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.

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.

SHOOT: kaboom signs christian riebe

kaboom productions has signed director christian riebe for exclusive U.S. representation. This is the first American market signing for the director, who has worked extensively throughout Europe and Asia. His commercials span such brands as Sony Bravia, Miele, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and LG.

When riebe was 15 years old, he contributed to filmmaking for the first time as part of the art department in a feature production. It was a life changing experience and marked the moment he fell in love with the industry. Working in various capacities in feature film and TV series production over the next few years, riebe gained deep experience in the filmmaking process before enrolling in an advertising program at Germany’s Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. While studying, he became a VFX supervisor--an asset to his future as a director at a time when visual effects were becoming increasingly central to the process. He has contributed his unique eye and multifaceted experience to creating spots with cinematic style and quality.

riebe explained that he became interested in kaboom after copious research on U.S. production companies. He was drawn to the company’s roster of directors, its brand and personality, prompting him to reach out to schwartz.

Admittedly skeptical of blind queries, schwartz found herself returning to watch riebe’s reel again and again, taking the opportunity for an in-person meeting while in Los Angeles. “As we talked, I discovered that he possesses a wonderful balance of experience and youthful enthusiasm, and brings with him the unique ability to infuse work with a European sensibility and be accessible here as he splits his time between Germany, France and LA.”

riebe recalled, “When I met lauren, I understood that the spirit of kaboom was genuine and there’s a true passion for the process and industry.”

A woman-owned content production company, kaboom maintains offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Director's Corner: brandon dickerson


You have two films premiering in October—tell us a little about each of them.

A SINGLE FRAME is a documentary premiering at the Austin Film Fest, which is where SIRONIA also premiered. It explores the journey of a father inspired by a photograph of a refugee boy taken during the Kosovo war. He decides to go on a quest to find the boy from the picture, and the film follows him as we meet some amazing characters along the way—like renowned photojournalists, Gary Knight and Ron Haviv. I can’t spoil where it leads, but I hope the doc is found as entertaining as it is thoughtful—a profound journey of the power of photography and the belief that every life matters. VICTOR is premiering at the Heartland Film Festival and tells the true story of Victor Torres—a migrant teen from Puerto Rico forced to survive the ghetto of Brooklyn in 1962. Enslaved by the power of gangs and the addiction of the neighborhood, he must find freedom before he destroys his family and himself.

Not many directors, cross back and forth between fiction and non-fiction filmmaking. What inspires you to do both?

I’m far more Danny Boyle than Wes Anderson in that I love to work on diverse projects with a variety of themes. I think “true” is something that unites all of my work as not only my documentaries, but my narrative films are also inspired by true stories. My commercial and music video work has always been like this as well as I explore a variety of music genres and dance between doc/real people, youth, and comedy. Coming off two features, I'm looking forward to more story driven projects.

How does the feature work influence your commercial projects and vice versa?

I think I carry over that idea of “true” into my commercial work as I’m always looking to explore what is authentic about a brand and bring that to screen. The greatest influence writing + directing feature films has had on my commercial work is the opportunity to work extensively with actors in a way that you don’t get to in spots. Films have definitely enhanced how I work with commercial talent. Technically speaking, there is a lot of cross-pollination between films and spots as I am always bringing something I’ve explored in commercials into the feature space and vice versa.

How did you get your start?

Growing up in Southern California, my family would go to the movies almost every weekend. One October evening in 1979 we saw THE CHAMP. I cried. We went back two weeks later to once again see little Ricky Schroder idolize his boxing father, Jon Voight. I cried again. I asked my dad, “How does it do that?” wondering how one could grasp what drama was coming and yet still be emotionally charged. He explained to me how films worked and the guy at the helm was a director.  Amid schoolyard aspirations of being a fireman, dating Olivia Newton-John, and someday owning a Sony Walkman–I declared, “I want to be a film director.” I wanted to be a part of stories so powerful they could make you cry. Twice.

I was deep in music videos when I met Lauren Schwartz who asked if I’d be interested in doing spots. Our first commercial together won a Gold Lion at Cannes. Whenever I’m asked how to break into commercials, I say, “You start out by winning a Gold Lion.” Ha! That was a pretty wild and humble blessing to spark my commercial career.

What’s one of you favorite things about directing?

