November 17, 2008

Apps For Democracy Winners

Apps for Democracy has ended. Contestants were asked to create applications that would be useful to the government and people of Washington DC.

Results include:

47 applications that were built in 30 days

OCTO has estimated the value of these submissions at $2,000,000+ including external contracting costs and internal procurement time

The cost to OCTO was $50,000 including prizes, marketing, management etc. representing an estimated 4,000% return on investment

OCTO has estimated that it would have taken them 1-2 years to complete the procurement process and receive delivery of applications like these under their legacy procurement method
iPhone apps, Facebook apps, web apps, mobile apps, maps mash-ups and a wiki were entered

Visit for more information

October 28, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Creative Director: Interview with Kenneth Waldron

Kenneth Waldron has been in the advertising industry for 20 years. He works with the company Paul Werth Associates. You can find his website at

Please Explain Your Job

I manage the advertising practice area of a Strategic Communications firm. I provide creative direction for all clients’ marketing needs.

How do you explain your job to your mother?

It’s difficult to explain it to her. I tell her that I come up with the ideas and then create television spots.

How did you get started?

I got started drawing smiley faces at age 4.

What's your educational background?

I attended Bowling Green State University.

How did you get experience?

I’ve held a lot of different jobs in the industry. I started as a paste up artist spacing type before computers in 1989. I then taught myself to use computers by working the third shift at a Kinkos; I Xeroxed computer manuals at night and studied them during the day. I worked at a T-shirt shop in college, designing and printing Fraternity and Sorority t-shirts

What was your first job in the industry?

I got my first real break at an in-house agency with a homebuilder. Through AdFed I got my first job at an advertising agency and learned all I could about video production. I was then rehired by my former homebuilder as a Creative Director in charge of a $12M budget. (Never burn a bridge - it'll always come back around). I got out of the real estate business before the market tanked and I now head up the advertising practice of a strategic communications firm.

What was the last project you worked on?

It was a television public service announcement for National Adoption Day.

Describe a typical day (or week) in your life when you're working?

Think, work, interruptions, phone calls, e-mails, think, work, interruptions, time sheets. Repeat.

How do you sharpen your skills and/or stay motivated?

I attend industry events like AdFed meetings and American Marketing Association meetings.

What advice do you give to those who want to join your profession?

Learn the computer programs and have passion about your ideas.

If you could go back in time and meet your pre-professional self, what would you tell him?

Move to California and become an editor in Hollywood.

A Series of Questions:

What’s the best thing about your job?

The People

What major job annoyance would you eliminate forever?


Where do you find inspiration?


Where do you hope to be (career-wise) in another year?

Same company, VP

What’s your personal motto/slogan?

He who stops advertising to save money may as well stop their watch to save time.

October 17, 2008

Cool Tools: Inkscape

Open-Source software has reached a new level of excellence in the past few years. No longer do consumers have to pay for over-priced software, instead they’ve got a number of free alternative which carry nearly all the same features. Inscape is some incredibly useful open-source software for creatives.

Inscape is a vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, or CorelDraw. Instead of bitmap images, Inkscape stores its graphics in a vector format. Don’t let that scare you though, Inkscape can also import and display bitmap images. The software supports many advanced and the interface is nicely streamlined. It’s a nice little vector graphics package for the non-professional user.

A great benefit of the software being open-sourced is that there's a thriving user and developer community. If you’re having trouble with something, chances are someone has already had that same problem and developed a solution.

There are some areas in which Inkscape fails: there are a limited number of tools, there are limited exporting options, and text options are limited, even for an amateur. If you’re not an expert of graphic programs and you’re looking for a simple solution that won’t cost you a lot of dough, Inkscape is the solution you’ve been looking for.

October 2, 2008

Cool Tools: Digital Photography School

So you just got the latest, greatest digital camera and you’re ready to become the next Anzel Adams? Fantastic. There’s only one problem: you’re no Anzel Adams. You don’t know the difference between a lens and a flash and you’re completely incapable of framing picture without the top of someone’s head being cut off. Don’t worry; Digital Photography School is here to school you on everything from shutter speeds to aperture.

Digital Photography School is a blog that lets you learn the ins and the out of photography. Darren Rowse is the guy behind Digital Photography Blog. Advances photographers might find this site a little basic but it is a great resource for the beginning or intermediate photographer to hone their skills and learn what digital photography is all about.
Check it, soak up the tips, and keep on snapping!

September 30, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Professor: Interview with Richard Schrand

Richard Schrand is the department chair for Computer Graphics at Nossi College of Art. He is responsible for overseeing the hardware, software, and student necessities for the college. He also does freelance work. His website can be found at

How do you explain your job to your mother?

I’m an educator.

How did you get started?

30 years in the broadcast industry with numerous awards. Upon being downsized, I started my own company then decided to give back by teaching one or two classes. This has turned into a 40+ hour per week career. So, in a nutshell, I fell into it.

What's your educational background? How did you get experience?

I have a degree in Broadcast Communications from Northern Kentucky University. My experience came from working in the industry overseeing broadcast graphics and print graphics for more than 20 years.

What was your first job in the industry?

The very first job I had was creating an “Emmy Consideration” ad for Janice Pennington from The Price Is Right. The ad ran in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety magazine.

How do you sharpen your skills and/or stay motivated?

I love what I do, so it doesn’t take much to keep motivated. I read 20 magazines a month, I have contacts around the world that I stay in touch with….basically just a network of top-notch individuals in the various aspects of the industry.

What advice do you give to those who want to join your profession?

Know that you will never stop learning. Don’t be complacent. And always know that even the best you do today is not the best you will accomplish tomorrow.

What was the last project you worked on?

I did some company positioning package for a jewelry chain.

Describe a typical day (or week) in your life when you're working?

I teach 8 four-hour classes – at both the associate and bachelor levels. Between classes and on days when I don’t teach, I am working on client projects or on any books I might be contracted to write.

A Series of Questions:

What’s the best thing about your job?

Staying up on and ahead of the trends for the design industry.

What major job annoyance would you eliminate forever?


Where do you find inspiration?

Literally, everywhere.

What’s your personal motto/slogan?

I can’t direct the wind, but I can adjust the sails.

If you could go back in time and meet to your pre-professional self, what would you tell him/her?

Enjoy the ride. It’s going to be fascinating.

September 23, 2008

Cool Tools: Blender

Imagine trying to create “Finding Nemo” with free software. That’s the concept of Blender in a nutshell.

Blender is a free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems. It has robust features similar in scope to other high-end 3D software such as Softimage, Cinema 4D, Lightwave and Maya.

Among its capabilities are support for a variety of geometric primitives, including polygon meshes, fast subdivision surface modeling, Bezier curves, NURBS surfaces, metaballs, digital sculpting, and outline fonts. If you’re not into 3D design just yet, know that those features mean that Blender is a serious piece of free software!

Blender is full of features and it really puts to shame a lot of similar commercial software. Anyone who's ever been curious about computer-generated images should try playing with Blender. It’s a great alternative for students who might not want to fork over hundreds of dollars for software they may or may not enjoy.

If you’re looking to get started with Blender, you need to go through a lot of internet tutorials because the software is difficult to learn. Just Google the software and you’ll find numerous sites that provide tutorials for Blender. Tutorials are extremely recommended, especially to people new to this type of program.

Blender is a great 3D suite with a huge set of tools. A word of warning: using Blender is time-consuming. It is not software that’s easily learned and it takes a lot to learn the ropes. But for free software with this much power, it does not get any better than Blender.

