Origin Story with Brandon “Bear” Wade and Unify Creative Agency

Hey everybody, my name is Brandon Wade with Unify Creative Agency. And today we are going to talk about, my origin story is, so I started out as a photographer and then moved into, I have a photography degree and then moved into filmmaking. I just loved making videos and the way I started, uh, 20 years ago, 22 years ago was that I started making video biographies on people. So I'd interview them, ask them about their life and um, take the old photos out of the basement and edit it together, make it watchable. And we not, you know, we all have these stories or these questions, uh, within our life. Like, where were you born? Where did you grow up? You know, tell me about your siblings and your parents and grandparents. But there's some point in the story where our story diverges from everyone else's story and makes us uniquely us.


And uh, so I'm, I made probably 15 or 20 of these, I could do maybe one a quarter. It got super hard because keeping family trees straight and keeping all the photos figured out and organized and all the interviews, you know, hours and hours of interview footage, it just got to be very laborious. And on top of that expensive, I wanted to make good looking films. Uh, this is back before, uh, even high definition. I wanted to make good looking films, uh, have that kind of cinema quality. And, um, it was just super expensive to do because usually as a filmmaker you would make a copy, uh, you'd make it once and then sell a bunch of copies. But in my case, I was selling, uh, making it once and selling like six or seven copies to each family unit and it just was too expensive. It was hard for me to afford to be able to do it, uh, between all the bills I had.


And so I, you know, I, I wanted to be, uh, I just wanted to make something that I could sell more copies of, you know, something that was more universal for everybody. And, um, so I started, uh, I made this film about the S uh, the summer camp. I grew up going to, there was their 50th anniversary, which I loved, and it w, you know, it was like a hundred and 190 minutes or so, maybe it was almost two hours long. And it, I thought it did a really good job of capturing camp, but again, it was not quite, um, it was something for a bigger audience than just those families that I was making video biographies for. You know, there were hundreds of, I guess thousands of people that had gone through that camp and had been affected by the camp. And so that was a big, uh, newer audience.


But, you know, people would say, man, the quality of this thing is so good, you should get it on PBS, which made no sense at all. I mean, it was flattering, but it was made no sense at all because it was, you know, a about a summer camp that, you know, the, it wasn't that, uh, unique or specific, it was unique, but it would just wasn't that, uh, targeted to a bigger audience like that publicly. And so, um, when my wife and I, Jennifer were on our honeymoon, uh, we were at Rocky mountain national park, uh, just outside of Denver, Colorado. And, um, I had come across this book in the, in the, um, in the, uh, rest area or the welcome center and they had all sorts of stuff there. But I, I found this book about a road trip that happened in 1920 and it went to all the national parks at the time.


And there was a photographer that had taken photographs from that time. And, uh, in 1920. So I, you know, as a photographer, uh, with a photography background, just that whole idea to me of taking like a big, you know, uh, eight by 10 camera, four by five camera, you know, with the bellows and the, the Cape, and you got a flash, the thing that whole idea to me, um, while driving around in a car that had, you know, no windows, it might've had a windshield, but it was really, you know, there's no air conditioning. It was dusty. It was hot, you know, um, just that whole idea and try to keep like lenses clean and stuff was just really interesting to me. Anyway, so, uh, I saw this book, it was made by a retired couple and so, um, I, uh, tracked them down and asked him if I could make, uh, make, uh, I'm interested in making a film about this movie or about this story.


And so, and I really wanted to try and get it on PBS. Now at that time, uh, Ken burns, who was like the Steven Spielberg of documentary films. Uh, he has stuff all over PBS. If you don't know, I'm checking out. You need to learn your history and you can learn it from him. Um, and he, he, right, he makes stuff about big, um, big huge stories, you know, 18 hours of, uh, baseball and stuff like that. Anyway, he made a film about world war II that had just come out when I was on my honeymoon. And other stations like T and T, TBS, uh, eh, they were playing, you know, the history channel. They were all playing films about world war II because of his big premiere. And so they were kind of supplementing, uh, the psyche, the, you know, the collective, uh, psyche of America who was getting ready to watch this big film.


