Straight From the Horse's Mouth

Social Media Engagement

By | Technology

The importance of social media video content grew tremendously in 2017, and that growth is expected to continue in 2018. And as sites like Facebook, SnapChat and Twitter continue to update their algorithms, video content will only grow more valuable. Research shows that video on social media makes engagement ten times more likely. But it’s important to make sure you’ve got the right video content for the right audience. Who is the audience you’re trying to reach? What do you want them to see about your company, products, or services? What’s the right “tone” for your video? These are all questions that can help you begin to set a video strategy for 2018. We can help, too—just give us a call.

Ponies at Indie Memphis

By | Office

For this year’s 20th anniversary Indie Memphis Film Festival, it’s fitting the cool branding designed by the folks at Farmhouse featured a movie slate turned BBQ grill with the tag line “Right on Cue”—as this year’s festival—like BBQ—managed to capture the flavor of Memphis.

A spectacular array of locally produced films by a diverse group of local filmmakers dazzled the audience. To watch Memphis-made films at Indie Memphis is to be amazed at the depth of talent in our city. And we do this for a living. And every film was preceeded by crazy cool live music in the theater (all by Memphis musicians, of course).

Running Pony was a proud sponsor of Indie Memphis again this year and served as the venue sponsor for Studio on the Square. But as usual, it was our people who shined brightest.

Writer/Director Melissa Sweazy won Best Hometowner Feature and the Audience Award for Best Feature for her documentary (co-directed by the talented Laura Jean Hocking) “Good Grief”—which captures the incredible work of the Kemmons Wilson Center for Good Grief at Baptist Hospital. It’s a moving, touching piece of work.

Watching films at Indie Memphis let you see the talent of Audio Engineer Nathan Reisman, Post Production Supervisor and Colorist Mitch Martin as well as the skills of numerous Running Ponies including Ryan Goble and Gabriel DeCarlo.

We probably smiled the most as our former intern Von Muren got a rousing ovation from the crowd watching the Grizz Grant Films (shorts that told the story of the Grizzlies from a female fan’s perspective) for her amazing illustrations of Melissa Sweazy’s “Stephanie Loves the Grizzlies”—check it out here.

Congrats to Indie Memphis and the incredible artists whose work they showcased. You made us all proud.

Director’s Cut: How to Break Into the Production Industry

By | Community, Culture, Office, People

Running Pony audio engineer Nathan Reisman shows young filmmakers how to operate a field audio mixer.

By Brad Ellis, Writer/Producer/Director

If you’re looking to begin a career in video production, you don’t have to break the bank by moving to the West Coast or enrolling in an elite, high-cost film school. Sure, those old school approaches might once have seemed a safe bet for that extra “leg up,” but the rise of digital technology has vastly changed the world of film and video. With instant streaming, personal YouTube channels, and self-funded DIY projects consuming our daily lives, opportunities await at every turn for clever, creatively-driven individuals. So, then: where to begin?

I was fortunate to start improving my film production skills in the late ‘90s when everything was quickly turning digital. Inexpensive prosumer cameras and user-friendly non-linear editing programs were now the

norm, not the exception. DVDs became all the rage and, as a result, “film school” was taught directly in the comfort of my own living room. I absorbed as many DVD special features as possible – director commentary tracks, making-of featurettes, behind-the-scenes lessons on set lighting and makeup applications – and these tutorials became my personal classroom. More importantly, bonus features pulled back the curtain and revealed the tricks and trades of the pros: they’re showing us how to do it, so let’s grab a camera, go outside, and do it ourselves! Trial and error won the day: I made embarrassing mistakes each time at bat, but at least I learned while surrounded by close friends and collaborators.

