KA-BAR Knives wanted a video to announce that the entire line of their popular Zombie Killer knives is now made in America. They wanted a video to introduce a new model, the Swabbie: 18 inches of American zombie-slaying steel, with a tactical sheath, a skeleton knife, and a zombie patch. KA-BAR wanted a video that showed first-hand the ruthless efficiency of its Zombie Killer blade. No bullets required.
We were happy to oblige.
A couple of months ago, producers Marty LaSalle and David Schwarz hired us to chronicle their new theatrical show, Orchid. A combination of circus, burlesque, and pop music, all staged under a 19th-century, European-style spiegeltent, Orchid was unlike anything that had been seen before in Miami. The show opened in November and is still running to rave reviews.
We were there for all of it — from the first stake going in the ground, through the grinding rehearsal schedule, to opening night — to create a video that helped potential audiences appreciate the multidisciplinary aspects of the show, and get a glimpse of what they were in for. It seems to have worked. Embedded on the Orchid Website as well as numerous media blogs, our video has helped the show extend its run twice due to popular demand.
Orchid will be touring nationally in 2013.
From its origins just across the Allegheny River in Tidioute, PA, in the late 1800s, to its present-day manufacturing plant in Olean, NY, KA-BAR has consistently made some of the best hunting, survival and sporting knives in the world. The KA-BAR name became famous during WWII when its Fighting Utility Knife became standard issue for Marines shipping out to the South Pacific; the knife’s performance in the battle for Guadalcanal cemented the legacy of KA-BAR.
The company may be more than a century old, but its emerging marketing philosophy is (if you’ll forgive the pun) cutting edge: No more old media, just badass branded entertainment for the Web.
Enter Common Machine. KA-BAR asked us for an overview video that touched on the brand’s 100-plus-year history, its commitment to making high quality knives here in the USA and the range of knives in its product line. (In case of zombie attack, KA-BAR has you covered.)
Within two days of release, the video was picked up by high-traffic trendsetters Gizmodo, Gear Patrol, Devour, Hypebeast, and more than 250 other blogs and Websites, racking up over 65K views and pushing major Web traffic and sales for KA-BAR.
As its owner George Vlagos says at the beginning of the video, Oak Street Bootmakers makes high-end men’s boots and shoes the old-fashion way: on a bench, by hand, in Maine.
We braved the icy cold of Maine in December (it rarely got above 10 degrees during our visit) to film the workshop and shoemaking process to create a short film focusing on the brand’s commitment to craftsmanship, quality, and making shoes in the USA.
The video made its debut on the uber-influential men’s fashion blog A Continuous Lean and has been featured on Hypebeast, Selectism, Secret Forts and more than 200 other Websites, initiating record-breaking traffic and sales for Oak Street. The video has tallied more than 30K views.
For the past few years, we’ve provided production services for the Miami Design District during the week of Art Basel. This year, rather than the standard wrap-up videos we’d done before, we decided to do something a little different. Common Machine created a dedicated microsite and a series of short documentary films, profiling artists, designers, curators, and gallery owners showing in the Miami Design District during Art Basel Miami Beach 2011.
The ten short films feature such acclaimed art world figures as sound-and-light artist Christopher Janney, graffiti muralist Retna, and urban interventionist Rubén Ochoa. The microsite — built on the Cargo Collective platform in a mood board-style layout — itself functions as a curated digital art installation, giving viewers a dramatic sense of what went on in the Design District during the most important week on the North American art calendar.
Both the URL links and the embed codes for the videos were made available to the press every day as new videos went up for sharing on blogs and websites.
Check out the microsite and all the videos here.
In the spring of 2010, we got a call from AirTran Airways’ Director of PR Christopher White asking if we’d seen the ad Southwest Airlines was airing during the NCAAs, showing a bunch of their crazy ramp workers running up and flashing an AirTran plane. We had indeed. Apparently, AirTran crew members were hoping the company wouldn’t take Southwest’s crack lying down and there was much discussion from the ramp to the halls of HQ.
AirTran decided that while it wasn’t interested in buying expensive national airtime, it was interested in having some good-natured fun with its competitor and satisfying the crew members call for retaliation. White and Common Machine executive producer Brett O’Bourke discussed some ideas and agreed the target was pretty obvious: Southwest’s much-maligned cattle call boarding procedure.
On Thursday morning, on a flight out to Las Vegas (for a little tourney gambling), O’Bourke wrote the script and storyboards for the spot. On Friday, White secured the actors — the cows would be played by volunteer crew members and the talent came from local Atlanta improv group Dad’s Garage — while CM intern Christine Sylvain tracked down the cow costumes.
