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Client Spotlight | American Girl

Encouraging thousands of kids each day to let their individuality shine through play, no brand is more focused on empowerment than American Girl. After collaborating with their creative team to develop a series of traditional promotional videos, the perfect opportunity to incorporate cutting-edge 360 Video sprouted when they reached out to Bottle Rocket media to create guided tours of its New York and Chicago locations.

Since its start in 1986, American Girl has developed into one of the most popular doll purveyors in the country, with roughly 20 major retail stores that also serve as restaurants, party hosts, and play centers. With so much going on at each spot – including stations where kids AND their dolls can receive makeovers and ear piercings –it was the perfect opportunity to utilize 360 video to create a fully immersive experience for viewers.

According to Bottle Rocket Media co-founder, Brett Singer, a successful run with American Girl on past productions was enough to set the stage for the use of 360 video: “We had worked with [American Girl] on many other promo videos, and fortified a wonderful working relationship,” he says. “As a result, the brand’s creative team approached us to produce 360 VR store tours with accompanying motion graphics to help guide the viewer throughout the experience.”

Not every client Bottle Rocket Media comes across can expertly dialogue about the latest in media techniques – however, as Singer implies, it certainly helps. “It should come as no surprise that American Girl is a very forward-thinking company, and early to embrace new technologies – including both 360 video and AR (augmented reality). Loaded with creative talent, including an in-house design team, we were seamlessly provided with brand-specific graphics, and new ones created just for the videos. Working with them is always a pleasure, as they come to each project as a partner. No one knows the subject matter better, so it’s a no-brainer for us to welcome them into the process.”

In the Cutting Room | Meet Editor, Dave Sarno

Meet Bottle Rocket Media Editor, Dave Sarno

Dave Sarno knows about visual storytelling—as far as he is concerned, it is not just the writing or directing that guides the viewer. With a love of film that began at age 10, he has fully embraced the painstaking, yet vital “discovery process” that is post-production. Learn how his approach helps push each Bottle Rocket Media project forward.

Framed: An Improvised Series – “The Clown” from Bottle Rocket Media on Vimeo.

What got you into editing?

I’ve been into movies and storytelling since I was 10. My first foray into the filmmaking process was making Super 8 movies with my childhood friends (Yep, I date myself). Much later, after I graduated from film school, I co-directed a feature documentary film. While working on that project, I saw the story come together in the editing room and I knew that’s where I wanted to be.

What about the craft moves you?

I can’t explain the reason why a cut works—I just know it when I see it. It’s trial and error until something clicks. I like that discovery process.

How does your style/technique tie into creating successful brand videos?

A lot of stories are reimagined in the editing room. Sometimes, the intended middle scene becomes the opening scene. Other times, a voice over is added to give depth to the visuals. The cut at the end of the day can be much different than at the start. There is a lot of improvising required in editing in order to get the best result. For me, it is always exciting to try something new in the editing room that hasn’t yet been considered.

What video technology/storytelling technique are you most excited about right now?

Moving to Bottle Rocket Media from the freelance world has allowed me to edit many 360 video projects. It’s a different kind of storytelling, and I’m eager to see where we can go with it.

What has been your proudest accomplishment at Bottle Rocket Media?

We shot and edited a web series last year called Framed, featuring the amazing talents of Chicago’s funniest improvisors asking a “shop owner” to frame bizarre objects. Since the actors were so funny, there were actually few moments that weren’t usable. We sculpted the 4-5 min episodes in the edit and my job was keeping the pace up while staying out of their way.

Comedy operates completely on what feels good and what makes you laugh in the cut. It was a great learning experience and so much fun. I wear headphones in the office, and everyone knew when I was cutting Framed because I laughed out loud a lot.

ON THE SET OF FRAMED

Favorite movie of all time and why…

Good Fellas. The camera movement, the editing, the acting… It’s uncomfortable. It’s terrifying—funny and manic. I think I’ve softened a little over the years as a movie watcher, but each time I see it, I can’t take my eyes off it.

The Bullhorn| Meet Director Kristina Perreault

Meet Bottle Rocket Media Director Kristina Perreault

Kristina Perreault has been everywhere, man. This world-traveling lens master brings both a breathtaking portfolio and endless vision to Bottle Rocket Media’s growing roster of creative talent. Discover the inspiration behind her work!

What got you into directing?

I have always had visions—even from a young age, I was able to make them happen. When I was 14, I began making up random stories and I would enroll my friends to act them out. It was a blast! I guess I naturally fell into that role. It was never a goal of mine—it’s just who I am.

How/why did travel become such a big part of your work?

The world is magical, and I want to share that with people. Travel opens our eyes to different ways of life and takes us out of our little bubble of reality—it expands consciousness. That’s what I’m here for.

