Congratulations to our latest Tongaler of the Month, CC Pixels! While the husband-wife duo of Margaret Condol and Jeff Capili have been working together for years, you’re probably most familiar with their work under the Tongal handle “Maggie Condol.” In April, they won a Tongie for their incredible 3D animation Tony’s Nightmare for LEGO and Marvel. Here we’ll find out how they work together, where they find inspiration, and how they create these masterpieces at record speed.
Sarah Donze: Did you both love to draw as kids? Has animation always been a part of your lives?
Maggie Condol: My dad and brother are amazing artists, so I grew up loving art and drawing. I loved watching cartoons, I still do!
Jeff Capili: I was always the class artist when I was younger. That kind of made me hate being artistic during those times because it meant extra work for me like doing designs for the class billboard and other decorating tasks that I didn’t really enjoy. I was more into sports than art when I was younger, and even in college where I spent most of the time rock climbing than doing my plates. It never really occurred to me until years later that animation would be a major part of my life.
SD: Are you self-taught or did you go to school for animation?
JC: I took up Visual Communications in college and I actually had an elective subject for animation. I never took it seriously and ended up attending that class for less than five times the whole semester. The only reason I passed was because I submitted the final project but mostly I’m self-taught and just watch animation tutorials online.
SD: Pretty impressive! Do you enjoy watching animation as much as creating it?
MC: We more than enjoy it! I think we’re pretty much obsessed. Haha. We’re always watching films and searching for animation clips on YouTube.
SD: What was the first thing you animated? Do you still have it?
JC: The very first thing I animated is a stick figure drawn on the pages of my history book. You flip the pages and you see the stick figure moving. I remember choosing my history book because it was thick!
SD: How did you get your start in professional animation?
JC: I was invited to join an animation group back in 2007 and started as a character artist. They needed an extra animator so I thought of giving it a try. We were working on a 2D film at that time and that’s how I started in this field. Since then, anything we want to do we learn on YouTube.
MC: It’s just with Tongal that I got into animation. I was working for the District Attorney before and resigned.
SD: How did you find Tongal? What has been your favorite project so far?
MC: I came across Tongal when I was searching for ways to earn money from home. The project then was for the LEGO Hero Factory Web Series. Jeff was just starting to learn 3D at the time so we thought it was perfect. Even though we didn’t win the Pitch, we knew we had a great story and wanted to prove ourselves in the Tongal community, so we went for the challenge! We submitted a Wildcard and that was our first win!
JC: Our favorite projects have to be LEGO City, LEGO Hero Factory: The Next Saga, and McDonald’s Fish McBites. We love the LEGO City project because of the challenges it brought. There were so many models and sets, and we had to simulate water in a way that it blended with the rest of the characters. Hero Factory The Next Saga is also our favorite because it gave us another chance to improve on our previous work with Hero Factory and McDonald’s because the dancing Fish McBite was crazy!
SD: Are there particular artists’ styles or genres that inspire you, even if they work in media besides animation?
JC: The Nine Old Men of Disney animation are my inspiration. They really brought animation to a whole new level! Their discoveries became the foundation of the animation that we see today. I love Pete Docter’s works also. He’s the director of Monster’s Inc. and Up. The way he builds up the story to a satisfying and moving ending amazes me.
SD: Animation is an ever-evolving field. Is it easy to stay current on the latest trends, software, and technologies?
JC: The principles of animation have always been the same, but the software and the technology are the ones that are ever-evolving, always updating, and that’s why we know we need to keep learning. The amazing thing about participating in projects on Tongal is that we learn and earn at the same time!
SD: We hear you are raising a new crew of Tongalers over there. Is animating turning into the family business?
MC: Our 9 year old son also wants to be an animator. He is learning the basics on paper and pencil right now, but is quickly moving into stop-motion and very interested in our new green screen.
SD: Let me back up for a moment. How did you two meet? Was it animation that brought you together?
MC: It wasn’t animation that brought us together. We were actually best friends in high school and then 14 years later we got married.
JC: She had a secret crush on me when we were in school…just kidding!