I love working with talented people, from cast to crew to copywriters to the craft service chef who blows my mind with his Pierogis. I’m passionate about the visuals as I started out shooting all my own work with my wife doing art direction and wardrobe (she now owns her own fashion/lifestyle brand Raven+Lily). But my absolute favorite is working with whoever is in front of the camera—whether a seasoned actor or real people who’ve never had a lens pointed at them. That’s where the magic happens.

You moved from LA and now live near Austin on what you call Green Acres ATX, recently featured on the cover of Austin Magazine. Tell us more about this place you call home.

It is quite a journey that took us from living at Sunset+Vine to Farm-To-Market Road 1704. When we settled in Austin, the only thing we were missing was the retreat spaces outside of LA that we would go to often to get away and unplug. So we bought a piece of land outside of the city, got rid of 80% of our stuff, refurbished a 1955 Spartan Trailer + 1967 Airstream, and bought two miniature donkeys on craigslist for $20 each… delivered! I named them Donkey and Yoti (of La Mancha) and started a blog about the adventure: www.storiesaboutmyass.com. We named the land "Green Acres" as we are city folk bluffing our way through this adventure.

We wanted to share the land and had always loved the times we were able to go “Glamping” so we furnished a YURT and made it available on AirBnb. The response has been pretty overwhelming as a wide variety of folks have enjoyed coming out to unplug. If we were outside of PDX instead of ATX, we’d be ripe for a PORTLANDIA episode mocking “sustainable living” in a “tiny home” embracing “Farm-To-Table-Slow-Food” with our “Glamping Yurt”. At least I traded in my Volvo 240 for a Ford F-150 to fit in with the locals.

What’s your hidden talent?

My family gave me a Ukelele for my birthday, and I have found a knack for mashing-up pop songs with a smooth Hawaiian vibe. The kids have a love/hate relationship with my versions of Shake It Off/Call Me Maybe. Tyson’s Tacos in Austin will give a free taco to anyone who can tune and play a song on their Uke. The kids are both rocking Stairway to Heaven, so we’re giving it a go next week.

SHOOT: kaboom signs carolyn corben


kaboom productions, headed by EP/founder lauren schwartz, has signed director carolyn corben for exclusive U.S. representation. corben’s body of commercial work spans such clients as Gordon’s Gin, Honda, Skittles, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Swatch, and Head & Shoulders. She has also directed music videos for noted artists including Sir Elton John, George Michael, The Scissor Sisters, Shirley Bassey, and Siouxsie Sioux.

Maintaining offices in San Francisco and L.A., kaboom adds the U.K.-based corben to a directorial roster that includes michele atkins, brandon dickerson, erik moe, kent harvey, ricki+annie, reynir, gary shaffer and doug werby.

A product of a childhood of creative adventures, from painting to opera singing, corben attended Goldsmiths College in London where she crafted art using textiles and it was here that an extracurricular film club reinforced her passion for the art of the moving image. Upon graduating, she embarked on a Masters degree at London’s prestigious Royal College of Art where she honed her creative skills further.

Combining these passions, she first defined her creative palette as part of The New Renaissance, a design company she formed with fellow graduate Harvey Betram-Brown. Under their creative direction the company designed window displays, fashion collections, catwalk shows, and costumes  for clients such as Harvey Nichols, Moschino, Speedo and Henri Bendel. The duo then focused on creating costumes and sets for TV commercials and music videos, which ultimately led them into directing. They were featured in Saatchi and Saatchi’s New Directors Showcase at Cannes. In 2007 she launched a solo career.

Prior to joining kaboom, corben--whose work is often punctuated with choreographed action, fashion and visual narratives--was handled by TWC. Earlier she was represented by Crossroads.

Director's Corner: kent harvey

How did you get into directing? Before I got into film, I was a climbing & mountaineering guide and immersed in the action sports lifestyle. I always had a love for the film making process and had studied film in college. Following guiding, and pursuing a career in film, I eventually wound up working for Warren Miller Films as a freelance Director/DP for a decade and traveled around the world filming action sports as part of a small production unit. This was a great experience as I wore many, many hats from producer to Director/DP. Action sports and the lifestyle is a world I know intimately, both as someone actively involved in the sports and through shooting. It’s been a natural progression that started with shooting and then evolved into directing and shooting national spots.

DPing is still a big part of what you do, even when directing branded work.

