Behind-the-Scenes Insights Into Made on (mt)
Creativity and design were the cornerstones of Media Temple’s inception 17 years ago. It started with our founder, Demian Sellfors, who leveraged his self-taught background in IT and design to start providing hosting services to the creative class from the confines of his L.A. apartment. Since then, we have built on Sellfors’ early immersion in the creative and design communities by sponsoring, speaking, or aiding conferences such as Future Insights, Generate, WordCamps, CreativeMornings/LA, Smashing Conference, and SXSW Interactive. Since 1998, professional creatives of all types have trusted us, from local boutique studios, web designers, and online design communities, to artistic e-commerce meccas and creative agencies.
Jon Setzen, our Creative/UX Director, oversees a team of 12 people and ensures we stay true to our design roots both online and offline. Our talented in-house video producer, Levi Obery, has been working under Jon’s creative guidance on all the videos we’ve created so far, from our series of documentary-style videos called Made on (mt) to our latest About Media Temple video (Rise and Shine).
In 2013, Media Temple won two awards (a Webby Awards Official Honoree and a Bronze Telly award) for the Made on (mt) series. 2014 proved even more successful with five awards, four for Rise and Shine (two Bronze Telly and two Platinum AVA awards) and one Gold Davey award for Made on (mt). 2015 is no exception with two 2015 Telly Awards for the latest addition to the Made on (mt) series: Made on (mt): Hamish Robertson.
We asked Levi Obery and Jon Setzen a few questions to give you a behind-the-scenes insights into our creative team.
Levi Obery, Video Producer
Levi, what led you to join Media Temple’s creative team?
I grew up in a small farming town in Central Illinois. In high school and college, I produced wedding videos, sports highlight videos, TV commercials, and a handful of independent films, most notably a documentary that I produced for the 135th anniversary of my family’s farm. After graduating from Bradley University, I moved to Los Angeles and joined Media Temple. Media Temple’s brand, culture, and positive reputation in the creative community is ultimately what made me want to work here.
When our Creative Director, Jon Setzen, joined Media Temple three years ago, he conceived an idea to shoot a series of “mini-documentaries” on Media Temple customers — which would require hiring a video producer for the series that would eventually become Made on (mt). At the time, I was working in Customer Support and had worked on a few Media Temple video projects here and there, so I was on his radar as a candidate. I became Jon’s first new hire and began working with him to develop the Made on (mt) series. We shot our first episode in January 2012 on Swrve, a Los Angeles-based company that handcrafts cycling apparel.
What’s the creative process that goes into making a Made on (mt) video?
First, we go through a list of customers that that we think would make for compelling profiles. Next, we reach out to the customers and learn as much as we can about them and their story. This almost always involves a few visits in advance of the shoots to meet with them and scout their locations. Jon and I then come up with the story that we’d like to tell and write interview questions based on that story, make shot lists, schedule shoots, prepare equipment, etc.
The Made on (mt) shoots are very intimate — usually only a single camera, some lights, the customer, Jon, and myself. After shooting the interview, we usually spend a few hours with the customer to shoot a “b-roll” of them and their business in action. Then, we return to Media Temple to begin the editing process. While we do have a formula for editing the Made on (mt) videos, we are always looking for ways to be more creative and change things up, whether it be with titles, music, cuts, etc. I work very closely with Jon to create a compelling (and accurate) narrative story. Because it might be hard to cut the interviews down to three minutes or so, we sometimes have to leave good moments on the cutting room floor.
Do you have a particular favorite moment from shooting Made on (mt) that you’d like to share?
I’ve enjoyed working on all 30 of the Made on (mt) videos that we’ve shot so far. It’s been amazing to connect and work with so many ambitious and creative customers. From agencies to graphic designers, it’s really awesome to shake hands and have some face-to-face time.
My personal favorite moment was visiting and shooting with Narragansett in Providence, Rhode Island. Jaws is my favorite movie and, in a famous scene, Captain Quint crushes a can of Narragansett beer — which turned out to be one of the Narragansett team’s favorite scenes from Jaws as well!
Jon Setzen, Creative Director
Jon, what’s the best part of shooting a Made on (mt) and working with Levi?
A huge factor in what interested me in leaving the agency world and coming to work at Media Temple was knowing I’d have a lot of opportunities to interact with our customers. As a designer, it’s a great situation. So many of our clients are my peers as well as people whose work I truly admire. Making videos about clients is a great way to tell the Media Temple story through passive association. It’s important to me that our customers only talk about themselves and not Media Temple. I think if we did that, the videos would lose some of their authenticity. I’m always bummed out when I watch a nice profile and then the last 30 seconds are about why the subject of the video loves to use “product x.”
Working with Levi is a real pleasure. He is as organized as he is talented. He’s dependable and always on time, which is a big deal for me. I appreciate his ability to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more until he has the shot. He has a great eye and understands how to create narrative in an engaging and cinematic way. One thing that I truly appreciate about Levi (which I think many young people in the creative world would benefit from learning) is his ability to take feedback. I’ve made him cut and recut videos countless times. He’s always open to feedback, but when he needs to push back he does… and he’s usually right. Our working relationship is collaborative and critical, which makes for great and fulfilling work. He, like the rest of my team, is talented and ego-less. I’m extremely lucky to have him and his work really speaks for itself.