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Spotlight: The South

Southern companies entertaining America

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

Allen Rosen filming a farming documentary. In the studio with 360 Filmworks. 718 Studios' computer-driven dolly. A Panavision rental facility.
[Top] Allen Rosen filming a farming documentary.
[Middle] In the studio with 360 Filmworks.
[Bottom Right] 718 Studios’ computer-driven dolly.
[Bottom Left] A Panavision rental facility.

Once again, we shine our Spotlight on the South, a region that continues to grow in terms of film and television production, animation, commercial production, and ancillary services for our industry. The eight companies presented here continue a long and proud history of creative businesses that play a big part in entertaining America.

Dustin Jones, chief editor and DP for 360° Filmworks, hard at work on set.
Dustin Jones, chief editor and DP for 360° Filmworks, hard at work on set.

360° Filmworks (360filmworks.com)

Little Rock, Ark.-based 360° Filmworks provides clients with video production, post-production, animation, visual effects, writing, and photography services. Working primarily in commercials, the company began life as an in-house service provider for an ad agency. 360° Filmworks is led by Arkansas native, Tommy Walker. Walker began his career on the technical side of motion picture productions and music videos. Walker’s feature film credits include The Firm, The Client, My Dog Skip, Airborne, A Time to Kill and The People vs. Larry Flynt. The company recently completed post-production on a new TV campaign for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and are now working on producing a new TV branding campaign for Baptist Health. Additionally, in 2009, 360° Filmworks had the opportunity to work on a project with Bridge2Rwanda and Tom’s Shoes that allowed the company to travel to Rwanda, Africa, to film the nonprofit organizations – with the help of American Idol winner Kris Allen – handing out shoes to Rwandan children.

There's never a dull moment when filming at 360° Filmworks.
There’s never a dull moment when filming at 360° Filmworks.

“It is important to note that even in today’s culture where most people have the capability to produce videos and upload it to their favorite social media platform, the need for high quality production companies is still in demand,” said Walker. “There are times when a story can really be brought to life by using more advanced production techniques. … We are capable of producing high-quality imagery on any size budget. Sometimes a production might call for two camera units and a large grip truck, but there are other times a backpack and few lights can work wonders. Our company can make any project the best it can be, regardless of the size.”

360° Filmworks working on a health campaign.
360° Filmworks working on a health campaign.

718 Studios (www.facebook.com/P3Media)

If you’re working on a production in Austin, Texas during the summer months, eventually you’re going to want to work indoors. The heat and humidity always win. Fortunately, 718 Studios is there to assist – with air conditioning. “A big hurdle for production in Texas is dealing with brutal summers. We planned for that while building 718,” said studio partner Dan Powers (P3HD). “Over the late part of summer while still working on build out, we were able to feel the benefits of the HVAC system. It was 108 degrees outside, and inside the studio it was maintaining 72 degrees with no fluctuations! The super-quiet system and air handlers are located in another section of the building with only ducts feeding to the studio, allowing for ultra quiet and comfortable shooting year round.”

718 is a studio that’s designed to be a studio – not just a vacant warehouse/industrial space, says studio partner Dan Powers. Careful thinking went into creating this space.
718 is a studio that’s designed to be a studio – not just a vacant warehouse/industrial space, says studio partner Dan Powers. Careful thinking went into creating this space.

According to 718, the studio is perfect for any small to mid-size productions that do not require a massive sound stage. Supporting the studio are production offices, green room, makeup, screening room, editing studio, conference room, working kitchen for food shoots, and more, all with adjacent parking and easy load in/out. Camera, lighting and grip equipment are available to either support or provide all production needs and the two wall 22 X 22 hard cyc is pre lit by six banks of KinoFlo lights mounted to the motorized lighting grid.

The 12-foot motorized, computer-driven camera rig at 718 Studios.
The 12-foot motorized, computer-driven camera rig at 718 Studios.

