Tag Archives: production company

Behind the Title: We Are Royale CD Chad Howitt

NAME: Chad Howitt

COMPANY: We Are Royale in Los Angeles

We Are Royale is a creative and digital agency looking to partner with brands to create unique experiences across platforms. In the end, we make pretty things for lots of different applications, depending on the creative problem our clients are looking to solve. We’re a full-service production studio that directs live-action commercials, creates full 3D worlds, designs 2D character spots, and develops immersive AR and VR experiences.

Creative Director

Anything and everything needed to get the job done. On the service side, I’ll work directly with clients and agencies to address their wide variety of needs. So whether that’s creating an idea from scratch or curating a look around an already developed script, I try to figure out how we can help.

Then in-house, I’ll work with our talented team of art directors, CG supervisors and producers to help execute those ideas.

While the title stays the same, the responsibilities vary by location, person and company culture. So don’t think there’s a hard-and-fast rule about what a creative director is and does.

Seeing a finished project out in the world knowing the hard work the team put in to get it there. Whether it’s on TV, in a space as a part of an installation or online as a part of a pre-roll… it’s a proud moment whenever I see it in the wild.

Seeing the results of a job we lost or had to pass on knowing that the creative we were planning will never see the light of day.

I’d probably be in the video game industry, but that wasn’t really a feasible career path back then.

As a little kid, I was obsessed with drawing and computers. So merging those into a profession always seemed like the most natural course. That said, as an LA native, working on film sets just seemed like what out-of-towners wanted to do. So I never saw that coming.

Under Armour spot for its UA HOVR running line

I’ve wrapped a few projects with Under Armour, a trio of spots for NASDAQ, and a promo for Billy Bob Thornton’s series on Amazon called Goliath.

It’d probably be the first project I worked on at We Are Royale, which was an Under Armour spot for its UA HOVR running shoe line. It allowed me to work with merging live-action, CG and beautiful type design.

Fire, indoor plumbing and animal husbandry

The last social media I had was MySpace, unless you count LinkedIn…which you really shouldn’t.

Some of my current go-to tracks are “We Were So Young” by Hammock, “Galang” by Vijay Iyer Trio, “Enormous” by Llgl Tndr, “Almost Had to Start a Fight” by Parquet Courts and “Pray” by Jungle.

I stress eat. Cake, cookies and pizza make most problems go away. Although diabetes could become a new problem, but that’s tomorrow.

Catherine Finkenstaedt joins Slim as EP

Commercial and music video producer Catherine Finkenstaedt has joined Slim, a creative production company based in Venice, California. She comes to Slim from from GO Film, Wondros and, most recently, Spears and Arrows. Finkenstaedt will be working with various directors at Slim, including Karen Cunningham, ZCDC, Thomas Garber, Jason Headley, Vincent Urban, Pet & Flo, Brad Morrison, Jeff Baena and Wondo.

Finkenstaedt has executive produced campaigns for various companies, including Target, Toyota, Nike, AT&T, Comcast, Activision, Visa, Macy’s and the Tokyo Olympic Committee. She has also worked with directors Jake Scott, Sam Bayer, The Malloys, Patrick Daughters, Anton Corbijn, Chris Cunningham, Mark Romanek, David Kellogg, Matthew Rolston, McG, Antoine Fuqua, Sophie Muller and Hype Williams. Musical artists she’s collaborated with include Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Metallica, and Oasis.

Raised outside of Cambridge, England, Finkenstaedt attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusettes, where she studied theatre and film. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her pet-loving husband and her five furry children.

“I could not be happier to be joining executive producer Tom Weissferdt (who I worked with in the past) in this very important next phase of my career and in the growth of Slim,” says Finkenstaedt. “We are in a sea of change in commercial and integrated production and I am excited to help support the directors and to also help identify others whose voices are yet to be heard in traditional or integrated marketing content.”

1stAveMachine opens London office, animation vet at helm

Brooklyn, New York-based mixed media production company 1stAveMachine, which creates video, digital and experimental content for TV, web, and mobile, has opened an office in London. Heading the new operation, including a set of UK-based directors and artists, is managing director/executive producer Isabella Parish, an animation/production vet who spent well over a decade at global production company Partizan.

Even though 1stAveMachine is opening up shop in Europe, the company is no stranger to European collaborations. As partner Serge Patzak notes, “The UK, and Europe in general, has been a really important marketplace. 1stAve’s foundation was built on creative work with the likes of Mother London and 180 Amsterdam for brands such as Diageo and Adidas’ Modular Man for the 2006 World Cup, respectively. We hit the ground running with campaigns like Audi’s ‘Unboxed,’ one of 1stAve’s earliest UK campaigns.”

Parish says that the production company and partners Sam Penfield and Patzak have been on her radar for quite a while. “I have always kept an eye over what’s been going on at 1stAveMacine,” she half-jokingly admits. “When we met it just felt right. Sam and Serge approached me with the idea; I loved it, and was excited for the challenge.”

