Love+Medicine Reconnects kaboom director michele atkins and Preston Kelly For Gundersen Health System

kaboom and director michele atkins reunite with agency Preston Kelly on a new Love + Medicine campaign for Gundersen Health System. This year’s campaign, the fourth collaboration between Kaboom, director atkins and Preston Kelly, takes inspiration from real patient stories whose lifestyle changes are central to a happier, healthier existence. 

“Our clients at Gundersen Health wanted to take their Love + Medicine up a notch to create a community health movement in their market,” according to Preston Kelly ECD Chris Preston. “michele’s understanding of the humanity in everyday acts has helped turn what could be pretty standard health care advertising into something emotional that actually touches our audience.” 

“It was a great privilege to be a part of this campaign with Preston Kelly and to once again help bring to life moments that are inspiring and truly relatable,” says michele atkins. “Meticulous preparation was a big part of the process, and one that allowed the performances surrounding these simple but vital truths to shine.”


At the heart of each narrative featuring a diverse series of challenges and how the simple adoption of exercise, meditation, and healthful eating can have a big impact. atkin’s directorial  approach, observational and naturalistic, imbues each spot with a sense of welcoming and warmth. This year’s campaign also includes companion pieces, 15 spots that offer additional vantage points on health: a cyclist’s eye view, the Zen of meditation, and a smoothie recipe brought to life with stop motion. 

View the 2018 Love+Medicine campaign





One Day Soon, The White House. For the Meantime, Advertising

My eight year old son asked me this morning: ‘Mom, when will a girl be president?’

“Soon I hope; I mean we really should have had a female president by now.” To be honest, his question made me realise how crazy it is that we have not yet had a female president nearly 100 years after women earned the right to vote (and no matter what the Hilary detractors think of her, I cannot imagine that most of the population is not wishing that we had 'that woman' as President right now instead of the narcissistic mad man who is in there now, wreaking havoc and creating chaos at every turn).

I was at the 3 Percent Super Bowl Tweet Up in San Francisco, sponsored by Digitas, and our task was to evaluate the Super Bowl ads to see if they passed the 3% conference test: 

1) Was there a woman?

2) Did she have any significant role (did she have a line, or more)?

3) Did the ad break stereotypes? 

As thrilled as I was to see spots like Coca-Cola’s 'The Wonder of Us' with its magnificent diversity (including the use of gender neutral pronouns), for the most part there were an awful lot of ads that missed the mark. There were a number of commercials where there was not ONE woman included. And there were a ton of ads where there was a token woman with no relevant role to play.


No wonder our population can’t see its way to electing a female president. We barely rate an appearance in advertising. 

There’s a phrase that is often tossed around at the 3% conference: You cannot be what you cannot see. Until advertising gets on board and starts reflecting the fact that our population is made up of 50% women and women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of buying power and influence, then the general public perception will remain one where the average consumer and voter could not imagine a female president. 

Entertainment and advertising are vital to changing perceptions about how the population sees itself. And advertising needs to lead the way in reflecting the REAL population and making it normal to see women in non-stereotypical roles. We should be shown kicking ass, as women do every day. I know plenty of kick-ass women, don’t you? Women running companies and departments, women starting non-profits, women surgeons; women who are the primary breadwinners in their family, women whose intelligence and drive is staggering….and yet, by and large we do not see that in advertising. 

Why was virtually ever spokesperson in a Super Bowl ad a man? Why was, a company selling website building tools to small businesses, being pitched by two white guys when female owners of small businesses are growing faster than men? It was remarkable being at the tweet up, where we really had to look at the advertising and evaluate this aspect of it - to take in how very rare it was to see a strong woman in a non-stereotypical lead role.

Even though my son sees me running my own company and supporting my family, until he sees that on TV - in entertainment and advertising content- I will be an aberration, not a commonplace reality. Kids love ads. They take the messaging in with enthusiasm. The stories we tell make a mark, or this industry wouldn’t exist. And if much of advertising sells aspirational lifestyle, the best versions of ourselves, do we not aspire to a diverse, united, multifaceted, multi-dimensional life? It certainly makes for more interesting stories. 

Until adland catches up with reality, perceptions will not change. And until perceptions change, we will not see a woman as President. And after nearly 100 years of having the vote, isn’t it time? 

