A Journey to the heart of America with Storybox, STA and Wipster

It had all the components of a logistical nightmare, but a collaborative video project spanning 10 weeks, 35 shooting locations, and involving three teams across three countries came together a treat.

Rob Appierdo is the creative director of Storybox, a boutique creative studio in Wellington, New Zealand, with a knack for “telling tales”. Last year he was approached by STA Travel and Brand USA (the national organisation charged with promoting the United States to travelers) to create a series of web videos showcasing the quintessential American road trip.

Aside from being the sort of job everyone wishes they could land, this project was no leisurely jaunt. From the start there were the logistical head-scratchers to deal with. Two to three social media clips being posted onto across STA’s social channels every week, almost all of them to be produced parallel to the shoot itself.

That’d be a challenge even if the production never ventured any further than a sound stage, but in this case the film crew were bouncing between New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami and Louisiana. Then there was the STA team in the United Kingdom and Storybox HQ back in New Zealand, all of whom needed to be constantly kept in the loop.

We recently met up with Rob to hear his war stories and find out how his team’s monumental journey into the heart of America was made just a little easier by Wipster, now firmly ensconced as a Storybox “workflow essential tool”.

Wipster: Tell us how the pitch for this project played out

Rob: The idea from STA was to find an engaging way of generating online content, and get 18–35-year-olds finding out more about the USA travel experience by connecting them through real experiences.

They invited pairs – girlfriend/boyfriends, best buddies, siblings – to submit video content to show why they should be the faces of the American road trip experience.

In the end three couples were chosen to do 35-stop road trip across the US.

W: 35 locations, wow. That must have been big ask for your crew.

R: Yeah. It was an interesting challenge for sure. Needless to say, the shoot hit the ground running. It was extremely fast-paced and there was an incredibly quick turnover.

W: Tell us a little bit about the set-up. What was your strategy with the production logistics?

R: We opted to keep it pretty streamlined for obvious reasons. We had a team of two on the ground in the US managing all the filming, direction and editing. The wider production and support team was all based back here in New Zealand, which is where Wipster really came into its own.

W: Tell us about that – how did Wipster fit into your toolkit?

R: Originally we were going to upload the video that needed editing to Vimeo, take note of the time frames, and then send emails with feedback notes back and forth. All of which would then go into a spreadsheet or something like that.

Even with the easiest shoot in the world that process ends up being a really inefficient use of time. It’s not very transparent, and it can get confusing with plenty of room for misinterpretation and repetition. But our crew were basically on the move every single day, filming at a multitude of different locations and they were in a completely separate time zone to the rest of the production.

So, as soon as I came across Wipster I realised we’d just side-stepped a nightmare [Rob looks gratefully heavenwards].

W: Side-stepping nightmares is our MO, Rob. So it seems like your strategy for this shoot was to do things faster, better, and stronger.

R: Exactly. And I think that by the end of the 10-week project, we managed to speed up the overall production efficiency by 50–60% over the old clunky process of communication. And that sort of saving makes everyone happy.

W: So how did the work come out in the end?

R: Amazingly. By the end of the seven weeks of on-road filming, there were already 15 clips live on STA’s YouTube channel, each topping 150,000 views.

STA is also using the work they did with us to open doors for new work for both of us, and we’re already starting to expand the project to other countries. For me the strength of the project is the way we were able to structure the storytelling process to get STA’s message across in a way that was engaging and actually quite emotional in places.

For a creative studio like us, that’s the ultimate goal – delivering a high-quality, beautiful visual narrative that we’re really proud of.

You can check more of the STA series below