How does your style/technique tie into creating successful brand videos?

My work is an extension of the way I see things: full of wonder, excitement, sensuality and grace. I want people to feel how I feel about the subject through my work. With every project, I am focused on connecting viewers to a real emotion that brings them further into the message—one that hopefully stays with them long after.

https://vimeo.com/236951722

What unique element(s) will you bring to BRM’s portfolio?

With all the dudes around here, my style definitely brings a much-needed feminine touch. That said, I feel my contributions nicely complement their existing slate.

What types of projects are you looking forward to in 2019?

More festivals and more travel!

What video technology/storytelling technique are you most excited about right now?

360 VR is finally on the rise in the travel industry. It’s the closest you can get to experiencing something new, somewhere else, without leaving your seat.

Favorite movie of all time and why…

Avatar really knocked my socks off when it came out. I love the story, the vibrancy, the world the characters live in, what they value and all the messaging throughout. It also looks a lot like my dreams – which is fun to see on film.

The Bullhorn | Meet Director Joel Kapity

Meet Bottle Rocket Media Director Joel Kapity

There is no shortage of creative talent at Bottle Rocket Media these days – emphasized by the onboarding of longtime Chicago-based director, Joel Kapity, who has been telling stories through the lens since childhood. A love for the human experience guides his creative sensibilities, while his fearless outlook helps him accomplish what others deem “impossible.” 

Here’s what Joel had to say about his rise as a successful storyteller:

What got you into directing? 

As a kid, I was always the guy with a camera. While others were hanging out, doing what kids do, I would be shooting little shorts with whomever I could wrangle on any given night.  

What about the craft moves you?

I think I’m terrible at a lot of things—directing is not one of them. There is no other job that comes more naturally or brings me more joy. One of my favorite aspects is working with professional actors to bring a story to life. As a director, I have a very specific task of pulling emotions out of others, and I love playing with framing, lighting and camera moves to help draw the audience further into the worlds of the characters.

How did you hook up with Bottle Rocket Media? What drew you to the company?

At my last studio, I was given the opportunity to direct a commercial with Bottle Rocket Media staff as my crew. It was a great experience. During the shoot, I had some solid conversations with Dan and Brett, and felt very in tune with their passion to produce great video content. It was a genuine connection. Bottle Rocket Media and I shared the same creative thoughts and direction—very refreshing. My gut feeling was that I could produce some truly incredible content with this studio.

What unique elements do you bring to the portfolio?

My most unique slash powerful element as a director is my love for people, and how that translates to my commercial work – whether it’s a tv spot, a feature film or social media content. The material I am most proud of almost always involves storylines driven by human relationships.

Also, big ideas with small budgets don’t scare me. I honestly believe I can accomplish what others deem “impossible.” 

How does your style lend itself to brand videos?

Shock and awe. I am obsessed with creating cinematic visuals to support brand awareness in new and exciting ways. For every project, I try to think about that one extra visual effect, shot or action that creates a video people will remember—one that stands out in a flooded market.

What can we look forward to from you in 2019?

So far, 2019 has been jam-packed with creating content for different brands every week and there are no signs of slowing down. I’m currently finishing my third film, I AM YOUR KEEPER, while working on several big client videos for Bottle Rocket Media.  

What industry techniques/technology/methods are you most excited about right now?

I am really excited about all the cameras and lighting tools we didn’t have 20 years ago – when I was still cutting my teeth as a director. A couple of months ago, I directed a Phantom high-speed camera commercial shoot with two of the best hockey players in the world—I was blown away by what we were able to capture. High-speed cameras can bring such an incredible value to a project that no other piece of equipment can. I’m also obsessed with the use of robotic arms in production, which is becoming extremely popular for capturing food and sports commercial imagery.   

What is one of your proudest accomplishments? Why? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

Directing and producing my second film, Dreams. It consumed my life for three years, three to six days a week, and roughly 15-20 hours a day. The movie involved a huge cast, with thousands of extras, and a limited budget. It’s a film I’d wanted to make for about 10 years and it ultimately involved flying in actors from all over the country. Considering the huge job at hand every day on set, it was definitely the most complex thing I have directed to date. 

Any words of wisdom?

Don’t listen to others who tell you what to be or what to do.

The best decisions I have made in my life were the ones that didn’t make sense to others. When you feel like being a part of something, just do it. Don’t think about the money or what you think you deserve. When you are a part of a project you love, you will perfect your craft. And that always leads to something bigger and better. Don’t wait to have what you think you need. If you are truly meant to do something, take a leap of faith and people will follow you.