September 12, 2008

Cool Tools:GIMP

For graphic designers on a budget Adobe Photoshop might not a viable option because of the high sticker price. GIMP, on the other hand, is a free program that’s very similar to Photoshop and it lets creatives do their thing for free.

GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program” and that’s exactly what the program allows you to do-manipulate images. There is a bit of a learning curve when switching from Photoshop to GIMP because of the different menu layouts. But GIMP is powerful enough to accomplish pretty much all the same tasks you can in Adobe’s more expensive program.
The greatest things about the GIMP is that it’s expandable, extensible, and designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions which can let you do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted. Check it out for Windows, Mac, or Linux.

September 10, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Filmmaker: Interview with W. Ross Wells

W. Ross Wells is a film director and the co-owner of Zenfilm, a film production company and HD post boutique specializing in broadcast advertising, music videos and viral media. His company website is and his director’s site is

What’s Your Job?

I am the creative interface between Zenfilm and our agency and record label clients. I work with agency creatives to help storyboards and scripts make the leap to motion pictures. I oversee all aspects of production, casting, prepro, principal photography, color grading, editorial, visual effects and motion graphic design. In essence I am the creative director that works for the creative director and am ultimately responsible for the quality of the finished work and the satisfaction of the agency and their clients. I also provide creative strategies that can enhance the presentation and the effectiveness of the finished work.

How do you explain your job to your mother?

I make TV commercials. She doesn’t get the music videos and the viral media stuff… It took many years of success before my parents relaxed about my not having an accounting degree…but now they are completely on board.

How did you get started?

Oddly enough I was hanging out in my college roommate’s office in a real estate title company in Austin, TX complaining about how I couldn’t find a job in my field. As we were talking, his boss walked by the door and said, “Hey I am part owner in a video production company upstairs…want to meet the President?”

Naturally I said, “of course.” The lucky break was that they were hiring for an editor and the post-production manager was on vacation. I was unqualified for the job and the President shouldn’t have been interviewing me. He hired me on the spot because of his partner’s recommendation. When the post manager returned, I had moved to Austin to take the job. He said he felt obligated to give me a shot at the job but if I couldn’t cut it I was out. I worked really hard and kept the job.

What's your educational background? How did you get experience?

I never finished college because I was a Psych major and discovered the film department in my third year and realized I had too much to redo in order to get the degree. All of my real experience came on the set and in the post house. My first day on the set was a freaky, scary, hazing, fascinating, wonderful experience. My second day was better. Now the night before every shoot is like Christmas Eve.

What was your first job in the industry?

I worked for the first company to nationally syndicate cable advertising in markets around the country. My job was writing, shooting, lighting and editing low budget cable ads for small businesses all over the U.S. I would drive out from Austin in a Ford Aerostar loaded with production equipment and go from Arkansas to New York and back shooting “The Hog Pit Barbeque” and “Survival Specialists” and all kinds of businesses. When I returned to Austin I would edit all the spots and then go out again and do it all over again.

From there I went to work for a contractor for the original Travel Channel. In this job I would spend two to four months in countries all around the world with a small production crew creating travel docs for cable broadcast and videocassette rental. I would act as cinematographer, director and editor on a team with a writer/producer and a grip/soundman. We worked on destinations as nearby as Cancun, Mexico and as far away as China. It was a terrific experience and gave me a very well-rounded perspective. When I got into serious production and started working with real crews and real budgets I had a truly global perspective on the world of film production and a real appreciation for the new level of professionals that I was now able to work with.
How do you sharpen your skills and stay motivated?

I work with extremely talented and motivated people that push me and challenge me…and hopefully I do the same for them. We have been able to maneuver and position our business so that we are working for a lot of people that do good things for people and the planet and it is always easy to get excited about messaging that saves lives, promotes your hometown or brings an exceptional musical talent into the public eye.

What advice do you give to those who want to join your profession?

There are no job openings in the film industry…you have to make your own. You make
your own job by getting in the door any way you can, work for free, show what you can do. If you are truly talented, you become indispensable and you have created a job for yourself. We have three people working for our company that have been here a long time that just showed up one day and said they were ready to work…for nothing if need be, just to learn the business and show us what they can do. They were all on the payroll within a few weeks having proved themselves as a member of our creative team. Not everyone made the cut that way, those that washed out were not suited to the hours and the challenges of the job or simply found out that film was not the career that they imagined.

Where do you hope to be career-wise in another year?

I have learned over the years that every artist you bring to a project brings distinctly different qualities to the screen; the more diverse the team, the stronger the work. I hope to be doing a lot more collaboration with artists of other disciplines, using creative fusion to develop altogether more striking and effective media. Another goal is to put to use all the experience we have gained in viral/social/web 2.0 strategies for deployment and distribution of our clients’ message, music and media.

What was the last project you worked on?

We just wrapped up a national imaging campaign for the City of Houston called MyHouston featuring local celebrities sharing their experiences of our truly underrated and wonderful city. I am in prepro for a national spot for Kiddie- the third in a “true stories” series about Kidde’s smoke, CO alarms and fire extinguishers. I am moving into post with two very exciting new music video projects, one for psychedelic rockers, “The Southern Backtones,” and another for classical/celtic/goth, rocker Jennifer Grassman. Both are due out later this month. I have quite a few other irons in the fire but don’t want to jinx them.

Describe a typical day (or week) in your life when you're working?

Never the same thing twice. Some days I go from breakfast to meeting to meeting to lunch to meeting to meeting to dinner to recording session. Some days are shooting. Some days are traveling. Lots of days are spent in editorial as I cut a lot of my own stuff. Some days are spent hanging out in our offices in a converted paint factory in downtown Houston, playing my guitar and mulling over ideas.

A series of questions:

What’s the best thing about your job?

Everyday, every project, every moment provides a new challenge. There are new hurdles to overcome everyday and it is never static or dull. I work a lot in comedy and music and spend a lot of time laughing and cutting up… getting paid for the things that got me in trouble in school. I also enjoy the people I work and collaborate with tremendously. I have been fortunate to work with some amazingly talented people and I learn something new everyday.

What major job annoyance would you eliminate forever?

The dancing wet dog syndrome: The belief of some creatives that if you do not already have their current project on your reel that you are not qualified to shoot their current project. We call it the wet dancing dog syndrome… the agency is doing a spot with a wet dancing dog, you have a wet dog spot and a dancing dog spot on your reel… but you don’t get the gig because your wet dog is not dancing and vice versa.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere… pop culture, literature, human nature and things always come to me just before I go to sleep. I used to keep a notepad but now I use my iPhone to keep track of concepts that pop into my head. Situational creative seems to come to me rather easily and many times my head will fill with possible approaches during a creative brief. I then have shed the detritus and present the two or three strongest concepts.

What’s your personal motto/slogan? I have many, some of them are…

Just go for it…99% of the time you will pull it off.
Never do the same thing over and over hoping for different results.
If you can only go to two-day film school, make sure you go both days.

If you could go back in time and meet to your pre-professional self, what would you tell him/her?

Don’t worry…everything is going to be great, and eat.

September 5, 2008

Cool Tools: Photoshop Lady

Adobe Photoshop is one of those creative programs that is easy to learn yet hard to master. Tutorials are a great way to teach yourself the intricacies of this photo-manipulating program and Photoshop Lady is a website that give you access to free Photoshop tutorials around the web.

The tutorials are organized into categories such as Drawing Effects, Photo Effects, Text Effects, Texture & Patterns and User Interface Design. The site aggregates all the tutorials from across the net and puts them into one place so that users can access them. So if you’re looking to find something, there’s a good chance that Photoshop Lady has it.
Check out the Photoshop Lady!

