Archive for the ‘video production’ Category

Corporate Video: Endless Stories

January 31, 2013

When I got into the corporate video business over 15 years ago, clients wanted productions that were informational in content. They sought videos that would outline the work of the organization in all – or at least most – of its elements, even when the details required 12 minutes to roll out. Whether the video was to be used for marketing, HR or other purposes, an objective presentation of the nature of the entity was the fashion of the day

That tendency mirrored the appearance projected by news outlets at that time. Remember when the “fourth estate” was all about fair and balanced portrayals of facts based on research and widespread interviews with folks taking a diversity of positions?

Times have changed, and social media has played a critical role in this new world of information presentation. Today news correspondents can take the form of activists on the front lines of a revolt tweeting their eyewitness accounts on their smartphones in 140 characters at a time, reporting from the spots where they stand, unaware of the battle looming around the corner. Subjective by definition, they may nonetheless have more followers than nightly news stations, in large measure because audiences today are attracted to individual stories – real people, real events, real drama, real emotion.  The storytelling methodology resonates.

(One example of such a “story” we told through a video we produced for private equity client, The Riverside Company)

And it has influenced corporate video production. That extensive informational video style is passé. It has been replaced with short stories, endless short stories, each of which can stand on its own in a video or be grouped with others, depending upon a variety of factors including length of time needed to convey its heart. Stories can be about the company, such as the impetus that led to its founding or some cool community event in which its staff participated. They can focus on employees relating personal stories that integrate elements of their characters with aspects of their jobs. They can highlight a company initiative from the perspectives of those charged with implementing it, following the process through from idea conception to presentation. Endless stories.

While each video might max out at two minutes (often less), there may be many to produce, so ultimately far more time will be devoted to this format – and often watched by the viewers — than the single 12-minute piece in which the company invested 15 years ago. Yet unlike its old-fashioned predecessor, each piece will present only a slice of something related to the company. The viewer who watches a series of videos the company provides on its website and/or other social media sites may gain the larger umbrella perspective the company would like to portray. But the person who stops after the first will walk away with neither depth of understanding nor the larger picture perspective of the company.

This is the new communication reality. It is incumbent upon corporations still hesitant to find their video voices within its parameters. That may present some challenges, but a successful initiative will be worthwhile. Individual stories will resonate.

Investor Relations Videos

January 17, 2013

Funny thing about the category of “investor relations videos”: it does not enjoy the popularity of other adjectives associated with video, like “marketing video” or “web video.” The expression just doesn’t seem to have search engine appeal – at least not in this particular three-word combination.

Perhaps that is not so surprising. Traditional industries like financial services clothe themselves less in fashionable (or any) video than other business types. And digits – while long known to possess magical qualities that might make the stuff of a good story – often seem most legitimate when presented in typed black numbers on sterile white pages.

Certainly the nature of some types of financial services companies is less amenable to colorful storytelling than others. But investors today are presented with unlimited opportunities in a market that is still recovering economically. They have the difficult job of distinguishing between a wide array of different kinds of funds in which to invest as well as companies to trust with their investments. In a world in which people prefer to watch rather than read, why not enliven the marketing pitch with a compelling video?

www.riversidecompany.com

Storyline is key here.  Private equity and venture capital firms have an easier job than others in the industry since they are comprised by definition of companies in an array of industries that have wonderful stories about their origins, growth and substance.  But even traditional investment firms can unearth good stories to share with their investors. For instance, a new policy roll-out that is investment-friendly would be of interest to current and potential investors and could be presented in a creative way. Or a video created for a different purpose – such as an HR video – could be modified to focus on the skill sets and personalities of staff who play key roles in successful outcomes (and therefore impress investors).

An investor relations video can be a very helpful tool, especially in an industry in which this type of marketing initiative has not yet come of age, but the ages of younger investors see the world in visual motion.

Whole Foods’ Do Something Reel Film Festival

December 21, 2012

Watch. Think. Act. These three verbs succinctly sum up the mission of the Do Something Reel Film Festival. Presented by Whole Foods Market, this festival is designed to highlight films that inspire change in their audiences. We were thrilled to learn that Whole Foods selected Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean as its Do Something Reel film for the month of December.