SD: How do you split up the work on a project?
MC: We pretty much brainstorm any ideas and work on the story together, then Jeff turns our ideas into life! We work together on the ideas and storyboards, and sometimes our son pitches in as well! We use his LEGO toys to help us build the models when they aren’t available.
SD: Do you have a team working under you? The speed and quality at which you work is usually only found in big studios and created over months and months!
MC: There are a lot of stressful, sleepless nights working on two computers.
SD: What about the SFX and VFX?
MC: That’s all us too! We’ll record the sounds ourselves or make them on the computer.
SD: Do you work in other media?
JC: Most projects we do are exclusively animated, but we are now trying out animation combined with live action. We still have a lot to learn but it’s been really fun. We’re looking forward to practicing on our new green screen.
SD: I think the Nine Old Men of Disney would be happy to hear that. Your respect for the craft is definitely part of the foundation of your success. Outside of Tongal, what are you working on?
MC: We’re working on our own personal short called “Tala” which is a Filipino word for a star. It’s about a boy who helps a fallen star go back to the sky. We’re also going to be doing the animation part for a live action short film “Suits and Ammo.” We’re pretty excited for that!
SD: Keep us posted on that please! Do you have any advice for other Tongalers or aspiring animators?
MC: Always do your best and always improve. Don’t be afraid to fail and when you do fail, approach it as a consequence for doing something new. Failure can be an opportunity for growth if addressed properly.
JC: My advice for aspiring animators would be to learn the basic principles of animation first before learning the latest software. It can be exciting to learn the software right away but without the knowledge of the basic principles the animation wont look and feel right.
SD: Fun fact or surprising hobby?
MC: I love to cook and bake. I even took up culinary arts in college.
JC: I used to be a member of the Philippine team in Sport Climbing and joined the X-Games in 2007.
SD: Daily must-reads?
MC: Uhh, I’m not much of a reader but I do browse my horoscope every now and then.
JC: Anything that’s on the homepage of Yahoo from the latest celebrity news to sports.
SD: Favorite movie?
MC: That’s hard. I like a lot of Disney and Pixar movies but I’ll have to go with Finding Nemo. That movie gets to me every single time.
JC: My all time favorite has to be The Green Mile. I enjoy most of Tom Hank’s films including Toy Story 3. That movie’s ending made me cry!
SD: Thanks Maggie and Jeff! We can’t wait to see what you’ll create next on Tongal!
This month we have not one but two Tongalers of the Month: Erik Beck and Justin Johnson of The Indie Machines. If you’ve ever read the details section of a Tongal brief, then you’ve seen their work under “an example of an effective Pitch.” Their What Does LEGO Mean to You video has been viewed so many times at Tongal HQ that every staffer can recite it verbatim. The Video is so stellar that it just won the Tongie for Best Long-Form Video! Read on to get to know them a bit better, and enjoy the photo of them accepting their Tongie award!
Sarah Donze: What are your filmmaking backgrounds? Did you go to film school? Are you self-taught?
Justin Johnson: Neither of us ever went to film school. I went to a small college in Wisconsin for Multimedia Design, and lasted about a year and a half before dropping out. Ever since I was a kid I knew there was something magical about filmmaking. I’d always be re-enacting scenes from the Battle of Hoth with LEGO pieces with my Dad’s black and white Fischer-Price video camera, or putting on weird magic shows where I used in-camera editing to make pillows disappear. It was so fun to bend reality with a camera. Back in 2003, I started a site called FilmFights.com to help give myself, and the tiny community of other online filmmakers I knew (maybe like 10 people) a place where we could have an excuse to create new stuff and compete with each other. That really opened my eyes, and helped me discover tons of other people and work on lots of projects just for the heck of it, that made me better at making stuff.