September 3, 2008

A Guide to Interviewing: Interview with a Senior Industry Executive

When did you know you were interested in a career in advertising and marketing?

In college I studied Communication and took several classes where I learned about the art of advertising. Based on my interest, I received an internship at a large advertising agency; I was hooked!

What is your educational background and how has it helped prepare you for the field?

I graduated from The George Washington University with a B.A. in Communication. My educational background taught me a lot about understanding people in general, as well as how to relate to and speak with them. It was my hands-on experience at my internship and my early days working in advertising that were most influential and inspirational.

What was your first job in advertising/marketing?

My first job was at an agency where I was managing traditional marketing for a large online financial services client. I became fascinated watching how this brand’s customers were embracing this new technology and beginning to handle their finances online, by themselves. It was then that I realized my true passion turned out to be just that, “online.” I was so impressed by the power of technology, I wanted to dedicate my career to focusing on finding new ways to use the Internet to connect with consumers.

What is the campaign that you have worked on that you are the most proud of? Why is that one a particular source of pride for you?

I had the opportunity to work on the Web site and online marketing for one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies. In the late ‘90s, as large companies were just beginning to experiment with digital marketing, I had a client that was investing heavily in digital innovation. We were testing rich media and even interactive television advertising that still has not yet emerged. Most notably, we launched one of the first social marketing campaigns aimed not only at connecting consumers with the brand, but also connecting the consumers with each other. This is essentially what has come to be Social Marketing, which I believe is the future of all marketing. We can no longer just advertise to consumers; rather we need to connect them with one another on behalf of our brands.

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives looking to differentiate themselves from their peers as they look for a first job?

Understand the technology. This does not mean you need to be a developer, but you need to find ways to connect with consumers when they are online. We are in the ideas business, and in order to come up with innovative, differentiating ideas, you need to understand the capabilities the technology offers.

What specifically do you look for in a creative when you're interviewing them?

We look for specialists who embrace all forms of media. Certain individuals are experts at TV, some at print, some online. Expertise is needed. But we all use the Internet, we all watch TV, and we all read magazines, newspapers or blogs. Creatives need to think about all media, but need to define themselves as experts in an area they can own.

What is your impression of the impact that social media (e.g., blogs, YouTube) and social networking (e.g., Facebook, MySpace) have had on the advertising industry so far?

As I stated earlier, I believe social media is the future of marketing. Consumers now own brands. A brand can’t fake the superiority of its product because consumers will see right through that. Consumers now go online to speak to other consumers before making a purchase. We as marketers need to embrace that. Rather than try to sell to consumers, we need to get them excited about our products so they will leverage social media to promote our brands for us.

Have you seen a change in what your clients are looking for from you as these new properties and consumer behavior patterns have emerged?

Clients have definitely become more willing to test marketing on social networks and the Internet in general. Just a few years ago, the Web was seen as a luxury, typically the first area to get cut from marketing budgets. Now, it’s not only accepted by clients, but it is expected.

Are there any social media/social networking campaigns that you have seen that you think have been particularly effective in promoting a brand? If so, which one(s) and why?
I will tell you a personal story of social networking success. We were asked by a technology company to promote an event for software developers. If you haven’t worked with software developers in the past, I will tell you they are one of the most skeptical audiences in existence. Typically, if they see advertising, they run in the opposite direction.

To promote the event, we embraced this knowledge of the audience and rather than advertise the event to them, we built a relationship with owners of a very important technology blog that most software developers were visiting on a daily basis. By getting the blog owners excited about the event, they started talking about how excited they were for this event. And then an amazing thing happened. Developers started commenting on the blog and speculating about all the great announcements that would happen at the event. And some of them even started their own blogs to discuss the event. They became so excited, and rather than us having to advertise to them, they promoted the event for us within their community. And not only did the event sell out way ahead of time, but we actually had a waiting list of over 1,000 developers.

Social marketing is about honesty. We weren’t trying to advertise or sell; this truly was a great event we were promoting. We knew our best shot of exciting the audience was for them to get one another excited. That’s what social marketing is about, the understanding that consumers trust each other; if you embrace that understanding, you can succeed in this world of social media.

What are your thoughts on user-generated advertising (e.g., the Dorito's "Crash the Super Bowl" contest and imitators)? Where does user-generated content belong in the context of a brand's advertising mix?

Embracing user-generated content is critical to marketing. User-generated advertising, where brands ask consumers to create an advertisement, had an early impact because it was new. I don’t see the longevity of this concept because it is still about “Advertising.” User-generated content, or any content consumers create and build dialogue on with other consumers is what social marketing is all about. It’s honest and real conversation.

August 29, 2008

Cool Tools: Digital Photography Review

Deciding on a camera to purchase can be a daunting task. The types of cameras out there are numerous and the plethora of features available for them are intimidating. And then there are the questions of performance, reliability, and compatibility. If only you had a really smart friend that could tell you all this information. Well now you do, sort of. Digital Photography Review is a website that has in-depth reviews of nearly every major camera.

Heading to the site’s homepage, you’ll be provided with the latest updates to the site which include reviews of the newest camera models by the most familiar brands. In addition the new reviews listed, there are also news items relating to digital photography that give you early word on key features being implanted into future cameras.

If you know what camera you want, you can head to the archive of reviews and look it up by brand name. If you have no idea what you’re doing then there is a handy buying guide which lets you choose your preferences on things such as format, pixels, flash, and storage types. Enter various attributes and you will get matches which you can then compare against each other. It’s a helpful tool if you know which attributes in a camera you absolutely need and you know attributes that you don’t.

The discussion form at DPR is kind of a big deal. The forum is a thriving and vibrant community of photography professionals and amateurs who like to talk about all things photography. In addition to learning about the brands, the forum can also teach you about various aspects of photography production.

If you’re looking to purchase new equipment, DPR is a great place to start your research.

August 19, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Voice Actor: Interview with Peter Drew

Peter Drew is a voiceover actor, a copywriter, and an audio producer. His company is Peter Drew Voiceovers and can be found at

How do you explain your job to your mother?

I've been in the business for 35 years, so she pretty much gets what I do.

How did you get started?

I got started at my college radio station and then I landed a job in commercial radio while going to school.

What's your educational background?

I received a BA in Political Science (What? And I'm not a lawyer? What happened?)

How did you get experience?

I started doing voiceovers part-time after getting into commercial radio in 1976. I continued voiceovers as a sideline while working in Creative Services at various radio stations until 2001 when I became self-employed.

How do you sharpen your skills and/or stay motivated?

Lots o' reading: books; magazines; online forums, blogs, websites, newsletters. Listen to other voice talents and actors. I need to get a voiceover coach to take me to the next level of skill.

What advice do you give to those who want to join your profession?

I get this question all the time from people looking to get into the business. They call or send emails. I direct these inquiring minds to the articles I've written about the voiceover business on my website, Lots of good info for the VO newbie!

What was your first job in the industry?

My first freelance voiceover gig was narrating a slide show for a commercial photographer.
What was the last project you worked on?

Every day I get new voiceover, copywriting, and audio projects to do, so it's an ongoing series of projects, if you will. Specific voiceovers I've recently done include national commercials for Sunny D, Verizon Wireless, Destroy All Humans video game, Stimorol Senses chewing gum, Ted Nugent DVD, Bob Dylan DVD, among others. Readers can see a couple of these on the demo page of my website.Describe a typical day (or week) in your life when you're working?
Typical day is checking email for voiceover gigs, handling phone calls, doing voiceovers, writing copy if I have a copywriting job, sending invoices (yea!), depositing checks (double yea!), paying bills (boo!), etc, etc. I'm self-employed, so I do everything it takes to run a small business.

