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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.

This Is Bottle Rocket Media | Meet Producer Siobhan Summers

Bottle Rocket Media’s own Siobhan Summers’ love of producing dates back to a fateful experience at 12-years-old at the Oprah Winfrey Show (where she would later work). From coordinating massive shoots in mere hours to hunting for a  ‘missing’ Stevie Wonder, there is nothing this multi-talented producer/editor/writer has ever shied away from.

Here’s what Siobhan had to say about her 20-year, professional journey:

What first got you into producing?

When I was in seventh grade, I attended a live taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show. I loved watching the women work behind the scenes. They had headsets, they seemed super busy and important—buzzing around the studio and backstage. I was very drawn to what was happening during the commercial breaks. Producers would come out with blue cards and talk to Oprah and her guests. I was in awe! These people pulled this show together. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a producer.

When I was a senior in college, I opened the yellow pages (remember those?) and called Harpo Studios to ask about their internship program, they didn’t have one at the time but said “can you come in tomorrow for a meeting?”  And I was there for the next 13 years.

Why do you love producing?

Collaboration. It is one of my favorite words—it is one of my favorite things. While I love the logistics and the organizational side of my job, the best part is when we all come together on set. We combine our individual roles, responsibilities and perspectives to produce something great. And, If I’ve done my job well, I don’t have much to do on set, the shoot should be running smoothly. I’m there to troubleshoot and graze craft services.

How do you approach each of your projects?

Always look ahead and work the process backward. When producing any project, it’s important to think of the end-game first. As Oprah taught me, it’s important to ask the question: “What is the intention?” So I think about – what does the client want to see/feel/communicate? Once the end is clear, you map out the road to get there. That’s what a producer does—we coordinate all aspects of the production from start to finish.  

What are some of the challenges you face as a producer creating short form material?

I love short form—it’s small and packs a punch. Considering that today’s consumers eat up a massive amount of content on their devices, bitesize is the way to go. The challenge is getting the message across in a brief, succinct and impactful video. This is a challenge I embrace. The editing process, for example, is an opportunity to deep dive into the material we’ve shot and be super selective and picky about what ends up on screen. This is when my Type A personality shines!

Talk to the creative side of producing.

While budgets, logistics and deadlines are a huge part of a producer’s job, a really good producer has to be a storyteller with a creative eye. It’s essential when doing quality control of the messaging and offering constructive direction during pre and post processes.

What is your proudest accomplishment in the field/why?

There are so many! I really love my job because every project is different.

I was part of the team who booked, produced and arranged for 176 olympians from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games to come to Chicago’s Millennium Park – and we had 12 days to do this. I’ve taken a seeing eye-horse for a walk in the west loop while his handler was in hair and makeup. The horse was named Cuddles. I’ve run around United Center with Patti LaBelle to get her to rehearsal on time when my colleague, Amy,  says over the headset “We’ve lost Stevie Wonder!” it was a rough twenty or so minutes until she came back on radio to say “Mr. Wonder has been located. He is at the Radio Shack on Michigan Avenue.”  So great.

But my honest to goodness favorite moments in producing is connecting with regular people who have the courage to open up to me in an interview. It may not always be glamorous or super exciting, but it is always humbling when someone trusts me to tell their story.

Favorite movie of all time and why:

Say Anything. Originally, I loved it for the obvious reasons: John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler, the unapologetic hopeless romantic, and of course, the iconic In Your Eyes boombox scene. However, my favorite moment is when Lloyd is in a phone booth, in the rain, talking to his sister and he says: “I gave her my heart. She gave me a…pen.”  For your viewing pleasure, click here. You’re welcome.

Years later though, watching it for the millionth time, I came to appreciate the shy brainiac, Diane Court (Ione Skye), realizing that she is just as complex and interesting as Lloyd. She is a strong and resilient female lead, and I don’t think that was celebrated when the movie came out.

Cheers to Diane Court!

 

Client Spotlight | Carol’s Cookies

Meet Carol’s Cookies

Bottle Rocket Media offers a taste of what it’s like to work with one of Chicago’s most in-demand purveyors of all-natural gourmet eats. With almost 40 years of operations under its belt, Carol’s Cookies met the production team with both a seasoned “understanding of marketing and video,” and a monster success story to share with the world. The end result is an intimate portrait of a family business – and a slightly heavier crew.

Bottle Rocket Media founder, Dan Fisher, spotlights the added value of working with a vice president that “gets” production: “Our partnership with Carol’s Cookies wouldn’t be nearly as productive without direct collaboration with Jeff Goldman – son of Carol. He is one of those rare clients that holds a true understanding of marketing and video, and how to maximize his spend. Plus, his passion for the family business keeps him engaged, which makes working with him and his team a lot of fun.”