The film, shot through our nonprofit Jemglo over several years in Uganda, tells the incredible story of the Mirembe Kawomera coffee cooperative, the members of whom are Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Once at odds with each other, these three groups joined together to build economic development and foster peace in their region. This interfaith message of cooperation has spread to other villages in Uganda as well as to the United States, where the Mirembe Kawomera farmers have partnered with Fair Trade buyer, Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

do something reel film festival, whole foods, whole foods market, whole foods little rock, fair trade, coffee, documentary, uganda, interfaith, holiday, party 
The focus of the Do Something Reel Film Festival is to provide “provocative, character-driven films that focus on food, environmental issues and everyday people with a vision of making a world of difference.” In addition to offering the film, Whole Foods has arranged for a number of its stores to host live screenings. One of these screenings is taking place at the Whole Foods store in Little Rock, AR on December 27th. We’re looking forward to seeing how this community responds to the inspiring message of the film and plan to report back with reactions.

If anyone is interested in hosting a live screening, socially-minded media company Specialty Studios is organizing Peace Parties around the film and the coffee that inspired it. It’s a great way to spread the Fair Trade message while enjoying delicious (and fairly traded) coffee and chocolate and other Fair Trade products with your friends and family.

do something reel film festival, whole foods, whole foods market, whole foods little rock, fair trade, coffee, documentary, uganda, interfaith, holiday, party

Spreading Peace in your Starbucks Backyard

November 20, 2012

This month the Delicious Peace photography exhibit of Voices & Visions’ DP Curt Fissel is on display at Starbucks in Glen Ridge, New Jersey because barista Derek Teixeira, a photographer himself, likes to transform the walls of his store into a place artists can show their work. It was his hope that the Glen Ridge Starbucks Community Art Wall would also convey a deeper meaning. “We saw the wall as a way in which to promote the benefits of art. Especially in contemporary times, it really brings together a community,” said Teixeira.

His commitment to promoting community is reflected in the artists it features on the Wall. Last month the students of East Orange Youth Cultural Complex had their art on display. Says Teixeira, “These children worked along side their teacher (and world traveled artist) Miah Leslie in creating collages that both were in homage to Romare Bearden and simultaneously offered its viewers a peek into the mind of a child in 2012 urban America.”

curt fissel, starbucks, voices and visions, corporate video, documentary production

From the “Delicious Peace” show.

This month’s show, Delicious Peace, is a collection of photos taken during the filming of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean, which is a story about interfaith Ugandan coffee farmers building community and economic development in the face of great adversity. Teixeira draws a parallel between the missions of Starbucks and Delicious Peace, stating, “Its ability to bring people from various religious faiths – Jewish, Muslim and Christian — is in line with what Starbucks aims to do over coffee.”

I always find the greater Montclair region of New Jersey to be a vortex of creative energy. It’s a place where people respect and celebrate each other’s cultures.  At its heart Delicious Peace is about embracing differences and building community. We are thrilled to have found an exhibition space with a mission as similarly positioned. Says Teixeira: “Stop into the Glen Ridge Starbucks on any day, and you’ll see that our store brings together people off all colors, religions, ages and backgrounds! This month’s work couldn’t be any more fitting to help embody that.”

Starbucks

710 Bloomfield Ave.

Glen Ridge, NJ 07028
(973) 743-1752

Starbucks Photo Exhibit

November 16, 2012

Whether the medium is video or stills, talented photographers see space in ways others do not. Curt Fissel, our DP at Voices & Visions Productions and JEMGLO Productions, carries this third eye around with him wherever our jobs take us. Sometimes our destination is a corporate video shoot when his task is to transform a boring boardroom into a compelling interview space. Other times it’s in the field shooting footage for an upcoming documentary. Some of the places our projects have taken us are beautiful landscapes, others war-torn, but few places stand out like the Mbale region of Uganda, where we shot Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean.

curt fissel, starbucks, voices and visions, corporate video, documentary productionIn addition to capturing hundreds of hours of footage in this beautiful Eden, Curt also documented the essence of Ugandan life through his first love: the still photo. Living in the artsy epicenter of Montclair, NJ, he has had the opportunity to show his “Delicious Peace” photo exhibit at several locations, including the Montclair Public Library during African American History Month and Parlor Hair Studio’s wall gallery. This month the show is at a Starbucks in the next door township of Glen Ridge.

