Congratulations to our first “Tongaler of the Month” in 2015, Visceral Content! Benjamin, Craig and Shawn make up the team and these guys prove that great things come in threes. Read on to hear about their unique creative journeys, their incredible teamwork and their Spanish skills! ¡Ay, Carumba!
Izzy Francke: What’s your filmmaking background? Did you go to film school?
Benjamin Howdeshell: I didn’t go to film school, but my background is in postproduction and VFX. I had an idea for a short film exploring what it would be like for a daughter to make an impossible choice with her father, coupled with the intensity, tension and special effects of the zombie films I’d come to love. Craig helped me write the script, Shawn produced the short and my friend Dmitry Tokoyokov did the visual effects. We did it for very little money, calling in every favor I could. I put it on YouTube to see what would happen and 6 months later we were shooting the biggest budget web-series IGN/Fox had ever done.
Craig Dewey: I moved to LA one week after graduating with a BA in History and got a job as a post PA on Michael Mann’s Miami Vice. Getting coffees and lunches for editors and directors while sitting in on editing sessions and notes calls was my film school. I’m currently still working in feature editorial.
Shawn Wallace: When I was a kid, a movie was a transportation device to another world – I would go into a theater and be engulfed in that other time and place for 2 hours of my life. When I grew up I thought I’d build buildings so I studied architecture and construction management in college only to realize that what I really wanted to build was those transportation devices of my childhood. So I studied screenwriting in LA and NY, and produced a handful of short films (most that I’d never show to anyone). Later, I hustled my way into a job working as the assistant to a successful film producer from London. Funny thing is, putting together the pieces to build a 20 story building and putting together the pieces to build a $20M movie are pretty similar when you get right down to it. Each step of the way, from the dark theater of my youth to reading scripts for a producer, that was my film school.
IF: That’s great! It’s interesting to hear about your diverse backgrounds. How did you find Tongal?
BH: Don Broida.
CD: I had been Don’s PA back in 2008, and then I met Ben and Shawn and things started to take off in a hurry.
SW: Wait, how long have you known about Tongal?
BH: He told us about it 2 years ago.
SW: You’ve known about Tongal for 2 years?
CD: Yeah, I distinctly remember telling Ben about it.
SW: So we waited 1.5 years to do this?
BH: I know, I know…I regret not listening to Craig and Don right away.
SW: At least we are here now.
IF: Well, we’re definitely glad that you’re using Tongal now — Thanks, Don! What do you look for in a Tongal Project and what specifically attracts you to one when there are so many on the site?
BH: I look for interesting campaigns and ideas that I feel are a good fit for my storytelling interests and where we can deliver something unique.
CD: I like to Pitch on the Tongal Projects where I immediately have an angle while I’m still reading the Brief. Then that passion and excitement comes across in the Pitch and the brands definitely notice the enthusiasm.
SW: I think we try to look for Projects where the product, the campaign, and our energy all come into alignment. We know where our strengths lie so our goal is to find the Projects where we really believe we can have the kind of impact that the brand is looking for. At the end of the day, it’s all about the brand.
IF: Your Video “Board Meeting” for the HP Datapass What Can You Do When You’re Connected? Project is beautiful, how did you go about planning that shoot? (Editor’s note: trust us, this Video is amazing, but we can’t link to it until the Sponsor’s big reveal!)
BH: That was an amazing shoot. We knew after we finished the Pitch that it was going to be awesome. We started scouting Leo Carillo immediately. I used to surf and Eric Leach (our DP) is an avid surfer so we knew the spot well. We chose each of the spots we were going to use and sent pictures to my favorite VFX Guru, Dmitry Tokoyakov of thegreenlight.ru. He mocked up our VFX so we would know when and where to shoot (see picture below). The actual shooting day was beautiful. Our first shot of the day was the sun coming up so we got everything ready at basecamp in the dark to catch first light. I remember sitting outside of a coffee shop in Malibu with Craig at 4:50am waiting for them to open. The morning sky was amazing. It was a great shoot and a lot of fun.
SW: The whole plan starts with the creative. We will always Pitch creative that we know we can execute at a high level given the resources available. So when we get together with Craig to bounce around ideas and craft our Pitch, it is always with planning/execution in mind. We know how to execute on a tight budget. This comes from having built a talented and loyal network of crew and an understanding of where we can get the most bang for our buck. We aim to put as much of the resources available on the screen with the goal of over-delivering.