Even if you’re new to film and video production, you can still find entry-level opportunities all over the city. For younger beginners, the annual Indie Memphis Youth Film Festival is easily the best bet in town. These kids receive professional hands-on workshops and one-on-one mentoring sessions, but they also get to screen their own short films in front of their peers. When I think back to high school, the chance to premiere something I made in front of an actual audience would have been a dream come true! Now, these students have the luxury of a 50-foot screen and a sound system that would rival a concert hall. My Running Pony colleagues Mitch Martin and Nathan Reisman were among a group of professionals who provided workshops at the festival on audio, editing, and other aspects of production and post. The Youth Fest also offers a mentorship program that connects students of similar interests with professional industry advisors. The goal? Kids shoot and edit a short film over the course of a semester, with their advisor overseeing each step of production along the way. I’m a mentor volunteer and can assure any budding filmmaker that this program is a golden opportunity to jumpstart their craft.

I cannot stress enough: you must get out of your comfort zone and network. Find an avenue of people with similar interests and shake hands with everyone you can. The biggest ticket in town to do just that is the annual Indie Memphis Film Festival, a week-long event where mixing and mingling with local creatives is almost more important than attending the movies. Filmmakers are always looking to grow their teams, so if someone needs an extra hand on their music video or short film, sign up for crew! You may not start out at the top of the totem pole, but you’re going to learn about set life and meet some really cool people along the way. Additionally, take advantage of the awesome year-long events Indie Memphis sponsors: weekly “Indie Wednesday” movie screenings across the city, monthly “Shoot & Splice” professional workshops, and other offerings such as the Micro Cinema shorts blocks and Indie Grants that award cash prizes.

Running Pony video editor and post-production supervisor Mitch Martin (on the right) shows students some advanced editing techniques.

Schmoozing with festival crowds isn’t your thing? Try contacting the Memphis and Shelby County Film Commission to work on larger productions in town: you could sign up to be a production assistant for the next American Idol cattle call auditions, or maybe a costume intern on a TV show like Sun Records. Cameras are always rolling somewhere in the city of Memphis, so get out there and see what’s happening. Try a college-level production course that fits your area of interest: maybe you want to learn more about cinematography, or you think you’ve got what it takes to be a producer or director, or perhaps you enjoy the high-stakes pressure of live TV production. If you’re already enrolled at a university, simply ask your advisor if there are any available internship programs around – you may just wind up assisting at a local video production house like Running Pony, if the timing and your experience align. Search social media boards for organized filmmakers’ groups to follow, or enroll in an independent acting class if for no other reason than to witness the talent/on-camera relationship dynamic.

Here’s the bottom line: Los Angeles and New York City are no longer the only big kids on the block when it comes to big-budget film and video production. State tax incentives have shifted moviemaking and commercial production to all corners of the country – just look at Louisiana and Georgia, two states that are now hotbeds of cinematic activity. From my experience, if you want a foot in the door you have to embrace trial-and-error, and you must be willing to break out of your comfort zone. And never forget your passion – what makes you you will be recognized in the industry, as long as you stay true to your vision and to yourself. Creativity and the demand for product aren’t going anywhere – only now, we have all kinds of production tools and cost-effective resources that beg for exciting content creation. If that appeals to you, pull back the curtain and take a good look around – I promise the opportunities are right in front of you.

RP Cares

By | Office

“You make a living by what you get but you make a life but what you give.”

The quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill.

One problem: he never said it.

But despite the unknown origin we believe the sentiment is dead on.

That’s why this year for the 23rd consecutive year, Running Pony is proud to make donations to worthy local charities on behalf of and in honor of our clients and our staff.

Keep an eye out for our holiday video coming next month along with how you can like or share it to help increase our charitable contributions.

Just for fun, here’s a look at last year’s edition!

Why “Thank You” Matters

By | Office

“Thank you.”

How often do you give thanks? How often do you say “thank you?” And what are you thankful for?

It’s more than common courtesy that makes us say “thank you.” It’s appreciating what others do for you.

It may be something many of us never stop to think about, but with Thanksgiving approaching it’s normal to step back and reflect on the things that make us want to give thanks.

One cool thing about saying thank you, it’s actually good for you!

At Running Pony, we believe we have a lot to be thankful for.

