The Beauty of Simplicity

July 9, 2010

File this under ‘Cool Stuff We Are Watching – and Learning From’. Open to wide screen to view:

This is a brilliant spot that doesn’t use a lot of trickery or special effects beyond a split screen. Instead, the story is told beautifully, slowly, elegantly. Oh yeah, and the music helps too.

Hats off to Radiohead, MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking), and Oscar-winning cinematographer John Seale and director Steve Rogers. Some serious major props here.

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Seeing Red: The Red EPIC Camera Back in Action

July 7, 2010

Over here at HCF, we’re known to get pretty excited when something as minor as a new version of iTunes is released. So imagine our general giddiness when we learned that the Red EPIC camera – perhaps the most advanced digital motion picture camera in the world – is back on track to deliver to our offices by Fall. High-end camera manufacturer RED announced that the software “bug” holding up production of their new EPIC and Scarlet cameras has been identified and squashed. Eureka.

What does this mean to our customers and partners? Combining powerful storytelling with advanced technology is key to what we do. Read the entire story about the camera here.

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Film Marketing Case Study: Knight & Day

July 5, 2010

From a 10,000 foot view, you’d probably bet that a movie starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz and overflowing with a slew of stunts suffering from ADD would be a top money maker at the box office. I mean, why not – it’s the perfect recipe for the Big Summer Blockbuster. But the truth is, Knight & Day, released on June 23rd, hasn’t lit it up like expected – with a mere $38 million take against $120 million cost.

No doubt, there’s a ton of head shaking going on – and maybe even a little finger pointing. This was, after all, supposed to be the resurgence of Cruise – who’s faced his share of issues with the press. But what’s the real reason? As famed screenwriter William Goldman once said, “Nobody knows a S#H&#T in Hollywood”, so we may never know. Audiences can be fickle.

But there’s a very provocative discussion about the marketing behind the movie in the LA Times – where Chief Marketer Tony Sella actually takes the blame (he notes that the above poster, for example, just didn’t connect with audiences).You gotta love a guy who’s man enough to take a bullet.

Our bet? It takes more than an adrenalin laced screenplay to knock it out of the park (there were almost a dozen writers who worked on the project. Lesson: Quantity does not equal quality.). What it still takes is a deft touch with story.  What it still takes is the human connection. Combine that with starpower, and maybe you’ve got something.

As far as blockbusters go, I’ll take Iron Man 2 any day. You?

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TV Spot Shot on an iPhone 4

July 2, 2010

Here’s an interesting test by FLF Films: check out what is being billed as the first national TV commercial shot on an iPhone. What’s especially interesting is the shot taken from a remote control helicopter.

You can only see 360 video on the iPhone itself, but connect it to a PC and it outputs full 720p.  (Hat Tip to Tim Wilson on the Creative Cow Blogs):

The verdict? The iPhone’s not going to replace the RED or even the Canon 7D anytime soon, but it’s a fun experiment, especially with a piece of hardware you can carry in your hip pocket. And make a phone call with. And…….

Yes, Virginia, there is an app for that. What do you think?

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HCF Blog: The Editorial Calendar

July 1, 2010

Sure, Hand Crank Films is a film production company. But what we’re really about is telling stories and making the connection. Engaging people just enough so that they feel inclined to take the next step, to act, to do.

We have the same goal with this blog. Not only do we want to sharpen our own craft by exploring new ideas and hearing from our community, but we want to share things that we find especially interesting – not just to film makers but to marketers and other story tellers as well. So that we grow in the work we accomplish.

To that end – we’ve come up with a simple Editorial Calendar. This calendar will not only help us keep on track and provide some structure to what we want to say – but it will give our audience some sense of what you can expect as well.

So right now we plan on posting about 3 X a week, with the following as a guideline:

  • Monday: Marketing Conversation – how to perpetuate story.
  • Wednesday: What we find of note in the tech world, both in film and elsewhere.
  • Friday: Good Work – content we’ve ran across in the last week or so that we find inspiring and useful.

Now doubt we’ll stray now and again – but this should provide us with a good starting point. Any other ideas?

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Creating the Content Engine

June 29, 2010

These days, it seems like ‘content creation’ is all the buzz. All you have to do is create engaging media, and people will swarm to your site and business.