Erik Beck: I’m also a totally self-taught filmmaker, but I do have a Political Science degree from Chico State that I never use! I was always building things as a kid and did some early experimenting with my parents’ VHS-C camera (the same one Marty uses in Back to the Future!), but didn’t really start digging in until I found Justin’s Film Fights site in college. A few years later (thanks to Justin) I ended up working for this great startup called Next New Networks. I ran an indie filmmaking network called “Indy Mogul” and my job was to create low-budget special effects and short films every week! That lasted over 3 years, and ended up being way better than film school. I learned by actually DOING … AND got paid a salary for it (rather than go into soul-crushing debt!).
SD: How did you find Tongal? What made you decide to enter?
JJ: I’m super locked into the video contest world. I’ve been looking to video contests since back in 2006 as a great way to make stuff and earn money without having to put in extra hours at some boring normal-person job. When Next New Networks was bought by Google/YouTube, our jobs started changing significantly – away from just being a creative, and more into being a normal employee. It was still cool, but it wasn’t going to give our creative juices what they needed.
EB: Justin was the one that discovered Tongal and suggested we enter. We had just quit our full time jobs at YouTube and were looking for new forms of income that were also in the realm of filmmaking. I started digging around the site and really loved the format of it all, especially the fact that you can be guaranteed a certain amount of funding for production before you have to dig into your own cash.
SD: What’s your favorite project you’ve done?
EB: Pringles/Star Wars for sure. I loved working on the LEGO project, but getting to plan and film a lightsaber battle with Darth Vader is hard to top.
JJ: Star Wars was a blast, but being on the more “documentary” end of our duo, I do look very fondly on our LEGO video. I’m glad it came out with heart, and it feels like much more than just a commercial.
SD: What was your inspiration for bringing Frank Limbaugh’s winning Idea to life in the Pringles/Star Wars Project? Did you work in an office and daydream about fighting your evil boss, Star Wars style?
JJ: Well, we loved the initial idea. It really fit with our brand, and we knew we could knock it out of the park. Thankfully, I’ve never really had a boss I’ve disliked that much, ha!
EB: The two biggest words that jumped out of that creative brief were “fun” and “epic.” Even if we’re not consciously thinking about it, I think our sensibilities lean that way anyway, so it was a no brainer. We love action, special effects and comedy, so the original idea was perfect for that.
SD: What was it like seeing your work on prime time TV?
JJ: Really really surreal. I like to play our stuff on my TV at home just to kind of take it out of the “small preview window in Premiere” world and into the “something real” world. Since we’re on the west coast, and it aired in the east coast first, I started getting texts 2 hours beforehand from people saying they had seen us on TV. Pretty awesome. Even weirder, my brother-in-law’s band actually had a song that played in the Bose ad right before our ad came on.
EB: To be honest, the first thing I thought was “our color correction is off!” But In all seriousness, it was awesome. We had a bunch of people over to Justin’s house to watch it. We bought Pringles and made a party out of it!
SD: Haha! You know you’re a pro when the first thing you realize is the color, and aren’t too distracted by the fact that your work is on broadcast! What’s your favorite type of project (docu/narrative/comedy/etc.)? What would be your dream project?
EB: I would say our TWO favorites are narrative and docs. I lean more towards the narrative side of that and Justin towards the docs.
JJ: Erik’s amazing at pre-production and executing a script to a precise level, and I’m more the “fly by the seat of my pants” type – which is great for documentaries, since so much is about the discovery and the journey of a character or a situation. In the end, though, I just love seeing stuff go from an idea, to a real thing. As for a dream project, I know we’d love to make something in that epic, fun, J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg style. Something where things blow up, and we can stuff lots of detail and awesome into every frame … and have a great budget so we can surround ourselves with a super-talented team.
SD: Outside of Tongal, what are you working on?
EB: We’re currently wrapping up production on a series of DIY special effects focused promos that play between the films on the movie channel EPIX, and in some very new and very exciting news, just signed the papers for a TV development deal with a cable network!
JJ: And even with all this other crazy, exciting stuff, of course we are still checking Tongal for anything that really jumps out at us.
SD: Congrats guys! Any advice for other Tongalers? Either about Tongal or filmmaking in general?