We have an incredible team of talented pros—who each bring their passion and creativity with them every day.

Those people are backed by incredible people—their families. Whether it’s a spouse, significant other, child, parents or friends, we’re thankful for the support system that allows our team to do what they love to do.

We’re thankful for our City and its people. Memphis is a wonderful city where creativity and the arts flourish and it provides the perfect home base for our work.

Nashville may be trendy.

Austin may be weird.

Portland may be hipster heaven.

But Memphis is real.

It’s original. It’s authentic. And we love every part of it.

Most of all, we’re thankful for you. Our clients, our partners, our vendors and our friends.

Thankful for your trust. Thankful for your confidence. And thankful for your business.

After 23 years, it means more than you can imagine.

And we all need to remember to say thank you every day—not just on Thanksgiving.

Like this guy did:

So Happy Thanksgiving. And thank you.

Employee Spotlight: Nathan Reisman

By | Office

It’s easy to imagine a young Nathan Reisman in school, with a matronly librarian glaring at him and hissing “Shhhhh”!  Because this guy loooooves sound. He loves it so much, he majored in Commercial Music at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. His major consisted of a concentration in both music performance (playing percussion) and the music recording industry.

One of his professors was good friends with the lead drummer in the band for the Blue Man Group, and that led to an opportunity for Nate to “shadow” him and learn during a performance in Chicago. (If you’ve seen a Blue Man Group show, you know that it’s a crazy cacophony of percussion.) Much to Nate’s surprise and delight, the drummer even brought him out of the shadow and put him onstage–in a glow-in-the-dark t-shirt, no less. As Nate recalls,  “He asked, ‘Do you want to play with me?’ I was like, heck yeah! It was unreal! He just said ‘Feel the beat, and play whatever you want’. And we just jammed during the song. It was so cool!”

You might think that would have led Nate to focus on a career as a drummer. “But I didn’t want to end up as a struggling musician,” he says, “so I began to focus on the industry side”. After his junior year at Millkin, he landed an internship with Young Avenue Sound here in Memphis. And after graduation, the recording studio offered him a full-time job.

Nate spent a year at the studio before deciding it was time for a new challenge. “I wanted to try something different,” he says, “but still use my audio skills.” So he quit his job and “shadowed” an audio engineer on a movie set in Louisiana for 7 weeks, without pay. That led to a paying gig on another movie, and eventually to a full-time job in Memphis in video production.

Nate’s career almost took a 180-degree turn, when he had an opportunity to audition as a full-time drummer for…you guessed it—the Blue Man Group. He didn’t get the job, although he did make it to the top 5.

Today, Nate works as an audio engineer both on-set and in the editing room. During production, it’s his job to make sure all the sound is being captured as clearly and cleanly as possible. But during post-production, it’s often his job to “hear” sound that isn’t there yet—that is, to find places in a video where sounds can be added to enhance the overall effect on the viewers. (You can see a great example of his “sound design” in this animated video for the Bodine School.) Which does Nate like best? “Oh, that’s tough, that’s really though”, he sighs. “My favorite is when I get to do both the audio on set and then get to do the post on the same project.”

Nate has even come out from behind the camera and microphone to be the on-camera host of “Welcome to Memphis”. The video series aims to give hospitality workers an “insider’s view” of neighborhoods throughout the Memphis area. It turns out Nate has quite a flair for performing, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “I learned so much from doing that series, and found a lot of cool new places to go and things to do.” Which is why you’ll often find Nate and his pet Labradoodle, Penny, exploring along Main Street downtown and the Overton Square area.  So if you’re looking to find the hottest places with the coolest sounds in Memphis, Nate is the go-to guy.

Mobile Video on the Rise

By | Office
If you’ve heard the saying “less is more” than you understand the most important rule of optimizing video for mobile platforms. With more and more video being consumed on social media (Cisco says 75% of mobile traffic will be video by 2020) it’s more important than ever to hone your message to the most critical elements. That’s why story matters most and you have to work to find the right way to draw viewers into your message without losing their focus. If you do it well, the results pay exponentially. 92% of video viewers on mobile platforms say they “often” share this videos with others according to research from WindStream. So refine your story, make your idea move and reap the rewards.

