Posted in Misc, Tongal Twelve
09/16 2014

Tongaler of the Month – North of Now

This month we spent time chatting with Tyler Funk, the man behind the Tongal legend, North of Now. Tyler grew up in Canada and first picked up a camera at age six. Ever since then, filmmaking has been a lifelong passion of his and he even completed a BFA in Film Production. Read on to learn about his upbringing in the arts, other Tongalers he admires, and his insightful advice for creating engaging content.

Izzy F: So Tyler, what’s your filmmaking background? Did you go to film school?

North of Now: I’ve been making films more or less my entire life. Growing up my parents ran an eco-theatre company so I’ve always been involved in the arts and the storytelling process. I did a BFA in Film Production at the University of British Columbia and during that time I also did a certificate in Directing at Langara College. So lots of film school.

IF: Impressive! I’m curious…what is the filmmaking scene like in Vancouver? What drew you to the city?

NON: Vancouver is more or less the warmest place in Canada so that along with the amazing film community made it a super easy decision for me. It’s a great city to live in and the film community is extremely talented and friendly.

IF: That sounds like a great environment. Do you remember the first thing you ever filmed in your life?

NON: I think I was six. It was a Night of the Living Dead knock-off short film that I co-directed with my brother. We used our two younger siblings as our actors/zombies.

IF: Wow…you were clearly ahead of the times given the recent zombie phenomenon! What’s the most interesting part of the production process for you?

NON: My favourite part of the process is getting to work with such a variety of people throughout production. To me, Tongal is all about collaboration and that’s the part that really excites and inspires me. It’s really amazing to build upon an idea and have all these talented people share your vision and help make it happen.

IF: We love seeing collaboration on our platform — it inspires us too. How did you first find out about Tongal?

NON: Online Video Contests or Video Contest News – I can’t remember which one. Either way, both are great sites for filmmakers to check out!

IF: That’s awesome. So when you first see a Tongal Project you’re interested in, how do you start crafting your Pitch?

NON: For me the Pitch is always about finding what elements excite me in the Project. It’s often about reading the Ideas and Brief until I think of a unique take on it or a new way of bringing it to life. It’s about taking the Idea and making it my own and contributing to the collaboration and evolution of the Project, all while staying loyal to the Brief.

IF: Great tactic! How do you go about assembling a team for a Project?

NON: I have a fairly set core team that I work with on an ongoing basis. I have an editor I’ve worked with since grade 8, and the same producer and cinematographer for most Projects. As I mentioned before, the part of the filmmaking process that I love is finding new talent to work with. I usually have one or two people in key positions on each Project that I haven’t worked with before.

IF: Wow — that’s amazing that you’ve known your editor since 8th grade! What’s your favorite work you’ve done for Tongal?

NON: I always have a hard time choosing a favourite, it’s tough as for every Project there is something I wish I could have changed or tweaked. That said I’d have to say Tech Deck was likely my favourite as it was just such a fun shoot, and I was really happy how the spot turned out. I think with that Project I was able to really capture exactly what we set out to do.

IF: I really enjoyed your work with Tech Deck too, definitely a fun Video! What do you think would be your dream Project?

NON: A dream Project for me is any shoot that involves travel. It’s an extra logistical complication but it always makes the projects so much more fun and exciting. So I’d say some Project where I got to shoot all around the world, something multi-continental.

IF: Speaking of travel — you were nominated for a Tongie for “Best Long-Form Video” for the Ford C-MAX Hybrid The Real California Video Project — I hear you went on a bit of a road trip for that Project. What was that experience like?

NON: Thank you! Most of the ad was shot in and around LA; lots of laps around Dodger Stadium. We spent just one day on the road as the Prius we had rented had some ridiculous limit to the number of miles we could put on it, I think it was like under 300. We found this out within days of starting our shoot so our original road trip ideas of going to San Fran or to the Redwoods had to be changed quite dramatically. So each day was a challenge of figuring out how far we could drive. We spent a lot of time planning routes on Google. We ended up doing a one day road trip up to San Luis Obispo which was a lot fun, however we had to leave the Prius in a parking lot along the way to avoid going over our 300 mile limit.

IF: That was very creative of you! Your SanDisk Video for “The Next Small Thing” is also really captivating. How did you capture all of that extreme sports footage?

NON: This spot was directed by my North of Now co-founder Gabe Adelman and I helped produce it. Everything was shot with a 7D and a GoPro. Gabe had a great approach of finding the right people and capturing the energy. He’s taken some time away from Tongal but lately has been shooting some amazing drone footage. I’m sure he’ll be back with another awesome sports video soon!