JJ: Filmmaking in general … I have been on both sides of the “advice for filmmakers” question – both as an interviewer and interviewee, and maybe I’m a jerk, but I quite dislike the “just keep on trying and making stuff” answer. For me, the biggest quantum leaps I’ve made in my career have been when I’ve moved to a big city and found myself surrounded by people who were way better than me. Moving to NYC put me in the midst of amazing tech people like Bre Pettis (founder of Maker Bot) David Karp (founder of Tumblr) and more. Coming to Los Angeles has really had the same effect for me in the filmmaking world. If you want to get better at making movies, put yourself in a place where you can meet people that are better than you and learn from them. For some people that’s film school. For me, it was just getting the heck out of my home town in Wisconsin.
EB: “Just keep on trying and make stuff!!” But seriously, for Tongalers I would say be true to your own artistic voice, BUT ALSO try and look at things from the perspective of the brand you are pitching for. Every brand has a very specific style, as well as a specific goal for a project. Make sure to read the project info over and over (and over!) again until you really understand it, and then come up with a great idea.
SD: Thanks for the thoughtful advice. Tell us a fun fact about yourself or a surprising hobby.
JJ: I made an app a couple years ago that was the #1 iPad app in America! It was called “Video Time Machine,” and it was a really fun side project. Making movies with Erik is way more fun though.
EB: I once tried out for the TV show “America’s Funniest People” … but didn’t make it on the show.
SD: What are your daily must-reads?
JJ: I love checking the Coast to Coast AM’s (this wild conspiracy-theory, fringe science late night radio talk show) daily “In the news” section. They always have articles about unexplained stuff from dubious-looking sites and I freaking love it. Always taken with a hefty grain of salt, but I love the glimmer of hope that some of that stuff could actually be real.
EB: Facebook, I guess. This question makes me realize I need to read more!
JJ: What Erik doesn’t want to admit is that he can’t read or write. He just uses Siri for everything. THE SECRET IS OUT.
SD: I see where you get your love of Sci-Fi, Justin! What filmmakers most inspired you growing up? What about now?
JJ: It took quite a few years for me to really pull apart “filmmakers” from the films they made. I loved the universe of Star Wars when I was a kid, and the time-travel adventure of Back to the Future. It was only later that I realized the people behind the films, and the kind of work and passion that went into them. As I got older, the first filmmaker to really leave an impression on me in a big way was Wes Anderson and his “Rushmore” film. I loved its quirk, and the character of Max appealed to me in a big way. Watching it again as an adult, I realize Max is sort of a creep, but I found a common bond in his joy of ignoring his school work while focusing his time on creative endeavors that other people might find silly. I really sucked at school work. I still love Wes Anderson’s work and love to see his progression as a filmmaker.
EB: As a kid, my favorite movies were Star Wars, Ghostbusters and the Blues Brothers. I also really loved horror movies. Today, I would say the directors I look up to most are J.J. Abrams, Edgar Wright and Tarantino.
SD: Thanks guys! Can’t wait to see what memorable pieces you create this year, then we hope to see you back for #tongies2015 next year!
“It just came out of left field I guess.”
We’re not sure why left field was the one designated as special.
The one where inspiration strikes! Where ideas that are “just so crazy they might work” fly into our craniums out of the cloudless, crystal blue sky.
But that’s why Tongal’s Left Field is the name we chose for a brand new venue where you can develop truly BIG ideas.
Brands will use Tongal’s Left Field when they have challenges that need innovative and unexpected solutions; when they don’t have all the specifics about where they’re headed with a project; when they have a core idea of what they’re hoping to achieve, and a few specific assets (a brand, a product, a personality, a specific innovation – or an idea of their own) that they want to hear more IDEAS for.
We’ve advised our brand partners to use Tongal’s Left Field when they’re looking for a broad range of inspiration: when they don’t want to channel creative energy so much as release it. It’s a place where your ideas can (and should) be bigger, bolder, and…well …“Left Fieldier.”
