Spotlight: Northeastern Trailblazers
By Cory Sekine-Pettite
|[Clockwise From Above Left]
Adventure Productions Writer/Creative Director Mark S. Sanders.
Photo: Calvin Hayes, concept & art direction by Mark S. Sanders, hair by Julie WeissEat’n Park is a popular chain of family oriented restaurants with more than 80 units in
Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Director/Cinematographer Glenn Przyborski
has directed and photographed numerous TV commercials for
Eat’n Park during the past 25 years.
Digital Media Creations Proprietor Patrick Farrington working on
It is no surprise that the filmmaking industry attracts independent spirits. It takes a certain kind of pioneering attitude to complete projects under the stresses of shrinking budgets and condensed timetables. Running a small company in this industry not only requires a trailblazing disposition, but a willingness to learn new skills and to know when turning down a job might be the best thing for your company. With our eyes on the Northeast region of the United States, Markee 2.0 shines its Spotlight on a few small businesses forging their own paths.
Year the firm was established: 1998
Areas of service: Commercial video production and marketing
Total number of staff: four full-time, two part-time
Awards/recognition: Six Emmy’s, 26 Telly’s, six Videographer Awards, four Catalyst Awards, two Technical Achievement Awards, seven Associated Press (AP) Awards, three UPI Awards, Assn. of Black Media Workers Award, Baltimore Firefighters Award
George A. Stover III, a former TV news videographer, started Adventure Productions in 1998 so he could spend more time on each project and have more creative control over the final product. Almost immediately, Adventure began producing numerous weekly TV series such as Around the House, Bloomin’ in the Garden and Rodricks for Breakfast. The company also specialized in commercials, corporate videos and underwater videography – a specialty of George’s who also is a certified scuba instructor. Today, Adventure Productions – managed by George, Creative Director Mark S. Sanders, and Marketing Director Carol Stover – takes on larger and more involved projects.
“I think the most notable thing about our company is that we just keep reinventing ourselves,” Carol said. “This industry is changing so rapidly, and the uncertain economy is driving a lot of this change. If you are resourceful and fast moving like we are, you can weather those changes and keep getting better at what you do.
“We have a handful of very talented and very creative people working here together, and each of us has a number of different abilities,” Carol continued. “We love what we do and we are always striving to make it stand out in some new way. Half of our work is very classic, corporate stuff, where we demonstrate our solid experience with institutional organizations. The other half is the constantly changing world of humorous TV commercial campaigns and artistically driven projects that showcase our right-brained concepts. And, working so hard on the environmental TV show for kids [Aqua Kids®] gives us a feeling of purpose that you don’t get from advertising work. It’s a strange combination, but it keeps us sharp.”
Carol calls the award-winning Aqua Kids one of the company’s proudest achievements. Now in its ninth season, the show features George and a cast of teens who travel throughout the country to film the animals, ecosystems and situations being affected by our changing planet. Currently running in syndication throughout the country, the program provides an edgier attitude toward environmental questions. “This generation, like none other in history, has both the responsibility and the resources to leave the legacy of a healthier, more sustainable planet,” the program’s website reads.
[Left to Right] George A. Stover III, owner of Adventure Productions. Photo: Calvin Hayes
Carol Stover, key makeup artist and marketing director of Adventure Productions. Photo: Mia Clapp/Clapp Studios
Self-portrait of Writer/Creative Director Mark S. Sanders. Photo & art effects by Mark S. Sanders
Major clients for Adventure Productions have included the National Aquarium in Baltimore, NISH Ability One, the Veterans Administration, Nationwide Insurance, Animal Planet, Dancing with the Stars and the Bahamas Out-Islands Tourism Board. Some earlier projects Adventure might be known for include a 15-minute recruiting video for the American Red Cross; a docu-drama on the life of Baltimore gangster Avon Barksdale; a documentary series of underwater videos called the Encounter series, featuring encounters with sharks, dolphins, manta rays and manatees; and a series of Disney-like commercials with a film look for Geppi’s Entertainment Museum.
More recent projects include a complex music video for a Baltimore band using “every shooting and editing technique we know, including some underwater shooting;” complete design and production of all promotional marketing materials for local non-profit group Suited to Succeed’s annual fundraising event; and a series of Alzheimer’s training videos for Senior Helpers, which will teach both caretakers and families how to work with dementia patients.
The company’s slogan is “From Concept to Final Cut!” It truly is full-service, Carol says, “because we can design a complete marketing campaign, write the script, procure talent, do all pre-production, shoot and edit the project, work with local network and cable stations to purchase the media buy, create a logo and collateral materials, stage a PR event and promote it to the local media. We even have makeup and styling in-house. Our staff is small, but everyone is very multi-faceted and versatile.”
Surely, all of Adventure Productions’ staff would agree that technology helps their endeavors. As the resident DP, George keeps his eyes on camera and lens equipment. “The best trend I see now is being able to capture video with great control of your depth of field,” he said. “We’re coming back to a film look, which is where I started years ago. The use of fixed focal length lenses is taking video to new heights. Depth of field is back, and it’s gorgeous!”
Digital Media Creations
Location: Burlington, Vt.