See more of the story about Lauren Schwartz, Owner/EP at kaboom, on the Super Bowl ads and her participation in the 3 Percent Tweet Up





From Lemons to Lemonade: An Outlook for 2018

What’s the most relevant business and/or creative lesson you learned in 2017 and how will you apply it in 2018? 

I almost hung it up in 2017. Just before Thanksgiving, I came to learn that my newly signed director- with whom I was bidding several jobs- had misrepresented other directors’ work as his own. Yes, you heard me. I couldn’t believe it either. Who does that? And how did I get taken? It’s true I am a gut person; and I am trusting. But he presented a really convincing director persona with vision and passion. He had an agent who sent his work to me; and was in dialogue with other big production companies interested in signing. 

It proved to be a house of cards. It rocked my world and shook me to my core. 

But then I decided I would use it to help grow my business, not crush it. One bad apple does not define me or my belief in our industry and the talented people who populate it. Much like Trump does not define what it means to be an American.

2018 is my year to use my grit and determination, my passion and energy to seek out talented legitimate directors with whom I can collaborate; and whom I can champion. 2018 is my year to kick ass.

What are your goals for 2018, creatively speaking and/or from a business standpoint, for your company or division? 

As mentioned in my last response, my brush with misrepresentation, combined with our current political climate, momentarily eroded my belief in humanity. It also made me determined to take that experience and create something good out of it.

So to goals: first and foremost, I want to broaden our talent pool to bring on young directors who understand the world of content, and how to create beautiful film with an eye to an efficient production process. I also want to continue pushing the level of work that we are able to bring to our agency and client partners. To make sure that our talent pool matches the highest level of our network and our reach.

And I want to continue to hold fast to the ideals that we live by— of being a trusted partner for our clients, being as invested as they are in creating smart, strategic, and compelling storytelling; and doing it all with authenticity, enthusiasm, and professionalism. 

With gender pay disparity, sexual misconduct and worse in the entertainment industry—and specific examples of these injustices surfacing in advertising, media and other sectors—what are your thoughts on what should be done to make for a safe, fair and inclusive work environment for everyone?

We are one of a handful of women-owned and women-run production companies. For 20 years we have been on the forefront of having a thoughtful and inclusive work environment for everyone. It just comes naturally, I think, because I am a woman and I own the joint.

People have told me we feel a place to work, as a place with which to do business. I came to own kaboom pretty much straight from the agency side and, as such, never really learned how other production companies work. All I know is what feels right to me: to try and be on every shoot so that I can represent the company, to be at the forefront of our “sales,” to bring a personal touch to all my dealings with agency, client and director alike; and to create an environment that I hope honors each individual and creates space for everyone to do their best work.

So what can we do as an industry? Support new talent, mentor, discuss tricky issues and then shine a light on them. Go to the 3 Percent Conference and be inspired, then use that inspiration to make change. It is an imperative.


This piece was originally featured on SHOOT Online. Read more here!


SHOOT: kaboom signs joe stevens

Director joe stevens has joined Kaboom productions for his first national representation in spots and branded content.

As content director for experimental optics label Shwood Eyewear, stevens brought the brand’s ethos to life, both in the fashion world and in support of original makers and brand ambassadors with stories of style and substance. This view from the inside has helped make stevens an astute partner for brands looking to develop an original voice through filmed narratives. Recent clients include: Union Wine Co., The James Brand, Louisville Slugger, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Genesis Archery, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Iron & Resin, Lund International, and Progressive Motorcycle Insurance.

In addition to directing, stevens enjoys shooting, editing, and designing. Even when he’s not employing all disciplines, his work is informed by this wide-ranging skill set, holistic vantage point, and sharp eye.

Kaboom owner/EP lauren schwartz initially met Stevens through a twist of fate. She didn’t intend to explore the possibility of bringing the Portland-based director onto the company roster. But their conversation quickly expanded to a dialogue about the industry, brand collaborations, and ultimately to working together. They struck up a rapport and schwartz was impressed by Stevens’ work and work ethic. schwartz assessed, “joe directs with the beautiful visuals of a DP while weaving brands and stories effortlessly. He’s the real deal–that so-called millennial voice who is also grounded, engaged, and loves to create.”

stevens recalled that he was “immediately taken with Lauren’s candor and enthusiasm. The more we dug into what it means to work in the industry today, it just made sense to join forces and see what we could create together.”

