When you think of Walla Walla, WA, you most likely think of small towns, wine, and horizons that spill off into the grape-soaked distance. With a population of just 30,000, it's generally considered  a sleepy place that serves up great food and lazy afternoons. It's a correct assessment. 

But there's also a strong digital undercurrent. Walla Walla is situated next to a broadband fiber highway that extends from Portland to Spokane and further east – and the town has tasked itself with figuring out ways to use this network to help drive good business. If you think of the service economy as moving heavy things from point A to point B (like waiters or boats), the knowledge economy is about moving data: documents, files, videos, games, images, webinars, conferences, anything that can be digitized and sent off into cyberspace. By tapping into this possibility, and training people to become knowledge economy literate, you are creating a much more valuable and vibrant workforce. A workforce that can work virtually with anyone in the world.

CASE STUDY:  According to Code.org, people who graduate from college with the ability to code computer games have an average starting salary of $90k. The average of all other majors?  $30k. So it's pretty apparent that any educational curriculum pointed to providing well paying jobs and growth opportunity should be at least have some focus on computer literacy. 

To that end, Dennis DeBroeck over at Walla Walla High School has formed a highly rigorous computer science program fifteen years in the making. Students in this class are creating visual effects (for videos and film), 3-D modeling, and computer games – and the course is so popular it is going to be offered to other schools as well as a career track. Graduates have been offered numerous college scholarships as well as jobs straight out of high-school working on major motion pictures and for Tier A gaming companies. Impressive. 


Complementing that is CrewSpace at the Walla Walla Public Library – a cutting edge content production facility open to the public. Classes range from podcast creation to full-blown video production, the only limitation being what you bring the table. Again – all facilitating the basis for a creative economy that drives business as well as pleasure. Really neat stuff. 

In the words of David Woolson, who leads the charge at the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce:

Digital W2 is a Chamber of Commerce initiative created to build the digital media industry and our broader creative economy. Living in a fabulous location and working on a world-class global level is not only possible, it's being done. Being in the middle of nowhere ain't what it used to be.   

Action Item: Ask yourself, what's your digital initiative? If you don't have one, the train is leaving the station and you better hop on. 

Bellingham?  What sayest thou?


Want to see our latest? Visit www.handcrankfilms.com/spring2014




Open on:

A plane disappears over the Pacific. Military might gathers at the borders of the Ukraine. Radioactive waste is scheduled to hit the shore. People sharpen their spears and beat their drums.  

It's a place of danger. 

A body lays face down in the water, motionless. Suspended. Timeless. Music builds -

Builds -

And as the beat hits, you regain consciousness. 

That's where we are right now:   The world ratchets up a day at a time, yet most of us yawn, eat our cholesterol free oatmeal, and head about our day. We put one foot in front of the other because that's what we've been told.  We head down that path, and before long, we find ourselves displaced. Our boss bored. Our spouse bored.  You, bored. 

In order to shake it up, maybe you need to uncover your inner-Bourne. Maybe you need a few false passports or a loaded Walther PPK. Light the stack of bills or the stack of paperwork on fire and head out on a secret mission. Rethink and re-examine.  Be a little bit more dangerous. 

Here's 5 Reasons why adding a little danger might help you:

  1. Better Stories. I just back back from Mexico with my family. The best times we had were the unchartered and the unplanned. The part where we ran with packs of dogs or had to  remain perfectly still next to jellyfish. That's the part we'll talk about years from now. 
  2. Better Business. In order to really own your biz success, you'll need an edge. A perspective. A sharpness that cuts through dullness. A little danger. 
  3. Better Clarity. Nothing amps up your senses and your ability to see then a little adrenalin rush. 
  4. Better Creativity. Stuck in a rut? 
  5. Risk Aversion. Believe it or not, staying on the path you're on right now might be the most risky thing you've ever done, especially if it's just following someone else's dream. So shake it up – and strive to look back on 2014 with a smile. 

ACTION ITEM:  Write the first scene of your action flick. Then act it out. Remember: one of our greatest enemies we all face is the status quo. Slay that dragon. 


Want to see our latest? Visit www.handcrankfilms.com/spring2014


Magnet Media, a bit social house in NYC, recently posted a list of top 5 things most likely to make your film go “viral”.

#1? Emotional Connection!!

Here’s what they said in regards to the recent “First Kiss Campaign” – see the video above…
“1. Human Connection
Does your video provoke a strong emotional response? Eliciting such a response creates the urge to share. First Kiss, a campaign by Wren Clothing, is a perfect example of compelling storytelling about human connection leading to shareability. The video consists of 20 strangers kissing, and has had two million views the morning after it was posted. As of now, it has more than 70 million views altogether (since March 10th!). Sales, by the way, are up nearly 14,000 percent.”

Of course, anyone watching the web knows these also spawned a bunch of knock off films – really funny ones – see my favorite here (FIRST HANDJOB – http://youtu.be/SAnjUhQvGi0 ) and a big controversy about this stuff. But, again, that’s what viral is all about, right? Take a chance – maybe it’ll pay off.