The documentary tells the story of the Mirembe Kawomera coffee cooperative in Uganda, which is comprised  of Jewish, Muslim and Christian famers. Once at odds with each other over religious differences, these men and women have united by forming the co-op together, focused on  building prosperity for their families and fostering peace in their community. Their story is one of triumph; their initiative is a model for the world.

curt fissel, starbucks, voices and visions, corporate video, documentary production

The nature of Starbucks’ business and its corporate philosopahy make it, an appropriate location for this photo exhibition. Curt is very excited about the exhibition being held throughout the month of November, and we hope everyone in the area is able to stop by to see it! The farmers’ story is a message of peace. Our goal is to spread the framework of peace they have created through art, coffee and film.

EnjoyYourCoffee.net Bridges Virtual and Real Over Love of Coffee

November 8, 2012

Catalin Munteanu greeted my husband Curt and me two weeks ago in Café Lauri in Lohja, Finland carrying roses and euro cents for the parking meter. Until that moment, Catalin’s personality had been boxed in words and pictures on screen for us, as ours had been for him. Of course, online posts summarized in a few sentences at a time hardly shed light on a person’s inner being. That task requires an in-person meeting. From the outset, bridging the void between group-focused friendships and face-to-face relationships was a key goal of the fledgling social media site www.enjoyyourcoffee.net, and this meeting between Catalin and us was destined to be the first experiment, made possible because a client of our video company Voices & Visions Productions had sent us to Finland for a corporate video shoot.

About two years ago my friend Spyros Dellaportas in Santa Monica, California started an open group on Facebook called Enjoy Your Coffee. “Ellen, thees ees going to be the beeggest group on Facebook,” he told me in his charming Greek-accented English. I smiled because one has to smile when Spyros is excited. Every morning for decades he goes to Peet’s Coffee on 14th Street and Montana Avenue, reserving an outdoor table that expands with coffee drinkers through the pre-work hours. He brings chocolates for the kids who come by and biscuits for the dogs. People scramble to sit next to him and collect the happy energy that radiates out of his presence. He tells silly jokes that make him giggle, and his reaction makes others laugh more than the punch lines. He finds occasions to bring cakes to celebrate birthdays and otherwise undefined happydays, insisting that every passer-by try a slice of the daily special. He wears bright-colored t-shirts and Hawaiian prints and drives a neon yellow convertible Corvette.

And he doesn’t really understand how to use the Internet. But this Enjoy Your Coffee group, he insisted, would be the beeggest group on Facebook. So when it made Spyros smile, I smiled too.

And then Enjoy Your Coffee began to swell with members despite the lack of a formal plan for social media marketing or even a volunteer assigned to the job. Spyros did no outreach – remember, IT is not his specialty. Instead, he posted daily photos of the coffee group. He also posted photos of beautiful cakes and cappuccinos with artistic designs on top. He posted images of himself with his canine friends or of pretty scenes wherever. He posted lots of photos everyday, and each time he posted something, a notice was pinged to the collection of members. 200 members. 400. 1,000…

Ping! Spyros Dellaportas has posted on Enjoy Your Coffee (photo of himself in bright orange shirt smiling as he drinks his coffee).

Ping! Spyros Dellaportas has posted on Enjoy Your Coffee (photo of himself with the local moms and pre-schoolers).

Ping! Spyros Dellaportas has posted on Enjoy Your Coffee (mother-in-law joke).

 

I kept thinking: Poor Spyros. People will soon unjoin this group. Who has time for these diversions?

Then: 2,500 members. 3,000. As of this writing: 4,317.

Just as I was beginning to recognize that Spyros was onto something, he approached me again. “Ellen, now we need to create our own coffee social network! It will be the beeggest social network!” I smiled, because Spyros was excited. And when he asked for help in putting it together and assumed I’d be involved, I responded affirmatively. No one who enjoys the company of special people turns down that happy face.