SHOOT: kaboom signs patrick finnegan

patrick finnegan, who earned a slot in this year’s SHOOT New Directors Showcase, has joined the roster of kaboom productions. finnegan’s directing career was launched with an unprecedented opportunity to work on an expansive, long-term, content campaign for the United States Navy. In partnership with the Navy’s Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership, finnegan developed an ethical branding concept, and then traveled the country to document quietly powerful stories of valor and exceptional strength.

finnegan gained SHOOT NDS inclusion on a Navy branding piece profiling a captain who was captured, imprisoned and tortured for five-and-a-half years before returning home, retaining his honor, sense of duty and integrity in the face of a harrowing experience.

A former actor in nearly 50 national commercials, finnegan has a deep appreciation and understanding of both casting and how to direct talent. He connects easily and authentically, eliciting the best from those in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Having worked extensively as a DGA 1st A.D., comfortably leading, problem solving and supporting a fluid process, he’s had a front row view to a landscape of approaches with directors of all stripes. This experience, combined with considerable technical skills and craftsmanship, make finnegan expert in storytelling and finding brand voice.

“What drew me to sign patrick is that I have known him personally for a number of years; and his integrity and passion for his work is unparalleled,” said kaboom owner/EP lauren schwartz. “It shows in what he accomplished for the Navy and how he approached every aspect of that project.”

finnegan said he was drawn to Kaboom by the opportunity to work with a supporting network led by schwartz, describing her as “truly motivated to find innovative and compelling solutions for clients. I appreciate that drive and am excited to see what we can develop together.”

SHOOT: kaboom signs alden wallace

Director alden wallace has joined kaboom productions, the company headed by EP/owner lauren schwartz. This marks wallace’s first signing with a production house; up to this point he has worked directly with varied major brands. wallace began his career as a still photographer, shooting campaigns and magazine editorial for assorted clients, including Tory Burch, Miller Genuine Draft, Nike, Google, Universal Studios, and Post Cereal. An innate curiosity and passion for delving deeper into the brand narrative led wallace to expand into directing. The trust he built with clients and brands allowed him to do so, and resulted in multiple shoots for Mercedes-Benz, Oakley and Motorola.

To announce Motorola’s new Android update, Lollipop, wallace directed a commercial recognized for its unique, in-camera style. For Mercedes-Benz, he directed and co-wrote a series of online commercials about the importance of family during the holiday season. He is currently embarking on his inaugural project with kaboom.

schwartz described wallace as “a natural talent whose contemporary style communicates beauty without artifice. He has a photographer’s eye and an advertiser’s strategic thinking – and is easily able to visualize captivating narratives with perfect casting for all kinds of brand-driven content.”

wallace said he was drawn to kaboom by his affinity for schwartz and feeling “a familial connection” to the company.

“Youth and experience come together with alden,” added schwartz. “He has already created work for a variety of major brands; kaboom is able to add tools, deep support and a wider production network to his existing repertoire.”

Director's Corner: christian riebe

What do you love most about directing?

The biggest pleasure is working as a team with creative people. Again and again, I am astonished by the colleagues I meet when I travel around the world. To see these people contributing their amazing talent to put creative vision into reality is something very humbling. The time I get to spend with these people might be very limited but I am truly happy to call many of them my friends.

You have an innate ability to work with kids – what is the secret to getting a natural performance?

First of all I treat children with the same respect as adults. Kids thrive when they feel like they are contributing and I fully encourage them to do so. The most important thing is to channel their natural energy. With kids it’s even more crucial to see the energy needed for the scene during auditions. Casting a child just for the look and then hoping for a miracle on set has great potential for failure. Just like working with professional actors I create an atmosphere on set where the kids can let their guard down and start having fun. That’s when the magic starts happening.

In your spots, the brand is seamlessly integrated into the narrative. Why is this a priority and how do you ensure it feels effortless?