During her lengthy stay at Partizan, Parish set up the production company’s animation arm, Partizan Lab, and served as head of animation. She’s worked with some big-named directors, including Michel Gondry, Doug Nichol, Michael Gracey, Antoine Bardou-Jacquet and Matthias Hoene. Along the way, Parish and Partizan’s directorial roster collaborated with brands like Evian, Samsung, Kellogg’s, Nokia, Coca-Cola, eBay and Starbucks, picking up awards at D&AD, Cannes and BTAA.

Europe-based directors joining 1stAveMachine for the London launch include Ubik, D.A.D.D.Y, Maxime Bruneel, Sophie Gateau, Emmanuelle & Julien, Martin Allais, Alessandro Pacciani and Marc Reisbig.

Quick Chat: Dictionary Films director/DP Michael Ognisanti

Dictionary Films, the production arm of Cutters Studios, has expanded its roster with the addition of director/DP Michael Ognisanti. He joins from Chicago-based production company MK Films where he worked from 2004 to 2015.

While there he trained as a motion control operator and began assistant directing and shooting under director Mark Klein. Over the years, he built a reputation as a tabletop director and DP for commercials and documentaries. His credits include spots for Bobble, Bud Light, Coors, Giant Eagle and Golden Corral.

Let’s find out more.

You recently joined the roster of Dictionary Films. Can you talk about that and why you made the move?
I’ve always loved the idea of merging the production and post worlds closer together.  One of my first jobs out of college was as a videographer for a local news station. Between the reporter and myself, we would write, shoot and edit pieces daily. Being that close to the whole process of putting a project together was important to me. That is what I’ve found at Dictionary and Cutters Studios. Editing, effects, graphics, it’s all under one roof so those channels of communication are more available. I can feel more connected to the project and give my input along the way. I’m sure the editors will love that (smile).

You have a rich background in production, but your expertise seems to be tabletop. Can you describe the differences, if any, between directing tabletop and traditional shooting?
In general, there is not a huge difference. In the commercial world at least, the goals are still the same: we are trying to find the best ways to communicate a certain feeling through our images.  Composition, lighting, blocking, environment, they all work together to achieve that. That is the same whether it’s a live-action scene or a product-only scene.

That being said, the biggest difference is that a traditional live-action shoot revolves around what the talent is doing. We rely heavily on dialogue, action or facial expressions to get our message across.  When we shoot products, we obviously don’t have that, so we have to pay close attention to how we can make our subject visually pop off the screen and draw in the viewer. This is where the details become so important.

Anyone who has ever been on a tabletop set knows what I’m talking about. The backgrounds and surfaces and propping become much more essential to our work. Also, many product shots accompany the live action, so there is a constant battle for screen time. You may only have a couple of seconds to grab someone’s attention, so you have to make it count.

What about being the DP on a tabletop vs. traditional shoot?
I’ve found I use a lot of the same techniques on a traditional shoot that I would on tabletop, only on a bigger scale. It’s still crafting light to make the subject look interesting. Some of the lights might change but you still have to make the same decisions. Should the lighting be hard and contrasty, or soft and airy? It all depends on the message we are trying to convey.

Different types of shoots, different type of vibe?
I think tabletop does move at a slower pace. In some ways it can be more like a still shoot. The sets are usually smaller and more low-key since we are rarely dealing with talent and extras and intense location changes. However, I do think it’s a more detail-oriented way of shooting. We work on a micro level. We spend a lot of time making intricate adjustments to the lighting and framing; something you don’t normally see on a live-action set.

Any tips for those working in tabletop? What do they need to know?
Give away my secrets? Are you crazy?! I’m kidding, of course!  Nowadays you can pretty much learn anything on the Internet anyway. One thing I would say is that it’s easy to get too attached to one shot and not realize that what you are doing is a part of a bigger piece. Everything we shoot should be able to be put into one coherent piece. So you might have a really cool idea for a particular shot, but you have to ask if it actually works with everything else you are shooting.

Also, many times we are shooting product to accompany a live-action piece. Do the elements all work together cohesively? That is really important and sometimes it can get lost when we get sucked into our own world. I’ve also learned that it’s important to be very nice to the food stylists — they can be life-savers!  You can have the coolest, most dynamic shot ever, but if the product doesn’t look good, it’s all for naught.

BL_lime_stil copy Kitchen Aid_still copy
Michael Ognisanti’s resume includes spots for Bud Light Lime and Kitchen Aid.

Does the experience of working in tabletop help when you shoot more traditional pieces? What about the other way around?
I think they can complement each other nicely. For me, I like working on as many different types of projects as possible. That way, you pick up new tricks along the way and apply them in different situations. I found things I thought we would only do in tabletop work on a live-action set. The reverse is true too.

Can you talk about the tools you use?
In terms of camera gear and lighting, we use a lot of the same gear as we would for traditional shoots, although our lights might be smaller since our sets are smaller and we don’t need as much power. I’ve found macro lenses are important since sometimes we want to get right in on the subject but still want the feel of a wider lens, so the close minimum focus is key. Motion control is also a big asset for us. I was trained as a motion control operator (using Kuper Controls) so designing dynamic camera moves can really bring a uniqueness and intrigue to the shots.  Especially since much of the time the products are simply sitting on a surface, adding some dimension can be a nice eye-catcher.