Where do you hope to be (career-wise) in another year?

Still doing what I'm doing, but with an increase of at least 20% increase in revenue.

A Series of Questions:

What’s the best thing about your job?

Most people get paid to work. I get paid to play. Literally.

What major job annoyance would you eliminate forever?

Collecting from deadbeats.

Where do you find inspiration?

From simple things like a kid laughing, a cat sleeping in the sun, or colorful wildflowers growing along the side of the road. A bit sentimental, yeah, but that's what makes my day and picks me up. And the occasional compliment I get from clients helps inspire me to continue doing well and getting better.

What’s your personal motto/slogan?

The Golden Rule pretty much does it for me.
If you could go back in time and meet to your pre-professional self, what would you tell him?

"When you're all grown up and out of school, don't spend 25 years in radio. Go to work for yourself full time as soon as you can!"

July 24, 2008

Black Turtle 101: Interview with Dr. Douglas Lawrence

Please describe your current position.

I am the Chair of the Communication Arts Department at Marywood University and the Owner of Bright Day International Productions.

What schools did you attend and what were your areas of focus?

I studied Mass Communications at Antioch College, Advanced Directing at HB Studios, NYC and Communication Arts at Marywood University. I also received a Ph.D. in Health Communication from Union Graduate School.

Please describe your work experience in advertising, media and/or film?

As a Documentary Producer my projects included work for The Department. of Education, commercial clients and my latest Documentary shot on HD, titled “Sacred Rituals” .

I'm also a music composer and producer. I received a Grammy nomination for Music in the Spoken Word Category. I've also completed numerous scores and compositions.

What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned about the industry?

Make sure to meet as many people as you can. Always, maintain a high level of quality to every piece of work you do. Take a business class.

Please name one person in the field who has influenced your career and why.
Miles Davis. He was a personal mentor and shared a great deal of experience with me.

What direction do you see the industry moving in the next decade?

Faster and more accessible ways of delivering product to consumers including virtual three D programming.

What are the major changes that have impacted the industry in your opinion?

Without question the access to affordable production equipment.

What classes do you teach at your university?

Advanced video as film production. Audio production, Media scripting, Leadership in Communication, Media Performance and Media Management.

What are the most important things that students must do to be a success in the field?

Present themselves as professional and maintain a sense of honesty and integrity. Practice interviewing and gain good communication skills. Do good work that is competitive and marketable.

What are your opinion on user-generated advertising and film? How do you advise your students on this trend?

Any where messages can be created using media is an opportunity for another voice to be heard. However, research is an important part of creating user generated productions. It is important to develop the story-lines and make sure the message is clear.

What advice do you give to students who are looking to break into the field?

Network, Network, Network. Join groups such as Black Turtle and create a honest representation or your skills. Never promise something you cannot deliver. Stick to what you know for know and do it well.

What kind of projects do you encourage your students to pursue outside of the classroom?

I am a big advocate of research.

What is the most important thing someone should know if they decide to pursue a career in the field.

The competition is growing but there is always work. People choose this industry not only for the money but for the passion it delivers to the human spirit. It is exciting and engaging. Hang in there, work will come soon.

July 15, 2008

You and Europe: Featured Contest

Win a trip for 2 to the European country of your choice! All you have to do is make a video and upload it at to enter and win.

Please tell us a little about your contest and why it was created.

We are representing the European Travel Commission, which is, which are the thirty member countries. We do different marketing things whether it’s advertising or a newsletter or something else. One of these things is online advertising which we’ve done previously.

For the campaign itself, of “You and Europe”, to kind of push the “You and Europe” theme further, we came up with this video contest. We worked with Compulsive Traveler before on other projects for PR. They filmed with a couple other clients. The contest is a great way to draw people in because we’ve had other sweepstakes previously in the past few years, and it’s just something a little different. With video logs, blogging, and other things like that, which are bringing more people online, it makes sense to make things more interactive. The contest appeals to people who have either been to Europe or are going there because it runs through the end of September. It doesn’t have to be great; it can be shot on a cell phone, or a digital camera, or something like that. It just should be something that tells your story of Europe.

Has your company or Visit Europe tried user-generated advertising in the past? What was the response?

We’ve done some advertising before with Visit Europe but we haven’t done a lot online because of budget reasons. Obviously with things like that there are some budget restraints. This is the biggest online campaign we’ve done in a while for them,

Have you seen other contests that have reached out to consumers and amateurs? What are your thoughts on these contests? How does yours differ?

I think in the last year or so we’ve seen a lot of people doing more things online. We did something else that had an online component but it didn’t do anything with video. With the whole craze in Youtube and such it now makes a lot more sense. There were a few contests that we’ve seen before. We saw Travel Channel did one with Anthony Bourdain which I heard didn’t go well. I think Conde Nast Traveler did another travel video contest last year or the year before, so that helps kind of figure out how we need to format it, what works and what doesn’t.

How are you attracting attention for your contest and getting the word out to potential entrants?

Right now, since it runs through the end of September, we are still in a process. I believe we are going to be doing online advertising but that hasn’t started yet because we are waiting for our sponsors to come on board. We don’t want to draw people to the website even more if their logo isn’t up there yet, but that should be all figured out in a week or two.

We also have the contest under the Visit Europe homepage. There is also a consumer newsletter that goes out to 200,000 every month and it’s featured there as well. There is also a PR component of it. It was picked up by USA Today so it was on their website. It was picked up on a bunch of other places including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, St. Petersburg Times, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Seattle Sun Times, and Yahoo Travel.

What sort of response do you hope to have from the contest?

We’re still trying to figure that out. I mean, we don’t necessarily only want people who upload videos, we want people who are interested in seeing those videos. If they’re looking for ideas to travel or they’re interested in what the people in videos are doing. It’s more of a reason to get traffic to the site. Obviously we want to get people to upload videos but obviously not everyone has a video of Europe,

Who are you hoping will participate in your contest?

For the contest we are hoping tourists. But let’s say you do video for a living and you go to Europe on vacation; that would be great. We’re not specifying that you can’t be professional.

How is the winner of the contest decided?

The winner is decided by a judging panel. We have on the ETC an executive committee and I believe they are judging it. We are going to narrow it down to twenty or thirty of the best ones and they are going to judge from there. The judges will pick winners based on the following: originality, creativity, suitability for advertising, and production quality.

What do you think the winning entry will say about your message and brand?

We want the video to be your story of Europe, from your point of view. What was your point of view for? What did you really enjoy? Some examples can be found on our site such as a guy dressed up as Mel Gibson from Braveheart and the pigeons in Venice.

How will you measure the success of the contest? Total number of videos or the number of people that come to your site?

I think it’s a little of both. We want videos uploaded but we want people just to watch the videos as well.

Do you think the European Travel Commission will continue to use the user-generated platform? Or is this a one-shot deal?

It all depends; we like to do something different every year for Visit Europe. But if this is a great success, I think we will definitely continue it.

July 11, 2008

What He Does For a Klondike Bar: Interview with David Burrows, Senior Brand Director

Please tell us a little about your contest and what led Klondike to create it?

"What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?" is a question of iconic status, and we want to encourage Americans to answer the questions for themselves in new and creative ways.

