COTW: Behind the Scenes with Bison

This week’s COTW is a behind-the-scenes look at at the making of London Grammar’s music video for “Wasting My Young Years.” Owen Silverwood and Dave Bullivant, a British directorial duo known as Bison, built a handmade rig with hundreds of pinhole cameras to execute their unique concept. Hats off to you, guys.


COTW: Guy on a Buffalo

Our Clip of the Week features the best use of found footage we’ve ever seen:

How We Killed Reynolds

Our newest installment in the Civil War Trust’s interactive animated map series, The Battle of Gettysburg, launched this week, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the epic battle. Overwhelmingly, our clients, friends and fans are telling us they all favor the same ten-second shot: our depiction of the death of Union General John F. Reynolds. Here’s how we did it:

View the entire Gettysburg Animated Map presentation here!

4 Reasons Clients Love That We’re History Geeks

..that they may not even know.

Shane in USA Today

An Original History Geek
Spending some time in my early youth in Decatur, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln was my gateway into the hard stuff: The American Civil War. As a kid of 8, I marched – by myself – dressed in union blue in small town July 4th parades. My parents thought I was affected. I think they still do. That’s me with the bag on my hip at the 125th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It being 1988, I had to call my folks on a pay phone so they could pick up a few extra copies because I made the cover.

Along with my good friend and business partner, Ed Leydecker, we brought a passion for the Civil War and history into Wide Awake Films when we founded it back in 2001. Because of this… some folks only know us as the “Civil War Guys.”  

But, little do they know (insert evil laugh here) that WAF’s elite “Team of Eight” pays da bills serving high-end corporate and commercial business clients. It keeps the challenges coming. It keeps our toolset uber-sharp. It keeps us on our toes.  It’s the other thing our team loves to do. 

So, you may ask, why would a corporate marketing person give a crap about the fact that we’ve won Emmys producing history-based programming for PBS or that we regularly work for the likes of BBC and the National Geographic Channel? 

Damned good question. Here are four reasons:

#1: You want it right don’t ya?

We approach all of our historical-based programming by first sifting through the original documents and photos. We’re the guys who can’t watch a western because the hats are all wrong. We’re the crew that buries itself in the research during pre-production and program design/storyboarding. We believe that authentically following the history leads to the best stories – to the good mojo. It’s a discipline we instill on every project we do.

And it shows up in all the work we do – historical or otherwise.

We recently produced a historical documentary for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, one of North America’s oldest craft unions. We applied our regular historical process to telling their 130-year legacy. We uncovered fascinating nuggets along the way that ended up in the finished piece. For example, collaborating with the client’s research team, we discovered that a Boilermaker went down with the U.S.S. Monitor, the US Navy’s first ironclad warship. So in one month’s time, our animation guys cranked out a 3D simulation of the epic Monitor versus Merrimac (CSS Virginia) battle. The finished show left most of a Las Vegas convention floor, comprised of some of the brawniest Boilermakers we’ve ever met, in tears. We took this as evidence of a job well done.

It pays to do your homework or you could get your ass kicked.

#2: We can turn on a dime.

A lot of production companies niche themselves into a healthy market segment. Maybe they only shoot spots with kids. Maybe they only do industrial training films. Maybe they dig the stress of live events. Or maybe they only do agency spot work. 

We don’t specialize. We think it’s boring. We adapt.

Our historical work has led us into many eras that we originally knew nothing about. We welcome the challenges these types of opportunities provide. Just last week we were editing a spoofy “Most Interesting Woman in the World” video for a growing start-up, 3D-modeling George Washington’s house at Mount Vernon, researching 1970’s clothing looks for an upcoming training film, and filming the world’s first tele-robotic pitch thrown at a Major League Baseball game.

It’s how we roll every week and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

#3: We dig for the story.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from working with history it’s this: check your source. The winners write history. And the losers whine a lot. Somewhere in between lies the real story.

It’s a filter we schlep to every commercial project we do. As a production company that acts as a creative agency on many projects, we are often tasked with distilling loose original ideas into a tight, finished project. Often what’s really simple to an internal audience is vastly complex to everyone else. We often become the bridge between these two worlds.

That filter is why our historical projects are successful. And it’s why corporate marketing teams keep coming back to talk projects and have cocktails on our deck.

#4: Short, Tall, Grande or Venti?

We’ve filmed with five camera crews amidst 8,000 Civil War reenactors blasting muskets and cannons at each other… on 17 separate occasions. We’ve served Cajun food to a cast and crew of 300 while stranded on a reef waiting for the tide to roll out. We’ve cranked out 130 minutes of national-caliber programming from initial concept to successful projection in five months time. And, yes, we’ve taken our camera equipment through Canadian customs.

Our historical projects have become the infrastructure and logistical anvil upon which we’ve also hammered success in the commercial arena. We enjoy projects of all sizes and all levels from the $6,000 motion graphics spot to the six and seven-figure documentary or film project… every one, no matter the size, gets a high-level of craftsmanship.

That’s what makes Wide Awake Films different: our craft just happens to be honed on history.


End of an Era

It’s a big day here at Wide Awake Films. Our machine rack, populated by various old-school decks (we even have a D2 in there), is being retired. Officially. With the increasing demand for digital deliverables and the infrequency of requests for beta tapes, we’re re-locating this monster to a less prominent, lower traffic area of the office. Here’s a fun pic of Jeff and Brian tangled in the spaghetti.

TMC’s Mobile Market

This week, we filmed with Truman Medical Centers, capturing their Healthy Harvest Mobile Market in action. The Mobile Market, a virtual rolling produce stand, visits areas deemed “food deserts:” those neighborhoods in Kansas City, especially in the urban core, that lack access to grocery stores and fresh fruits and vegetables. We stayed on the move with the bus as it stopped at the Jackson County Courthouse in downtown KC and at the Lucille Bluford Library off 31st and Prospect.

We’re proud to support such an exciting and healthy initiative! Look for our footage of the Mobile Market on the jumbotrons at the Chiefs’ pre-season games!