BH: I am a novice Spanish speaker, but the themes we were exploring in Montejo were universal. Family and traditions are important to me and we were able to express that through our commercial. From a technical standpoint, it was a very fun Project, the turn around was extremely fast so we had our DIT transcoding our footage as fast as we were shooting and I had our first cut about 45 minutes after we finished our last shot, as the crew was packing up.
CD: My amazing girlfriend is a second generation Mexican-American, and because of that we’ve often had conversations about authenticity, heritage and what it means to be Mexican-American, and those concepts fit nicely into the Montejo Project. I’m still an intermediate Spanish speaker, so she was instrumental in the translation.
SW: Siempre me he sentido atraído por la cultura latinoamericana, puesto a que es emocionante; llena de drama pasión; y un entusiasmo característico por la vida. Al principio…en la escuela, me gustaba persuadir a mis compañeros de intercambio de países extranjeros como: México, Centroamérica y Sudamérica para que me enseñaran palabras de su idioma con la finalidad de poder relacionarme con ellos de una manera que ellos apreciarían. Algunas veces negociaba el dinero de mi almuerzo por unas lecciones. Más tarde, me adentre a tomar varios años de educación formal del idioma Español. Así que cuando llegó el momento de preparar el terreno de juego y ejecutar la jugada, me quise asegurar de que puse particular atención en los elementos culturales de mayor importancia, detalles como la comida y el uso del lenguaje distintivo del país en temas importantísimos para los latinoamericanos como lo son la familia y las tradiciones.
IF: In case you don’t speak Spanish, here’s the gist… “I’ve always loved Latin American culture…at school I’d persuade my Latin American friends to teach me Spanish words (sometimes I’d exchange my lunch money for some lessons!). When I got older, I took more intensive Spanish lessons. When this Project came about, I wanted to make sure the Pitch emphasized the important cultural elements of Mexico, such as the food, distinctive use of the language, and the importance of tradition and family.”
IF: Impressive! I took French in school…so I had to Google translate that! What would be your dream Project on Tongal?
SW: We started out a little bit cautious in initially choosing a Project that we knew we could knock out of the park without “going big.” Now that we are off the starting line with a handful of Projects under our belt, the engine is purring and I’m ready to put the pedal to the metal. If Ben says he wants to “go big” on a campaign, I’m ready to go BIG. So if he says let’s do techno cranes, helicopters, camera cars, the works…I’m ready. In short, I’d love to do something for a major automobile brand – something that wows. If you look at our work on Project: S.E.R.A, you’ll see we can shoot cars beautifully with lots of energy and excitement. I am looking forward to the day when we get behind the wheel of an automobile campaign.
BH: What Shawn said. Plus, I’d love to do something sports related…something with athletes at the top of their game. I’m a huge fan of slow motion and there is nothing like watching a world class athlete perform at the top of their game at 120 frames per second.
IF: As they say…go big or go home! What are your daily must-reads?
BH: io9.com, betweenthenumbers.com and AdWeek. I’m also a YouTube and Instagram junkie. I’m much more of a visual person so I’m always looking for inspiration in photography, video games, short films and concept art.
IF: Sweet, lots of good reading materials! Tell us a fun fact or surprising hobby about yourselves.
BH: That’s a fun one… I’ve had a lot of passions along the way. Growing up in Wyoming I was the state champ in alpine skiing, then I was a professional dancer in NY, after which I went to college on a ballet scholarship, which was where I changed paths again and realized that I wanted to be involved in film. I was the first student in my school to learn the Avid, and visual entertainment has been my focus ever since. Now my need for physical activity mainly manifests in a mild obsession with Crossfit.
CD: Between full-time work and Tongal projects, who has time for hobbies??? Ben even has two kids, so I don’t know how he does it.
SW: Fun fact/surprising hobby…hmmm…I spent 2013 getting into supreme shape doing Crossfit but I’ve fallen off that lately. Ben, on the other hand, is in better shape doing Crossfit than I ever was.
IF: Love the variety of passions you have! Do you have any advice for other Tongalers?