Talk soon,


I don’t think Donaldson was ready for me to post this, but since he’s on vacation in Mexico, and we’re here in B’ham in the rain, who cares?

This behind-the-scenes footage is from a recent in-house project we did with Mr. D. starring, an unruly cat, and all of the gang pitching’ in to make something funny for us to send to agencies to get them off their butts and calling us to make some movie magic. So far, hasn’t worked at all, and even probably caused a few to say we’re out-of-touch freaks. Oh well, maybe that’s why D. went to Mexico.

In the meantime, you can enjoy.

"Come back with your shield – or on it" – (Plutarch Spartan Battle Cry)

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, loves to say he'll do anything to 'Protect the Shield'. He'll discipline players, fine the owners, change the rules, anything to protect the brand that is the NFL. To him, the shield is the most important thing in his world.

He knows who he is, and what his organization stands for. And whether you like the soup he is selling or not, you have to admire his focus on doing whatever it takes to stand behind his brand. 

In the last few months, all of us at Hand Crank Films have been searching for that level of integrity. We've turned down a few clients not because we can afford to (we can't) but because they didn't quite fit into what we believe our shield should stand for: quality that matters. Vision that is unexpected. Something different that we are unique to provide. It's easy to talk about but much tougher to live by, and that's the journey we're on right now. 

And yes, we know that tons of people talk about 'quality' or 'caring' or 'the passion behind the project'. They are common words to aspire to. But much fewer of those people actually commit to living those words out, to doing whatever it takes to make them happen. It's hard work, but work that needs to be done. 

ACTION ITEM: Do you know what your shield stands for? Or maybe (like us), what you want it to stand for?  If you do, then commit to reaching it a little each and every time.

We like to think we're up to the task. Damn straight. And if you are too, maybe we can help each other get there. 


Want to see our latest? Visit www.handcrankfilms.com/spring2014





I really enjoyed reading Chris' post yesterday "Raise Your Rates". 

I thought it might be good to take the conversation further, in this case, thinking about the situation of rates and costs from the client's point of view. 

Basically, a marketing department, ad agency, or small company (something we deal with a lot here) has A LOT of choices to make and a lot of people vying for their dollars. To advertise they used to only have the big three – print, tv, and radio. Now there is the Internet – and with it comes YouTube, social, banners, SEO, blogging, websites – the list goes on and changes and gets added to everyday. There's a lot of good advertising people, with a lot of good reasons that you should spend your hard earned money with them. 

So, generally, when they've come to us they've already decided what the amount of money they are going to spend on the form of advertising they think we offer to them. I say "think" because video and film can take so many different forms of deployment now, and offer value the client had never considered, but that's a different post. Either way, they've decided what film and video is worth to them. A good marketing person will decide this worth based on what they can afford for this segment of their advertising, and what they can spend on promoting this advertising, and what they think they'll get out of it. 

They call us in to make them a great spot, promotion, etc. Everyone wants a great spot – regardless of what they can pay. I've certainly heard people say "give me something simple" – but they still want it to be good. At this point, it is up to us to decide if we want to accomplish that at the price they are offering. Many factors other than price affect a spot's worth to us. Will this spot be so great it'll get us other work? Will it help really make one of our directors shine? Does this client really have the potential to do something great later (this often happens)? But generally this comes down to do we see eye to eye on costs. It is our job to explain why costs are what they are, and also to try to encourage the client to make good choices for their money by making the right spot for themselves and their market. Often, when we show a client what can REALLY be done with their spot, they are willing to make arrangements to make that work. 

Sometimes, though, we don't see eye to eye. I recently pitched a job for an $11M/year small business that wanted to make their first TV spot. We really went to bat on them for price as a first time customer, a simple spot, etc. We still couldn't go low enough. And I'm talking lower than what we've done for $1M/year companies. Other people went lower. We lost the job. But, I think we made a good impression on them. They loved our plan, they just didn't think it was worth what they wanted out of video. My guess is, we might see them again if their feelings about our product's value to them change. 

I wish them absolutely no ill will, but it's easy to feel bitter that they 'didn't make the right choice'. Why? Because we're not making widgets, or selling vacuum cleaners – we're selling a little part of ourselves if our work is to be worth a darn. And they said 'no' that, or they said it's not worth what I thought it was to them. And that can sometimes be a painful pill to swallow. 

I was brought up a stockbroker's son, though, with a dad who always talked about "market value". I believe in the markets to eventually find an item's right price. I find solace in that, and so should you. We'll keep doing our good work (as Chris rightly points out  - this is the sole most important aspect) and the market will dictate what we can charge for it. But if you know your market and know what the limitations and expectations are – and if you can communicate your own value proposition clearly – then chances are very good you can reach agreement with your customers. Because in the end, we all want the same thing: work that shines. 



