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.