CD: Getting started was the biggest hurdle. There’s an inherent reluctance to spend real money to create that first Wildcard Video. I know, because it took me nearly two years to finally do one. And it wasn’t my money! It was Ben’s. But seriously, that first step is the hardest part. I would look at the site and go “Man, if only xyz…” That “if only” will always hold you back.
SW: Check out the competition – not to be intimidated, but to be inspired. There are a lot of great filmmakers out there and more than a few of them are on Tongal sharpening their skills.
IF: That’s great advice! What’s next for you, on Tongal or otherwise?
BH: For Tongal, we are in post on a commercial for Bud Light Lime. I got an opportunity to work with one of my favorite models/actresses, Brittany Brousseau. The shoot was way too much fun and I can’t wait for everyone to see it. Outside of Tongal, we are working on a feature project. We’re about 2 months away from shooting a short film/pitch for it. Craig has created compelling/ strong/dynamic/tortured characters. I can’t wait to bring them to life. The lead character has such a distinct voice. I absolutely LOVE that moment when what is on the page comes alive on the screen.
CD: I’m moving to New Zealand to work on a feature film production and will be on post through spring 2016.
SW: I’m headed out the door right now (and will jump in a car that would photograph beautifully in a campaign for some major auto brand) to grab some street tacos. Gonna wash them down with some Anheuser-Busch Beverage products. Safely, of course.
Wow, sounds like 2015 will be a busy year! Thanks so much for sharing your insight with us, and good luck with everything. We always look forward to seeing your gorgeous work.
PS: Shawn, if you happen to pick up any extra tacos, Team Tongal will take them off your hands!
It’s back and better than ever…the Tongies is our annual celebration of the brilliant people in our community and our chance to recognize the outstanding work done on Tongal in 2014!
We combed through all of your fantastic submissions and now we want YOU to decide who wins big. Visit tongal.com/tongies to cast your vote for Best Idea, Best Wildcard, Best Comedy, Best Original Song, and many more!
You’ve got until Friday, January 16th at noon PT to review the nominees and vote. We’ll crown the winners at the live event on March 5th and announce them on our website shortly after. Big thanks to the nominees, and to every member of the awesome Tongal community. Here’s to all the great work to come!
Let the countdown to #tongies2015 begin!
Happy 2015, Tongalers! It’s a time of self-reflection and we’ve found a way to keep Tongal on your minds (and in your hearts) this New Year by helping you make a New Year’s resolution! As the saying goes: “New Year, New You, New Pitches!”
A little refresher: The Pitch Phase of a Tongal Project is your chance to show the Sponsor how you’d make an engaging Video that’s perfect for their needs. The Sponsor selects the best Pitches and those creators are given a production advance to go and produce their Video. Once their Video is completed, those creators are then guaranteed one of the prizes in the following Video phase. So, in the spirit of “fresh starts,” we thought we’d give you these useful tips to help you knock that Pitch out of the park!
Tip: Read the Brief
…Then read it again! Pay extra close attention to the Executional Mandatories, as these are important indicators of what the brand definitely DOES and DOES NOT want in the Video.
Tip: Make a Pitch Video
Nothing says, “I can make this happen” like a short Pitch video explaining how you plan to tackle the production of your piece. It’s both a way to personalize your take and show off your cinematic technique.
Some great examples include: La Femme Chic for Sole Society by Bobby Webster and 3 Artists & 5000 Legos by the Indie Machines
Tip: Use Images or a Storyboard
Clear, eye-catching visuals go a long way. Another way to convey “the look” of your final Video or to hit upon more specific story-telling aspects is to upload some stills or put a storyboard together. Also, if you have an idea of who you’d cast, submit their headshots with your Pitch — but make sure that you can deliver if you win!
Check out these examples: Moodboard for Oral-B by Stephan Malik, Pitch with Storyboard for Phillips Norelco by Brendan Beachman and PDF Pitch for Pantene New Hair New You by Don Broida
Tip: Back it up
Links to your reel and/or past work are necessary! The Sponsors want to get a sense of your capabilities. Submit work that’s relevant to the Project at hand. For example, if you’re pitching for an animation spot, show the Sponsor you have the chops by including your past animation work. We recognize that you might not always have previous work that’s specifically relevant, but always include any past work that shows what you can do. Remember, you’re trying to convince the Sponsor to finance your Video production (so giving them more reasons to do so is better than less)!