There's a guy in Montreal who makes $20,000 suits. A woman on Etsy who makes $700 bags. An artist in New York who draws on napkins and sells them for 5 grand cash. 

These guys are doing better than ever. Why?

They are not interested in cheap. They are only interested in good.  They don't rush to the bottom or wait to see what their competitor rate card looks like. They don't commoditize their talent or their vision into a sticker price. They have faith in their number and faith in themselves.

But as producer over here at HCF, one of my jobs is to hustle business. I've had some good success – made easier by a portfolio that gets stronger and stronger everyday. But I still find myself tempted to cut prices to drive action because 'that's what the market wants.'

Cheap. Fast. And good. But remember: you and your clients can only pick two. 

The market and the people you want to work with don't want cheap. They may say that, and in fact they may fight for it. They may send emails claiming budget is their #1 concern. They may jump up and down, pull their hair, and be upset with you for being more expensive than you were yesterday. 

But in reality, what they really want is this: Good work. Dependability. Projects that fulfill purpose. Excellence that makes them look good. And pricing, rarely, has much to do with that. Even if they tell you differently. 

Which is not to say we can start charging anything we want. We can't do that either – far from it. But as we grow and get better, as our relevancy and credibility expands in Seattle and beyond, as our work starts to really shine, we can be bolder at earning what we deserve. What our vision and spark merits. 

ACTION ITEM: So the next time a perspective client looks merely for low prices, stand by your guns. By all means, be considerate of their concerns and look for solutions. Offer alternatives that work for both of you. But don't jump to the low number out of habit. Don't say 'yes' just because it's a job. That just paints the picture that you're easy to get and easily replaceable. That last part is the most important to consider. Easily replaceable.  

Which is far far far from the truth. As a salesperson, I remind myself of that everyday. You should too.  

Want to see our latest?  Visit www.handcrankfilms.com/spring2014

Photo: The Gang winning a boatload of ADDYs, 2013. 

In the on going battle to bring marketing that is more "content-driven" companies like Chipotle have recently announced that they'll actually be making full-fledged TV shows. "Farmed and Dangerous" will appear next to regular programming (and be promoted as such) on Hulu in the next week. 

See the full article here: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-27/chipotle-lampoons-agriculture-industry-with-hulu-miniseries

Such a move isn't unusual for Chipotle who has moved away from traditional in the past years, and racked up over 20 million views of their online work. 

The trailer looks pretty funny, and certainly well made (supposedly about $250k/eposide). We're looking forward to doing a lot more "branded content" ourselves over here at HCF this year! It's a great alternative to classic :30's in today's DVR-mad world! Plus – they're a lot of fun to do!


Thank you all at Hand Crank Films. It was an absolute pleasure working with the team this week and the film brought the house down.

Two weeks ago we published this blog post about helping out a local non-profit with a fundraising film, and about what our hopes were for the film, and for the growth of their organization.  See this blog post here…

Well, we had the event, and I'm happy to say that the evening was a huge success and that the group TRIPLED their net for the evening with the help of our film!! We also reached every one of our goals for the night. See the finished film above.

We consulted with the organization a few times regarding how to best pitch in asking for money, how to best teir their paddle raising to maximize their investment, and when to best play the film to maximize its on their audience. We also worked with them to encourage them to raise their goals, and raise the stakes for people contributing. 

They were a great organization to work with, and they worked very hard to make their film, and evening, successful. Now, we'll be working with them for the online rollout of the film and maximizing the donations to follow. 

Good times, for good causes.

Check out this behind the scenes from the making of the Apple ad where they shoot it all with iPhone 5's. 

Okay, it is very cool how sweet the cameras are in phones now. But even cooler, much cooler, is seeing these incredible industry pros use whatever tools they have around to make things beautiful. Watching them work is 10 times cooler than the actual ad itself. Yes, I'm sure there was a lot of post on those pictures, but they still were shot with basic tools that are sitting in the pockets of millions and millions of people. 

The fact is, in our industry it is so easy to get carried away with our equipment. Watching these guys brings me back to the poetry of what we do. It's like the acoustic guitar of cinema. 

No, we won't be ditching our RED anytime soon. Shooting on it is a joy. Not so much, the iPhone. The other fact of this is that in each one of those shots they were shooting in absolutely optimal visual conditions. What I love about great cameras like the RED is when you're working day in and day out and the conditions are often NOT perfect, the RED helps ALOT to make your day easier and the end product much better looking – often regardless of the conditions. And great conditions, only bring that much more. Add in how great glass makes you feel, how slow motion captures the true essence of a great shot, etc. and, well, you'd better get ready to spend some money…

Nevertheless, the spot serves as a great reminder to what we have available to ourselves these days. And that, more often than not, we're only limited by our imagination.

Thanks, Apple. 