Year the firm was established: 1999
Areas of service: Field and post-production, motion graphics
Total number of staff: One very hard-working proprietor
Digital Media Creations (DMC) is truly a sole proprietorship. Rather than leveraging the labor of others, DMC owner/operator/shooter/editor Patrick Farrington always has leveraged the power of technology, he says. His studio consists of about 13 computers – all administered by him. Of course, when needed Farrington does hire freelancers to round out field crews. Farrington said colleagues and clients have commented on the volume, speed and quality of content produced at DMC. “Most surprising to some is the fact that DMC is a Windows/Avid shop,” he said. “Although you might find one, dust-covered FCP/MacBook Pro if you look hard enough.”
Farrington started his Burlington, Vt.-based company in 1999 after “retiring” his analog event videography business. His work consists of broadcast retail, politics (including several national ads during the 2008 presidential campaign), public relations, corporate marketing & communications, and reality TV. These projects have taken him to cities across the United States, from Las Vegas and Washington D.C., to Chicago, Boston, Dallas, San Diego, and Fargo, N.D.
Occasionally, Farrington’s work can take him outside our borders. “We have a client in the British Virgin Islands that we’ve been working with since 2008. We produce a reality makeover show that airs on cable in the BVI. It’s a really fun show – not a ‘what not to wear’ kind of thing, [but] more of a celebration of hard-working women.”
Digital Media Creations Proprietor Patrick Farrington at work with a small crew for a Vermont Agency of Transportation video.
Admittedly, his work can stretch him at times, but thus far, Farrington has been quite adept at handling the load. “One of our biggest clients has grown their retail business from four stores to twenty in the last four years,” he recalled. “We are constantly in the midst of producing their monthly event ads, which run in eight markets in the Northeast. Since we run ads on many stations within a market, a typical deliverables list can consist of fifty-plus ads – all with different specifications. It gets pretty tricky at times.”
But even as a one-man shop, Farrington isn’t nervous about increased competition from novices who no longer have to deal with financial barriers since professional-grade filming technology isn’t quite so expensive. “On the tech side of things: cameras and editing tools are so inexpensive that almost anyone can get into the business – and that can be great,” he said. “But there is something to be said about experience, reliability and client relationships. On several occasions I’ve had clients bring footage to me that needed to be ‘fixed.’ We spent more money in the edit suite than if they had hired a professional shooter to begin with.
“However, the upside of the downshift in prices is that creative individuals will be able to have their work seen more easily – and that will benefit the industry by stimulating creative competition and inspiring the old-timers, like me,” Farrington continued.
When asked if there is one project that might define DMC thus far, Farrington spoke of a documentary completed in 2002 titled
The Champlain Street Urban Renewal Project. He said it was very well received locally and has become an integral part of historical celebrations in Burlington. “It has also been used as part of a property rights curriculum at Vermont Law School,” Farrington added.
Year the firm was established: 1988
Areas of service: Entire country
Total number of staff: Four
Awards/recognition: Dozens of Addy’s, Telly’s, Golden Reels, Emmy’s, BPME’s, Golden Cine’s, IBA’s and dozens of regional “Best of Show” awards
Historically, Pittsburgh has been an industrial and innovative city, from its “Iron City” days of the late 19th century to its technology renaissance that began in the 1970s and continues today. A can-do attitude and a keen eye on a sustainable future seem to permeate the population. For example, Przyborski Productions always has been an early adopter and innovator with production technology. Company co-founder Glenn Przyborski says his firm began shooting and post-producing every project in high definition long before most broadcast networks and stations could accept HDTV spots.
In addition to filmmaking, Przyborski Productions owns technology patents that relate to video cameras being able to reproduce the look of motion picture film. In 1999, Przyborski entered into a co-marketing agreement with Burbank, Calif.’s Filmlook Inc., to license these patents to camera manufacturers such as Sony, Panasonic, Thomson, and Canon. The successful marketing/licensing agreement between Filmlook and Przyborski ended in August 2006.
Przyborski Productions was founded in 1988 by Director/Cinematographer Glenn Przyborski and Executive Producer Jim DeVincentis. Glenn said the company has grown steadily into one of the most popular commercial production companies in the Mid-Atlantic region. The company also operates an HDTV broadcast edit facility, exclusively for the post-production of original projects.
Glenn Przyborski working with actress/spokesperson Sarah Marince on location during a shoot for Eat’n Park Restaurants.
“Our company doesn’t have a corny ‘Mission Statement,’ but we strive to deliver the highest quality broadcast product based on concept, time and budget,” Glenn said. “The result is that the company enjoys almost 100-percent return business from agencies and clients.”
Przyborski’s projects largely are broadcast HD commercials. The company produces projects for clients and ad agencies located all over the country such as numerous network TV spots for AutoZone and regional retailers, such as the Eat’n Park Restaurant chain (pictured). Currently, it is producing an HD promotion for Pittsburgh’s 31st Studio facility. “This huge studio complex has been the home of numerous motion pictures that have been produced in Pennsylvania,” Glenn said. “This includes The Dark Knight Rises and Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher.”
Moreover, Glenn said he and his crew are not limited to working just in Przyborski Productions’ offices in Pittsburgh’s “Strip District.” They do travel when the job calls for it. For instance, the company has produced TV advertising from Honolulu to Boca Raton, Fla., to New York and Los Angeles. However, Glenn said he is careful not to get overwhelmed with projects.
Przyborski Productions is perhaps unique in that it restricts itself to producing only two projects per month. “This has lead to turning down several potentially lucrative productions each year,” Glenn admitted. But it ensures the company gives its full attention to its clients.