You know, millions of dollars were spent on promoting Ken burns, his film. And so I, I just knew that if I could make this story about the national parks, um, at the right time, I could ride his wave because I knew he was coming out in a few years about a film, about the national park service. And so, uh, in the United States. And so I tried, I essentially tried to race him. He started years, years, years before me, and his film came, came out great. But it was slated to air in the fall. And so I wanted to, to kind of raise him to market and catch his wave, you know, like if you ever see somebody trying to surf, they peddle out in front of the wave and then the wave catches them, you know, and then they get up on their board and, and um, and surf. And so I had that idea of trying to do that same, um, from, for my film. And so that whole time I was trying to get to market and look like I knew what I was doing when I really was a nobody.


So at this point, I have a, uh, I'm making document one-off documentaries about families. I had made this summer camp video, which, um, you know, there were lots of supporters, but I wasn't making any money off of it. It was a labor of love, which I loved. You know, it was my, um, it was my undergrad, so to speak, in filmmaking. And then I, um, I just, I, I on the side was working for other companies. They would hire me to either shoot some video or I'd help with their website, you know, help them design a website, um, or create a logo or any other graphic design work. Like I have a very, uh, visual, um, gift and gift or strength or, you know, that's kind of the way I see things. And so, um, I had all of that, that I could help bring, um, to make money while I was trying to make paving the way, which is the name of the film.


And so the biggest challenge that I had to face was the fact that I was really, no, nobody had heard of me. Uh, I didn't have any funding. I didn't know anybody who worked for PBS. I, uh, don't have a rich uncle that I know of. Uh, you know, I just, I had to bootstrap the whole thing. And so my whole goal up front was for people to, to take me serious. I needed to look like I knew what I was doing. And so I studied what, um, other films, what their websites look like. Um, I tried to emulate that kind of, um, look and feel. Um, even the editing of the video, like the, the topography, uh, the way the credits were styled, the music, you know, all of that. I tried to, um, you know, down to like the postcards and the stuff movie poster.


I was trying to hand out to create some buzz about this thing that I was making. And I pretty much had no backing, you know, um, I had to work to try and find a, you know, after calling like the front door receptionist at PBS to say, Hey, I want to make a movie. Um, hi, I'm 26. And I, you know, I to try and figure out a way to um, explain what my vision was. And so that is really, uh, what I've learned is that if you can make something that shows the quality, even if it's not the actual thing yet, if just to sell the idea that you're a, um, you are a film that has a name and an identity, you know, I made a little movie trailer, like, uh, well I lived in Denver at the time, and so we drove up to Rocky mountain national park.


I borrowed a, a really expensive camera to shoot on in HD at the time. And, um, I, I like checked it out to see if I was going to buy it. It was like a $35,000 camera. There's no way I was going to buy it. Um, just the lens alone cost more than my car, you know. And so just the idea of going and we went to Rocky mountain national park. I got some pretty, uh, shots, you know, I got elk and, and the snow cap mountains and, you know, it turned out, you know, I ran up a road holding the camera, so it looked like the car hurts, you know, point of view. Uh, on these bumpy roads and stuff. And so I use that. And then the photographs, uh, from the, um, from the book, I like scan the book and use some of the photographs to like create some little teaser trailer, you know, and so I didn't have a narrator at that point.


And so I had to use like, you know, text, um, uh, unscreened to, you know, and music swells to try and create some emotion. And, um, so the, the whole idea was that I had to fake it till I made it, so I made a website for it. Um, had the trailer on there, I had, uh, a way to contact us. I had a sheet like how to become a sponsor, which I don't think, I didn't have Google analytics at the time, but I'm sure new buddy downloaded it, you know. And so the whole point though was that I got to, um, my wife and I invested some money to go take that trip around the West. Uh, we, it was like, I think we went 7,600 miles in somewhere around 46 days. And so it roughed in, you know, there's 12 national parks. And so it was about three days per park, uh, to film, um, the beauty shots, to interview some staff, uh, to ask them about and learn about the park, uh, on camera.