“We talked to studio managers, lighting designers, grips and acoustic engineers, among others in designing and building the space,” said partner Gary Wilson. “Their input allowed us to maximize what we had for sound, space, lighting and comfort. Once you use the studio, you’ll see the benefits of this input.”

The makeup room at 718 Studios in Austin, Texas.
The makeup room at 718 Studios in Austin, Texas.

718 Studios also can provide a deep bench of above and below the line personnel to fully crew or fill out any size production. Powers says the studio’s icing on the cake is something no other Texas studio offers: an available 12-foot motorized, computer-driven camera track/dolly that can be programmed to exactly reproduce camera moves including: dolly, pan, tilt, focus and zoom with frame accurate repeatability. He designed the system for use on his own videos and is making it available for other customers.

The view from above at 718 Studios.
The view from above at 718 Studios.

“718 Studios is looking forward to exceeding the 2014 forecasts by matching a superior facility with superior customer service. And the 718 team promises to work hard to make sure that the quality passes through to the client’s projects,” said Powers.

According to 718, the studio is perfect for any small to mid-size productions that do not require a massive sound stage.
According to 718, the studio is perfect for any small to mid-size productions that do not require a massive sound stage.

Allen Rosen (www.allenrosenproductions.com)

Allen Rosen markets himself as “an award-winning DP/lighting cameraman with gear.” While accurate, he might just be selling himself a little short. The Tuscaloosa, Ala., resident has more than 30 years of experience, including more than 20 years of TV production staff positions in major markets such as Seattle, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. “As a freelance DP, I bring a journalistic approach to all my shoots – along with creative lighting, and state-of-the-art equipment,” Rosen says. “My main cameras are Sony F3, Sony XDCAM 800, Panasonic HDX-900 – along with the Convergent Design NanoFlash – and more. I believe in good natural lighting, good optics and good composition, skills I have honed in years of documentary filmmaking.”

Allen Rosen on location in Starkeville, Miss., shooting a image piece for a hospital commercial with a Sony F3 mounted on a Dana Dolly.
Allen Rosen on location in Starkeville, Miss., shooting a image piece for a hospital commercial with a Sony F3 mounted on a Dana Dolly.

Some of Rosen’s recent work includes some broadcast network series shooting backstories on contestants, many corporate identity pieces, some hospital commercials in Mississippi, and some network news and magazine show segments. Rosen also spent a week working in Atlanta on a documentary on Whitney Houston for a European company, and he is shooting for a new documentary on the Rosenwald Schools in North Carolina for the award-winning producer of Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg.

For the future of his craft, Rosen hopes younger DPs get the message to become well-rounded technicians. “While a lot of documentaries and reality shows have gone the DSLR route, I still feel that mastering the single camera shoot is very important,” he said. “While I like to stay current, and have done my share of multi-cam reality, I pride myself with having the instincts and creativity to shoot a project undirected with a full-size video camera. Having to do it all on some of the smaller shoots – light, shoot, direct, audio – efficiently and unobtrusively is still an art, and I do get concerned that many of the younger DPs are only going to know one style and not be well rounded as they progress in the field.”

AMS Pictures (www.amspictures.com)

AMS Pictures crew shooting in London with a Polecam.
AMS Pictures crew shooting in London with a Polecam.

Texas-based AMS Pictures is busy as usual with a host of concurrent productions. The company has a 40,000-square-foot studio complex in Dallas and further facilities in Austin, which have been used to shoot major commercial campaigns for clients such as Frito Lay, Microsoft and Volkswagen. But a significant part of what AMS is doing is shot by crews on location all around the world.

A prime example of this location work, now in its third series, is You Live in What?, a program for the HGTV network that unearths extraordinary and amazing home conversions around the world. People have used their ingenuity to make modern, luxurious homes in the most unlikely places, from old railroad cars to caves, clock towers or even a World War II bunker.