Or so the belief goes. But if it was so easy to create engaging content, everybody would be doing it. Even as something as seemingly easy as keeping a blog going requires a little pre-production and planning. Even coming up with a few intelligent sentences a day can prove a challenge.

There are two quick tricks that we’re trying – and may help you too:

  1. Find ideas everywhere. Inspiration can be found in just about anything, as long as you’re looking. Spend five minutes surfing YouTube and you’ll start riffing. Massive coffee helps too.
  2. Create an editorial calendar: whether you’re shooting film, writing screenplays, or shooting to become the CEO of a company – it’s good to have milestones and a direction. When it comes to writing a blog, it’s good to know what you’re writing before you write it.

So that’s what were doing. Looking for ideas everywhere. And coming up a solid editorial calendar – so we know what general topics we’re covering here every week. Look for that by week’s end.

Got any tricks of your own you want to share to keep us on track?

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Working with Clients: What Makes Us So Special?

June 24, 2010

Two really good reads have been circulating through the HCF offices lately:  Seth Godin’s Linchpin and Richard Branson’s Business Stripped Bare. Both are seriously good summer books to lay your teeth into if you’ve got a desire to drive business.

But what does that have to do with film making? Though it’s true we like to think of ourselves as ‘artists’, at the end of the day we’re a service company. The service we provide our clients either makes us or breaks us.

So we’ve been turning everything upside down to help determine ‘What makes us so special?’ Both Branson and Godin continually talk about creating something ‘unique’ and ‘remarkable’, and our goal is to have this resonate just not in our end product, but in the entire client experience. That’s how Branson has succeeded in being one of this era’s greatest entrepreneurs: he’s taken an exceptional service platform and applied it across a number of industries, from music to airlines to banking. That’s how Godin has differentiated himself: by being unique and remarkable and suggesting every one of us be a ‘purple cow’.

That’s our challenge: being exceptional. Tell us how we’re doing.

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Social Media and Making the Film Connection

June 15, 2010

We’ve jumped into the Social Media pool – and so far the water is warm and the lemonade is cold. We’ve got Facebook, Twitter and YouTube up and running, and if you haven’t checked us out, you can start here.

So why the push? There’s a ton of buzz around social media and what it means to business. And much of it is, in fact, true. Social media is a powerful tool to reach people and engage. The potential is there to move the needle and drive good business.

At the end of the day, the principals of social media and filmmaking aren’t any different: sharing experiences. Passing on knowledge and broadening reach. It’s about storytelling that started around campfires, about songs and dance. The best form of social media of all time is still the handshake. Or the kiss.

And yeah, the web can make reaching people easier. It’s a great thing. But the premise remains: you still need to say something. You still need to find your story. It’s right there, once we look.  Now more than ever.

That’s why we’re pressing ‘play’ on social media. To make the connection. To get it out there. To tell a story.

What are your thoughts?

Idea: Don’t quite get Twitter? Took us awhile too. Think of it initially as real time search engine. Just for fun, go to and enter ‘film making’ in the search box. See all the real time conversations?  Some of it is drivel, yeah – but some of the stories people link to actually have value. That’s where we  found our cool story on Samsung 3D, for example.

Whitepaper: The Power of Video

June 10, 2010

YouTube celebrated it’s 5th B-Day in May, and without a doubt it’s been a major game changer for marketers, filmmakers, and everyone else wanting to run around with a cat on their head. The bottom line: Video is one of the most powerful advertising mediums available. Why? Because everyone wants to make a connection.

Some quick stats:

  • YouTube’s viewership now exceeds that of all three networks combined during their “primetime” evening time slot, with more than 2 billion views per day.
  • Roughly 178 million people watch 33.2 billion videos per month, with the average viewer watching 187 videos per month in the U.S.
  • Video increases Dwell Rate (action on site) by 20% and doubles Dwell Time (time spent on site).

You can download the Say Hello to the Power of Video whitepaper here – with more fun stats and references that explain how you can use video to increase business and the connection with your social community. Go for it, Spicoli.

Not into whitepapers? Then watch Conan O’Brien wave his YouTube freak flag.

3D as Art: Samsung

June 4, 2010

3D is the next holy grail for filmmakers. Samsung is on the cutting edge of this technology for home use, and this piece does an amazing job of capturing the spirit of things to come. Plus, we learned a few things as well.

Both the end of the commercial and ‘Making of’ piece seem abrupt – but the rest is pretty unreal. Check it.