One of our intrepid Production Managers, Avielle Heath, forwarded me this article about multi-tasking that rang a very familiar bell. Five minutes ago, multi-tasking was all the rage. If you weren't responding to your email, fielding a call, ordering a cappucino and having a conversation with a co-worker while planning your next vacation, you were not working fast enough. Plain and simple. Job postings everywhere made 'multi-tasking' a pre-requisite to success. 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the brass ring. I for one have come to realize that the thing lacking from my work and my life is pretty straight-forward: focus. The ability to dig deep into something and take the time to understand it. To listen. To understand. And then, perhaps, to act. 

The resistance tells us we need a 'to-do' lists a mile long. That we are measured in quantity. That speed is a virtue. That check-marks are our most important asset. I've believed it, and lost many opportunities because of it. And that's too bad. 

ACTION ITEM:  One thing I've tried to do is take some time every Sunday to outline my 'Model Week'. During this outlining process of the Model Week, I mark the 3 big objectives I need to get done in any given day. That may include something as simple as 'Start  :30 Script' on Monday and 'Finish :30 Script on Friday, with all the necessary steps in between. If I get my 3 things done everyday, then the rest is gravy. I try not to rush to look for the next thing I can spit out the door. I try to use the in-between time to understand the job at hand. And, most importantly, to Think Bigger. 

It's tricky stuff to be sure, but try it next time. Living in the weeds makes you think smaller. No exceptions. 

That's the beauty of great film, fine prose, poems that are music. These things pull you into the moment. Grab you. Force you go deep as well as wide. You can live your days like that too. 

And that very well may include a phone stack or three in your future. 

Want to see our latest?  Visit www.handcrankfilms.com/spring2014

Hand Crank Films has recently embarked on the first of what we hope are many donated productions to non-profits that we believe are worthy. Why would we give away a $15k production? Because we truly believe film is the strongest way to raise money and awareness, and truly change the game for great, but fledgling, non-profits out there. We've worked with so many great non-profits out there, but not all can afford us – so we wanted to give back. And we wanted to try some things; to glean some cold hard facts regarding ROI of film for non-profits at events.

Here's our goals:

  1. To at least double the amount of money the non-profit takes home in the evening of their event.
  2. To double the attendance of their event.
  3. To greatly increase the awareness of the group as measured by click and engagement with our films.
  4. To invigorate new life into the organization's plans for the event, bringing focus, high goals, and excitement (showbiz!) to their night.

So, we chose an organization called Our TreeHouse. The fulfiled all of our criteria:

  1. Great mission. They've got an incredible mission of helping kids and families that lose a parent or child suddenly to cope with this tradgedy. There is a ton of need for this in our community and not enough resources.
  2. Motivated staff. They've got a terrific team, and they are organized.
  3. Just getting started. Last year they only raised $9k at their event and had about 50 people.

We pitched our plan to TreeHouse, and they were psyched. We scripted and shot the film. The teaser is at the header of this blog. 

The event isn't until next week, but here's what's happened ALREADY since we posted the teaser:

  • They have SOLD OUT their event with 96 seats at $100/seat (CHECK off doubling attendence!)
  • Through FaceBook postings of the teaser they've already gotten 3000 impressions of their film, and over 250 views, and 71 likes (on our way towards that awareness goa!l)

Now, much of this was also due to the hard work of the TreeHouse team who are now invigorated to really make a show of this. We're still furiously editing the film that will show, and orienting the night correctly around the film (check future blog series on how to best utilize your film for the non-profit evening), but we have high hopes. We've set our goal at raising $50k that evening. Phew!

We'll post the results of our case study on February 10th – wish us luck!

Thanks for reading! 


I don't want to scare off the few readers I have with a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, but I happened to stumble across this legal case involving royalty rights on DVD sales owed the producers of film classic Napoleon Dynamite. There's a ton of numbers to wade through, but if you're a deal geek like me it was informative to look at the underbelly of the beast. 

But if you don't have the stomach for it, I'll make it easy. Searchlight, the distribution company that released the DVD, said the producers were owed a mere 10% of the $139 million generated by DVD sales. The producers claimed they were owed 31.66%. After lengthy litigation, it was ruled that the producers were owed 12% – and they lost over a cool $10 mil.

Their downfall wasn't the deal. It was their lack of attention throughout the pay-out of the deal. So though a lot of us think that making movies is a blast (and it is) – those of us who's lives depend on it have to remember it's also a business. Show business.

My takeaway: don't trust other people to handle the biz side for you. Hire, marry, or be a piranha yourself to protect your work. Even if it's a small deal, dot the i's and cross the t's. Then do it again. Then again. Be a bad-ass out of the gates. 

Otherwise, someone else will eat your steak. 


Photo Courtesy of Searchlight. Want to see our latest?  Visit www.handcrankfilms.com/spring2014









Allright, so I'll state the obvious: video drives the web. In the time you took to read this, about a lifetime of cat juggling and Charlie biting people's fingers has been uploaded for your happy consumption. So it's no surprise that developers are scrambling to create a video app that has the juice of Instagram or Pinterest – a do it yourself cinema for the digital age. It's a big hairy audacious goal. 