Spyros gathered together a group of friends from the morning coffee klatsch to help him spearhead this initiative. After a few drinks and some truffle-salted fries (since this adventure was intended to be fun, first and foremost) we addressed a cornerstone question: How would we distinguish EnjoyYourCoffee.net from other social networks?

We realized that what we all have in common is shared coffee time together every weekday at Peet’s roughly between 7:00 to 9:00 am (on scattered schedules). Our lives diverge completely the rest of each day in work, ideology, interests, and a host of things that might otherwise be divisive, but in those hours we are one unified coffee group in Santa Monica, California. We were aware, too, that groups like ours meet in West Hollywood, a few miles away. And San Francisco and New Orleans. And in New York, albeit indoors for most of the year. In Europe as well, and Asia and South America. There were people enjoying their coffee around the world, together, everyday, as we did.

Then we thought: What if we could create EnjoyYourCoffee.net as a collection of coffee groups (and unaffiliated individuals) internationally, each of which/whom would be an in-person welcome pad for others when visiting its home territory? In this way, worldwide members could establish friendships everywhere we travel, bonded by enjoyyourcoffee.net and the love of this drink that we all share.

So that was thought. The meeting with Catalin was the first reality.

We met him at his favorite coffee shop in the Finnish town of Lohja, where Catalin currently lives, located about an hour outside Helsinki. It was easy to spot him when we walked in – of course, because he had posted photos of himself online, but also because a coffee mug with a big EnjoyYourCoffee.net logo plastered around its perimeter sat on his table. The logo had been designed by Spyros – that had been one of his bevy of professions – and he took delight in attaching it to coffee mugs, videos, t-shirts, and whatever other objects could comfortably advertise this new social network that made him smile. He was also happy to send the promotional mug and some other materials to supporters everywhere on the planet as committed to this project as Catalin. Next to Catalin’s mug sat a looseleaf notebook (sporting as its cover a super-sized print of the EYC logo) containing a ream of information about this new entity-under-development. Catalin, after all, had been crowned the Finnish Ambassador to EYC.

We drank coffee together and learned about each other. In 2010 Curt and I had produced a documentary entitled Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean about an interfaith coffee cooperative in Uganda, and through the documentary we became very knowledgeable about the crop/commodity/addiction/pleasure. Catalin, a lover of the drink, could qualify as a Jeopardy contestant given all coffee subcategories of questions. He’s read the important volumes about the subject; knows about coffee production and flavors from countries around the world; is aware of the best growing, picking and roasting conditions; and knows about the plethora of ways of serving it. He is as sensitive to its flavors as a top oenologist is to the Wine Enthusiast’s choices. One day he’d like to have a coffee shop of his own, for which he’s already envisioned all the “must have” elements. But for the moment he’s content to drink his coffee at Café Lauri, the sole place in Lohja a coffee connoisseur would dare to bring appreciative guests.

(Interestingly, a woman at the next table overhearing our conversation chimed in her dissatisfaction with coffee in Finland. She had just put in a bid on a home in southern France, where she can drink good coffee, she said. Incidentally: It’s comments like these amongst coffee lovers internationally that spark the formation of regular coffee groups at coffee houses with members who post on coffee social network sites like EnjoyYourCoffee.net.)

Curt and I left our in-person meeting with Catalin carrying a few little gifts he had bought for Spyros (can’t say more until I see Spyros to deliver them – but I know they will bring him joy). Catalin has never met Spyros, and until I called our friend from the table at Café Lauri where we were enjoying our coffee to Spyros’ table at Peet’s in Santa Monica, the two men had never heard each other’s voice. Yet somehow Spyros’ smile had contagiously affected Catalin, EnjoyYourCoffee.net’s newest ambassador.

The next day Curt and I departed from Finland with more than videotapes we had shot for our client. We left with a feeling that we had made a new friendship through which we had the opportunity to experience a real-life snapshot of Finland. This relationship had born out of enjoyment of our coffee, expressed first in actuality at Spyros’ daily coffee table, then virtually through the EnjoyYourCoffee.net social media site he had created to expand his morning experience into the boundless world of the Internet, then in actuality again, this time across the globe, unifying folks who are eager to establish friendships over a shared bond of coffee enjoyment.

