ShootersNYC Combines Boutique Feel with Big Studio Capabilities by Anthony Vagnoni 27 June, 2012
The newest creative one-stop shop offers New York agencies production, editorial, effects and design in a highly collaborative environment.
The studios of ShootersNYC are housed in a neat little package of edit suites, finishing rooms, client spaces and production offices down in the Flatiron district. Jeff Beckerman, the seasoned New York post production pro who oversees the office as Managing Director and Executive Producer, seems to suggest, as he shows me around, that good things do indeed come in small packages. Especially when they're connected to much bigger ones just two hours south.
That connection would be the pipeline, both digital and figurative, that links ShootersNYC with its much larger sister studio, ShootersINC, based in Philadelphia. While the New York office is lean and sleek, down in Philly you'll find a muscular presence that boasts full-up production, effects, editorial, audio, design and graphics. Off the beaten path, and proud of it, the Philly team gives Shooters not just room to work more cost-efficiently, but it gives Beckerman's Manhattan outpost a giant toolbox to turn to when it needs a little extra oomph.
"I think what makes us different is that our approach to integration allows agency creatives and producers to access literally every facet of the production/post process in one place," Beckerman observes. It has lots of advantages, he adds, "budgets can be maximized, creative collaboration is part of the gig from the get-go and workflows are smoother and genuinely seamless."
ShootersINC got its start in the early 80s as a production company specializing in advertising and TV work. It's since evolved into a broad-based studio that's home to effects artists, producers, editors, audio engineers, animators and colorists. Its model of production through post, including finishing and distribution, has been mirrored by its growth beyond just advertising work to include programming (via its ShootersTV division), effects work for feature films (via its DIVE visual effects studio) and high-end production and post for local advertisers and major corporate and political clients.
Its New York City studio was established, says President Ray Carballada, to be fully connected with the Philly studio but also to function as a standalone resource in the New York market. And it's been doing just that, Beckerman suggests, handling major projects out of agencies like Grey, Dentsu, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners and others, working on jobs that are both creative editorial assignments as well as full-up production through post and finish.
Beckerman is a familiar face to the New York ad community. A New York native, he started as an editor and opened his own shop back in 1993. It eventually became known as BOND, and offered a range of services from creative editorial to visual effects, audio, and finishing – "a mini-Shooters," Beckerman says, "but without the production."
Realizing that Bond was structured to handle a way of working that most likely was a thing of the past - the days when clients spent time at post houses and were hands-on in the editing and finishing of commercials – he shuttered the shop in 2010 and started looking for his next opportunity.
Around the same time, ShootersINC was considering finally opening an office in the city. Clients had been asking for it, says Carballada, and the time seemed right. "We wouldn't have gone into the market without someone like Jeff who really knew the city well," he adds. "That was a big part of it."
The company's full-service evolution in Philadelphia was more or less organic, Carballada explains. "Our integration strategy was really required for us to grow. It wasn't like you could go down the street and find a great visual effects house. You had to build it yourself. And we've been doing that for years. Now that everyone is moving in that direction, we're way ahead of the game. So it's really sort of helped us."
The current talent roster at ShootersNYC includes veteran, award-winning editors such as Anthony Marinelli and Dave Smalheiser, both of whom have cut jobs for top agencies around the city and have worked at some of the post community's premiere editorial houses.
In addition, ShootersNYC has at its disposal the creative and technical talent based in Philly. Indeed, says Carballada, the two offices are adept at swapping assets, resources and talent, with the latter traveling between the studios as needed. "We try and be as integrated as we can, to share assets, share data and share talent, but also to integrate the creative across the different aspects of the job," he notes. "That's one of the big things that people tend to overlook. Integrating the creative talent that's working on a job, and doing it early on, changes the dynamic of the way the project flows."
Beckerman is especially enthused about being able to tap into Shooters' DIVE visual effects studio. The division is now more accessible for commercial and web video work from New York agencies, as its capabilities are available through ShootersNYC's office.
Headed by VFX Supervisor Mark Forker, DIVE's work runs the gamut from finishing to effects design to on-set supervision to motion graphics and title sequences. They've worked on over 100 features, including "The Road," for which they were nominated for the Visual Effects Society's Best Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Film; "The Last Airbender," directed by M. Night Shayamalan; the horror remake "Let Me In;" and the sci-fi thriller "I Am Number Four." It recently wrapped work on the just-released summer horror feature "Chernobyl Diaries" and the Jason Stathamactioner "Safe."
The Shooters TV division is currently headed up by John Foy, an Executive Producer with numerous network and cable series credits. ShootersTV co-created and produces one of the top-rated shows on the Food Network, "Dinner: Impossible," which evolved into the wildly popular "Restaurant: Impossible." Several new shows are in development at the moment, adds Carballada.
The company's entertainment roots have positioned them well for the shift to branded content on the part of advertisers and agencies. "There are very few companies out there that are working on feature films, have a hit show on cable TV, are working on commercials for major brands and doing all the other cool things we're doing," Carballada explains.
