Seasoned Animator in Awe of Kutztown Student’s Project

I had never been to Kutztown University, so I was quite excited when I was asked to make the trip to review a soon-to-be grad’s final project. Kutztown is a significant Central Pennsylvania University in a quaint setting. It is surrounded by farmland like many Pennsylvania towns, and inside has shop-lined streets catering to college students and university employees. A little early and in dire need of caffeine, I entered Uptown Espresso Bar…and then promptly exited after reading a sign that said, “We don’t accept cards. We’re not sorry.” Onward to the University!

When I arrived at the Sharadin Art Building, Denise Bosler, the professor of the student I’d be reviewing, greeted me in the parking lot. She handed me a parking pass, assuring me that she’d taken every precaution as the campus police could get a little excited about ticketing during finals. We walked into the beautiful gallery building and around a window-lit hallway, ending near Kalyn Kepner’s exhibit.

MAKE films producer reviews KU student final project

Kalyn invited me by the recommendation of one of her fellow graduating students and an old colleague of mine. She is also familiar with some of my friends and clientele from the Lancaster area, so we chatted about our small world for a bit. Then, Kalyn started giving me background on her exhibit. “I love people’s stories,” said Kalyn, as she explained the premise for her piece. She told me that she polled a series of friends and classmates using social media and asked them a few questions. Among these were, “What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” and “What is a story that someone told you that you haven’t forgotten?”. “You’re a documentarian,” I said, and she smiled. I smiled too. I am always refreshed by those who seek information and stories about humankind.

MAKE films producer reviews KU student final project

Kalyn led Denise and I toward a wall adorned with 3” x 5” postcards. Each postcard had a single, unique illustration on it that told an entire story she received from a respondent. Denise looked giddy as she had seen this entire process of discovery before and was excited that I was experiencing it.

MAKE films producer reviews KU student final project

Kalyn grabbed a card off the wall that featured a drawing of two cacti interacting in their respective pots. She turned the card over to reveal a small amoeba inscribed on the back. “It’s a technology called fiducial,” she said, and she spelled it out for me as I wrote it down. We walked over to a small, finished, poplar box and laid the card in it. (I assume) a small camera mounted atop the box took a picture and translated that into a unique audiovisual show on the screen. It featured a story, line by line, and a tastefully animated version of the illustration next to it. I sat and watched the words of the story appear and marveled at the execution and innovation that Kalyn exhibited in putting this piece together. It encouraged…no…demanded my interaction, and I loved it.

MAKE films producer reviews KU student final project

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I spent the next half hour grabbing card after card, soaking in her illustrations and watching them turn into the supporting stories on the television. I imagined a foot-worn pathway like a forked tributary from the television back to the wall holding the 72 postcards.

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“I wanted to do 100 cards,” Kalyn confessed. “I think 72 is perfect.” I said.

Kalyn told me more about her process and the technology she incorporated. She showed me some of her other artwork including a book comprised of wartime letters passed back and forth between her family members. It was phenomenal and I didn’t want to put it down.

MAKE films producer reviews KU student final project

Reviewing work of students, and for that matter teaching my craft, has always been a passion of mine. I had the good fortune of teaching for about two years at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design in the realms of advertising, motion graphics, and animation. I felt honored that I was invited to view this lovely and novel exhibit at this gorgeous university, and I hope that Kalyn Kepner’s dreams come true as she accepts the great honor of her degree and continues to do what she loves, inspiring people like me along the way.

 

 

About the author: Allen Clements is a Senior Producer and Animator at MAKE films, a film company based in Lancaster, PA. Allen’s professional experience in media spans 20 years and includes work in PR, creative direction, video, animation, vfx, and research. Throughout his years in these fields, he has produced several documentary films and countless corporate B2B and B2C communication pieces. He’s worked at every level of production, giving him a fundamental understanding of the ins and outs and what is required for success. As Allen says, “What I don’t know, I will find out. What I need to learn, I enjoy learning.”


 

6 Strategies to Improve Leadership Skills & Build a Team of Leaders

For one day each quarter, MAKE films CEO and Creative Director, Derek Dienner, ventures to Chicago for The Strategic Coach Signature Program. Curious to learn more about what he was doing, I sat down with Derek to find out about the program and get his take on leadership.


A continuous theme that came through in our conversation was Derek’s constant drive to learn. He said, “As a leader, you need to constantly be learning and challenging yourself. It is the difference between remaining complacent and staying put, and growing as an individual and a leader. Especially in the film industry which is always changing, you need to be able to change and adapt with it.” A few years ago, Derek was chatting with one of his mentors about his desire to grow and become a better business owner and leader, and it was through this conversation that he found out about Strategic Coach.