Tip: Pitch, Pitch and Pitch again!
Don’t give up! We operate on an open contest platform, and it’s a level playing field. That being said, Tongal is very competitive and the more you Pitch, odds are, the more likely you are to win. It’s worth noting that previous winners are likely to land the job because the judges know that they can work effectively off of a creative brief, work within a set of limitations, and will deliver on time.
Tip: Make a Wildcard Video
Whether you’re a newer Tongaler or having some difficulty winning during the Pitch phase, a great way to break in is to submit a Wildcard Video! Some of our legendary Tongalers owe their first Tongal win to a Wildcard submission, and have since found success pitching on the site!
These tips should help give you a clear sense of what we’re looking for in your Pitches! We know the process can be overwhelming sometimes, but it’s also an awesome opportunity to bring your creative ‘A Game,’ embrace the competition, and push yourself to be the best. We also want you to know that even by submitting to Tongal, you’re leaps and bounds ahead of many filmmakers out there. Let’s do this!
This year’s Holiday season is in full swing! But, before we say goodbye to 2014, Team Tongal wants to thank you, our incredible community, for a wonderful year. You continue to amaze us with your brilliant work! To send you off into your “holi-daze,” we thought we’d spread some cheer and share a collection of festive Tongal Videos to keep your spirits merry and bright. Happy Holidays!
The holidays are a time for snuggling up and watching a great movie…but, they’re also jam-packed with things that have to get done. This Video is as hilarious as the original Home Alone, but at 1 minute, 12 seconds it won’t take up your precious time!
Project: Tetra Pack Carton Smart Video Project
Idea: The Environmentally Hip Way by Ross Louis Klein
Video: Celebrate Small by Extraneous Noise
It’s a hipster’s seasonal paradise! If you’re a city dweller, this will inspire you to make what little space you have to “call your own,” joyful and merry this season.
Looking to start a new family tradition? Let this sweet, fun Video from LEGO inspire you! Plus, it might just turn your kids into wannabe engineers (an added bonus).
Project: Crest 3D Whitestrips
Idea: Christmas Girl’s Best Friend by Jeremy Sultan
Video: The Present by Boy and Star Productions
Did you miss someone on your list this year? Not to worry – just check out this Video for some great last minute “giftspiration.”
Project: LEGO DC Superheroes Project
Video: Black Friday by Richard Colvin
There are differing opinions on America’s newest holiday, Black Friday. But whatever your thoughts, you’ll empathize (and giggle) at this awesome Batman LEGO stop-motion Video.
Looking for new festive recipes to serve at a party? La Di Da actually made six different holiday recipe Videos for Honey Maid. All of them are super fun and delicious, check them out here!
Project: Leinenkugel’s Holidays Cheers From Out Here!
Idea: The Switch Around by Blake Carron
Video: Leinenkugel’s White Elephant by Napoleon Productions
This Video combines two favorite holiday pastimes: white elephant parties and seasonal beer…we totally suggest re-enacting this with friends! Please “white elephant” responsibly.
Project: Swede for the Holidays Video Project
Video: Rudolph Sweded by Victor Carrillo
If you’re looking for a quirky, modern twist on the classic Rudolph, then this Video is a must-see…it’s bound to get you in a holly jolly good mood!
Let’s hear it for our latest Tongaler of the Month, ideation genius, Federico Fracchia! Federico lives in Buenos Aires and studied literature before going to film school. Read on to learn about his creative process, his gift for dreaming up funny Ideas and tons of incredibly fun facts that prove he’s the coolest guy we know!
Izzy Francke: What is your creative and/or writing background?
Federico Fracchia: Well, I’ve always loved reading and writing, and I actually studied Literature (you’d call it “English”) as my major for a while, but then switched over to film school and got my degree in that instead.
IF: That’s cool! Since you’re one of our international Tongal stars, we’re curious to know, what is the artistic community like in Buenos Aires?
FF: Especially regarding the film and advertising worlds, it’s actually quite huge. There are a ridiculous amount of people studying these disciplines and working in these fields, and a lot of foreign ads are actually shot here due to lower costs, coupled with a huge supply of highly regarded professionals.
IF: That’s fascinating… How did you find Tongal?