And then to dig through the archives to see if we could find anything else about this trip that happened in 1920 or use, uh, images or articles, newspaper articles from that period to help set the stage or, you know, paint the picture. And so after, you know, the third day, you think, wow, going to the 12 oldest national parks must've been amazing. And it was, but, you know, uh, as soon as we left Yellowstone national park, heading to glacier, my wife who came with, uh, she was a very integral part in the, in the making the film, she was getting kind of pissed off, you know, she was like, what? We're leaving these beautiful blazes. We don't get to enjoy them. And I'm like, we're working, you know. So I like to say we're still married. But anyway, so I found out that I needed to, uh, after, uh, talking to some low, like I called the local PBS station here and the one in st Louis, which is where we moved to, I called the one in, uh, Denver, which is where I was from.


Uh, moving from and just tried to find somebody who would kind of be a local liaison between, uh, the big PBS and, uh, or public television and us. And so we found that, um, there was a Rocky mountain PBS, uh, no, I'm sorry, Montana PBS in, we talked to Rocky mountain PBS who were guiding us to, uh, Montana PBS, um, and they, uh, shepherd at us through the process. So we paid them a fee to help guide us through that. But they did a great job of getting us into what we needed to be, which was, um, a P T is fall marketplace. So apt is another, like PBS. It's all public fund, uh, public, uh, funding and, um, production. Anyway, they're big fall. Uh, marketplace is kind of like the Sundance film festival of public television. Like it's the place you go, show off what you have and then people vote on it.


So all the, all the uh, program directors for each station gets to vote on if they would carry it or show it, um, you know, on their station. And so each one was like 350 PBS stations and they're all locally, not locally, but they all have their own programming director for the most part. And so we needed to get 50 votes at this, um, at this, um, festival. And so they showed our trailer. Um, it was kind of, uh, slated to be one of the premier, uh, F kind of films featured that year, which was awesome. Um, we need to get 50 votes. We were really worried about, you know, what are we able to get that, cause we had no bearing on anything. We ended up getting over 250 votes, which was awesome. So we were definitely in, it sounded like a lot of the stations around the country would air it if we can get it finished, you know.


And so that was in the fall we were hoping to release in the spring, so I had kind of the whole winter to finish the film. And so, um, we had, um, to try and figure out how to get more funding. W that was a big thing. I needed a big sponsor. And so we found out that AAA, the, uh, automobile association was the, uh, sponsor from the 1920 tour to help promote good roads back then. And so I went back to them and said, I would like you to continue your sponsorship kind of a thing. I showed him the rough edit that I had of the film, you know, which was pretty crude at the time, but they got the idea and they were willing to sponsor us, uh, which, you know, which at the time was amazing. They gave us 200, and I'm sorry, $25,000, which was an amazing gift to get.


Um, however it was just enough to finish the thing. And so, um, I was hoping to help get paid back for some of the other expenses that we had up front, but it was enough to finish it. So we got it all done. We got it out there. Um, it premiered in the fall or in the spring of 2009 and so it's been over, uh, over 10 years now. And we won, uh, four telly awards and it's still Erin on PBS in the U S all over the country and in Canada. And if you can believe it or not, people are still buying DVDs. We still get DVD orders, which is amazing. My point of this whole thing is I realized after getting done with it that yes, I had kind of the chops to make a movie, but I had to have so many other people buy into it.