Nobody is keen to take a bite from a piece of plastic. When it comes to working on tabletop my main goal is to make the audience feel like, “Yum! I want to have a taste of that.” I believe that is best achieved by creating a natural integration, where the audience feels connected and thinks, “I could do this right now at home.” Though every job is different I tend to stick to the approach not to overthink the food shots. I encourage the talent to handle the product as naturally as possible while I make sure it looks great. As a result, the performances and the food shots amplify each other and create a natural flow and the film feels much more effortless.

What’s the biggest difference between your life in Europe and your life in the US?

Growing up in Europe I am surely rooted in the culture but at the same time I have been mainly socialized with US films, music and sports. So being in the US comes with a strange mixed feeling of discovering something new that feels very familiar at the same time. Oddly enough, I am still excited when I hear American police sirens because it gives me the feeling that I am walking through a movie. One can understand a lot about the difference between the US and Europe by looking at the label on a bottle of wine.

What kind of project do you most enjoy directing?

In simple terms: Whatever I am directing right now. Creating a playful and energetic environment, and the responsibility in going beyond ordinary process of filmmaking to engage viewers in story. Not that I specifically look for it, but I appreciate the moments when things do not quite go as planned, when there are elements of surprise. Keeping my calm when things get hectic, then finding solutions and delivering a great film, is a very satisfying experience.

Who was the biggest influence in your early career?

Caspar Trop was an artist who lived and worked in France and maybe the most intelligent and beautiful mind I have ever encountered. He encouraged me to see past the obvious choices in life. So I dropped my calculator and picked up a photo camera. Looking back, that’s how it all started.

Love + Medicine

Following last year’s successful Gundersen Health System campaign, agency Preston Kelly reunited with kaboom and director michele atkins to delve into what makes the provider so special: love + medicine. Launching this week are three spots that embrace this fundamental, powerful ethos. Inspired by actual experiences at Gundersen, the spots reveal small but mighty moments that are pivotal in effective, quality care. View them here.

"Michele brings a vision for the spots that keeps these real stories feeling real,” says Preston Kelly EVP/Creative Director, Chris Preston. “She walks the line between telling an elegant story and finding authentic emotion. She understands what our agency team and our client is looking for and delivers it without selling out on her vision."

Three stories for three generations were filmed on location at Gundersen for an added layer of authenticity. “Glasses” unfolds in a car parked at the snow-covered lot, and demonstrates the steps taken to help an elderly client get the optical prescription she needs. “Hands” reveals how vulnerability and nervousness are calmed by a simple touch. The third spot, “Balloon Glove,” reflects how original thinking can turn the situation around for a small boy in need of care.

Subtle details, like moving from a view through the door of a hospital room to a close-up of a worrying patient, or a back seat vantage point of what seems to be a lone elderly women on a winter’s day, or the overhead shot of a boy refusing to have his bandage changed, help bring viewers into the experience. These unique perspectives take people from voyeur to participant in a lead up to the resonant moment that connects health with care.

“The power of the spots came from being rooted in truth. But the project came together so beautifully because the amazing agency team, as well as the client, were completely focused on providing the best for the campaign,” explains director atkins. “It was this sense of communal purpose and the drive to enhance the work every step of the way that made the process special.”

Read more about the project featured in Adweek and The Minneapolis Egotist.


In celebration of International Women’s Day, Brawny® paper towels brand is highlighting inspiring stories of four women from traditionally male-dominated professions who have overcome adversity and are empowering others through their accomplishments. Produced by kaboom and directed by ricki+annie, the #StrengthHasNoGender campaign, via agency Cutwater, features real women who are challenging gender stereotypes.

The #StrengthHasNoGender videos were produced by woman-owned kaboom productions and directed by the Emmy-nominated duo of Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (ricki+annie), with over two dozen women in key production roles bringing these docu-stories to life.

According to annie, “We hope that these spots will make people think about their own definitions of strength, of what guides them and pushes them to be their best selves. There’s a palpable excitement in filming with real people who are unrehearsed, who are authentic, and who inspire us with how they face their challenges. We hope that this campaign connects more people with the strength in each of these women’s stories. They are amazing, accomplished individuals and we hope people are just as energized and inspired by their journeys as we were during the making of these spots.”