Tongal’s Left Field will also feature the option for a FOLLOW-ON Phase, where brands can take the ideas they generate and ask Tongal creatives to bring them to life for different platforms and venues: Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram; as an APP; as a Billboard, as a Video…. Some Left Field challenges will actually begin at this phase, when the brand already has a big idea – but they want to know how to bring it to life on one or more platforms.
Tongal’s Left Field is starting with FIVE Big Challenges – a major band, two major brands, and two Mystery Sponsors:
KISS – (Yes, that KISS.) …Tell Gene and Paul how to celebrate their 40th Anniversary!
LEGO – What do you want to see LEGO develop for YouTube?
Natural Light – What does “Act Natural” mean to you?
Mystery Sponsor – It’s time to get young teenage boys excited about BASEBALL CARDS again. Tell us how!
Mystery Sponsor – Online dating: how would you persuade folks (still) unsure about it to try it?
If you want to contribute an idea to any or all of these Left Field challenges –
The Tongal Blongal sat down with Tongal founder James De Julio – Tongal’s Left Field’s Architect & Chief-Groundskeeper — and asked him to share a few thoughts about this new addition to the Tongal environment.
What was the driving force behind Tongal’s Left Field?
Tongal’s Left Field is an Idea FIRST product. For the most part, video has always been the main event at Tongal. But, we’ve always believed that the Idea Phase for Tongal projects held the secrets of our universe, and we wanted to act on our belief that our community members can be game-changers: that they have the imagination to fuel whole campaigns, unique positioning, new products – you name it.
Did customers ask for this?
Yes, and more and more often of late. Clients have been eager to tap into the creative energy of or community on new levels with more frequency and outside the confines of simply “video ads”, to expand their thinking — get more ideas, more nuance. They see the value of creative minds with lots of experience coming up with insight and solutions.
The briefs for Tongal’s Left Field are super brief – 140 characters max. What does that do?
It focuses the challenge. It requires that brands be very concise and specific about what they’re looking for and will result in more diversity in the solution set, more independent thought from the community. The fewer the words, the more each one of them has to count, and we think that will give brands bigger and bolder stuff to work with. We’re also going to keep the cycles short. We’re seeing great benefit for keeping ideation rounds in the 72 hour or below range.
About the phases – how will ideas develop – what will Phase 2 of a Tongal’s Left Field challenge look like?
Phase 2 will be all about taking the big idea and applying it. Our community can squeeze nerf balls for businesses and lob moonshots at rate never before possible on earth, but how can we take the results and create actionable marketing programs? How can this Big Idea work as an app? How can this Big Idea work on a billboard,? As a video?
Any other tricks up your sleeve?
Well, community members will see when they submit their first idea… We have a sort of carnival barker built into the platform…to get more ideas – a second and a third – something like ”Great shot kid, now once more, with feeling…”
We’re going to try to keep it lively.
KISS up first?
Yep. Couldn’t be a better kick-off for us. “Deuce” will be for Left Field what “Enter Sandman” was for Mariano Rivera…
There are a few others debuting as well. I’m personally excited to see what folks will do on the baseball collector card challenge. “How do we get kids excited about collecting cards again?” Hopefully the ideas will incite another baseball-card speculation bubble like when I was a kid — and I can finally get the massive returns I promised my parent’s from my “portfolio”.
This is going to be great for Tongal ideators.
I think it’s great for everyone, but it gives Ideators access to lots of new challenges and their own domain and place to shine.
I think we’re going to get some ideas in Left Field that have a big impact on businesses. When we do, we’ll be rolling forward with that success to drive more, bigger Left Field projects. When brands know they can get game-changing ideas from our community, my guess is that the value of ideas – and of Left Field itself — will just keep rising.
If you’ve been on Tongal anytime in the past three weeks, you’ve surely noticed a veritable plethora of projects all about a delectable beverage known as the Bud Light Rita. What is a Bud Light Rita, you ask?
At some point in history (scholars are still trying to determine the time and place) a brilliant soul decided to combine a beer and margarita into a single drink, thus creating one of humanity’s great innovations, the beer-rita. But the story doesn’t end there…
Whether you’re making it look easy or perfecting your mixology skills; celebrating Cinco de Mayo or just showing the world how much unexpected fun you can have with Bud Light Ritas, Tongal has a project for you.