For this show and other projects, AMS relies on a talent pool it describes as “deep with cinematographers, producers, directors, interactive geniuses, and smart, effective project managers, who are adept at juggling multiple details while keeping an eye on [the client’s] bottom line.

To maintain high production values and high-speed workflow, Joshua Moore, head of production for AMS, and his teams have been using a UK-engineered and built product called Polecam (www.polecam.com) to quickly generate high-class jib shots and moves from many different viewpoints inside and outside the various locations.

Even when shooting overseas, AMS has a deep talent pool from which to draw.
Even when shooting overseas, AMS has a deep talent pool from which to draw.

Moore explained: “Andy Streitfeld, our owner, was doing a show called Race Car Driver six or seven years ago. He was using a Jimmy Jib, a 24 footer that takes an hour to build or break down and move, and he saw a Polecam there, and thought ‘Boy, I can see the advantage of something smaller and lighter like that.’ About the same time, we started increasing all these Original Programming shoots, we discovered a local Polecam owner operator, Colton Woolford.

“Using Polecam I immediately saw it doubled our capture rate because we could pick it up and move,” Moore continued. “These days the budgets are slimmer, so we don’t have as many crew members out there. This is the only way that we are able to do these shoots, and still offer that nice movement that crane shots bring.”

AMS setting up an interior shot for a project in London.
AMS setting up an interior shot for a project in London.

Independent Guerilla Productions (www.JettWest.com / www.IndependentGuerilla.com)

The horror feature Haddie will be Independent Guerilla Productions’ largest film project to date.
The horror feature Haddie will be Independent Guerilla
Productions’ largest film project to date.

With backgrounds in TV broadcasting and commercial production, the crew at Independent Guerilla Productions (IGP) in Little Rock, Ark., concentrates on independent film productions – both original work and the films of others. A true upstart company – most employees have “day jobs” in the film industry – IGP began in 2008 when a couple of friends decided to make a movie. The rest, as they say, is history.

Currently, IGP is working on the upcoming horror feature Haddie. “So far, we only have the two projects started and finished by us [The Devil Lives in Hot Springs and Tuckerman]. Haddie will be the largest project to date,” said IGP Writer/Director and company co-founder Jett Westmoreland. According to the film’s website, Haddie will be a character-driven “creature feature” with an emphasis on dysfunctional relationships and unfulfilled dreams mixed with people dealing with an unknown terror. Westmoreland and IGP must really like this genre because they’re already working on scripts for two Haddie sequels.

Westmoreland isn’t one to necessarily follow industry trends, but he certainly keeps an eye on what’s happening. “The biggest trend right now is for everyone to try to shoot larger and larger files – 2k, 4k, et cetera. I also see more and more editors moving to the Adobe Cloud services, especially since Final Cut started chasing consumers instead of professionals. I’m an Avid guy myself and will probably continue to be so.”

Robert E. Nims Center for Entertainment Arts (nimscenter.com)

Established in 2000, the Robert E. Nims Center is a division of the University of New Orleans Foundation and is a professional film industry infrastructure resource. With more than 100,000 square feet of space, the facility offers five sound stages, along with 9,000 square feet of production offices and support space, as well as international and domestic ADR services, executive screening room, and editorial space. Currently providing space for the CW Network’s Star-Crossed series, Nims Center also has provided production space for The Runaway Jury, Ray, All the King’s Men, Deja vu, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 12 Years a Slave, and Dallas Buyers Club.

Panavision (www.panavision.com)

Panavision Primo V lenses.
Panavision Primo V lenses.

With offices throughout the world, including multiple locations in the U.S. South (Atlanta, Ga.; Dallas, Texas, and New Orleans, La.), Panavision has been an innovator in cinema lens production since 1954. For example, its Atlanta rental facility, which opened in February 2011, is a 10,000-square-foot space with a full-service camera rental office. The location has provided equipment for AMC’s The Walking Dead, Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva, and the feature films Wanderlust and X-Men: First Class.