"As a result, it's been a great foundation for all this new hybrid work that's coming out," he continues. "For example, we're doing branded content projects for advertisers and adding product integration to our TV shows. Because we have resources and people who have experience in these areas, we can provide agencies with a level of creativity, knowledge and insight that other companies don't have."
Beckerman agrees. "At Shooters, we have some awesome TV talent," he remarks, "people who really know their stuff. It's an incredible resource to have at your fingertips and be able to share with clients."
Several recent jobs make good case studies of how the New York studio can help clients, Beckerman points out. One was a series of reality-based web videos for Samsung that ShootersNYC both shot and edited; they were essentially stylish and contemporary "man on the street" product demos, with people approached on the sidewalks of Manhattan and given Galaxy Notes to fiddle with.
Bob Angone was creative director on the campaign, and he came away impressed. "Jeff and his crew stayed in lockstep with us on every phase of the project," he says. From multiple shooting days on location to the editing – which was turned around in rapid time to make a key media deadline – the company "did a really great job," Angone says. "It was a big advantage to work with an integrated shop that could handle everything. We had multiple editors working on this at the same time. Everyone knew what we were looking for and they were able to capture it."
Angone says he set up shop at ShootersNYC's office during production and post and formed a little extension of the agency on site. "They let me and my team just run the whole thing from there, and Jeff had to manage lots of changing deliverables and keep everything on schedule and on budget. It was an incredibly efficient and fast process."
ShootersNYC also provided one-stop services for an Advil spot for Grey's New York office titled "Bedtime Story." The creative director on the project, Paul Safsel, knew Beckerman from his days at Bond. He had an assignment for a spot that had a tight budget, and recalls Beckerman telling him that his new gig at Shooters offered more than just editorial, so he sent him the script.
In the spot, an actor who portrays mucus (you can tell because it says so on his T-shirt) afflicts people who are trying to sleep, in this case a little girl who's in bed with her mother and being read a bedtime story. Advil, of course, comes to the rescue and keeps Mr. Mucus at bay so she can get some sleep.
Safsel says there were a lot of plusses to working at a company that was able to package the production with the post. "If the talent is there - which it was with Shooters - it's perfect," he says. "We knew that it would work for the client from a budget perspective and we didn't have to sacrifice on quality. They provided a level of finish for the spot that we felt it needed, and had great solutions for all the little nuances that it takes to make it look well-polished, in everything from props to visual effects fixes."
ShootersNYC'sMarinelli edited the Advil spot, and both he and Smalheiser collaborated on the Samsung videos. Both say they were attracted to the integrated nature of what the studio has to offer.
Formerly at Red Car, Marinelli says he joined ShootersNYC because he says he was interested in doing something different. "I didn't want to just sign on at another editorial house," he says. "Here we have all the elements you need to make great work, from production to editorial, design and effects. I also like that it's small and just getting started. It's an exciting time."
The company's involvement in so many different sides of the business is a big part of what Marinelli finds appealing. He's dabbled in directing, and brings a wider view to his spot work than just that of an editor. "It's great having all the talent we have based here," he says of the overall company. "You're working with top notch people who bring great ideas to each project and who really know what they're doing. From an editor's standpoint, you're not just giving people marching orders; you're really working together, and that's the best part of it for me."
"We have incredible levels of support in areas like graphics and effects," adds Smalheiser, who was a partner in his own editorial house, Three Fingered Louie, before going freelance. He joined ShootersNYC last fall. "The range of services here encompasses everything, and the fact that it's housed under one roof makes things run so much smoother. Editing the Samsung work, for example, was a very fluid process. It allowed me and Anthony to focus on the story, not on the logistics. All of our collaborations, whether it's with directors or effects artists or finishing artists, is done very closely and very efficiently."
Smalheiser says he joined Shooters NYC because he was drawn to the "small, boutique feel, but our shop is also expandable. We can grow as the project grows, and in breadth and depth. If something needs visual effects, we can do that. And if it becomes twenty versions instead of two, we can handle that as well."
Beckerman notes that ShootersNYC's editorial calling card has played a big part in its winning assignments. "A lot of work these days is post-driven, and our talents here often help us land the job," he says. They've shot with a range of directors, some with close ties to ShootersINC in Philly, others are people Beckerman has worked with over the years in New York. And his editors are frequently hired to cut jobs that are produced at other companies. Marinelli, for example, cut a fast-paced PSA campaign for the Ad Council promoting personal savings that was directed by Twist's Matt Pittroff.
From where he sits, Beckerman says ShootersNYC currently has the best of both worlds - a boutique vibe, backed by the talent and resources of a bigger company. What's more, he's working with a creative, affable team that brings a can-do spirit to whatever they undertake. "They're all multi-talented people who can do lots of different things," he says of the combined New York and Philly rosters. "What's best is that their talents and skills can expand to meet a client's individual needs. That's the best part of all."