Even better, we’ve decided to goose the pot, by throwing in some additional incentives for those video creators who step up and win across multiple projects…that’s right we’re doing a mini-Season for Bud Light Rita’s. The rules are going to be different, so before you get too deep into your method research and start wasting away in Tongal-Bud-Light-a-Rita-Ville, check out the guidelines below:
- If your video finishes in the money in two Rita’s projects: You’ll earn a 20% bonus on top of your cumulative earnings across those two projects.
- If your video finishes in the money in three Rita’s projects: You’ll earn a 30% bonus on top of your cumulative earnings across those three projects.
- If your video finishes in the money in all four Rita’s projects: You’ll earn a 40% bonus on top of your cumulative earnings across those four projects.
- If your video is selected as a first place winner in all four Rita’s projects: You’ll earn a 50% bonus on top of your cumulative earnings across those four projects. The first place award for each project is $22,000 (minus any residual payments due to the winning ideator upon which the video is based) which means if you win the first place video prize for each Ritas project you would take home an additional $44,000!
That’s all, folks! Wins on the site = additional money in your pocket. If you have question or comments, be sure to write us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you haven’t seen Ryan Riffle’s winning Wildcard video for the DIY LEGO Movie Trailer project, do yourself a favor and check it out now. Ryan and his twin brother Richard painstakingly recreated the original LEGO Movie trailer shot-for-shot, entirely out of cardboard. That’s right, cardboard! The result is a giddy romp packed with action, humor, and an amazing a cappella soundtrack. Ryan and Richard’s hard work netted them $12,000 and (as of this writing) over 100,000 views on YouTube! Read on to see how they pulled off this crazy undertaking.
Matt Sweeney: What’s your filmmaking background? Did you go to film school or are you self-taught?
Ryan Riffle: I am self-taught. Started filming my freshman year of high school. My brother and I have filmed a little over 400 short films, which have improved my skills immensely. I first picked up a video camera after making a video for a film festival at church. I didn’t take filming that seriously until I got into college, and now I love it and want to make a career out of it.
Matt Sweeney: Your entry for the LEGO Movie project was a pretty ambitious undertaking. What made you think you could pull it off? Were there any points where you didn’t think you could finish?
Ryan Riffle: We had no idea if we could pull this off, having only shy of one month and two people doing all the work (my twin brother and me). There were many points where we were not sure if we could finish in time. It took us about 20 days to make 75% of the sets before filming. Once we got to the filming stage, with only 10 days left till due date, we were a little scared and behind where we wanted to be, but knew that since we’d already put about 150 hours into it, we were driven enough to finish the film.
Matt Sweeney: What gave you the idea to make the video entirely out of cardboard? Did you just have a lot lying around?
Ryan Riffle: This was our first time ever making a cardboard video. At first we wanted to do a stop motion video of the LEGO trailer on a whiteboard. After testing it out we realized that it wasn’t going to look professional enough. So we came up with the idea of trying to make it out of cardboard instead. We ran to Walmart at 1 a.m. and grabbed a full shopping cart’s worth of cardboard. After smashing it into the backseat of our car, we were ready to begin the very long journey of intense cardboard building. And what a journey it was!
Matt Sweeney: You and your brother spent over 200 hours on this. How was the workload split?
Ryan Riffle: The workload was split evenly. We each had our own skills to contribute. Richard made the characters, vehicles, and a lot of the backdrops. My job was to make some of the backdrops, 3D buildings, and to put the sets and rooms together. I also was in charge of filming each shot to make it look like the exact same shots from the trailer, and edit the movie as we shot it. We both spent about 6-7 hours on the music and sound effects alone.
Matt Sweeney: Where did you film the video?
Ryan Riffle: We filmed the video at our house. We used our bedroom, the kitchen, and the dining room. The house was covered in cardboard for a little over a week. There was so much cardboard in our bedroom that we had nowhere to step. Our parents had a difficult time getting from the kitchen to the living room. I’ll end it by saying our parents were thrilled.