To quote Spyros: “The rest is history! Enjoy Your Coffee!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finland: First Impressions on a Videotaping Shoot

October 28, 2012

Since we spend a lot of time videotaping in different countries around the world, I am frequently asked my impressions of local communities and places. Often my response harkens back to the opening scene in the movie Blue Velvet. The viewer first sees a helicopter view of a perfect 1960s-era postage-stamp looking community with cute little houses and pretty green lawns. The camera lens then begins to zoom in, and imperfections appear on screen. The objects grow closer, and the viewer sees more details that paint a fuller picture mixing positive imagery with negative. And then, to foreshadow the harrowing movie to follow, the camera zooms into the creepiest microscopic insect behaviors, suggesting the ugliness of what lies beneath the surface.

The full analogy to this opening is apt when I describe the most awful of situations we’ve witnessed while videotaping particular documentaries, such as dangerous territories still reeling from recent wars.  But thankfully most of our travels take us to daily life in peaceful situations, so the Blue Velvet comparison stops before the last zoom-in. Yet it underscores my acute awareness that an accurate description of the pros and cons of real life anywhere on the planet lurks far beneath those first, surface-level impressions. I am therefore hesitant to convey opinions about places where we stop for only a few days to do a corporate video shoot for a marketing video or investor relations video .

And yet, of course, those first impressions linger. So I sometimes bow to the inquiry, hoping those who ask will recognize the shallowness of my responses.

It took that introduction to make me feel comfortable launching into my very favorable initial impressions here on the ground in Helsinki!

First one: Last week we were working in Paris. We had pre-rented a car online, as we did for this trip. At Charles DeGaulle Airport, we spent literally 45 minutes at the rental car desk with only two people in front of us. The experience was like waiting during a work slowdown, except there was no formal slowdown.  Questions we asked were answered in as few words as possible with looks of annoyance, despite our use of French language. In comparison, after arriving in Helsinki, we were second in line for our car. Our total time at the counter was under ten minutes. We spoke no Finnish at all, but the woman at Budget spoke fluent English. She smiled as she imparted key information, did not try to sell us anything we did not need, and literally mapped out our car ride from her counter to the rental car parking lot to our hotel, the Sokos Flamingo Hotel in Vantaa.  I felt stress-free despite a total lack of familiarity with the culture and the ancient and unique language spoken there. I even perceived the cold air that enveloped us when we walked out the airport doors as crisp and healthy rather than an unwelcome reminder of the upcoming winter.

Next: Thoughtful layouts. The wide roads were well-marked, sensible, and lined with sprawling landscapes – after all, this large country is populated by a total of only five million people. The hotel receptionist gave us a parking pass for the garage even before requiring us to check in, and the parking lot had plenty of spaces to accommodate all the cars. The spotless room was styled with simple but comfortable Ikea-type furniture. One entire wall was covered in windows enabling us to look out into the horizon, where fiery red sunrises beneath puffy dark clouds greeted us in the morning.

The food was less impressive, though I am spoiled by living bi-coastally in Los Angeles and the metro NY area – specifically, NJ’s restaurant capital of Montclair. Didn’t mind it too much – we had gone to Finland to work, not to eat.

One other footnote: A friendly encounter on the elevator with a businessman from northern Finland led to breakfast together the next morning. A few things I learned from him were:

  • Children in Finland learn to cross country ski when they are very young, and get around that way much of the winter in southern Finland, which is not mountainous
  • Ski country is northern Finland, but often the freezing temperatures (below -30 degrees centigrade is not uncommon) prohibit outdoor activity until February or March
  • In much of the country, you can see the Northern Lights
  • In the summer in the Helsinki area, darkness falls around 11 pm and dawn comes by 4 am. In the winter, of course, it is the opposite. (October wasn’t too bad. It got dark at about 6 pm and light before 8 am.)
  • The Finnish and Hungarian languages share the same root
  • Swedish is the second language of Finland since Sweden ruled the country for 600 years, from the 13th through the 19th centuries
  • In World War II, the Finns fought against the Russians, who had occupied the country after the Swedes. (This, of course, made them allies with the Germans, though they saw their participation as anti-Russian rather than pro-German, and they protected their Jewish population.)