Like many other creative adventures in video, Bottle Rocket Media’s work with Carol’s Cookies took a few twists and turns along the way “to become even more impactful than originally conceived,” adds Fisher. What initially presented itself as a company overview became more of an intimate portrait once the team arrived on site and “felt the love” for Carol and her 30-plus employees all with the same mission: to make the best cookie, by hand.

After a concept was pinpointed, a few technical hurdles remained as they almost always do in the world of video production—this is where Bottle Rocket Media’s collective shooting knowledge shines through: “We thrive on overcoming obstacles and coming away with new ideas on every project,” Fisher continues. “The big challenge on this one was shooting around a giant Cookie Monster mural that took over almost the entire background at the brand’s HQ. The interviews had to be extraordinarily coordinated. Thanks to Brett’s [Brett Singer, Co Director and Business Partner] ingenuity there’s not even a sliver of it in the final video.”

Framing aside, the experience’s overall smooth tone was set from the very beginning: “We sat down with the client and got to know more about Carol’s Cookies by asking questions and soaking up the history,” Fisher says. “Because of Jeff’s open-door attitude, our team was able to gain valuable insight into the how and why behind the brand. Once we started filming, we let the story lead the way.”

This was not the team’s first engagement with infamous Chicago cookie queen; Bottle Rocket Media has also partnered with the client on a series of videos in which Carol surprises people at work. “Both engagements were a pleasure,” Fisher adds. “Especially since Jeff allows us to be creative and always use our expertise to up the ante and upgrade the content.”

According to Goldman, the feelings are mutual: “People always say that you can have it done quickly, cost effectively, or have high quality – but, you can’t have all three. Well, Bottle Rocket proves those people wrong,” he asserts. “[Carol’s Cookies] searched for a firm that could communicate the handmade beauty of our cookies without breaking the bank—you have to sell a lot of cookies to pay for a big campaign. Bottle Rocket was able to meet a strict deadline, stay within budget and create material that is relatively timeless. They made us feel comfortable on camera – which helped it feel natural, yielding an excellent end product. We can’t wait to do another fun project like this with their team.”

“We also look forward to more projects in the future with Jeff and his team,” Fisher concludes. “The cookies are amazing, by the way. Our next challenge will be figuring out how to not gain weight during production.”

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

Bottle Rocket Media’s Site Redesign | First Look

Website Redesign Launch By Creative Director, Dan Wulfing, Spotlights User-Friendly Experience

Bottle Rocket Media is evolving – fast. New directors, editors, producers, freelancers, and clients mark a video production company with no signs of slowing down. So, why not redesign the website to prove it!?

Creative director, Dan Wulfing, who oversaw the development of the new site, could not be more keen on keeping an online presence that stands out among the rest: “Considering our growth as a Chicago entity, we needed our branding and marketing to match. So, we took a deep breath and dove in to create a much more engaging experience that integrates all areas of the site into one crisp, seamless flow.”

Simple, bold copy and user-friendly tabs and links on every page help visitors get up close with the entire team (newbies included), its clients, and of course, mind-blowing clips from their latest projects:  “The site is easy on the eyes, with a darker, cinematic aesthetic that feels like an escape rather than another cookie-cutter online sales pitch,” adds Wulfing. “We want visitors to stay, watch, have a great experience, and come away with video possibilities they might have never imagined.”

Our website will now showcase its portfolio in sections – PROMOTIONAL, DOCUMENTARY, EXPLAINER, CORPORATE, 360 VIDEO and MOTION – spotlighting the ability to meet the demands of almost any type of business, large or small.

Our newest feature is the CASE STUDIES page. Viewers can see for themselves just how impactful video and/or 360-degree video can be. According to Wulfing, from working with the Chicago Cubs to Dyson and Epsilon (and more), there are tons of success stories to be shared: “The case studies are a true gateway into our world and how we operate. Visitors can better visualize exactly how we approach every challenge, overcome obstacles that are unique to the project, and create beneficial outcomes for our valued clients.”

While Wulfing’s design style takes the site to a whole new level, visually and technically, he has also helped imbue a “virtual vibe” that fits perfectly with the collective personality of Bottle Rocket Media’s staff of professionals: laid back, down to earth, efficient and, most importantly, geekily passionate about video production.

“The bottom line is that we are not just another production house trying to turn a buck—we are real people who want to help share positive messaging through what we love and through the most creative and groundbreaking solutions,” Wulfing concludes. “We can’t wait to sink our teeth into the next project and the new website is designed as a reflection of that. I couldn’t be prouder of the launch, or more excited to share our work with the world.”