The "What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?" contest is an online video short contest inviting consumers to share with America the lengths they're willing to go for a Klondike Bar. The four contest categories - Laughs, Flaunt It, Did You See That? and Everything Else - will give Americans their 15 minutes of fame. The grand prize winner will receive $100,000 and a one-on-one digital short consultation with Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone of The Lonely Island and "Saturday Night Live" fame. In addition to the contest, by simply selecting your choice for the finalist, one lucky voter will be awarded with $25,000 in cold hard cash.

Was this contest created and managed in-house or was it developed with your agency?

Klondike is working with several of our marketing agencies on the "What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?" video contest. They include Story Worldwide, GolinHarris, DDB Worldwide, Mindshare World and Mindshare Interaction. This is an innovative venture for Klondike into the online video contest space.

Has Klondike tried user-generated advertising in the past? What was the response?

We have not, in the past, utilized user-generated advertising but we are being incredibly proactive with our online advertising for this contest. This online advertising includes homepage takeovers on AOL and YouTube, as well as various ads on several Web sites.

Have you seen other contests that have reached out to consumers and amateurs? What are your thoughts on these contests? How does yours differ?

There definitely have been other contests for consumers and amateurs in the past. The trend in contests is moving towards "asking" your audience to engage with the brand versus simply "telling" your audience about your brand. With the Klondike video contest, we are leveraging the familiarity and nostalgia of our iconic question and inviting our audience to speak for themselves about what wild and wacky things they would do for the ice cream treat.

How are you attracting attention for your contest and getting the word out to potential entrants?

Promotional support for the "What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?" video contest launched on May 15, 2008, on two popular NBC network television shows. Klondike was featured during the May 15th season finale of "My Name is Earl." During the episode, Earl's brother Randy shows some of the crazy things he would do for a Klondike Bar. Klondike also advertised in two spots during the show. Additionally, Klondike was the featured brand in a live television commercial on the May 15th airing of "The Tonight Show," and also advertised in two spots during the show.

What sort of response have you had from the contest?

The Klondike contest has been tremendously successful with videos submitted from all corners of the United States. We've even heard about consumers conducting casting calls for their videos!

Who are you hoping will participate in your contest?

We hope to generate entries from a wide range of Klondike fans - a broad variation in participants will create a more interesting pool of videos. We want food lovers, dessert connoisseurs, movie directors, students, actresses and your neighbor who goes to extreme lengths to get his or her hands on a Klondike Bar! Contest entrants must be 18 years and older as of the date of entry and legal resident of the 50 U.S. states or Washington, DC

Who is the final arbiter of the winning selection (i.e., popular selection or judging panel)?

The semi-finalist and grand-prize winner judging panel will be made up of a team from Klondike, supervised by an independent judging panel. During judging for the grand-prize winner, The Lonely Island will join the judging panel.

All eligible entries will be judged based on the following criteria:
i. Semi-Finalist Judging: originality and creativity (30%); communication of the “What Would You Do For A Klondike Bar?” theme (30%); and overall appeal (40%). The public vote will determine 10% of the entrant’s score. The official judging panel will determine the remaining 90% of the entrant’s score.
ii. Finalist Judging: finalists entries will be re-judged by the same criteria as above. The entry with the highest score will be named the grand-prize winner.

What do you think the winning entry will say about your message and brand?

There's no telling what the winning entry will be or what it will say about our brand, but we're confident it will come from someone who is very creative and who is willing to do anything for a Klondike Bar. The “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” advertising slogan has become an American icon and is commonly referenced in pop culture. We believe a video contest that allows Americans to showcase their talent and creativity by answering the question is a perfect fit and we hope the winning entry will deliver!

What value do you feel user-generated content brings to your brand and your message?

Klondike is reaching out to our tried and true fans, as well as the new generation of ice cream enthusiasts through innovative campaigns on primetime and online, and we hope that these campaigns will drive the belief that "being square" is cool – and delicious!

How will you measure the success of the contest?

The success of the contest will be measured on various levels including media impressions, online chatter about the contest and the Klondike brand and quality of submissions. Most importantly, though, Klondike believes that a successful contest is one that is well-received with Americans and allows them to express themselves.

Can you discuss with us your thoughts on the trend towards user generated content as a marketing message?

Again, consumers are looking to be involved at every level with their favorite brands - they want to hear what other consumers have to say -- and they want to be heard. Blogs are great examples of consumers looking to interact with people "in the know" who have insights into a variety of subjects. Contests like the "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?" contest are just one way to invite the consumer to share their point of view.

Do you think brands will continue to use the user-generated platform? Or is this a one-shot deal?

Brands will continue to invite user-generated media into all aspects of their product because again, it's all about the consumer in the end.

July 8, 2008

Portfolio Center from a Student's Perspective: Guest Post by Andrea Foster

One fine spring day, I found myself in downtown Atlanta examining the walls in a dimly lit underpass. I came armed with several cans of spray paint, camera, tripod and a mission. Fortunately, I was never stopped and asked to explain my mission. For most students, defacing public property for a poster about a personal philosophy on God was not a typical solution for a project. However, this was not a typical assignment at a typical school, and typical solutions are not the way Portfolio Center student think.

I didn’t always think this way, and it took a while to get there. My steps toward the dimly lit underpass can be traced back to the previous decade, when I first entered college. At the time, I was not sure what I would do after graduation and not very concerned either. I focused on my passions and left with a degree in Fine Art. After graduation I went on to find unfulfilling work in both small and large corporations where I had little opportunity for creativity. It became apparent that a lifetime of such work would turn my brain to bland mashed potatoes. I had to make a change.

The idea to return to school was an enormous decision. I now had a spouse, fulltime job, and a mortgage. My actions would affect more than just myself. This time around, my education had to be the bridge to a satisfying career. I researched endlessly, read student blogs, and contacted alumni of many different schools. After two years of serious consideration, I finally made my jump. On January 2nd, 2007, I found myself nervously chatting with 14 fresh faces at Portfolio Center’s new student orientation. Five days later, I pulled an all-nighter, and the following year and a half has gone by in a whirlwind.

Despite the typical stories of cut paper posters and “sleep when you die” mantra, I’ve found that every student has their own unique experience. Likewise, I quickly learned that the diverse experiences are as diverse as the students who come to Portfolio Center. Whereas art students typically have a preconceived stereotype of some form, I found my new classmates to be unexpected and intriguing. Beekeepers and architects sat side by side. Degrees meant little; the desire to work hard and think critically became the new requirement.

While Portfolio Center has been dubbed a factory because of its ability to produce great designers, it is far from an assembly line for creative minds. Instead, the school reaches inside and pulls out the details and experiences that make each person an individual, and shows students how to apply these unique characteristics to their work. In two years, one is shaken, stirred, cracked open and turned inside out. The original ingredients remain but result in a new concoction that is now ready to conquer the creative world.

During one of my early quarters at Portfolio Center, I was in a class called “Storytelling and Metaphor.” This class instilled one of the core values of the school: let your work tell a story. After several writing assignments (yes, even design students have to write), I took elements of personal stories and translated them into a visual image. I feel this little drawing was a turning point. In one simple illustration, I learned to tell the story of myself in the world and my experience at Portfolio Center.

Some say the snail is the strongest creature in the world, as it carries its home with it everywhere. I too have had to find tremendous strength to reach my seventh quarter. Exhaustion and stress have been overwhelming, but I keep lurching forward. Curiosity about people and places brings me out, but I still have my shell to retreat into when needed. Maybe by the end of my Portfolio Center life I will be completely out of my shell, but I don’t intend to change that much. Instead, I hope to grow more confident about the concoction I have become and what I am capable of accomplishing.