“What was interesting and surprising to me,” adds ricki, “was that all the women we interviewed, despite the broad spectrum of careers they have, were all raised without a sense of any gender divide. There was never a thought that they could not do something because they were girls. Hence their career paths were propelled by passion rather than having to overcome any perceived gender divide. An inner strength is matched with a humble quality about their accomplishments – the hope is that whatever success they've achieved will inspire the next generation of young women.”

Read more about the project featured in Adweek, Creativity, and Little Black Book.

Director's Corner: carolyn corben

Tell us about your unique background and path that led you to directing. It is quite a long story so here is the abridged version: Once upon a time, after graduating from The Royal College of Art with a Masters degree in embroidery and textiles I joined forces with a fellow graduate and together we designed and made clothes for TV commercials, music videos and stills. One day we got asked if we would design the sets as well as the costumes and we said a great big "YES!" Then a lovely man who owned a production company noticed that we had a unique style and asked if we would like to direct and of course we said "YES!" Many happy years later in 2007 we went our separate ways and I have been happily directing solo ever since.

How does this inform your approach–your design thinking when it comes to directing?

As my background is in costume design and art direction, I know those departments well and love to be involved. I think it makes me acutely aware of the work that goes into every area of a production and I really appreciate it. Teamwork is key and coming up through various departments has made me a good team player and also developed my ability to problem solve quickly and effectively. I am really interested in "mise en scene"–how important every element that you put in front of the camera is to creating the overall picture.

What are some of the most inventive projects you’ve been a part of and why?

So many have required invention of various kinds. One that springs to mind is a series of sponsorship IDs for Renault. We could not show a car per se but the idents needed to suggest a car and be branded. Together with the agency creatives we produced stylish objects that were made from car parts. Each ID started on an extreme close-up of the car part and then tracked back to reveal the object in a stylish home interior. For example, from a close up of the center of a steering wheel we tracked back to reveal a man's hands turning the wheel, then further to reveal that the wheel was the seat of a bar stool which he is moving so that his glamorous wife can sit on it. These were so well received that we developed the ideas into a second series that also had a murder mystery thread connecting them. I loved this project because everything was achieved in camera. However, I also love working on multi-faceted projects, which also involve CGI and post production. One such project was the commercial I directed for Moschino fragrance "Uomo" which features a floating staircase filled with a hundred dancing cowboys. We achieved this with just two dancers and multiple passes combined in post production.

How does your multi-faceted background lend itself to this ever expanding world of content?

I think my unique background has given me an eye for detail and makes me flexible and a lover of challenges. Today, directors are expected to do more–and having a background in design is immensely helpful to align creative and budgets, to know what can be done and how, and to craft and direct something that is visually unique, including set and costume design, without sending everyone into a mad panic. I really enjoy problem solving so I welcome these opportunities. I’m able to bring my experience to bear in this expanded content world.

You’ve worked all over the world, what intrigues you about working in the US?

I really love traveling and meeting new people all over the world. I have visited the US many times, mostly for pleasure, but would love to work here more and also get to see even more places. I think the advertising industry in the US produces some of the best creative spots in the world and I would love to be part of that.

What are some recent projects you've directed?

I did a cool music video where all the sets were made from paper! I designed the sets and the costumes, and together with a team of two assistants made them all as well. Another recent favorite was a series of commercials for a fashion brand shot on location in Moscow.

I hear you also have a line of custom wedding dresses?

I developed a particular embroidery technique whilst doing my first degree at Goldsmiths, University of London. Using this technique, I create fabric that is a web of threads…it is almost like painting with thread, and I can make garments in the round so that they have no visible seams. Over the years I have created a number of one-off dresses, which have been commissioned for weddings and other events. Making garments is something I have always enjoyed and I can fit this in around directing jobs.

What other creative endeavors do you do in your "spare time"? 

To be honest it doesn't feel like I have much spare time, as I am always busy with one project or another. I have been developing some short film projects. One is called Miss Caramel Macchiato and is a magic realist tale about a young woman with a magical matchmaking ability. It was my concept and I have co-written it. A producer and I are working on getting the funds together to make it in 2016. I am also about to renovate my house so I have been busy researching and collecting ideas for the interiors.

Out of the house I like to visit art galleries and museums, which help keep me thinking and inspiration flowing.