Had the businessman not had dinner plans that night, we would have met again, underscoring my impression of the friendliness of local people. Of course, he was not talking in front of the camera lens. But those who were featured in the business video that brought us there shared the warm spirit of our hotel acquaintance.

Video Production From The Road: Interviews

October 26, 2012

One of the great upsides to shooting corporate videos at locations around the globe is that we spend our days at facilities with people with whom we have the privilege to become acquainted. After all, we are usually interviewing them on camera, and even when we’re not – such as in the production of a video that uses musical backgrounds without words – we are interviewing them off camera to understand the nature of their work so we can properly capture and present it.  Formal interview time is always bookended by plenty of informal chatter, making the former more comfortable for everyone. And so we learn things like colleges that interviewees’ kids attend or where they went on their recent vacations. Those conversations lead to others, and before we know it, we often all discover how much we are enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes dinner invitations follow, and even when they don’t, recommendations for good dinners (and all the colorful context) are usually a good bet. By the time we are departing, we find that we have collected valuable insiders’ perspectives about the places we have visited even if the trips are only for small amounts of time.

corporate video, video production, professional video, france, video marketing, travel, business

Of course, we don’t always hit it off as good ol’ buddies with the folks we are interviewing, nor do we have any expectations. But we do maintain an attitude of “work hard, play hard,” so we find fun spots to spend the off-hours, with or without our professional colleagues. A few days ago at a pub in Rouen, France, we met a woman at the next table who had come to have a drink after week. After a few friendly comments, we all found that we had many things to discuss, and we spent quite awhile talking, laughing, taking pictures, and sharing stories. Today, of course, such encounters don’t end with the last drop of distinctive French wine. We have become Facebook friends, and if prior such meetings are an indication, I am confident our knowledge of each other’s lives and cultures will continue to expand over time.

Video Production From the Road: Interview Space

October 24, 2012

This is not atypical: We travel to the other side of the world for a corporate video shoot, then the interviewee takes us to a generic conference room that could be located in Anywhere, USA. I say, respectfully: Are there any other options for a background, and they respond, respectfully: No!

If possible, the story can’t end there. It just doesn’t seem fair to our clients, who – trusting our production values and committed to consistency in video production — invest in these international jaunts. And so the search begins for elements that resonate place (Melbourne or Hong Kong or Paris – or Houston or Wilmington, Delaware) or industry space (software or manufacturing or law or whatever). Decisions about backgrounds depend first, upon the substance of the material in the video; second, upon availability; and third, upon creativity.

corporate video production, travel, business, melbourne, australiaFor example: Two weeks ago we videotaped at two different companies in Australia, both of which escorted us straight into their conference rooms upon arrival. The first company is in the medical software business, the second in HR compliance materials for online consumption. The actual industry background for these speakers are rooms occupied by individuals at computer desks – a setting almost as common as white-walled conference rooms. But in both cases, the companies sell solely into the Australian market, so backdrops that say “Australia” fill in some color. In the first case, we set the interviewee in front of a large window that overlooked a recognizable panorama of Melbourne. For the second, we added to the side of a window view some distinctive company props that had just been used at a trade show the week before, emphasizing both geography (the view) and branding.

Note that skylines can be tricky. Natural lighting is not uniform in places around the world or during different times of day, and familiarity with details of how it might fall in a particular place at a specific hour cannot be easily predicted from another corner on the globe. Key to successful execution is a good knowledge of lighting that ensures thoughtful yet expeditious set-ups as well as a good kit that not only contains all the necessary components, but is also mobile-friendly.

At a video shoot a few months ago in Washington DC, the nondescript conference room into which we were taken was windowless.  With only about 20 minutes to set up a two-camera shoot, our director of photography washed the walls in colors reflective of the interviewee’s agency – another alternative when few tools and no time were at our disposal.

Hong Kong, corporate video production, business travel, video marketing, interviewsOutdoor interviews work well, too, if the choice is between a quiet space that says nothing and an interesting street scene where noise might be a challenge. Here the interviewee must feel comfortable with the setting, and proper audio is crucial; if carried out well, the end result can be very visually interesting.

