(Branded Feature Documentary Feature, 2020, Client: WP Engine)
From the heyday of TV advertising, to the dawn of the Internet, to the rise of the digital experience, make|SHIFT explores the art and science behind the advertising industry’s 20+ year evolution.
See how creative technologies drove a shift from pushing messages through TV, radio, print and outdoor ads to delivering increasingly engaging, immersive and valuable digital experiences to consumers. While some advertisers struggled to evolve, a brave new generation grasped the possibilities—both creative and strategic—and harnessed these fast-changing technologies to enhance their creativity, test new business models and press ahead.
makeSHIFT is a story about the agencies and makers behind the brands. Our team interviewed a range of leaders from developers to designers to creative directors to founders at some of the most innovative agencies in the world, both small and large, digital and traditional.
The film takes an inside look at how these makers and agencies have shifted and re-shifted their skillsets, creativity and businesses, as new creative technologies emerged, declined, and were replaced by the next technology in an endless cycle of change. makeSHIFT shines light on this beautifully frustrating pattern, and celebrates the makers that have embraced the shift and thrived.
Agency/Co-Production: Hey Let’s Go
Director: Casey Suchan
Co-Director: Tim Cawley
Editor: Matt Prekop
(Documentary Feature, Premiere Austin Film Festival, 2019)
The Animal People, executive produced by Joaquin Phoenix, follows a group of six activists from the United States arm of British animal-rights group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) who were surveilled by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and ultimately indicted as domestic terrorists for leading protests against Huntingdon Life Sciences, a major animal-testing company. The FBI used its surveillance of the activists as a model for targeting later movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Prior to the activists’ indictments, the US Congress rewrote laws to bend to corporate pressure, potentially weakening the free-speech rights of all Americans.
“This film is about much more than just this case,” Phoenix said. “It’s about fundamental questions concerning free speech, social change, and corporate power that have never been more urgently relevant in our world.” The Animal People features interviews with the six activists spanning more than a decade and aims to illustrate the result of activism being classified as terrorism when insitutions of power are involve
Director: Casey Suchan
(Documentary Feature, 2006, Premiere TRIBECA)
Personifying the fierce independence and do-it-yourself spirit of the Hip Hop movement, festival producer Chang Weisberg puts everything on the line for his impossible dream of reuniting notorious no-shows The Wu-Tang Clan.
In July 2004, concert promoter Chang Weisberg organized a hip-hop festival in San Bernardino, California, headlined by the reunited Wu-Tang Clan, the legendary supergroup infamous for its no-shows on tour. The RZA, the GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man, plus unofficial member Cappadonna: It was a gathering of the gods, nearly as inconceivable as a set by the Beatles, including the dead ones. Corralling every member of this supremely unreliable crew onto the same stage at the same time was challenge enough; nailing down Big Baby Jesus qualified as a superhuman achievement even before the notoriously unpredictable MC holed up in his hotel room, immobilized on crack.
Whether Ol’ Dirty can get his shizat together long enough to rock the mic (or just stand up without help) is the least of Weisberg’s problems in Rock the Bells, an electrifying, occasionally terrifying documentary by filmmakers Denis Henry Hennelly and Casey Suchan. Condensed from 200 hours of fly-on-the-wall footage, it follows the event from (naive) planning to (inadequate) preparation, to (sloppy) execution, to imminent disaster as thousands of frustrated Wu fans threaten to riot. Think Dave Chappelle’s Block Party booked on United 93.
Kicking off with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of nuts-and-bolts concert promotion, Rock the Bells(co-produced by Weisberg) initially appears to be of little interest to anyone but hip-hop nerds seeking dope organizational strategies. Hang the posters like that, yo! On the legal tip, Weisberg dons his best XXXL T-shirt to reassure the authorities that a large gathering of hip-hop fans does not necessarily entail obscene quantities of weed. There’s a charming mom-and-pop quality to his company, Guerilla Union, whose staff consists of a feverishly multitasking honey named Carla Garcia and a bug-eyed stress case named Brian Valdez. They’ve got passion out the ass, which is super-nice for them, and a lot of phone calls to make, which is rather dull for us. Talking-head interviews with select Wu keep the momentum going, as Rock the Bells heads toward the big day—and into the pantheon of classic concert docs.
Nathan Lee, THE VILLAGE VOICE
A Gather Films / September Club Production
Editorial / Story Consultant: Barry Poltermann