Enter Directr, the iPhone app that is doing it's best to help you create 'Video that Matters'. It's actually quite slick: you download the app, choose your theme, and you are provided with a series of storyboards you use as guidelines to frame your shots and tell your story. Then it slaps on a title card, drops in the music, and voila – you've made moving pictures. Check out this one – which I made in less than 5 minutes after opening the app for the first time:



Is this going to win any awards? Not. In fact, if I send enough of these into my social stream, my friends will probably hire Jason Bourne to take a hit out on me. But it does speak to a real issue for content creators: how do you create video that is easy to get out there with a modicum of quality? This is the riddle of Occam's razor: simplifying things in order to make them more powerful. 

Directr's attempt succeeds in that regard – at least in part. You can do some cool stuff with it pretty quickly. And it's easy to use. And the business model, from their perspective, is potentially scalable as it enters the social realm, more people use it, and more personal behavior data is gathered – to be sold later to Facebook or the NSA in a few years. I like it. 

On top of that – there is also a business version you can pay for. Poke around the site – you may see some samples that interest you and maybe you'll be inspired. 

But let's not go too crazy: You aren't carrying Scorsese around in your hip pocket. Yes, you can get creative within the confines of Directr. Yes, some cool stuff is being produced with it.  But even then, it's still no match for filmmakers. It's a paint-by-numbers approach that won't suit bigger brands that need better story-telling. Easier, faster and cheaper can be useful, but rarely is it better. That rule still applies here. 

But for some  - it may work just fine. And anything that gets more people jazzed about film and video certainly deserves a look and a hat tip. Count me in – especially if it means more of this

Photo: On the set of SPIE, directed by Caleb Young.  Want to see our latest?  Visit www.handcrankfilms.com/spring2014


A few days ago, a friend of mine asked what my New Year's resolution was, and I jokingly answered "Be less agreeable".  I expected a laugh, but instead she looked at me, nodded, and said "You mean say 'No' more.' 

The more I thought about that, the more it made sense. The more I realized that's exactly the resolution I need to wrap myself in. Because the word 'No' is making a comeback. The value of 'No' is actually pretty powerful. Especially if you look at it a little differently than maybe we're used to. Here's why:

  • It protects your time and energy. By saying 'no' you can concentrate on those things that mean the most to you and shed some of the stuff that is getting in the way. Signal versus noise is something we all have to fight for. 
  • It Gets You Closer to Where You Need to Be. By hearing 'no', especially when you're pitching projects or jobs, you are by definition getting closer to a 'Yes'. The famous salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar was known for embracing the 'no', because he knew if he didn't hear that enough times, he would never get to the 'yes' he really wanted. It was a law of averages he loved to play, and play it well he did.
  • It Brings Meaning Back to 'Yes'. If you're saying 'Yes' to every request or opportunity, the value of that 'Yes' loses it's currency. It's not important anymore. You're giving it away for free. Similarly, if all you're hearing is 'yes' , then chances are you're not reaching high enough or deep enough into possibility and risk. 

So one of my goals is to say and hear 'No' a bit more. This won't be easy – but if I can manage to do this gracefully, I know this points to a bolder path, a deeper meaning, and a bigger 'Yes'. 

And a bigger 'Yes' is what we want to film this year. 


Photo: Western University Shoot.  Want to see our latest?  Visit www.handcrankfilms.com/spring2014

This is a post we like to make every year. Here's to a great 2014.

Every New Year, I make the standard list of resolutions. They often involve exercising more and eating less. But this year more than ever, we're on a search for Quality. And to me, quality means connecting with things and people that resonate, fulfill their purpose, and last.

Here’s a few ways I think we can all add quality to our stories in 2014:

Find the Romantic Hook: Romance is the deepest connection – the way we find joy in the smallest things. While it’s the most powerful of all the hooks, it’s also often the first to be let go under the grind of the day to day. Don’t let this be buried under the incessant paperwork. Fight hard for it. Don't let it go, above all else. 
Listen to Better Soundtracks: Every piece of media we consume affects how we feel. Don’t waste much time (other than a few guilty pleasures – New Girl anyone?) on content that doesn't reinforce who you want to be. Instead, find your soundtrack that inspires. Then march to it. 
Find a Better Cast: Surrounding yourself with people that don’t dream the same way you do is a killer. Cut their scenes as much as possible, and hang with people who want to share the same crazy life you do. That’s the best way to reach new heights. And the most fun. 
Produce Quality Content: Every email, every tweet, every Facebook post and video, is part of your brand and reflects who you are. Your content is what fills your own personal TV channel, and if you want people to watch, you have to focus on quality. No, it may never be perfect, but it should add value and make people’s lives better. Progress, not perfection. 
> Ignore the Critics: Producing (rather than just consuming) is risky business. You’re going to have to eventually throw stuff out there for people to see. Inevitably, you’ll get feedback that is negative, snarky, and mean. But you’ll also get good feedback. Use it to improve and fuel the engine. The best advice I ever got: Don’t get dragged down by people who never had the guts in the first place.

