Thursday, March 21, 2013

SVFF 2013: SPONSOR REEL—The Evening Class Interview With Zach Voss

SVFF Sponsor Reel from Zach Voss on Vimeo.

Isn't that just about one of the most beautiful bumper reels you've ever seen? All throughout the Sun Valley Film Festival (SVFF) weekend, I kept asking, "Who made that?" Then, during a casual conversation with Zach Voss in the Halliman Hospitality Suite, I found out he did. But of course! Zach Voss has rapidly become the charismatic young face of independent film production in Idaho. When I mentioned to him that there were those intent upon usurping his throne, he grinned, "Bring it on!" Zach agreed to sit down with me to discuss how he produced such a winning reel.

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Photo courtesy of Pete Grady
Michael Guillén: So why did you not credit yourself for this sponsor reel?

Zach Voss: It wasn't really the place to credit myself. It was about the sponsors. But, given, Retroscope did give a huge sponsorship to offset the cost of what it takes to make that, in terms of time.

Guillén: I loved how you incorporated the photographs from the Sun Valley Resort archives. How did you come up with this concept?

Voss: Before I graduated from Boise State, my BFA thesis was video installation. It was a two-channel sculptural piece that projected from either side of a plexiglass panel using archival materials related to the Boise State Broncos. I started exploring the use of that kind of material at Boise State and had a great time; but, once the gallery closed and the show was done, I had no other use for what I had started doing there.

I went to the Sun Valley Film Festival their first year and saw the bumper reel they had and felt strongly that there was room for improvement. I approached them about what I could provide the following year and they gave me their confidence and sent me off and running. I worked with a graphic designer and an animator and pieced together these vignettes.

Guillén: Who was your graphic designer?

Voss: James Lloyd.

Guillén: And who was your animator?

Voss: Jake Kuwana.

Guillén: Jake Kuwana's name keeps popping up on local projects throughout the festival.  He was involved with two shorts I just saw in the shorts program.

Voss: James Lloyd is the designer for the Treefort Music Festival and Jake Kuwana did the online titles for my Road to Treefort web series. There are a lot of people in Boise, Idaho that I can count on and you're going to hear their names pop up on all these different projects. We're using each others' resources and I think we're getting better and better.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Wordell
Guillén: This collaborative ethos is a regional aesthetic distinct to southern Idaho filmmaking that has caught my attention.

Voss: I know no other way.

Guillén: How old are you, Zach?

Voss: I'm 23.

Guillén: It takes a lot of chutzpah for such a young guy to say, "Hey, I can do this better than you did it last year." Where's that chutzpah coming from?

Voss: I don't know if I can credit a specific source but I feel confident in my ideas and my abilities and—when I see something—I can break it down technically and conceptually really well. Once I'm able to do that process and do the math there, it's not an ego thing for me to step up and pitch my idea. So when I saw the reel the first year, with full confidence I knew I could improve. I don't go out of my way to speak up about my talents, but I know that they have value and I know they can evoke responses from people. So I built this sponsor reel in the isolation of Retroscope's headquarters back in Boise and I just went back and forth on the web with the Sun Valley Film Festival people getting it approved. When I finally came up here and saw it for the first time on the screen, each time I would hear a little whisper, "This is done really well."

Guillén: It's one of the best festival bumper reels I've ever seen, and believe me I've seen plenty, many which have annoyed me; but, your's has a subdued, relaxed aesthetic to it. I don't know if your graphic designer had most to do with that in sticking to the cool blue of the festival poster, and linking in the archival photographs. I especially like how you incorporated those photographs and transformed them from stills into moving elements.

Voss: Photographs are a common resource for documentary projects, but there's more to be done with them. If you look around in the hospitality suite, you're going to see some of the photographs that pop up in the video. We altered them to work for our platform by giving them more neutral space to work with. They maintain their character and texture, but then we gently restored it to meet the platform of being essentially a sizzle reel.

Guillén: Were you also responsible for the festival's poster?

Voss: No. That was my pitch as a producer. I said, "You already have a visual cue. You already have a marketing presence. I'm willing to build you a reel that expands upon how you've already branded yourself. The light blue sunray burst and the photograph of Averell Harriman, the founder of Sun Valley, I accepted that that was the decision they had already made to brand themselves and I simply built upon that. I wasn't coming in as their marketing adviser or branding officer, I came in as their video marketing director. "Here's what we've got. Here's what we can make from that."

Guillén: Since last we spoke, you've done very well with Retroscope Media.

Voss: I'm hanging in there.

Guillén: Landing the Treefort account was major!

Voss: Yeah, man! It was probably the single, biggest project to formalize my efforts and remove any doubts about my dabbling in this or that. It's a strong presentation of what I feel good about being able to deliver.

Guillén: Now, I don't want to rouse the unwieldy animal called ego, but you are the young face of independent film production in Idaho. How does that feel for you? Do you feel pressure?

Voss: It comes across to me mostly as support. The entire foundation of the emerging arts and business scene in Boise is based upon collaboration, interest and community involvement. Whereas that could turn into a reputation or ego thing, I think it turns more into a support system. I feel good about it. It can have its intimidation in feeling that I have to live up to that but I think the Boise community and the Idaho scene is so ripe for being involved.

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