Absolutely. I love being behind the camera and if I have the choice I like to serve as the Director/DP and watch the story through the viewfinder shooting. If a project is complex enough I’ll bring on a DP or Operator but as the industry has evolved and budgets have changed, being able to both direct and shoot is something of a caveat in that it is both cost effective and gives me the opportunity to do two things I really enjoy doing.

What are your favorite kinds of projects?

My favorite kind of projects are those that tell a compelling visual story and have a high commitment to dynamic, beautiful images that take the viewer on a journey.

What do you like about commercials?

With commercials and branded work, I enjoy the challenge and opportunity to tell a story in a short period of time with great impact.

What’s something not everyone knows about you?

I’ve climbed Mount Everest twice in addition to having climbed 6 of the famed Seven Summits all with a camera in hand. As a former mountain guide, I never had the desire to climb Everest, but that changed when I was called to shoot a branding campaign on Everest for Eddie Bauer and their technical line of outerwear called First Ascent. Last spring I returned to film on Everest for the upcoming feature film Everest. Unfortunately our plans to shoot to the summit were cut short as a result of the tragic avalanche last spring that killed 13 Sherpas. Mountain climbing is about pushing past limits, and feeling human potential in a beautiful setting. Combining climbing and filming is merging two things I really love.

If you hadn’t pursued directing & shooting:

I think I would have pursued medicine or architecture. My dad was a doctor and he really appreciated working with people as well as the variety of experiences, which is also something I deeply enjoy about being a director. Like filmmaking, architecture is an evolutionary process that starts with a blueprint, similar to a script or storyboard, and then evolves into a building or production phase. Whatever I chose, collaboration would be a key component.

What makes you unique as a director?

When it comes to action and lifestyle work I think having an intimate knowledge of the subject matter really helps. I am still an avid climber, mountaineer, skier, mountain biker and whitewater kayaker. I not only understand the physicality of the sports and lifestyle but I know intimately how living the lifestyle and doing the sport strikes an emotional cord. Additionally, I have traveled around the world several times on film projects working in some very remote and difficult places having to be incredibly resourceful and I think this gives me a unique perspective on the film making process.

Director's Corner: michele atkins


Q. Why did you decide to take the leap from producing to directing?michele: I was fortunate to produce Super Bowl spots and Emmy award-winning work with some of the best directors in the industry, including Joe Pytka and Zack Synder. From a young age, I wrote and shot personal projects so I knew I would eventually direct professionally. As a producer, you get to weigh in on aspects of creative decision-making but I wanted to be immersed in it. Some opportunities fell into place and I took the leap.

Q. How does your previous producer role influence your directing? michele: As a result of having produced for many years, I do extensive research for each project to ensure I am on the same page as the agency or client. I want to make sure that we share the same vision, so the shoot goes as close to flawlessly as possible. I enjoy writing treatments and will often do an edit with still images to give a sense of flow and execution. It’s an understatement to say I like to come prepared.

Q. You have been called a triple threat because you direct, shoot and edit. Is that how you prefer to work? michele: I’ve always worked that way, so it is very much in my comfort zone. My goal is always to do what is best for the job – so if that means taking on all of those roles, I welcome it. Being a Director/DP allows me to really provide complete visual storytelling – I think visually and that encompasses both roles. Doing both is advantageous aesthetically and is increasingly my norm, especially on content projects and digital campaigns.

Q. What subject or genre do you like to direct? michele: Love, tragedy, happiness, failure. I am in my element when showcasing humanity and emotion. In the case of Prezi, I deeply understood the anticipatory feeling that came with competing in sports. The moment just before launching off a diving board or going into a boardroom, carry that high stakes, knuckle biting feeling. That connection was instrumental in the spot where we were capturing the moment before the big moment.

Q. What are your hidden talents? michele: I don’t know if it is a hidden talent, but I occasionally surprise people with my enthusiasm for technology. I enjoy the process of discovery and I like to know how things operate. I’m always trying new things and experimenting. I rented housing for an underwater shoot that I was directing and DPing. The rental house casually handed me a 100-page manual, which I read voraciously and then tested the gear as suggested before taking the plunge (they certainly didn’t expect that!).  Also, I love music and it’s impact on visual perception. I spend a lot of time with a music supervisor (wink, wink), which gives me access to a wide variety of composers and small label music catalogues. I often come to set with music in hand so that we establish the tone of the project from the shoot onward. I think about each facet and see projects through completion (even if I'm not editing). It is how my mind works.