The Big Questions and the Big Answers do matter. By stealing some of these resolutions, maybe we can all do well and put a ‘dent in the universe’. Be who you are. 

Your thoughts for 2014? Let us know. And check out our new work here.

Photo: On the set of Caleb Young's feature film 'Ghostwoods'. 

Yesterday I got the pleasure of hanging out with the PSAMA posse, this time for an esteemed panel called 'Bootstrap Marketing and Earning Attention without a Budget'.  This subject is especially relevant given that many of us are grinding down our 2014 budgets The speakers included Rand Fishkin, CEO of MOZ, Dan Shapiro, founder of Turtle Robots, John Cook of Geekwire, and moderator Liz Pearce from Liquid Planner. The take-aways from this collective brainpower were plentiful, including:

  • Great compelling stories drive great brands.
  • Great brands connect great stories to revenue.
  • Don't focus on what you want to say, focus on what your audience wants to hear.
  • Use data to guide your business, not lead it. 
  • Make a noise, and then wait to hear the echo.

A lot of us (and I'm raising my hand here) have probably been guilty of pushing, pushing, pushing without taking the time to really sit back and listen for the results. When we throw an ad campaign out there, are we actually taking the time on the back-end to measure effectiveness? When we spend good marketing dollars on a video, do we know what success looks like to determine if this appoach even works?  Or are we immediately onto the next shiny object?

Hey look, a squirrel.

When you're shooting in the dark, which many of us are, it's important to wait for the echo. This is Dan Shapiro's advice – which got me thinking about bootstrapping as a whole. Sure bootstrapping is about saving money on the front end as much as possible, but it's also about understanding the back-end results so we can do better/bigger/morebadass stuff next time. That's the goal, right?

Here's a few ideas on how you can bootstrap your next video:

  • Clarify your vision: Know exactly "What Does Success Look Like to Me" – and what you want your film/video content to accomplish before you jump in. This will keep your business requirements front and center, and make sure you hit the target of what your audience wants to hear. 
  • Understand the process: What does it take to create good video content?  If you're working with a vendor, understand each and every step in the creative process. Then decide which one of those steps you can do to potentially save some money. Maybe it's as simple handling some logisitical/scheduling stuff, or maybe you have an idea or script already in hand. 
  • Never, ever, start shooting without a script: what it is you want, a script to get you there, and the associated shooting schedule. Want to increase budget two-fold? Start without these in place. 
  • Define your distribution strategy: how do you plan on driving eyeballs to your fantastic content? This might include social media, emails, press releases, word-of-mouth, tradeshows, etc – but understand all this on the front end so your project doesn't gather dust. This plan should be locked in during the scripting phase or even earlier. 
  • Measure, measure measure: As a bootstrapper, you'll want to know if you're content is driving sales/exposure/rain to make the Gods happy. Be prepared to listen after launch. Determine if what you are doing is working. And then pivot based on results. 

As Rand and John pointed out, bad video can ruin a great brand. So though you don't want to spend the farm, you do need to make sure your content is consistent with what you're all about. Organic and simple is fine. Selfies can work. But just make sure you're meeting the values and goals of your company.  And since, according to eMarketer, video is more popular than ever – you hopefully will find yourself driving crazy results. Which will make any bootstrapper's mother proud. 

Let's roll,


P.S. If you're the first to lay a tweet on me @chris_donaldson, I'll buy you a coffee. Do it now and see what happens. 

Hey all, just dropping two new spots just completed for JAYRAY, an agency down in Tacoma. See the first one above – here's the second one...

These were produced to help PeaceHealth in Longview and Vancouver distinguish their local care and values from other non-local insurance providers. 

JAYRAY – and in particular Shari Campbell - provided the concept and script. 

Basically, after visiting this area on a tech scout the week before the shoot I felt that this could really use a "down-home" treatment. So I referenced a recent Chevy ad – "Strong" – that had a bunch of heart to it. We went after that vibe in the style of our shots and simple, hand-held setups. We also decided to mix traditional building shots from the jib with drive-by shots of the hospitals to make them more authentic and feel like what you might feel driving by. We accomplished these drive by shots by sticking our fearless cameraman Kent Colony either out of the roof of my car, or from the window of the production van. Here's a pic..


We shot both spots on location over 2 days. The spots were tight, but Unit Production Manager Alex Stowe got us up in time, and kept us all shooting on-time, and on budget. The weather co-operated, too, which was nice. 

Down-home dobro-master Mike Grigoni who did the music for my first film, "Dinghy", did the music (but no dobro, alas!), and I wound up being the voiceover voice. 