“With the growth of a regional market such as Atlanta, it only makes sense for Panavision to be there with a full-service facility,” John Schrimpf, VP of U.S. regional operations told Markee when the Atlanta location opened. “Atlanta has become a very attractive place to shoot because of the variety of locations, its strong infrastructure and its excellent distribution system with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The state and the City of Atlanta are totally behind building a lasting, film-friendly culture, and Panavision is pleased to be part of the team providing local customer support.”

Panavision joins Georgia's growing film landscape.
Panavision joins Georgia’s growing film landscape.

From the earliest development of the Panavision Super Panatar® to today’s Primo V lenses for shooting in HD, Panavision has been at the forefront of technological progress for cinematography. Because Panavision offers such a wide range of equipment options – including customized 3rd party integrations – its knowledgeable staff can help filmmakers make the right choices about combinations of cameras, lenses, and ancillary gear based on specific project requirements.

The company’s list of innovation and engineering awards is too lengthy to include here, but dates back to 1958 and consists of 19 Academy awards, and four Emmy awards.

Ron Sherman Advertising & Teleproductions produces commercials that air in more than 200 TV and radio markets nationwide.
Ron Sherman Advertising & Teleproductions produces commercials that air in more than 200 TV and radio markets nationwide.

Ron Sherman Advertising & Teleproductions (www.ronshermanproductions.com)

Ron Sherman Advertising & Teleproductions headquarters.
Ron Sherman Advertising & Teleproductions headquarters.

During the past 30 years, Ron Sherman Advertising & Productions in Little Rock, Ark., has become the largest, full-service home improvement ad agency in the nation. Sherman’s team of talented staff record 5,000 direct response commercials each year using a variety of pitch people; veteran media buyers book airtime in more than 100 markets; and web specialists build sites and handle search engine marketing in more than 40 markets. “We’ve worked hard to make the old cliché of ‘one stop shopping’ truly apply. We’re proud we can do virtually anything an advertising campaign requires from within our own facilities,” said Producer Kimberly Burdick.

The company’s client roster includes Owens Corning, L’Oreal, Dillard’s, and LeafGuard to name a few. From its facilities, Ron Sherman can write, produce and edit video (with six Avid Symphony editing systems tied together with a 32TB EditShare video server, a fully Live HD switchable production suite that also includes a Doremi HD DDR, a Panasonic DVDProHD VTR, and the option to record straight to the EditShare); creating 3-D animation; and provide a full-service media department. “Because we do everything in-house it allows us to offer the most competitive, and affordable advertising solutions for our clients,” Burdick said.

On the set with Stray Dog from Franklin, Tenn.
On the set with Stray Dog from Franklin, Tenn.

Stray Dog (www.filmstraydog.com)

Tamera Brooks founded Franklin, Tenn.-based Stray Dog in 1999 to develop commercials, network promos, and documentaries. “What makes Stray Dog unique is its depth of film and video knowledge, high level of experience and connections throughout the country,” said Brooks. “We do not consider ourselves to be just a Southern production company; we are global.”

Behind the scenes of a Goodwill spot with Stray Dog's crew.
Behind the scenes of a Goodwill spot with Stray Dog’s crew.

Stray Dog has completed projects for ABC’s Nashville; HGTV; CMT; ESPN and The Tombras Group, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based ad agency. Currently, Stray Dog – whose work can be broken down as follows: 30 percent TV, 50 percent commercial, and 20 percent film – is working on new spots for Goodwill Industries via agency DVL. The company has been producing spots for Goodwill since 2002. Additionally, Brooks said she is developing a series for Italian television. For all of her assignments, depth of knowledge is key, she says, not technology. “Technology cannot replace good storytelling. It still requires creative vision and execution that only comes from experience, which seems to be overlooked as budgets decrease,” Brooks said.


December 4, 2013