Matt Sweeney: Your video is a shot-for-shot remake of the trailer. Do you think replicating a Hollywood director’s shots helped inform your own directing style?
Ryan Riffle: Doing a shot-for-shot remake of the trailer was tough. My brother and I are very detailed-orientated and wanted to make the sets exactly like the directors shots (prop for prop) but realized we didn’t have the time to be perfectionists about every detail. Overall, I think even though we replicated the director’s shots, we were still able to use our own directing style by the way we moved each piece, laid out the scenes, positioned the lighting, etc not using any kind of CG or effects.
Matt Sweeney: Who did that killer Elizabeth Banks impression?
Ryan Riffle: My brother Richard. He practiced for weeks just trying to get Elizabeth’s voice perfectly…and…NAILED IT!
Matt Sweeney: Your video has over 100,000 views on YouTube and more than 2,300 likes on Facebook. How’s it feel?
Ryan Riffle: It makes me feel fuzzy like my teddy bear and warm like I’m sitting in my oven. All jokes aside, we feel so grateful and blessed by the gifts that God has given us. He gave us the strength to put the whole video together and the patience with each other to not get too frustrated. Getting those views and likes is just a bonus for us. We hope to work with Warner Brothers again sometime, as long as it doesn’t have to do with cardboard.
Matt Sweeney: What’s the reaction been like from your friends and family?
Ryan Riffle: Our parents were very thrilled…once we got the cardboard out of the house. Our friends and family have been very supportive of our weird movie ideas and have stuck by us all the way. Our friends are so supportive that they are willing to be in our videos for free, and if we win, we give them some money. If we don’t win, they are still supportive to try another video with us. Our parents are so loving and we were thankful that they let us trash the house for a week!
Matt Sweeney: What are you going to do with your winnings?
Ryan Riffle: “I am going to buy a llama.” – Richard Riffle.
As for myself, I’m going to hopefully buy my own T3i camera to improve our videos. Also saving some for a possible ring!
Last words of advice: If you want to make a video and have the idea and a camera, film it! If you don’t have the “money” for it, film it anyway! We spent about $10 making this video and made our money back!
Announcing our latest Tongaler of the Month: Anna Christopher! Her very first Tongal video submission “Read My Face” won second place in the Olay Fresh Effects Video Project. Read on to hear about her background, inspiration, and what she’s up to when she isn’t Tongaling!
Sarah Donze: Tell us a little bit about your background: how did you get into filmmaking?
Anna Christopher: I have always been writing but then in high school, influenced by my mom who is a painter and photographer, I explored visual storytelling with photography. By the time I was looking at colleges, I knew I either wanted to go into geology/plate tectonics (I was fascinated by earthquakes) or filmmaking, a place where words and visuals combine into a magical thing. I decided to study Radio/TV/Film at Northwestern University because they have a fantastic film program that would allow me to explore every stage in making a film and every position on a crew. I continued honing my craft getting my masters degree at the American Film Institute in the Directing Program. I loved my time at AFI and all the collaborators I met there.
SD: What was the first film you ever made?
AC: SOCK IT TO ME. It is about a mom, daughter and their rivalry in the cutthroat world of sock monkey-making competitions. Yes, it was a comedy.
SD: Sounds hilarious! How did you find Tongal?
AC: While working on feature films and TV projects, I had started doing branded digital content and was enjoying the fun of working with brands to create media that cut through the noise on the internet. A friend of mine had seen my work and knew about Tongal and introduced me to the site. It was love at first sight.
SD: A true romance. What attracted you to the Olay projects?
AC: I was so inspired by Olay’s interest in doing something new and different from typical beauty content. They wanted to speak to the younger generation in a way that respected their smarts, savvy, and appetite for fun. Olay wasn’t scared of trying something new, which is like jet-fuel for a creative person. Their willingness to do something that was a little out of the box, a little less conventional for the genre, made me feel confident and excited to push myself, which is something I’m always attracted to doing.