We had a great crew with regulars Diego key gripping and Cam-the-man on DIT and AC. Thanks to all who helped make these spots quick and sweet. Hope they are effective for you PeaceHealth!!

This one is definitely filed under 'Things I Wish I Thought Of':

On Tuesday, Cheezburger teamed up with on-demand ride service Uber in a wild and crazy idea: a kitten and cupcake delivery service to anyone living in San Fran, Seattle, or the Big Apple. The event coincided with National Cat Day (not to be confused with National Unicorn Day) and for $20, you could have a gaggle of cute kittens and cupcakes delivered to your office. Then you pet the kittens. Then you eat the cupcakes. Then the kittens go away on their next big adventure, leaving behind info on how you can adopt animals or contribute to your nearest Humane Society. All proceeds from the event in turn went to the Humane Society and everyone lived pretty much happily ever after. 

The result? Huge PR and donations resulted. Lives were saved. I had only been vaghuely aware of Uber, but when I heard about it I immediatly downloaded the app and tried to get my kittens. Alas, I was too late , as the service proved to be so popular that there weren't enough cuddles to go around. But then as a consolation prize, Uber gave me $5 bucks off my next ride and made an additional donation in my name. Pretty sweet, and I can't wait to hear the donation and download numbers. And use Uber to get around. 

Talk about viral. And smart. This was it: Perhaps the best marketing idea ever. Can you match it?

I can't wait to try. 


We were tapped by the Whatcom Museum to create a film about their upcoming 'Vanishing Ice' exhibit – which is a collection of masters like Ansel Adams and their study of ice through art. With global warming a hot topic, this exhibit is one of the most important to land in the PNW in a while – and had some real interesting challenges. 

One of the ideas for a scene we had involved manufacturing a 6' X 6' block of ice with a painting frozen in the middle. When we proposed this to a few ice vendors, one of the first questions they asked was pretty obvious: Do you have any idea how much this would weigh? Much less cost?  


So we had to resort to a little bit of movie magic. Working with the esteemed Langley West, we devised an old school forced perspective shot. Here's our block of ice, made from Crystal Clear Resin from Smooth On. The dimensions are 9 inches by 7 inches by 7 inches. Pretty small for a huge block of ice slated to appear on camera. 


photo copy


After numerous camera tests in-studio, we came up with roughly the following diagram on how to pull this off in the back of a 5 ton truck (Van Gogh, I am not):


Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 12.53.05 PM


Here's a still of the block of ice on set:


Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 4.01.34 PM


Here's a still of the live shot: The goal is to make it look like the actor, after opening a mysterious crate, is standing next to the huge block of ice. Here's the outcome: 


Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 5.17.15 PM

Here's the film – with the special effects shot flying by at :48. 



This simple bit of movie magic is almost 100 years old  - and is used all the time in movies today (see 'Lord of the Rings).  Which asks us all to reconsider what we know, what we see, and what we determine to be 'truth'. The theory of relativity abounds. 

Thanks for stopping by. And see more of our work here



This weekend, Bellingham sound man, filmmaker, author and all-around great guy Bob Ridgley will be premiering his new film, Bean to Bar, (trailer) a film about artisan chocolate. Bob is well-known throughout the community as one of our finest independent filmmakers, and as a guy who really knows sound. I thought it might be good to write a bit about Bob to encourage people to go see his film, and to just blow-up one of our town's greats.

If first met Bob when started running the Bellingham "Projections" Film Festival with Alice Clark. Bob had something like 5 entries that year. And, on top of that, he had a hand in the production of nearly every other local film on the roster. He kind of presented himself as this wild guy, with awesomely cool Sammy Hagar hair, and his films proved that, in fact, he was a wild guy. What I didn't know then, but came to find out over the years, is what an incredibly generous person Bob is. He helped all of those other filmmakers for free. He supported, and continues to support more independent films than anyone I've ever heard of. He'll show up and do the late nights, the early mornings – whatever it takes. Normally, Bob is doing sound for these guys, either in the field, or mixing in the studio. But, he's also quick to jump in and grip, what-have-you. 

At Hand Crank, Bob and his staff at Binary Recording Studios have always been our go-to audio guys in town. Bob always gets great sound, but with a cool, laid-back attitude that isn't always the norm with guys I've worked with over the years. Yes, he'll make you do the take again if it needs it, but he's so sweet about it you don't mind. And the quality of his audio is always top-notch. AND, if you have a problem with your sound because you were stupid and didn't hire him (I'll have to tell you a story about "losing" the audio file when interviewing homeland security director Richard Clark sometime), he'll always try to figure out a way to fix it for you in post. 

Bob is also a great businessman/philosopher. As you know if you're in the biz, it can be a real roller-coaster – feast or famine. One time, early on with the Crank, I was freaking out as usual about not knowing how I was going to stay in business the next month. Bob just laughed and grinned his cheshire grin and said, "You know what I've noticed after being in the biz 20 years? The work always turns up. Somehow, it always turns up." And you know what, he was right. It did, and it does. That's a cool cat.