On their website, Strategic Coach defines their Signature Program as, “A total support system for entrepreneurs dedicated to never-ending growth and quality of life. The Strategic Coach Signature Program is designed to make your possibilities a reality. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a transformational change for you as an entrepreneur and as a person, building on everything you’ve accomplished up to now.” The benefits of this program are evident when you take into account that since opening 3 years ago and starting Strategic Coach, MAKE films has doubled its team and increased earnings year after year.

1. BUILDING A TEAM OF LEADERS

Derek described Strategic Coach as a program that empowers entrepreneurs and encourages you to build a team of leaders within your company. There simply isn’t enough time in a day to do everything yourself; you will burn out. If your company is going to grow, you need to hire people who are better than you at certain tasks so not everything needs to go through you. Having a team of leaders leads to a self managing company that does not always need you there, ultimately creating less stress for you and giving you peace of mind.

Derek admits letting go of some control was an adjustment for him. “Soon after hiring our first producer, I was out for a few days and one of our computers crashed. Being a self proclaimed techie, this was a problem I normally would handle. But our new hire was able to handle it without calling me, and things went on without a hitch. It was then I realized I’m not the only one people come to for solutions anymore, and it took me a moment to be okay with that…I am human after all. But this is why I’m doing Strategic Coach, because I don’t want to be the one who has to solve all the problems anymore; that gets exhausting.”

For Derek, a good work/life balance is crucial. By implementing Strategic Coach’s ideas and creating a team of leaders he trusts, he has been able to take more time off with his family without having to worry about what is going on back at the studio.

MAKE films team in a meeting

2. BE A LIGHTHOUSE

Strategic Coach encourages leaders to organize their time. Everyone has a certain mental capacity they can handle, and allocating your time allows you to put all your focus on the task at hand. Derek explains this through his lighthouse metaphor. “For years, I’ve had to be a lighthouse, constantly moving my focus around from task to task. Ultimately, my goal is to be a solid lighthouse, where my focus is on one task and if I need to adjust and move my focus elsewhere, I can and I can do it fast.”

MAKE films team at work editing

3. DON’T JUST WORK IN IT, WORK ON IT

Six years ago, Derek’s friend Laura Schanz told him to read “The E Myth”, a book that talks about the need to focus on the business, not just in the business. To understand this idea, pretend you’re an electrician who hates working for someone else, so you decide to start your own company. Now you aren’t just an electrician; you’re also a marketer, an accountant, a customer service rep, and so many more roles that come with owning your own business. If you want your business to succeed, you can’t just be an electrician working in it, you need to work on it. Strategic Coach forces business owners to do just this during their quarterly meeting. It acts as a reset day that pushes you to work on and plan for your business.

4. FOLLOW THEIR DREAMS, EVEN IF THEY LEAVE

At Strategic Coach, they encourage you to implement the Dream Book Program within your company. In the Dream Book Program, your employees fill out a book with their personal and professional goals at various levels, then you discuss them as a company and work to achieve these newfound goals.

Derek implemented the Dream Book Program at MAKE, and through the exercise, one of his original employees came to realize her dreams do not fall inline with his vision for the future of the company — which was towards commercial filmmaking and away from wedding/lifestyle films. The program recognizes that this may happen, and has an ‘exit program’ when it arises. Rather than cutting off ties with them, the program encourages leaders to help their employees transition their path towards their dreams; be that helping them find a new job or internship or starting a company of their own. And Derek did just that.

The wonderful thing about this Dream Book Program is it helps everyone in the company figure out if their goals are in line with the company’s goals, and if not they are enabled to explore their true passions. This opens up their role allowing it to be filled by someone whose goals and dreams are in line with the vision of the company.

MAKE films team at work

5. FILLING THE BUS

Derek spoke at length about the book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, where Collins compares business to a bus. As Collins puts it, “You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who’s going with you. Most people assume that great bus drivers (read: business leaders) immediately start the journey by announcing to the people on the bus where they’re going—by setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh corporate vision. In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.”

A great way Derek ensures he has everyone in the right seat is by testing them using the DiSC Profile and the Kolbe assessment before he pulls the trigger and hires them. This helps him understand their work style and allows him to better determine if they are a good fit within the culture at MAKE. In addition to testing a potential new hire, Derek is upfront and transparent from the get-go about how he envisions the company growing in the future.