I am anxious to see where this experience will take me, as the past year and a half has often differed from the student blogs and alumni stories I read before attending Portfolio Center. Sometimes fear and doubt about the future cloud my perspective, but I remind myself of all the knowledge, sincerity, and passion that I have absorbed from instructors and peers. The life-long lessons of thought, heart, and fearless energy will undoubtedly guide me as I take the next step and enter the creative work force.

July 1, 2008

Featured Artist: John Merritt

John Merritt finished second in Black Turtle Media’s Portfolio Review Challenge. His portfolio can be viwed at

What kind of background do you have in photography?

I started shooting seriously in April 2007. Prior to that, I had no real background in photography other than that I had spent several years working in advertising as a Print Production Manager, many moons ago I might add. I have always been a creative egg, I guess. I have dabbled with many different mediums over the years but nothing grabbed me the way photography has now.

Did you have any formal education in photography?

No formal education in photography, only in as much as online courses and reading many, many books. And of course lots of observation and study of the great photographers out there.

What motivated you to enter this contest? Have you entered similar contests in the past?

I was prompted to join the website and the contest after somebody had spotted my work elsewhere on the internet. This was my first official entry into a contest like this.

How do you get the ideas for your photographs?

I have a warped imagination at times; a situation, dream or person triggers that. A lot of my work relates directly or indirectly to life experiences, both past and present. I get my inspiration from so many great artists, life situations.

What kind of equipment and software did you use?

Just over a year ago, I scraped money together to buy a used Nikon D70 SLR camera and I still use that same camera today. I use Adobe Photoshop primarily in all of my post-production work. I love them both!

Describe your shooting process.

I like to think of myself as a down to earth and personable person. So I like to sit and chat with models prior to a shoot; it creates a more relaxed atmosphere. We get to learn more about each other’s goals and dreams. Most important is that we have fun! It has to be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved; I believe this will result in a much better collaboration.

Are you currently working on any other projects?

I am always working on something; there are too many ideas and concepts, and not enough hours in the day.

What are your future aspirations in the field?

This a hobby for me right now. I normally only shoot on weekends and I spend most evenings working on my images when I get home from work. You could say that I have been working my tail off this last year or so to make my dream a reality.

My dream is to be able to quit my job in construction and become a full-time photographer. I want to break into the world of editorial and fashion photography with my twist on things. I would also love to continue on with more fine art photography too. I’d like to thank you again for everything, this has just given me more encouragement to continue on with this.

What advice would you give to other people entering creative competitions?

For anyone else entering such contests my suggestion would be to include as much variety in your portfolio as possible. Show the full scope of your talent.

What are you going to do with the prize money?

The prize money will go towards upgrading my camera equipment. I have had my eye on a specific lens for a while now and will put the rest towards lighting equipment. Thank you so much!

June 27, 2008

Cool Tools:FilmTools

Professional equipment for filmakers can sometimes be hard to find outside of Hollywood. Now there’s FilmTools, an online shop for filmmakers.

FilmTools is an online shop that offers grip, electrical, lighting, sound and video supplies. The equipment is top-notch and even the big studios purchase equipment from the company. That being said, the equipment can be quite expensive. A standard apple box will cost you about $30 and a director’s chair will cost you $100. Obviously lighting equipment and sound equipment will end up costing a lot more.

The site divides the equipment up by department: camera department, grip department, electrical department, lighting department, and sound department. For example, the camera department sells everything from lenses to camera shoulder supports. And the electrical department sells everything from cables to power generators.

In addition to the film equipment that is available for sale on their site, FilmTools also offers a book and DVD section where you can browse titles that improve your skills in film. Titles include The Complete Film Production Handbook and Documentary Storytelling for Video and Filmmakers.

FilmTools has been online since 1994 and it’s the only store dedicated to supporting the Motion Picture Camera Department. For those that are located in Los Angeles, they also operate a retail store where you can walk in and purchase. If you’re looking to find hard-to-find equipment FilmTools is a great place for you to start your search.

June 24, 2008

Featured Filmmakers: Green Sky Media

Stephen Simonetto and Chris Thornberry won $5,000 for their winning Dos Lunas Tequila “Take Your Best Shot” commercial contest entry. Their video “Limes vs. Salt” makes use of stop-motion animation and shows an epic battle between limes and salt. The video can be viewed at

Their company, Green Sky Media, was launched just over a year ago to do video and photography productions. Green Sky Media hopes to be creating national spots in the future.

Black Turtle Media: What kind of background do you have in video production?

Green Sky Media: Chris graduated from Ball State University with a degree in video production and I [Stephen] went to Ball State University for a little bit. We’ve basically been doing videos together since high school so that’s mainly our experience

I [Stephen] do a lot of photography side things; that’s mainly my focus. But we still help each other out depending on what the project is and we try to incorporate both. That’s something we were able to do with this Dos Lunas commercial. Photography skills were obviously a huge part of this particular contest. It was a stop-motion deal and it was actually our first attempt at it.

Black Turtle Media: What motivated you to enter this contest?

Green Sky Media: We recently opened a video production company just over a year ago and we’re based out of Indiana so we don’t really get the opportunity to try and do tequila ads very often. Basically we try and find different contests all the time and this one really stuck out to us because it just seemed like a really fun one, and it really was. We stayed up all night and just got it done.

Black Turtle Media: What kind of familiarity did you have with the brand?

Green Sky Media: It was the first time we heard of it; they actually don’t even sell it in Indiana. We had to have a friend from Chicago bring it in for us.

Black Turtle Media: How did you get the idea for your entry?

Green Sky Media: We’ve been doing a lot of contests this year and the way we kind of approach them all is what looks like fun. We also try to think of a particular effect, or a lighting setup, or something that we haven’t done before. Then we try to do that for a contest video so if we ever have a client that wants us to do that particular effect it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve tried it. So basically we used this one; we mainly wanted to try stop motion. Basically from there we usually just sit here and talk for a couple hours about different ideas we can do and it branches off from there.

For this one, we started thinking of fight scenes and we started talking about the limes and the salt fighting against each other; it just sort of branched off from there. With stuff like this it gives us more opportunity to be creative than a business would be comfortable with and we don’t know whether or not we’re going to win a cash prize, if anything at all. We like to be able to at least tell ourselves we figured out how to do that or at least we know how to do that now.

Black Turtle Media: Why do you think your entry beat out the others?

Green Sky Media: We were actually very happy with the idea of it because it’s a really fun concept that we thought would be very different. The stop motion look of it went very well with our lighting; I think our lighting stood out. Chris does very well with adding sound effects and things like that so the sounds are very well done. I think the overall quality of it versus some of the other stuff probably made it stand out a little bit more.

Black Turtle Media: What kind of equipment and software did you use?

Green Sky Media: We used a Digital SLR Canon and for the lens we primarily used, for the entire time, a 200mm 2.8 lens. We had that on a tripod. There was one point where we had to do an overhead shot. We had to use a wire lens and it was kind of interesting the way we had to bring it up so it was pointing straight down. It turned out pretty nice.

Black Turtle Media: What was the production process like? How much did the shoot end up costing?

Green Sky Media: We ended up shooting for 2 ½ hours starting at 7:30 at night and ending at 5:30 in the morning,

We actually cleared out three or four local Target stores with their salt shakers. I think we bought about thirty. Our budget on it was about $100. We had to buy the salt shakers, the limes, the little swords, and the tequila itself. There was one expense we weren’t supposed to have. We had to superglue all the swords to the salts. We stood them all up and the glue actually ran over the counter top and all the salts were stuck to it. That added extra time where we actually had to take a razorblade and scrape off al the glue and it also ruined the counter top which was expensive.