SD: Was there something specific that inspired your winning video “Read My Face”?
AC: I’ve had a version of that last scene in the video of my own life: being out all night with friends, having surprising adventures, hilarious mishaps, and unexpectedly beautiful moments, and then ending up at the beach with some of your favorite people on the planet. The beach location is a Cali thing, but I think that idea and that journey is something so many of us have experienced and remember viscerally. I worked backwards from that kind of moment and created original characters who had their own individual needs and obstacles that resulted in three mini stories.
SD: The resulting work was beautiful! Tell us a little about your new web series.
AC: LISA’S ADVICE has been one of my favorite projects of 2013! I love this web series… a lot. LISA’S ADVICE is a comedic web series that at first is a satire about advice-giving, but underneath is really about how women talk to each other and navigate the hilarious yet very real codes of female friendship. Written, directed and starred in by me and actress/filmmaker Regina Taufen (my real-life friend), LISA’S ADVICE began as a joke that we made over a hangover cure-all breakfast at IHOP. We got excited about making a project that cracked us up, i.e. we didn’t know if anyone else would think it was funny but we didn’t care, so we put in dozens of our own dollars and called upon a few helpful friends (and boyfriends) to actualize the web series. Now LISA’S ADVICE is 14 videos, each deliciously short (:30-:60), providing LOL-worthy insights into this fictional yet curiously familiar friendship between a lovable, try-hard straight woman and a vicious, unstoppable funny woman.
SD: How do you juggle starring and directing in the same project? Do you give yourself notes?
AC: LISA’S ADVICE is the first project in which I’ve acted and directed at the same time, and I wouldn’t have done it without Regina Taufen being there as my co-director and co-star. We have a great working relationship, very honest, very transparent, very positive. We did rehearsals and talked through our characters, the scenes’ beats, etc. These conversations, the same ones I have with actors any time I direct (I just usually am not the actor!), were the closest thing to “notes” I gave myself. On set, I knew that for myself to give a good performance, I needed to be in the moment, connecting to my scene-partner, being fully present. I could not be “watching” my performance, so I really looked to Regina, as my co-director, to give me feedback and help shape my performance.
SD: You work in so many different formats whether they’re commercials, short films, series. Do projects come at you randomly or do you seek out varied opportunities?
AC: I seek out opportunities that interest me creatively, whether that means visually or because of the talent/crew attached or the concept of the project or the script. If there is something in the project that sparks something in me, I wanna do it. Inspiration is a precious thing so I’m happy to ping-pong around in different formats to find it.
SD: What do you find unique about being a female filmmaker in such a male-dominated industry?
AC: Sometimes you’re the only woman in the room, on the set, in the meeting, which is all the more reason to rock it.
SD: We’d love to hear more about your film that screened at Cannes.
AC: At Northwestern University, I directed the annual music video for Niteskool, a student-run organization. That music video was extremely ambitious for a student film because it included a car chase, fantastic locations, and a nighttime shooting, but we had a tremendous team, and we made it a reality. The video won a student Emmy and also garnered a place at a special Cannes showcase of student work.
SD: Do you have any advice for your fellow Tongalers?
AC: Push yourself to think outside the box and take chances because Tongal is a great place to try new ideas and be recognized for your creativity.
SD: Are there any projects you’d love to see on tongal.com that we haven’t presented yet?
AC: I’d love to see Tongal actualize an idea that’s been floating around the indie community for years which is to create a feature film made by multiple filmmakers taking on different sections/acts/scenes of the film. Sorta like “Paris, Je T’aime” but a continuous narrative rather than thematically-linked shorts.
SD: Is there another filmmaker whose work inspires your own?
SD: What are your daily must-reads?
AC: Does Facebook count? Read-read wise, I’m currently loving the THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tart. It’s for book club.
SD: Fun fact or surprising hobby?
AC: I started horseback riding when I was six years old and still go once a week. Hanging with horses is super fun; they don’t care about deadlines, scripts, production schedules and all you have to do to get them to love you is bring them carrots.
SD: Thanks for your time Anna!