Employee Spotlight: Corey Kenerly

By | Office

Corey Kenerly’s love of photography, design, music and documentaries all came together when he began his new job in January as a Writer/Producer/Director at Running Pony. It also marked a return home for the Arlington High School graduate.

Corey was born in Atlanta, but spent most of his life in Memphis. He grew up around music; his grandfather and his mother toured with gospel groups, and an uncle is a songwriter and vice-president of a music company. So Corey learned at an early age to play guitar and piano, and to sing. He started college as a music major, but later decided to pursue a different field in which he had also developed an interest—visual design. “My mom enjoyed photography, and my dad had done some design work, so naturally I was interested in both,” says Corey. “As the digital revolution made video cameras and video editing more affordable and accessible, that’s when I realized making videos combined everything I love about photography with everything I love about design and motion graphics.”

After college, Corey accepted a job as Clinical Research Coordinator at a medical clinic whose owner was also the director and executive producer of a Christian film that was beginning production. In addition to helping with the movie-making, Corey found that his job in the clinic helping to run studies for the FDA would also turn out to be a valuable experience for a budding video producer.  “It helped me learn the organizational side of things, and the importance of proper planning and keeping records. Because for the FDA, everything had to be very precise.”

Deciding to pursue a more creative career, Corey left the clinic and began doing freelance design work in the music industry. He soon took a full-time position at Escalade Sports, a global manufacturer and distributor of sports and outdoor recreational equipment, as a multimedia specialist and designer. His skill at photography and video led to his promotion to Marketing Communications Manager for five of the company’s brands.

Corey got married in 2014, and he and his wife Jessica wanted to return to Memphis to be near their families. The couple lives in Bartlett with their two dogs, Timber and Maisy. When not producing and directing videos for Running Pony, Corey enjoys playing music and woodworking. He’s currently making his own guitar–once again combining two interests to create something wonderful.


Running Pony Meets Running Ponies: 48 Hrs at the 143rd Kentucky Derby

By | Office

By Melissa Sweazy, Writer/Producer/Director

You expect the hats. You expect the mint juleps and the fabulous pastel suits, the women of Millionaire’s Row with their sky-high heels and whisper-thin dresses. What you don’t expect on your first time to the Kentucky Derby is the rain: near constant, soul crushing sheets of rain along with bracing 47 degree temps that have turned the hallowed Churchill Downs track into a muddled, mushroomy soup. But this is Kentucky, and this is Christmas in May, and by God, a little weather isn’t gonna get in the way of the 143rd Run for the Roses.

Director of Photography Peter Braswell and I are in Louisville, tasked with covering the Kentucky Derby for TruGreen. The Memphis-based company’s partnership with Churchill Downs enables them to help maintain the lush, green turf that will presently be ripped to shreds by 20 gorgeous thoroughbreds. Our objective: film horses and turf and local color. And not freeze in the process.

It’s Friday of race weekend – Oaks Day – and men in pressed white uniforms holding trays of iced drinks the color of sunsets holler “Lily! Get your lily” to a crowd already happy to be working on the signature Oaks cocktail at 8 AM. Turns out mint juleps are the official Derby cocktail on Saturday. I mean, they’ll sell you a mint julep on Friday, but heaven forbid you be gauche.

We’re ushered into the press room of Churchill Downs for the official photographers’ meeting. Forget the horses. Here are the real rock stars of the Derby: The New York Times. Vogue. The Wall Street Journal. Getty Images. The AP. The AP! I try not to swoon. A large bank of tv screens broadcast various angles of the track, NBC’s The Today Show, and the myriad correspondents struggling to stay chipper in the downpour. We’re given a cubicle sandwiched between a Louisville business paper and a corporate sponsor, and it’s a fantasia of English major bliss. Editors in fancy suits accept CF cards from mud-splattered photojournalists. A chic French correspondent down the row files stories in a fabulous magenta Derby hat. I’m in combat boots and a parka, but I sneak into the bathroom to clamp a lone peacock feather/rhinestone combo onto my baseball hat. No one will notice, but it makes me feel slightly more Derby.