Black Turtle Media: How did you feel about the reception to your entry?

Green Sky Media: Before they had announced any of the finalists and winners we had been showing it to all our friends and family. I think it was the best response we’ve gotten from any video. I don’t think we’ve had anybody who didn’t like it. A lot of the people who are watching it on Youtube, we don’t get to see their reactions or anything, but I think people are responding pretty well to it

We really look at the videos. We watch every video that is uploaded when we enter a contest, pretty much, and we see what people are doing. In this contest, people were doing 3D graphics and that really kind of scared us a little bit. I think what our video did have, they may have had these really nice graphics, but there wasn’t a story behind it. I think ours kind of took pieces of everything and put it together nicely,

Black Turtle Media: What are you going to do with the prize money?

Green Sky Media: We are buying new equipment; there’s always a bill to pay. It helps us justify entering the next contest and spending more time on the next one.

Black Turtle Media: What advice would you give to other people entering creative competitions?

Green Sky Media: I think the idea is probably the number one thing. I don’t really know if we can give advice because you can say have a good idea but I don’t think that’s going to help anybody. Because we’ve tried a lot of contests that didn’t have as good ideas as this one and I think the main thing with any production is that you want to plan everything out, remember who your demographic is, and just try to aim towards that. Remember that just because your friends think it’s funny, it may not appeal to anyone else but you guys.

Hopefully we try to do that but it’s not always the case. I really recommend it to anybody doing contests to try something new with the production like we do. I see a lot of contest entries that look like people are just making another Youtube video, like they’ve made 20 or 30 times before. I think if people just pushed themselves to do better audio or to do better lighting they that could help each other’s productions get better and better over time,

Black Turtle Media: Are you currently working on any other projects?

Green Sky Media: We’re actually talking about other projects that we are going to be entering here in the future but we haven’t started production on any of those. Business wise, we’ve got some work that’s always going on.

We haven’t really found that specific niche; we do a wide range of things. We try to do the commercial side of things with local businesses, weddings video, and photography but we also do the lower end with apartment tours, which is like a virtual tour but with video. There is a lot of stuff we do that’s reoccurring business and it does pay the bills; it’s not so much creative but it definitely helps

Black Turtle Media: What are your future aspirations in the field?

Green Sky Media: We definitely want to get into large scale commercial productions. We’d really like to have a national spot airing within the next year. We’re also trying to get into the music video stuff which we’ve heard isn’t the most lucrative market but it is a fun and creative one. We just hope to keep growing and growing as much as we can. I think being based out of Indianapolis; it’s not a Mecca as far as commercial video. Hopefully we can stay in Indianapolis and still do work on the coast if we have to; that’s our main goal.

June 23, 2008

Cool Tools:

Need to create a document? Want to create one that stands out from the crowd? Check out Creative Docs; their free software may be just what you’re looking for.

Creative Docs is a vector-based graphic design tool. It can be used to create documents, manuals, posters, illustrations, schemas, plans, and more. The software is along the lines of Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw. But since Creative Docs is free, the software isn’t nearly as powerful as the for-purchase software.

That being said, Creative Docs does offer some features that are usually reserved for commercial software - you can draw text along a curved path, merge shapes, and convert text into curves and color gradients. Some other uses of Creative Docs include creating optical illusions, drawing flow charts and writing manuals. Finished documents and graphics can be saved in image formats or as a PDF documents.

The software is co-developed by Epsitec SA, a 30-year-old Swiss company that is famous for learning software, and OPaC bright ideas, a Microsoft Certified Partner. Other software that the two companies developed have included Virtual Pen, which is pretty self-explanatory, and AutoWall, a wallpaper changer.

There is other software similar to Creative Docs available on the internet such as Inkscape but Creative Docs appears to be the strongest. The downside of the free powerful software is that there are restrictions that limit the commercial use of the product. To use the software, just head to and download. You don’t need to pay anything but you can give a donation if you feel so inclined.

June 19, 2008

Featured Filmmaker: Jared Cicon

Jared Cicon started his filmmaking career with the original Doritos’s “Crash the Superbowl” contest, winning $10,000 and getting national airplay. He was also a finalist for Heinz, taking home $5,700.

Most recently, Jared won $25,000 in the Tax Slayer video commercial contest. His commercial will air nationally in the months prior to the tax filing deadline of 2009.

What kind of background do you have in video production?

I have two years experience. I started acting three years ago, and started video taping so I could get some demo (reel) for my acting career.

Did you have any formal education in video production?

Not specifically; I was a wedding photographer for almost 17 years. I know it has gone along way towards my success as a Director and D.P.

What motivated you to do the Tax Slayer contest?

I liked the format. The brand was choosing the winner, not an internet popularity vote. I have been a finalist in contests where I have lost out to a senior at U.S.C. (or some similar college). I can’t compete with that sort of campaigning network.

I have been getting smarter with each contest. I do my best to find the ones that are legitimate solicitations from companies who for the purpose of advancing their brand (like TaxSlayer). When I enter a contest and realize too late it’s only a promotional gig run through an ad Agency, solely to generate internet buzz, it can be pretty demoralizing.

Tax Slayer bypassed the traditional ad agency relationship and went straight to the creatives. I like that. I worked directly with the marketing department; communication has been great. I just finished editing a 30-second cut of the original one minute version. There are plans to air both.

Have you entered similar contests in the past? How many?

I have entered 10 or more contests over the last two years and Tax Slayer has been the best run of all of them, and I am not saying this because I won. From the very beginning their communication was excellent. They returned email inquiries. I am sure this helped keep all of the creators on track as they developed and executed their ideas.

What kind of familiarity did you have with the Tax Slayer

None to start with. I learned what I did through the contest.

How did you get the idea for your entry?

It was pretty straight forward. Their logo includes a knight. I don’t see where I had any other choice but to get my 250lb. chubby frame onto a horse after first pouring it into some medieval chain mail. Additionally, they had about 20-25 seconds of required elements, so the concept was pretty much brand driven.

Why do you think your entry beat out the others?

Two reasons. Number one: thankfully, it was a relatively small field. Number two: I’m a detail man. Brands like/need that.

What kind of equipment and software did you use?

For shooting: A pair of Sony HDRFX-1’s, though I rarely shoot with two cameras. For editing I used an iMac duo-core with a couple of MyBook terabyte drives on the side (haha). I used the Final Cut Suite. I use Studio Pro and Livetype a lot.

What was the production process like?

Wow, where do I start?
Pre-production is driven by the brand and your script/story-board.
Production is a matter of stamina and staying power. How much will do you have to shoot until you know you have it right?
Post production is always a matter of willingness to try things in different ways (in editing) until you get it exactly how you want it. Sometimes accidents and discovery are the mother of invention. There are some truths however I adhere to. The most important being my belief that there is a specific frame in every clip that is the correct edit point. It is not a frame earlier, nor is it a frame later, than that exact frame.

How were the winners determined?

By the brand.

What are you going to do with the prize money?

Do you know how much rent is in Southern California?

What advice would you give to other people entering creative competitions?

Fall in love with the revision process. I regularly think I am done at least 20 different times in every project. Also, surround yourself with people whose opinion you respect, and be willing to make changes (kill your babies) once you receive a consensus of opinion.

Are you currently working on any other projects?

I will be doing some editing work for the Ocean Institute here in So Ca in the coming weeks/months. I also have a bid in on a Water Purification commercial. They are a Body Glove brand with a product launch in August. They understand my vision for branding their product. I think they will use me; I will find out next week.
But if you mean contests, yes, I am a sucker for a good contest and yes, I just submitted to the Klondike contest. You can find my entry on my Youtube page:

I will be shooting a second spot for the contest in the coming weeks, in-between Boy Scout camp (Scout Leader), my daughter’s birthday (July), and the other activities that surround a married father of four children.