MAKE films team at work

6. WORK IN PROGRESS

Through all of his continued efforts, Derek has created a team of leaders that produce amazing content for their clients day in and day out. Even though he has his dream team, to Derek, it doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner or not, you should always work on your leadership skills. “I’m a work in progress. Everyday I challenge what I think and know as a leader and as a person. I’m always learning. And it’s through programs like Strategic Coach that I enable myself and my employees to keep doing just that.”

MAKE films team in a meeting

A Powerful PSA About Advance Care Planning

MAKE’s Senior Producer, Allen Clements, recently published a LinkedIn article about our work with Reading Health System and our process behind the PSA we produced for National Healthcare Decisions Day. 

Reading Health System has been an amazing partner for MAKE films. We’ve been able to apply our staff’s history of working on healthcare projects and assist a client who is completely bought into the need for consistent and effective multimedia communication both internally and to their healthcare consumer-base.

About a month ago, we were approached by the health system to devise a PSA for National Healthcare Decisions Day. We immediately started brainstorming what such a piece could look and feel like. In the past few years, I’ve had quite a bit of experience working on projects involving proxy selection, advance directive and other aspects of end of life planning. I was very inspired by this project and suggested that we should be bold and go for a dramatic concept.

Not speaking specifically about our client or even the healthcare industry in general, creative advertisers work in an extremely risk-mitigated business environment. This is true now more than ever. If it’s “dangerous,” we are often asked to make it “safe.” Well, safe isn’t always effective. We needed to get people’s attention and even more importantly, get them to take immediate action.

There are a number of misunderstandings about Advance Care Planning. Many people don’t know what it is. Some people think it’s for the elderly. Others don’t have any strong opinions on what happens to them if they can’t speak for themselves so they think it doesn’t matter. We wanted to try to address many of these misconceptions in a single communication.

The Advance Care Planning task force at Reading Health knew how important this information was and accepted our challenge to create an intense, jaw-dropping scene painting a picture of what avoiding advance care planning might look like.

We were driven by the idea that many people are aware of the need for planning but never start the conversation. Why don’t they start the conversation? Well, life gets in the way but, really, it’s about priorities. When faced with a sudden accident or illness, we don’t get the chance to re-assess or re-organize our priorities. It’s too late. And that’s what led to “Last on the List,” a PSA made by MAKE on behalf of the Reading Health System for National Healthcare Decisions Day. We hope it inspires you.

Watch the final product below.

Please take advantage of the free advance care planning documents offered by Reading Health System. Just use the information at the end of the film to get started on a path to peace of mind for those who love and depend on you.

View the original LinkedIn article here.


 

Don’t Wait. Spring into Action Now!

I encourage you to glance out of your car window on your way home from work. What will you see? Snow covered hills? Brown dead grass? No, you’ll see blossoming trees and budding flowers. You’ll see green grass and blue skies. I mean…it is spring after all.

This means one thing…start filming now! Spring is the best time of year to capture the most scenic and attractive outdoor shots for your film. While fall or winter can be great if you would like to portray a specific mood and feel, there’s something undeniable about the lush green scenery and sunshine-filled days in spring and summer that are simply irresistible in film. According to MAKE films Creative Director and CEO, Derek Dienner, “The light during early spring is more directional which makes it more beautiful to capture and makes the ‘magic hour’ that much more magical.”

Allen Clements, Video Producer at MAKE films, weighed in on the benefits of filming in spring versus winter. “Associative psychology suggests that we learn and remember the relationships between unrelated things. This means so much in terms of filming your project. It means that your target will associate the quality of your film production with the quality of your brand, product, or service. It also means they’ll subconsciously associate the season of the year with your brand. In an article in Psychology Today, Doctor Anthony Scioli suggests that spring is the season of hope, noting the psychological connection to light, heat, birth, growth, and so much more. On the opposite end of the spectrum, winter is associated with death, hunger, and darkness. Now, I’m not saying you can’t accomplish anything in winter in regards to your film, but where appropriate, take advantage of the associative metaphor that spring can provide for your message.”

Take our film for The Farms of Hanover Foods for further proof:

We want to help you make the best film possible. Don’t wait too long to pull the trigger – especially if your deadline is quickly approaching (and the foliage is turning). If you have more wiggle room with your deadline, we can get started with just outdoor b-roll for your film and shoot the remaining indoor shots in the fall or winter.

Whatever your goal, get a head start with MAKE, and we can help you figure out all of the details of your shoot. Let’s start filming and capture some gorgeous green cinematic goodness!