I looked at distortions and analog VHS film warps all the way to the digital glitches. From there, I re-animated versions of our favorite distortions. Other design elements were pulled from markings found on film contact sheets, and user interfaces from old tube televisions. 

The movement pattern I landed on ultimately ties the majority of LEAPframe's collateral together. Through many versions, trials and errors, it was derived from looking at our analog warps, and how we express their feeling through a vector design.

But It was difficult to get right. The effect came naturally through photoshop, but ultimately was too disorienting. The final patterns came through learning how to combine six different tools in illustrator. 

The final branding has a strong 80’s throwback vibe — a time where beta and VCR film became accessible to a wide range of consumers. In a very amazing way, this 80’s vibe of bright colors and bold geometrics allow the brand to be grounded in the present where the bold and bright content is constantly cluttering life. The designs are a reflection of that constant clutter. Unapologetic, Bold, Bright and Dynamic. 

How do you feel about the new branding? We would love to hear your thoughts! Head to Behance and give us a like or leave us a comment. 


Feb 7, 2017

I’ve made a lot of horrible videos in the past ten years. Admittedly some have been self inflicted, but most of them have been bought and paid for by individuals who willingly produced them. I want to personally apologize to the general public whose had to endure longwinded sales briefs, end of year reviews, and corporate pep talks. Mindless marketing babble delivered via robotic terminals has contributed to the demise of DVD players and inboxes for decades. We can do better.

Sep 1, 2016

It’s kind of a no-brainer -- the creative industry is perpetually fed by the “client list.” The stronger your client list is, the stronger you are? So it doesn’t take long for us creative types to begin feeling extremely protective of “our clients,” even begin to start feeling like we own them.

Jul 9, 2016

If you follow any marketing blog or visit LinkedIn frequently, you’ll find a steady stream of posts titled “Five Things You Need to Know About (fill in the blank).” Most likely these will be regurgitated information, posted multiple times, by similar people. The internet evidently wrote a huge permission slip for people to stop thinking for themselves and then armed every self-declared marketing guru with enough Seth Godin quotes to retweet. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a time or place to utilize the “re,” some ideas deserve to be shared, but soon enough people will skip you and go straight to the source. To get in the spirit of things I’d like to offer up my “5 Things about 5 Things,” that I hope you retweet.