On Sunday, O’Bourke and his crew — cameraman and Steadicam operator Richard Patterson and editor Jorge Rubiera — flew into Atlanta. The shoot went down on Monday, editing on Tuesday with some tweaks on Wednesday, approval from AirTran brass on Thursday and the video hit the Internet Friday morning.
Within the first three days online the video racked up more than 45,000 views, was featured on television newscasts in more than 50 markets across the U.S. and received coverage in print and online publications, including USA Today, ABC, CBS, Bloomberg, the AJC, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, and a ton of others.
Current views are over 130K and Cramer-Krasselt, AirTran’s agency of record, estimated advertising value of approximately $500K. Not too shabby for a video shot on the cheap and assembled in about 24 working hours.
The Emmy Award®-winning documentary Hecho a Mano: Creativity in Exile weaves together the stories of four Cuban artists living in Miami: pianist Paquito Hechavarría, sculptor Tony López, and ceramicists Nelson and Ronald Currás.
Even those who may have never heard their names before should be familiar with their work: Hechavarría played piano for some of Cuba’s biggest bands, was a regular performer at the Fontainebleau in the ’60s, and created the infectious opening to Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga;” López is responsible for thousands of sculptures, including the unforgettable Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach; and the Currás Brothers are known for large-scale tile mosaics that grace private homes, hotels, and public spaces throughout the Caribbean.
From Cuba to their early experiences in exile to today, Hecho a Mano explores their dedication to craft and their ability to create under often challenging circumstances. A documentary about life’s unexpected turns and the joy of working with your hands.
The film premiered on Miami PBS affiliate WLRN In February 2011 and has aired in select markets nationwide, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio and Denver.
*Emmy® for Historical/Cultural Program, Suncoast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 2011
*Best Florida Documentary, 2010 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
*Best Local Film, 2010 Miami Short Film Festival
*Best Documentary, 2010 Miami Short Film Festival
Producers: Brett O’Bourke and Gaspar González
Director: Brett O’Bourke
Writer: Gaspar González
Director of Photography: Richard Patterson
Editor: Christina Burchard
Assoc. Producer: Christine Sylvain
Following the success of Hecho a Mano: Creativity in Exile, our Emmy®-winning film about Cuban artists living in Miami, PBS affiliate WLRN has commissioned another documentary from the Common Machine team: Plastic Paradise, an hour-long look at tiki culture. Also known as Polynesian Pop, tiki was huge in the 1950s and ‘60s — think South Pacific, candy-colored, rum-infused cocktails with names like the Shrunken Skull and the Missionary’s Downfall, crazy Hawaiian shirts, exotica music, and a nonstop party scene inhabited by self-styled nonconformists.
To the surprise of many, tiki survives in the present day as an underground hipster subculture stretching from coast-to-coast. Crafted cocktails, Hawaiian shirts, and exotica remain de rigueur among Polynesian Pop adherents, as does an annual pilgrimage to Fort Lauderdale’s famed Mai-Kai Restaurant (one of the last great holdovers from tiki’s golden age—waterfalls, Polynesian floor show, and all).
Plastic Paradise will explore this fascinating scene, and the folks who’ve kept it going all these years. (Like our friend, King Kukulele.)
Look for Plastic Paradise on the festival circuit and PBS affiliates nationwide in 2013.
When the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a world-class facility affiliated with the University of Miami, wanted a new approach for its television spots, its agency, the Weinbach Group, came to Common Machine.
The job: Compose a series of TV commercials reminding the South Florida marketplace that Sylvester, despite its preeminence as a regional research facility, should also be the first treatment option for anyone diagnosed with the disease — and do it in a way that didn’t rely on scare tactics, visuals of imposing machines, or other elements usually associated with medical advertising. Sylvester wanted six 30-second spots, each touting the benefits of a different treatment area: lung cancer, breast cancer, stem-cell transplantation, radiation oncology, Nanoknife technology, and “Ask for Ana,” Sylvester’s in-house patient services and counseling program.
After consulting with our client and interviewing the researchers and doctors at Sylvester, we came up with a novel strategy: Place the specialists at Sylvester in a clean studio environment, have them tell us about the things that make Sylvester unique, but do it the way they might tell a neighbor — using a more conversational style, substituting analogies for medical jargon — then couple that with striking b-roll footage driving their main point home.
The six commercials (seven, if you count the Spanish-language version of the “Ask for Ana” spot) will air continuously in South Florida throughout the first six months of 2012.