And the way I did that was looking professional, like looking like I knew what I liked. We were making something. And so I didn't have a big fancy like shoulder ragged, you know, shoulder rigged camera and brought in a whole cast and crew. It was like me and a couple other people that would help on each shoot. And uh, my wife was one of them who has no filmmaking background at all. She's an engineer. And so, um, it just, that whole idea of if, if you can look professional and, and have something to show of what your idea is, other people will understand it so much clear. People don't buy what they don't understand. And so having that, um, material together, giving your product, your service, your company, a name and identity, um, it can really, really turn your idea or what you, you might be good at what you do, but to help communicate it in a clear, uh, simple, easy to understand way is very hard and very valuable to your business growth.


And so I pulled together a brand script, which I didn't know what that was at the time, but every time somebody heard about what we were doing about the film, we were making it. If we were at a party or we were trying to explain it to a sponsor or potential sponsor, somebody would ask, so what's the movie about? And I would go, well, you know, it's this thing about there was this trip that happened and these guys were in their cars and well it was a 1920 and so you could imagine what that would be like. And you know, um, and I kind of looked down at my feet all the time and I just didn't have it nailed. And finally, my wife and I realized that we need to have a brand script. We need to be able to nail what it is this movie is about.


And anytime you have a company or a product or a service, you need to be able to clearly, quickly say what the thing is so that when they understand it, even if they don't want to buy your product, they know how to say it to the person who does need your product or service or, or company. And so that's what a brand script is. We want that. Um, we want to script something that is very clean and clear and concise. So paving the way is a movie of a historical documentary that takes place in 1920 with an Epic road trip to all the national parks. At the time there were 12 and people took their model T looking cars on wagon trails. Essentially it was dusty before there were air conditioning before there were gas stations, air conditioning, um, even maps. And so you could imagine what that would be like for 5,000 miles in 76 days.


And so that's the pitch, right? And people go, Whoa, Oh my God, that's all the logistic, can't imagine what that'd be like, you know? Um, and, and so that coming up with like, we tried to, we specifically wrote, okay, we've got to say 1920 in national parks. We didn't say all the national parks, but that's always kind of my followup questions. So have you ever been to Yellowstone or Yosemite or the grand Canyon, which had just become a national park before they got there? You know, that kind of thing was a great followup question. And so coming up with that succinct, um, all those nuggets in the right order and then memorize it is what a brand script is. And that is something that we want to offer to you in a clear and straight forward way. And, and we come at it from a fairly ignorance perspective.


And I mean that with, if I can't understand it, you know, if I don't know your industry, which is usually actually I pride myself on. So if I go and your HVAC guy and you say, well, um, we have to do thermal, whatever, you know, whatever, I don't even know what this is, but I will tease that out of you. And through that, uh, through a list of our framework or, you know, the, the framework that we use, we can help script, not just that, but then a tagline and our elevator pitch, you know, just so you have this kind of written three, three or four paragraphs for a brand script, but then we get it down to maybe a sentence or two and then maybe down to like a, you know, uh, one-liner or something. So ours was, um, 12 national parks. Uh, it was 19, 19, 2012, national parks, 76 days, one loop, you know, cause they, the whole tour was in one loop.


And so that kind of set the stage. The other thing that we talk about is a brand identity. So lots of people will get a logo, um, or you know, everybody has a logo these days, but it's really much more about how that whole system works. So you, you can go get our logo anywhere and you will get what you pay for. From what I know of logos, I've tried to use places like Fiverr even for stuff that I'm doing and I just am never happy with it. And so, uh, you have to get something that is really good, clear and professional. Um, which goes along with, with um, artistic styles and guidelines and trends. And you know, you don't want something too trendy or weird, um, that looks old and outdated a year or two from now. Um, but you also need, uh, the right colors.


Um, sometimes those colors are taken from your building, you know, if, um, if the building is a very important to you, like you own a, a theater downtown, let's say, um, you might, we might take some of the paint choices inside the theater as your, as your logo, you know, uh, brand colors, what kind of font you use for that logo is very important. It says it communicates a lot of things. Um, and just the way it's, uh, you know, like a lot of what we like to build is some sort of emblem that can stand on its own, like the McDonald's arches or the Nike swoosh, you know, love it or hate it. Those things work, right? And so we want to do that for you too. So at some point you can just slap your Mercedes logo on the front of your car and we know what it is, right?