FF: I honestly have no idea… but I do remember my first contest: submitting Ideas for Suavitel… and winning, right off the bat! They even made a TV ad! Talk about beginner’s luck! Right then and there, my mind was blown.
IF: I’d say it was mainly pure talent with a splash of beginner’s luck! You’ve come up with a ton of awesome and winning Ideas. In your opinion, what makes a good Idea?
FF: I think a good Idea always tells a bigger story, and it manages to somehow feel larger than the 30 seconds it’s supposed to happen in. The good ones also challenge and surprise not only the viewer, but also the brand, showing a side of them they didn’t know they had or had never thought about. That doesn’t mean an Idea has to be controversial or shockingly different to be good… just unexpected, but in a way that clicks and feels like it totally belongs there.
IF: That’s very insightful. Where do you get your inspiration? What’s your creative process like?
FF: As for inspiration, I’m not quite sure. I do watch a lot of films and TV shows, so I guess most of it comes from there, especially when it comes to humor. I love listening to comedy podcasts, watching stand-up specials, sketch shows! It can be anything, from the classics like Monty Python (which I’m a huge fan of) to weirder, current stuff, like Comedy Bang Bang! or Nathan for You. As for my creative process, it always starts as a back and forth with my girlfriend, Lola Ferré (also on the site), just bouncing ideas off each other. She’s great at a more traditional style of ad, so her ideas are always so different from mine that it’s immensely productive for me to just hear her out first, and build from there. And when we’re really stuck, we find that ping-pong is incredibly effective for just zoning out and letting new ideas flow through.
IF: It’s great that you two collaborate! We were impressed with your double win for “Sorry about that, son” and “Why can’t you be smarter?!?!” on the Oral-B Pro-Expert Video Project. How did it feel to win twice? Do you prefer one Idea over the other?
FF: That was a good one. I definitely prefer the “Sorry about that, son” Idea. That’s probably one of my all-time favorites, in that it’s just a little bit too weird and a little bit too mean to have been picked… but it was! I just wish it had been made into an ad… it could’ve been so funny. When it comes to humor, I find that you either “click” with a brand or you don’t… And that’s when you can win more than once. I think this was actually the 3rd time I won twice in the same contest, and they were all humor-based projects (Virgin America and Miller Lite were the other ones).
IF: That’s an interesting perspective. What’s your favorite Idea you ever submitted?
FF: Well, this previous one is definitely up there but apart from that one, it’s usually the ones they don’t pick, some of which I really love. Right now, I’m thinking of one that was called “Adventures of Jim, the Mile Redeemer,” for Virgin America, which said something like “Guy calls airline to redeem his miles: Sure, you’ll just need to fill form A52c in Korean, go to Mt Doom, find the Lost Gem, defeat Krom etc”. I don’t know why, but that one still makes me laugh!
IF: That definitely would have been entertaining to see brought to life in a Video! What would be your dream Project on Tongal?
FF: Well, I’m actually also a filmmaker, only I’m much more used to documentary-style stuff than traditional ads, so any globally-oriented documentary-style Project, I’d definitely jump right in. As for Idea Projects, anything involving humor is too much fun to call work. But it can’t be just a lukewarm, family-friendly style of humor, I’m talking about those few Projects where they’ll give you a great premise and just let you run wild with it. Every time that happens, that’s my dream Project. That, or just coming up with 5 or 10 new Taken movies, until everyone is taken. Even you!
IF: Haha – we would be honored to be featured in “Taken: Team Tongal” when you write it! What are your daily must-reads?
FF: I think the only thing I read daily is my Reddit feed and sometimes Quora, and there’s usually something interesting in there that I just need to know more about. Then, I end up just browsing away into the unknown, usually into Wikipedia, and I’ll spend hours just reading about astronomy or history or genetics or whatever. As for actual books, right now I’m finishing The 4 Hour Workweek and do not know what my next book will be.
IF: Wow, well winning on Tongal will definitely help you achieve the 4 hour work week! Tell us a fun fact or surprising hobby about yourself.
FF: Let’s see… I’ve been playing the trumpet for a couple of months now. I’m a black belt in Taekwondo. I think I still have a license to drive motorboats. I’m pretty sure I saw a UFO with my dad once, and no, we were not tired, drunk or in desperate need of attention. I studied Chinese for a year, went to China, did not understand a single word, loved it all the same. What else? Oh yeah, my whole family and I were once in an elevator with Ethan Hawke. We played it cool, don’t worry.