Peter bounds over with the free loaner of a Canon f4 DO 400 mm lens. I’m telling you, it’s magic in that press room. Paired with our rented Angenieux zoom lens, the finished video will look like Peter managed to sneak onto the track and run alongside the horses.

I wouldn’t put anything past Peter.

* * *

I’m standing next to a horse. The magical lanyards around our necks grant us unprecedented access, and we have followed the conga line of horses and jockeys as they make their way from the paddock through the tunnel and out onto the track where, if I dared, I could reach out and touch velvety haunches.

I’m tiny next to these million dollar behemoths, all legs and chestnut coats and watery coal eyes. Thoroughbreds are descended from just three mythical Arabian stallions brought to England in the 1600s. The preciseness of their breeding yields the results that one would expect of any bloodline with very little forks in the trees:  horses that are gorgeous, powerful, and sometimes more than a little crazy. Each thoroughbred is met on the track by a chill stable horse, their own personal stressbuster who leads them on the “walkover,” the official trek to the starting gate. Each hour we will watch this ritual repeat – a bugler in a jaunty pink blazer plays the Call to the Post, summoning the horses to line up at the starting gate, and the jockeys in multicolored silks explode forth, frantically urging on their horse in the chocolate sludge of the track. How do you tell the winning jockey after each race? He’s the clean one.

Derby Day sees the same torrential downpour, the same chill, but by late afternoon, a roar rises up from the crowd. The sun has punched a hole over Churchill Downs, rays hitting the famed twin spires. The Mint Juleps flow in earnest, especially in the flooded infield where hundreds of spectators have given up trying to stay dry and dance to Florida-Georgia Line in saran wrap-like ponchos.  The stands fill up as the magic hour approaches. Harry Connick Jr. sings the national anthem. Everyone in the press room stands and places their hands over their hearts. Then, a mad scramble to the press seats and finally, it’s time.

Horses with names like Irish War Cry, Tapwrit and Gunnevera take to the track in the final walkover. Patch, the one-eyed wonder horse, has 20-1 odds but is a clear Derby favorite.  All twenty thoroughbreds line up at the gate. And they are off.

I can’t see a damn thing. I squint at the Big Board, the world’s largest 4K video screen, where I can barely make out the scrum of horse and jockey. But the crowd virtually lifts us up, screaming, yelling all twenty names as they round that last curve toward the homestretch. In the end, Always Dreaming will cross the finish line first, but what I will remember is that the sun was still shining and that Mint Juleps taste like liquid gold.

Mini-Documentary Wins National Award

By | Office

The Association for Women in Communications today announced that Running Pony has won a national Clarion Award. The award is for a short documentary we produced for Neighborhood Preservation Inc., titled “Rundown: The Fight Against Blight in Memphis.” This marks the 12th Clarion Award we’ve won in the past 10 years.

“I play this video regularly for audiences around the country to communicate our work in a brief but impactful visual format, and the impact is always powerful,” said Steve Barlow, President of Neighborhood Preservation, Inc.  “Running Pony was so much more than a vendor – they became, and remain, our strong partners in making Memphis great by collaboratively overcoming serious challenges.”

The Association for Women in Communications, founded in 1909, has nearly 1,200 members worldwide. For more than 40 years, the AWC Clarion Awards have recognized media and communications companies who demonstrate excellence in clear and concise communications. As one of the most prestigious competitions of its kind in the country, the 2017 competition attracted winners from 19 states and two countries. Winners included Bloomberg Businessweek, Mother Jones, The Daily Beast, TBWA/Chiat/Day, BBC, and WETA/Ken Burns.