In addition to the gear we use, any good food stylist will have their own bag of tricks that can help food stay fresh on set under the hot lights.

What project are you most proud of?
I don’t know if I can name one project specifically, but the most rewarding jobs for me are the ones that involve a lot of collaboration and problem solving. It’s inevitable that you will get stuck on a shot and either the specific action you are trying to achieve isn’t working or maybe the shot just doesn’t look good. But when we all come together —agency, client, crew — and find the answers in a collaborative way, that’s the best part. That’s when I feel most proud.


Cutters Studios is a full-service company with offices in Chicago, Detroit, LA, New York and Tokyo. The Cutters Studios group also includes Dictionary Films, Chicago-based sound company Another Country, design/animation/VFX company Flavor (which has offices in Chicago, LA and Detroit) and Detroit-based Picnic Media. 

King and Country shoots, posts Ford Transit spot for Team Detroit

To help promote the 2015 Ford Transit utility van, agency Team Detroit tapped King and Country (K&C) to produce a 30-second spot, 9 to 5’ers, which mixes 3D animation, design and live-action footage.

K&C’s concept was to illustrate how a variety of professionals can use the Transit models — from contractors to deliverymen to IT specialists, etc. The spot shows how different workers and companies can customize these vans to suit their needs. “You don’t drive to an office, your van is your office,” explains the voiceover.

“Combining live-action and CG allowed for the best coverage of the Transit, inside and out,” explains K&C partner/director Efrain Montanez. “The key to transitioning from scene to scene was keeping the tempo of the pod movements dynamic, which we achieved with a range of zooms and perspective shifts, and evenly proportioned so you seamlessly experience the singular flexibility of the model.”


According to Paul Kirner and Dan Weber, creative directors at Team Detroit, “For us, the key was collaboration. Our commercial was intricate, fast-paced and CG-intense. We needed a partner with the design chops to create something beautiful and real, and the communication skills to make sure every detail was nailed. King and Country worked in perfect sync with us, from early concept boards all the way through final post.”

“By varying the van colors and transforming the interiors in CG, as well as the graphic aesthetics, we were able to express the immense versatility of the Transit for the various occupations featured in the spot,” says Montanez.

The 2D graphics unfold on an orange, black and white palette. These two elements were layered with the flexibility to stand alone or integrate with the 3D world. The K&C team also designed fictional business logos for the different vans.

K&C shot the spot, using a Red Epic camera over two-days at a soundstage in LA, using both greenscreen and practical sets, including one where a cross-section of a man cave was flooded with 3,000 gallons of water.

Interior and exterior van details, props, and talent were captured in-camera and augmented in CG. Lighting was used to create the realistic look of the vehicles within the varied environments. Rather than studio lighting, K&C used warm natural light, which pops from the graphic background.

Tools used by K&C included Gazelle Motion Control, Autodesk Maya 3D software and Adobe After Effects for compositing.


King and Country gets new MD of network, brand work

Santa Monica-based King and Country, a live-action production company with an emphasis on design and effects, has hired industry vet Lisa Miller as managing director of Networks & Brands. The appointment comes as King and Country continues to widen its footprint in the entertainment marketing business.

Prior to joining King and Country, Miller was VP of integrated marketing at LA-based entertainment creative agency mOcean, where she spent the last six years. Miller entered the media industry working in news at ABC and Fox affiliates. She spent a few years working with various production, design and editorial companies as a producer. In 2002, she joined Citizen Pictures, a Denver-based broadcast and commercial production company, as an executive producer before being promoted to senior executive producer.

She has worked on high-profile 360-degree campaigns, network rebrands, show launches and advertising for broadcast clients including ABC, CBS, Discovery Communications, Dish Network, Scripps Networks and Turner Broadcasting. She was also involved in the 10th Anniversary Campaign for Ellen and Warner Brothers Television, which won a Daytime Emmy.

“For years, I’ve been aware of King and Country’s extraordinary ability to integrate live-action with stellar design and effects,” says Miller. “The level of detail that they apply to a project from the conceptual phase through execution was a major draw for me. Beautiful imagery and sound strategy are certainly critical to a campaign’s success, but the ability to properly execute every stage of a project in a way that makes our clients feel completely supported and confident is equally important. I truly believe that King and Country strikes that balance perfectly.”

The company recently completed projects for Fox Sports, Golf Channel, History Channel, NBC and Travel Channel, to name a few.


Meet 1/29 Owner Nick Seuser

His Mantra? Be kind. Be honest. And do great work. The rest will fall into place.

NAME: Nick Seuser

TITLE: Founder/ECD/Executive Producer

COMPANY: Oakland’s 1/29 (@129films) is a production company and animation studio with the unifying purpose of unconventional storytelling, clients have included Intel, Orbit Baby, Continue reading