Last week in Hong Kong, we conducted an interview from the top of the Peak, overlooking the city below. It was a beautiful scene, unmistakably highlighting the speaker’s location, which is an important aspect of the nature of his work. We walked around the path for a bit to find a spot less populated with passersby. Nonetheless, there were a number of cold stops in the middle of sentences as people passed or made other noise. It was a small price to pay for the beauty and inherent message of the background. And it was a far better solution than videotaping in another typical conference room, indistinguishable from millions of others everywhere.

Read last week’s entry for Video Production From The Road on Flying Tips.

Video Production From the Road: Flying Tips 2

October 12, 2012

Having become a semi-learned student of the airline rules, I wield them like constitutional rights.

Last year I chose to become an APP (my designation for the 25,000 plus mile status) on two airlines: United and American. The former is part of the OneWorld network, and the latter is a member of Star Alliance. Since my home bases are Montclair, NJ – 10 miles from Newark Airport – and Los Angeles, the most convenient airline for me to fly in the US is United, which has the Newark-based hub of its recent mergee, Continental.  American sometimes flies out of Newark, but more frequently its NY flights originate in and go to JFK and LaGuardia, making it a second choice for me.  However, the Star Alliance has more airline partners than OneWorld, and they fly to many more destinations, so I’m glad to have at least the APP-1 (more than Any Passenger and less than Any Passenger Plus) benefits.

video production new jersey, corporate video nj, flying tips, travel, business

I write this blog now aboard a flight from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong. I am traveling with my husband/business partner Curt. We are videotaping for a corporate client in both locations. The decision to do the shoot happened late in the game, so arrangements were made last minute, when few flights were still available.  The only feasible and affordable option required traveling with Cathay Pacific from JFK to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Adelaide, Australia, then Adelaide to Melbourne, where we worked for three days. This flight goes from Melbourne directly to Hong Kong, where we will stay for two nights. The next leg is to San Francisco, where we will work for a day. The last segment will take us from San Francisco back to Newark.

Cathay Pacific is a Star Alliance member. With our American gold status, we are classified as Ruby travelers on Star Alliance, going through the first and business class check-in and security lines, and boarding earlier in the game than other passengers. Since the economy class tickets had been sold out for the eastward bound flights at the late time of our booking, we purchased the next level: premium economy. That gave us a little more room and an APP+ status. But here is how being a partner airline APP member served as an advantage: The flight from NY to Hong Kong was 15 hours; the one from Hong Kong to Adelaide was another 9. When we arrived in Hong Kong, a ticket agent was waiting for us, informing us that we had been upgraded to business class. With open seats on the plane, priority went to us instead of others who had bought premium economy tickets since we had a combination of those slightly more expensive tickets and APP status on another Star Alliance partner airline.

Business seats on these eastern airlines are amazing for a number of reasons, but best of all, the seats fold down flat like beds. As someone who has a hard time sleeping in planes, I slept more than half of the journey, waking up refreshed enough to work for the afternoon in Melbourne. It made a huge difference!

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Director of Photography, Curt.

The seats en route back west are only economy. But because of our APP status with Star Alliance member American, Cathay Pacific was able to offer us bulkhead seats, ie, front row in economy, with unlimited leg room.  For non-ruby passengers, these seats would have cost an additional $100 each, but our status ensured we could get them, and at no extra charge. We have reserved the same seats for the trip from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

The last leg of our trip will be provided by United, enabling us to return on a direct flight to Newark Airport. Checking over the seat availability, it seems we will be doomed to the last row. But as APP members, we stand a chance of getting upgraded, if anything is available.

I am well aware of the disadvantage of accruing miles in more than one airline per year. By this year’s end, I will have accumulated just short of 100,000 miles on all my flights combined. Had I stuck with one airline or partnership and taken a few extra trips to reach that mile marker, I would have been a lifetime status holder. Instead, the status I’ve earned over the last 10 months – which in another three weeks will be APPP on United and APP on American – will be good only through 2013. Come January 1, I will have to start all over again for 2014. But the offerings didn’t leave me much of a choice. The flights that gave me the most miles were available at specific times on particular airlines. At least I will enjoy my status in the coming year, always keeping an eye on changing rules and new opportunities.

Read Flying Tips 1.