What you have here is one of the many people that make B'ham such a great town to live in, and make films in. Go see his movie this weekend if you can (I'm on a shoot in Vancouver, so alas, cannot), and if you can't, but make films, make it a point to seek out Bob at Binary so you can find out what's up.

The other night Chris Donaldson and I had the sublime honor, thanks to the good people at AAF Seattle, of sitting in a room with Bill Fritsch who runs Digital Kitchen and a number of other people from the new media world tell us about how things work these days in advertising. What was great in my mind was that Bill was quick to point out something we've been saying all along – that the way you get to people in through their heart. 

Here's a piece to add to the pile of the "Things We Wished We Shot" for Sierra Nevada that they did. They were tasked with telling the story of Sierra Nevada, but what they wound up doing instead was really giving a feeling of what is like to BE Sierra Nevada. What kind of stuff do their people do? What inspires them that ostensibly has nothing to do with beer? What is their environment? Forget the product itself – what is beneath the product? What is the essence of the product. It's "Tearing your lid off your logo" as we like to say – squared. 

Note how they use all kinds of different footage, old and new, stock, etc. And then they go out and shoot this really beautiful footage of stuff that is completely out sync with what you'd expect. Expertly woven together in the edit, and supported by a really meaningful soundtrack that evokes the ethos of the area.

Bill – I'm glad to see you put your money where your mouth is. I gotta admit, a lot of the panelists in that room that night, after looking at their stuff, I didn't feel – just more new media blah, blah - but this bowled me over. This is something I just don't see how social media can do – I know it can share it, but you need this stuff as the engine. Bravo! And, thank you – for entertaining me!

Oh, and here's a little piece for SuperFeet that we did where I'm pretty sure we may have "borrowed" a few of DK's stylistic ideas. Consider it an homage!


You seen "Gravity" yet? You should. It's an amazing piece of cinema. At Hand Crank, we took the whole office over to the local IMAX 3D to take it in. Why? Because we know there is so much we can learn from "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuaron. Here's 5 ways your upcoming corporate film can be like "Gravity".

1. It can be simple. There are no labarantyine plot twists in "Gravity". The film is just as simple as E.T., girl needs to get home. This makes us want to watch it. We like simple things. Simply beautiful things.

2. It can be a spectacle. You don't need 5 years of production to make your film look cool, but you do need to think about its visual presentation. People want more than just talking heads and b-roll these days. Give them something cool and exciting in front of the camera. Maybe racing motorcycles. Maybe racing yachts. Maybe just things shot from different visual perspectives. Embrace the whole of cinema for your piece – not just what's been done in corporate for years.

3. You can make people care about your characters. We care about Ryan and Kowalski because we get a touch of their backstory, and we see them taking affirmative action. Your leads should do the same. If you've got your CEO in there, tell us something about him other than what awards he's won – show us his family or something. And then, show us, don't tell us, about him actually doing something that's within the thrust of the film. People will start caring about your people the way you care about movie characters.

4. Make great trailers. If you want people to watch this thing outside of your company, make sure to promote it. "Gravity" had wonderful trailers that had you on the edge of your seat. Think hard about what is the essence of your film and tease that out in short snippets on YouTube and Facebook. You'll get people really wanting to hear what you have to say.

5. Your reach can exceed your grasp. Alfonso had to take some serious risks to make such a great film. You need to take risks, too. You'll never make people care if you stick to the same old, same old. In this day and age people need something new to stay tuned – don't you? Had Alfonso made a simple space movie with aliens and transformers, yawn… But he went further, and he was probably never sure he could do it – but that's what makes it great.


P.S. Check out our latest work here: http://www.handcrankfilms.com/fall-13-new-work/


Hey, I was checking in on my favorite site for finding out how to get more hits and engagement for our client's films – www.reelseo.com – and found Hand Crank Films on the cover page the other day. How cool is that? ReelSEO posted the talk I gave about a month ago about the important of producing content from the heart in order to win over viewers. 

What was really unique about this conference was how you saw a groundshift from people talking about the importance of getting "hits" to the importance of getting "engagement". Engagement is how much time did they actually spend watching the film? And what did they do next? Getting hits these days, we learned, doesn't actually mean that much. The question is – are you connecting with the right people?

This follows something we've been talking to our clients about for sometime: make a film that connects with the right people, not the MOST people. We've got plenty of clients that just need a film to hit home with a few key players to make the film production more than worthwhile for them. The trick is to REALLY target your audience at the outset, do everything to understand what they need, and fulfill that. As Henry Ford said (basically) "the key to success in business if figuring out what people want, and giving them that."

I want to thank Anthony Citrano of Edgecast for intro-ing us very kindly and also a very cool cat, John Weaver of Fanatics Inc who shared the stage with me.

Max (ps, I still haven't figured out how to get my "About the Author" window to fill – anyone know?