IF: Good to hear, we’ll be on the lookout for his next video! What is your ultimate goal and where do you see yourself going with Tongal in the next year?

NON: I’ve never really had an ultimate goal with Tongal. I was pretty curious as to what Tongal was all about when I got started. Each Project brings new challenges and new rewards and this is what keeps me interested and excited to collaborate on the site. I figure as long as I’m enjoying the process no need to worry about where it is all going.

IF: That’s a wonderful perspective to have! Whose work on Tongal do you also admire?

NON: I’m impressed with so many of the creators on the site and constantly see the work of new Tongalers that totally blows me away. It’s truly such a diverse and talented group. Some of my personal favourites are Don Broida, David Brashear and Extraneous Noise. They’re all super talented creators that produce amazing content.

IF: Who is your favorite film or commercial director out there at the moment?

NON: This is a question I’d probably have a different answer for anytime you asked! However, today I’d have to say Matt Johnson. He directed a film called “The Dirties” — it’s a small indie that won the Narrative Grand Jury prize at Slamdance in 2013, his film totally blew me away. It was an incredibly fresh, fearless film. If you haven’t seen it I’d recommend checking it out.

IF: What are you working on currently, on Tongal or otherwise?

NON: Currently I’m finishing up revisions on our John Frieda spot for Tongal which was super fun to make. Besides that I’m in preproduction on my first Spanish language spot and then slowly working on a feature and a couple short films.

IF: Wow, that’s a cool and diverse group of projects! Do you have any advice for other Tongalers?

NON: Everything you need to make a great spot is probably right in front of you. It’s easy to over complicate the process and worry about which camera or which lens to use and so on, but often times by taking a simpler approach and using a smaller crew you can create more authentic, exciting content. Just go out and do it.

IF: That’s very sound advice. Thanks so much for all of your interesting and creative answers, Tyler! It’s a pleasure working with North of Now and we always look forward to seeing your poignant and beautiful videos!

Posted in Misc
09/9 2014

Location, Location, Location

Location releases. We get it, they’re not the sexiest part of production. But they’re super important and with these quick tips, you can ensure you’ve got all of your ducks in a row and get back to the fun stuff.

1. Get your releases signed before you shoot. We value your time so we’d hate for you to have to reshoot because of a piece of paper!

2. You’ll need a location release for each location in your Video. If you’re filming indoors and outdoors on the same property, then you’ll only need one location release for that location. Location releases should be signed by the owner of the property.

3. If you are shooting at an apartment or office building, the management phone number should be listed on the outside of the building. Those are the folks who should sign your location release.

4. Universities and most city buildings (like a City Hall) usually have their own filming offices. Google the location + filming office and the contact info should come up. Some of these locations may also require filming permits.

5. Please don’t have the security guard (or janitor… or your friend) sign the location release form. Find out who the authorized representative of the building or space is.  This can be done through calling the number listed on it and/or searching on the interweb. You don’t have to go to the library and dig through public records (unless that’s your jam!)

6. Lastly, here are some great resources for finding good shooting locations as well as props and materials in multiple cities:

Variety 44:  Great for National production resources including locations.

Locations Hub: A site connecting those searching for locations with those who have them available for use- so neat!

Film Commissions: A list of all of the Film Commissions in the country which all have location info for filming on streets, at city buildings, etc.

We hope this article helps you and location releases feel less daunting now. Filling them out really is easy once you get the hang of it! Of course, if you do have any other questions or concerns send them our way at — we are happy to answer them.

Posted in Misc, Tongal Twelve
08/18 2014

Tongaler of the Month – Pixeltown Arts

This month we chatted with Tongal royalty, Pixeltown Arts, known to his friends and family as Jimmy Ahlander. This Tongaler is no stranger to working with different mediums and loves the challenge of doing both animation and live action. He is also used to being adaptable, as he grew up in Sweden but now lives in Los Angeles. To top it off, Pixeltown Arts recently won Tongal’s first project with P&G Europe! Read on to discover some of Pixeltown Arts’ favorite Tongal work, thoughts on the creative process and Jimmy’s candy obsession.

Romi J: What is your​ ​filmmaking background? Did you go to film school? Are you self-taught?

Pixeltown Arts: I went to a High School of the Arts and then I studied film in college and earned a bachelor’s degree in Film and Narrative Technique. After I graduated I stayed at the university for six months working as an After Effects teacher before moving to LA.