Favorite movie and why:

One of my favorite movies is Crash. As far as films that tell multiple stories go, this was one of the best.  

On Set with Bottle Rocket Media

From two-day shoots featuring free ice cream for the cast & crew to a series of really cool 3D models being designed in-house for a client, spring has officially sprung for the team at Bottle Rocket Media.

Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to the past few weeks!

We shot a series of videos for Dyson at two Chicago salons over the course of two days. Each location provided its challenges (hellooo mirrors), but the team overcame each one gracefully – making for a fun, rewarding shoot.

Director: Dan Fisher | Producer: Siobhan Summers | DP: Andy Stegmeyer | Assistant Camera: Nick Silva | Audio: Tyler  Lang | HMU: Jayciee Ganek | Set Design: Jim Lichon | Stylist: Becca Nino | Script PA: Jack Cronin | Camera PA: Corey Henderson | PA & BTS Photos: Amy Davila | Editors: Dave Sarno & Tre Manchester 

We also did a two-day shoot in Gurnee, Illinois, for Second City Works. It happened to line up perfectly with Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day, which some of the cast and crew have dubbed “the best day ever.”

This unique, vlog-styled shoot allowed us to shoot around 20 pages of script per day! Yep, the crew killed it every step of the way – even burning off calories from all the free ice cream while chasing after kids and running across the resort for gear (at least, that’s what we’re telling ourselves).

Director: Brett Singer | Producer: Siobhan Summers | Assistant Director/BTS Photos: Dan Fisher | DP: Josh Tallo | Audio: Tyler  Lang | AC: Jordan Kantola | Grip: Adrian DiGiovanni | Set Design: Jim Lichon | Stylist: Becca Nino | HMU: Jayciee Ganek | Production Assistant/BTS Photos: Amy Davila | 

 

Last year, we were fortunate enough to work on a campaign for a very popular appliance brand. Guess we did a good job, as they recently contacted us to shoot some pickups! In no time, we got the team back together, rolled into Oakbrook Center in Chicago, set up the jib and did our thing.

Director: Joel Kapity | Assistant Director: Dan Fisher | DP: Josh Tallo | AC: Erik Bjella | Producer: Siobhan Summers | Art Director: Jim Lichon | HMU: Jaycie Ganek | Production Assistant: Jordan Kantola | BTS Photos by: Dan Fisher | Editor: Dave Sarno 

The Bullhorn | Meet Director Mark Cwiakala

Meet Bottle Rocket Media Director Mark Cwiakala

In the first installment of our Bullhorn series, we meet director Mark Cwiakala – who comes to the Chicago-based production team with a passion for storytelling, documentary-style video and a lot less “confusion” than when he started out.

Here’s what Mark had to say about his 25-year journey as a professional creator:

What got you into directing? I got into directing out of a sense of confusion. When I was working as a creative director, it perplexed me that I would hand off storyboards to another person who would then direct the spot I had been working on for weeks – sometimes for months. Not that they couldn’t do it, but why wouldn’t I do it?

How did you connect with Bottle Rocket Media?I met founder, Dan Fisher, about eight years ago while working on a pitch for a series called No Chef’s Allowed. I was introduced by a mutual producer friend who thought Dan would be perfect for the project. We clicked! He was a great addition to our team and an overall joy to be around. Years later, when I was looking to branch out and focus more on directing, I figured enough time went by that he’d forgotten how annoying I was. So, I dropped him a line.

What draws you to documentary-style video? I love a good story. That’s it. Listening to real people tell you something interesting, shocking, thoughtful, weird, obscene, sad, or exciting, is performance art.

How does the medium lend itself to brand videos? I’ve always felt the best way to communicate is to show someone something authentic that they can relate to. No one likes to be told what to do or what to buy, but if you can expose an audience to something that hits home – especially something they have never seen before – it will be contagious. Getting people to relate is the best way to make an impact.

What will you bring to the portfolio in 2019? I hope to work on a few new docu-series projects and expand into different industries that Bottle Rocket Media has yet to tap. Currently, I’m working on a documentary that spotlights the recent explosion of combat-art, and why we are seeking out violent outlets in a time when humans no longer need to be physically aggressive to survive. In the end, I love shooting anything that’s thrown my way, while challenging myself to make it better than expected.

What video techniques are you most excited about right now? I don’t get hung up on technology too much. I keep aware of it. But, even if the tool itself can facilitate the creative, the creative should always dictate the tool. Content comes first. That being said, I really want to shoot a moving bullet probe lens through a big pile of fruit, or cakes, or even water balloons.

Favorite movie of all time and why:8 ½ by Fellini. If you can’t relate the opening scene, I’d like to be on what you’re on.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bvz3fernXaq/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link