Um, and that means something, right? That Mercedes, Mercedes logo definitely has some sort of class, uh, culture and identity to it. And so that's what we want to also do, uh, when, uh, working with you next are brand images. This is a set of like three or five images you use all over the place, um, for paving the way. You know, I use this photo of this guy looking out his window, kind of stuck in the mud and you get the idea of the old car and you could see, uh, the banner on the back and you can see where he's going. And so we use that all the time and there's a handful of photos that we use. Uh, we use, uh, Anton West guard who's kind of the hero of our story on the poster and the front of the DVD cover. And, uh, so you know, find five or six photos that, that, um, really work, um, and communicate what you do in your customer's experience and use them all over the place. You know, you want somebody who, um, and we can provide that kind of service for you, that


the photography is taken in a way that you can use it in a horizontal and vertical and, uh, for social media and for billboards. You know, all of that has to be done with consideration. And so you might not have a billboard or have your car wrapped, but you want the ability to be able to communicate it in every type of medium. And so getting your brand images figured out is very important. And lastly is your WordPress or, and lastly is a website audit. Most people these days have a website and they've checked that box, but unfortunately the website is either doing them more harm than good or they just don't pay attention to it anymore. They're locked out of it because the person who used to set it up isn't involved anymore. Um, and or it just isn't clearly, it's just not making you money overnight while you're sleeping.


We're just not clearly communicating what the customer gets out of working with you. And so we don't necessarily want to have, um, it, the website be all about you in what you can do in that, what, you know, awards you've won it. It's more about, it's like, so what, what, what can you do for me? You know, like, can you get my house warm back to the HVHC guy? Right. I want to be warm and comfortable. Actually, I just don't, even if it's winter out, I just don't want to even notice it. That's really what comfort is. Right? Um, and so that's what we're trying to communicate. Um, so with a website audit, we go through your site and, and it's not necessarily an SEO specific audit, it's more of like the visual, the branding, the customer journey, like, you know, the user experience. We go through all those things and we write up a report and then give it back to you. So if you're working with a website designer now you can take our notes and make adjustments. If you want to have us make adjustments or go through something new, uh, we offer that too. But this audit at least gets you a idea or a game plan with where to move forward or with how to move forward.


So I hope you enjoyed, uh, my story, um, to get to learn a little bit more about me and how unify got started. You know, I, I ne, we named the company unified because I kept saying to people over and over, you need to like unify your branding. You know, like their website would look not like their brochure, which wouldn't look like their social media, which wouldn't look like the video because they had different people doing that. Um, you know, they'd have a website designer and then somebody would do social media and um, they had a photographer take photos once, you know, and all of it just looks so disjointed and looked amateur and um, they might've paid a lot of money as a whole. And so art, my whole goal is to look unified. That's the whole point of, uh, what I had to go through to get paid in the way on, uh, uh, in front of millions of people.


And it's what I believe is truly important when running a business and growing and, and, uh, growing your sales. So we're excited to announce unify launch, which is a way to get all the things you need up and going. Give your whole idea, concept brand, um, product, your service an identity. And so we call it unify launch. And with that, you get the brand script, the brand identity kit, which is like your logo, your colors, you know, your style guide. You also get brand images. So we come up with a four, three or three or four different photos that will help illustrate that you can use all over the place and you get your website audit report. And so we'll go through your website. And, um, if you don't have a website, we will come up with recommendations for what you should have. If you already have a website, we'll go through it and make sure that we, uh, highlight and report back on what should be done to make it work more for you. And so all of that you can get just below here and we hope you, uh, take us up on our offer. It's an extremely valuable, uh, economical way to get up and going and launched. Check it out.

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