RJ: Impressive! So how did you first get involved with Tongal?

PA: A friend of mine sent me a link to the Brisk Project. I pitched on it but didn’t win. Instead I made a video for Cloudspokes and won!

RJ: Congratulations! What do you look for in a Tongal project and what specifically attracts you to one when there are so many on the site?

PA: We seek out projects that we can do justice to. We don’t pitch on projects that we feel are not our thing.

RJ: Totally makes sense! What would be your ideal project on Tongal?

PA: See’s Candies would be the sponsor, and the award would be free candy for a lifetime. Or maybe just a year would be enough…

RJ: That sounds yummy…I could imagine a great stop motion spot for See’s. How do you determine what style of animation to use on a particular project?

PA: We usually go through references to get an idea about what could work for each specific project. If the Sponsor has a certain look or tone we take that into consideration so we stay on brand. Often times we see something we like and save it as a future reference.

RJ: You’re great at both animation and live action, and lately you seem to be combining the two. How are the two mediums different? Which one do you prefer?

PA: Thank you! Combining art forms has always been fascinating to me. I think both mediums have their charm. When animating you can sculpt your project as you are creating it, so if something is not working you can easily try other solutions. When we shoot live it’s more stressful; you have to nail it the first time since it’s not fun to go back and reshoot. Of course, the good thing about shooting is that you get to work with more people and the post production length is usually shorter.

RJ: A great example of that mixed media style is your winning Video in the Redbox Instant by Verizon Video Project. How did you achieve all of​ ​those special effects?

PA: The video is a mix of 3D and 2D elements. The 3D elements such as the robot and space ship were created from scratch. We used a real police car for the chase scene, and then duplicated it. In the park scene we had a portable green screen so that we could add the T-Rex and spaceship. The pre-production and planning process were very time consuming so we actually only had 10 days in post. It was a team of 4 people working on the effects.

RJ: Great work! You recently won 1st place (and $22K!) in our first project for P&G Europe (Oral-B Pro-Expert Premium Gum Protection Video Project). How was this different from creating a spot for an American audience?

PA: I can’t say there is that much of a difference. We focused on getting a European look for the actors and the environment. We also got a British VO artist. This project had a short turnaround so to get a pregnant European looking actress with a great smile in such a short time was pretty tricky. We ended up using a latex belly prosthetic for the wides and for the close ups we used a 7 month pregnant body double.

RJ: Impressive! What’s your favorite project you’ve done​ ​on Tongal, and why?

PA: It’s hard to just select one, but one of them is definitely Shutterstock. I love the mix of elements and the whimsical aspect of the project. Those are the videos I love to make the most, where you have a lot of creative freedom.

RJ: Speaking of creative freedom, where do you get your inspiration from?

PA: I can’t really pinpoint a specific source of inspiration, I catch things from a mix of different media sources everyday. I like to read odd short stories, watch movies and go to art galleries. I collect ideas from here and there. I have a short-term memory so whenever I come up with an idea I instantly write it down and save it for later.

RJ: That’s cool! What’s your creative process like?

PA: The creative process is different from one project to another. Sometimes I like to just sit down and sketch on a blank piece of paper or go out for a run to trigger the creativity. When coming up with ideas for a commercial there’s usually more research involved. We do brainstorming and seek out references to get a general idea, then usually sit down and sketch up a storyboard. Sometimes you experience a creative drought and it can take forever to come up with a good idea. I’ve found that forcing yourself to come up with ideas can actually halt your creative process. If that happens it’s best to take a break and not think about it for a while, then all of a sudden you just wake up and scream “Eureka!”

RJ: I’m glad your “Eureka!” technique works well for you. Do you have any advice for other Tongalers? Either about Tongal or filmmaking in general?

PA: A good thing to ask yourself after each finished project is “how could we have done this better if we were to do it all over again?”

RJ: Great advice. What’s next for you, on Tongal or otherwise?

PA: We are working on a couple of music videos and a spot for John Frieda right now.

RJ: Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us. Team Tongal is so glad we got to know more about Pixeltown Arts’ creative process and work…we can’t wait to see your next Tongal Project!

Posted in Misc, Tongal Twelve
07/14 2014

Tongaler of the Month: CC Pixels

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 CityLEGO 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!

Posted in Tongal Twelve
04/23 2014

Tongaler of the Month: Tongie Winners, The Indie Machines

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 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!

Posted in Misc
04/3 2014

Tongal’s Left Field

“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.