What are your future aspirations in the field?

To become a better filmmaker/producer/director/editor/actor. I am proud to be part of this new breed of “do-it-yourself” content creators who are giving the status quo a run for their money and making them rethink the way they do business. It is a powerful feeling to know that the doors have been opened to the world of branding for anyone who has the vision and the competency to pull it off.

It is a heady feeling when you have a broadcast schedule for a commercial you created that is airing on national television, 15 or 20 times per day, for a full business quarter. I had that feeling with Doritos. I will have it again with I want to be in a situation where it doesn’t impress me anymore, if you catch my drift.

My immediate short-term goals include securing representation as a Director. It will be easier to get work from brands with a reputable agent as an advocate.

June 13, 2008

Cool Tools: Fix My Movie

Today’s technology has placed video cameras in all sorts of devices ranging from cell phones to laptops. It’s always great to have a camera on you; after all, who knows when you’ll find something worth filming. The problem is that the videos in cell phones capture in painfully low resolutions. They often come out blurry and unwatchable, with the Gordon’s Fisherman looking more like Big Bird. Now there’s a service that lets you take these videos and increase their quality. Fix My Movie!

It works like this. You transfer the video in your computer or cell phone to the website and within thirty minutes they will have upgraded the quality of the video. Fix My Movie claims that it increases resolution up to four times, brings out new details, gets rid of noise and compressing artifacts, and automatically brightens dark videos.

The examples on the website show definite improvement in the quality of the video clips. The images are brighter, cleaner, and details in the foreground are much sharper. Strangely, some details in the background aren’t quite as sharp in the fixed version. The bottom line is that images are much better after they are processed by Fix My Movie.

Fix My Movie was created by MostionDSP, a company which designs software for improving video from a wide range of sources including forensics. Fix My Movie is a natural extension of their work, with this one being aimed at the consumer market. While the service is currently free, the company will be launching a premium version which lets users do a few more things including grabbing super high quality JPEG files from video.

To get started you can signup for a free account and begin uploading video files. Make sure your videos don’t exceed 15Mb, that’s the maximum file size. The service also has an email feature where you can mail them the video at Once finished, you can download your enhanced video in Windows Media, iPod (Quicktime), and Flash video formats. An embed code is also available for sharing in blogs and social sites. Go fix your movie at

June 10, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Filmmaker: Interview with Lance Mungia

Lance Mungia
is a screenwriter and film director. He wrote and directed the film Six String Samurai. He co-wrote and directed The Crow: Wicked Prayer for Dimension films. Mungia also wrote and directed the short film, Garden For Rio, produced at Loyola Marymount University, where he attended as a film student. Mungia recently won MoveOn.Org's Obama in 30 seconds contest for his commercial titled "Obamacan."

What's your title?


How do you explain your job to your mother?

Well I wouldn’t because my mother’s dead. But to my family in general, I mean it’s really hard. I mean they’ve always figured I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, but they really don’t understand what it is that a filmmaker really does. You really just sort of have to make it seem like everything is going along as usual. It’s very difficult to explain what I do even to my family. Basically you just say you’re an artist and you’ll go to law school but not yet. It’s like the whole thing, be a doctor or be a lawyer; if you want to make money don’t get into making films.

How did you get started?

I started using a camera and shooting stuff on my own. I actually bought this old Russian newsreel camera. I got it from Siberia for like 400 bucks. I just went out and shot a short film, just to see if I could do it. I edited the whole thing in-camera because I didn’t know anything about editing. It was actually a pretty good way for you to teach yourself to edit and I had such a blast making the short film that I decided that’s what I really want to do. But I recommend that if someone wants to go to film school, they should go to junior college first.

What's your educational background? How did you get experience?

I went to junior college for a couple years just to get all my general education out of the way. That way, by the time you get to a four-year school, you don’t have to take any of the BS classes and spend a ton of money doing it. You get to focus solely on what you want to do and it was way cheaper. I knew people who had to drop out and work just because they couldn’t pay off their student loans. So I’m still stuck with loan debt but it’s really a lot smarter just to go to junior college first.

How do you sharpen your skills and stay motivated?

You watch movies. I watch good movies and I hang around people who are already motivated and who are already doing it. I mean, so much success is just surrounding yourself with the right kind of people. If you’re around people who also want to be artists, want to be successful with what they do, it usually rubs off. In turn, you can motivate them.

What advice do you give to those who want to join your profession?

It just really helps to have a good support network and I actually think having a support network is the reason you go to film school. I mean you don’t need to go to film school; you can just watch a bunch of movies and make movies yourself. And I would rather see somebody put a hundred thousand dollars into making a movie. The problem is if you don’t know what you have to say. If you don’t know the people you want to collaborate with, that’s the problem. I think film school really helps you out. I mean what do you want to be, what do you want to say; it just gives you that kind of support cushion to network and to meet other people you might want to collaborate with for years to come. I just feel like you can really make yourself in film. It doesn’t require you to go to UCLA or USC or NYU. It’s really just a matter of who you surround yourself with wherever they are.

A Series of Questions:

What do you like most about your job?

Affecting people; I think that as a storyteller you get to affect people and you get to sort of put yourself into someone else’s shoes. Like the thing we shot with John for the Obama ad. I mean it’s not even something that was really directed, or something that was really sort of overly polished or overly thought out. It was really simple. But still, the communication that you can get through a visual medium is so much more powerful. It’s kind of like the only growing art form that is always growing and always expanding. The internet completely revolutionized it. I think that’s the coolest thing about making a movie is that you get the gratification of people being able to come and respond to your work and hopefully appreciate it or not appreciate it. But definitely react to it and that’s cool because it brings you into the collective unconscious. Just sort of allows you to speak in a way that’s bigger than just yourself and that’s just the coolest thing about filmmaking. It’s fun to be able to tell stories, work with people you really like working with and to interact with actors and swap stories.

Where do you find inspiration?

My inspiration comes from a lot of different places. I think it’s always been, at least in the past, sort of from the desire to push the limits a little bit and go out and just tell a story in an interesting way. I’m inspired by other filmmakers, but lately my family. I have a kid now and I mean, in a way, film makes you immortal. I have this idea of passing on what you’re doing to another generation. To me that’s really cool and it inspires me and it keeps me achieving the best I can. Because when you know that maybe your kids or their kids are going to be watching. Maybe they won’t but maybe 100 years from now someone will find something that you did on the internet. It just gives you a feeling of touching a moment in history.

If you could go back in time and meet to your pre-professional self, what would you tell him?

I would say don’t stress because it’s all small stuff. There is no one big huge battle, there is never one film, there are always ups and downs; you really need to take it all in stride. I think that the more you can keep things objective and in perspective, the better you’re going to do, because you’re never as good as they say and you’re never as bad as they say. You’re only true judge is yourself. No one else is going to judge you; you don’t need to stress about doing anything other than what you want to do. Like I said, being objective about it, knowing when something works and knowing when it doesn’t work- pure objectivity.

What’s your motto?

Keep on doing it, don’t stop dreaming. I know that sounds cliché but it really is true. Just keep going. Don’t lose your sense of childhood wonder. For me the coolest thing about film is getting excited. I mean, seeing things with a fresh eye, and as long as you have that ability it’s as if you’re seeing it for the first time. And being excited about it; I think that’s the most important thing. I don’t know how you make that a motto, just stay excited. Find something that excites you.