Corporate Image & Motivational Video
Telling Corporate Stories
Economic ownership is not that only way that a corporation mimics a person. Corporations also have the power to speak and listen. They have histories, contemplate the future, and yes, they actually have personalities as well.
As a communicator tasked with creating corporate or institutional media productions, I often find myself getting to know intensely interesting, very inspiring corporate personalities ... and looking for ways to bring an authentic institutional character to the screen.
This is often difficult, because it takes a certain amount of poise and objectivity to balance the many different personal outlooks on institutional ethos which may come my way as the project evolves. Like the blind men describing the elephant, a full picture often emerges only when executives and salespeople and research engineers and customers all contribute their perspectives of an enterprise.
Equally important to understanding the subject, is empathizing with the audience. What opinions are they bringing to the table? What do they care about, and what bridges must be built in order for them to cross to the same side of the river as the corporate perspective? These are the challenges which I love to grapple with as I help you tell your story.
American Institute of Physics: 75th Anniversary
This production was exciting to produce for several personal reasons. My childhood dream was to be a physicist, and to attend MIT. Somewhere in high school the arts won out in my mind, and I spent a lot more time in music and photography than the sciences. But my interest in science has always informed my communication efforts on technical subjects.
One of the evolutionary adaptations we made during the course of filming was to bring more youth and energy into the mix. After about two days of interviewing octagenarians, I told Marc Brodsky, Executive Director, that despite their sincerity and knowledge, these distinguished gentlemen were not going to be able to portray the energy and forward-thinking spirit of this very young-at-heart agency. I asked him to allow me to interview college students for the project, and also to portray children being taught physics. He kindly let me shoot kids in the AIP day care facilities, and flew several outstanding college students in from around the country to our interviews in Washington and New York.
One of the most thrilling days for me personally was the trip to Boston, where we got to interview Norman Ramsey in his home. Dr. Ramsey won the Nobel prize for discovering that extremely accurate atomic clocks could be based on the spin of electrons. From this discovery, we all enjoy the GPS and MRI technologies.
By far the most thrilling part of the shoot for me was the San Diego leg. There we interviewed Dr. Frederick Seitz, who at 96 was still lucid and just starting work on another book on the history of physics. Then we went to Mount Palomar, where Cal Tech was kind enough to let us film during their busy research hours from sunset into the darkness. They agreed to rotate the massive dome on cue, so that I could get a timelapse shot of the dome turning and doors opening just after sunset. I shot that scene with three cameras at once. Awesome!
As I was working on it, I found myself drawn to the wave action of the oceans as a metaphor for the many energy forms that physics describess. This visual metaphor of the sine wave became a strong unifying element, and helps to bring an artistic simplicity to what could be a mishmash of complex technical subjects.
Nestle Ice Cream Employee Motivation
Nestle, Carnation and Drumstick are three ice cream companies that came together in the 1990s under Nestle ownership.
- As the multinational player rivalling Unilever, Nestle wanted to gain manufacturing capacity — which the Carnation business gave them. (Carnation's Bakersfield plant was the largest ice cream factory in the world).
- And they wanted to add ice cream brands and brand marketing experience, which the Drumstick acquisition gave them. (The Drumstick, Flintstones pushups, and the experience to turn Nestle's own candy brands, Crunch and Butterfinger, into ice cream novelty gold).
Two of the three companies had not been profitable in years. Carnation was distressed; Nestle had been in growth mode, and only Drumstick had consistently been profitable. So Nestle put the Drumstick management in charge of the marketing and top C-level offices of the company. This gave me the opportunity to see first hand what was happening as the three very different corporate cultures began to clash a bit.
A few months after the merger, I suggested to the President that a video could help the employees understand each other better. He asked for a proposal so in researching the history of the three firms I suggested that we tell the story of the birth of all three companies, define the corporate cultures of each, and then show how all three are coming together in a corporate team approach that capitalized on the strengths of all three: the manufacturing/quality traditions of Nestle, the sales/merchandising strengths of Carnation, and the creative product innovation and marketing savvy of Drumstick.
He bought the idea, so in 1992 I went to Switzerland to shoot a dramatization of the birth of Nestle, then came back to Ohio to shoot the birth of Carnation (standing in for northern Washington State). This exerpt covers the first portion of each of those stories, and the remaining 14 minutes of the piece wove those stories together with contemporary footage shot in Bakersfield, Frankfort, Paris, Vevey, and Bern.
This production was shot on 16mm film with Owen Kindig serving as writer/director, Jeff Barklage as DP.
Digital Equipment Corporation: Your World is Ending
This 1987 video for Digital Equipment Corporation turned out to be prescient in its insight into the changes in technology that we now know as Web 2.0 and the Social Media revolution.
Ken Olsen had hand-picked 100 top managers from Digital to spend a year without other duties, evaluating the future of the computer industry. I had the good fortune of being selected by the company to be their video vendor for this project, tasked with bringing their message before the international DEC sales force.
I think this script is quite unusual. Phrases like "let the buyer beware" and "narrowcast instead of broadcast" had not yet entered the popular lexicon. The idea of the baby, playing with blocks, and the linkage with that to the Digital block-letters logo, helped reinforce the message visually.
When I came back to New York and presented this script to the future-vision committee, they loved it. For me it was a pivotal personal lesson in the niche which I feel best qualified to fill: deep listening to another's story, then articulating their story with passion and authenticity.
We decided to shoot in Columbus because of the cost of studio space in New York. I had the privilege of speaking with Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, and David Frost before we decided to select E.G. Marshall as our spokesman.
The goal of this presentation was to spark discussion and inspire a paradigm shift among the high-flying Digital salesforce. Uncannily, it took exactly 10 years for the troubles this video predicted to hit the fan. By the time Compaq bought DEC in 1998, it was primarily for their expertise in software services and consulting that the company spent $9.6 billion -- "the largest acquisition in the history of the computer industry" (until that date) -- to purchase Digital.
Here's a newsclip from 1998 which describes the merger: findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EKF/is_n2204_v44/ai_20211658/
For this production I licensed a great deal of cool footage from Archive Films to dramatize how the industrial-revolution model of the computer industry had become outmoded. A number of shots from Metropolis by Fritz Lang made it into this cut, along with some old IBM and AT&T marketing videos.