IF: Whoa – you could write a memoir based on those facts alone! What’s next for you, on Tongal or otherwise?
FF: Right now, I’m putting together 2 new ads for other video contest sites, and I’m bringing a producer and some other people into Little Jerry Ideas, my soon-to-be-officially-launched production company, so I can start focusing more on directing and producing higher quality ads, so hopefully you’ll be seeing my filmmaking side on Tongal pretty soon!
IF: We’re looking forward to it! Do you have any advice for other Tongalers who want to be ideation royalty like you?
FF: Take the time to read the Brief carefully, not just once but a couple of times, looking for keywords and trying to separate what the brand really really wants from what they’re putting in there just in case. And always try to read it a while before the deadline… like the day before. And then just leave it alone, don’t overthink it, just let it marinate in your head for a while. Your brain solves any riddle if you just leave it alone and give it some time. When you finally do sit down to write, you’ll be amazed at how many great ideas you’ve already got, just waiting to be written.
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us. Team Tongal is so glad we got to know more about your creative work…we can’t wait to see your next Tongal Project!
It’s already the week of Thanksgiving and the “most wonderful time of the year” is right around the corner. Team Tongal is ready to watch Elf on repeat, jam out to Christmas tunes and get jolly drinking eggnog at white elephant parties! What’s that – you haven’t started shopping, yet? Don’t worry we have your back. We put together this list of cool gifts for the creative people in your life to help you get your ducks (or turkeys) in a row.
Gift: GoPro Hero 4
Be your filmmaking friend’s holiday hero and give them the coolest new GoPro with built-in touch display. They’ll need it for shredding the slopes skiing – gotta get that epic wipeout on film, bro! There’s a deal on it during the Amazon Black Friday Sale.
Gift: Tascam DR60D
Want to make sure the kids sound like Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé singing in their school’s holiday show? This audio recorder is just what you need! It’s compatible with tons of DSLR cameras and works wonders for recording for TV, web broadcast and live events. Get it on sale with free shipping on Amazon.
Gift: Sony Alpha a7s Camera
Tis the Season for Oscar nominated movies, so help your filmmaker friends make the next big hit by giving them this camera! Trust us, you’ll automatically become their “Best. Friend. Ever!” We found a great trade-in deal and discount on Adorama.
PS – Sony just released the a7sII in Japan, you can sign up here to receive exclusive details on its US release!
Gift: Gorillapod Tripod
This tripod wraps around anything. We suggest you wrap it around the Menorah or put it on top of the tree to capture some super festive videos! It keeps your camera totally secure while capturing unique shots. There’s an amazing deal during the Amazon Black Friday Sale.
Gift: Trudeau Twist Jar Opener
We know it seems like a “Christmas miracle,” but this product is a great, inexpensive Follow Focus option – it fits around the ring of your Camera lens perfectly. Don’t believe us? Google it! We found a sweet deal at Sur La Table. Bonus: It could be handy for opening all those jars of gravy and cranberry sauce.
Gift: Zeikos ZE-DGC Digital Grey Card set
Want to look as good as the Kardashians in your family holiday photos? This set is awesome for setting white balance, can be used both pre and post-production, and works with all digital cameras. Order it on Amazon.
This gift is the equivalent of buying five pies for the price of one (but will result in less guilt-ridden New Year’s resolutions…). It’s also very universal as it fits on any standard light reflector holder! Order it on Amazon.
Gift: Final Draft Software
Great ideas are born while sipping on mulled wine and peppermint schnapps hot cocoa around the fire. With this software writers can record everything, without even putting down their glasses because it automatically formats documents into screenplays and teleplays. Order the latest version on sale on Amazon.
Having trouble getting kisses under the mistletoe? Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon can change that. They started from the bottom and now they’re popular screenwriters (and billionaires!). Their book gives valuable tips for success in a fun, laid-back tone. Get it on Amazon.
Gift: Cinematography for Directors: A Guide to Creative Collaboration
This book is the perfect present for the serious artists in your life. They won’t be able to put it down on those long car and plane journeys back home, so you’ll stay in their thoughts even after the festivities are over. Order it from Barnes and Noble.