Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Retrospec Films creates incredibly beautiful, expertly produced work.
Wipster sat down with owner/filmmaker Jason Burks, and Nathan and Josh, two of his trusty colleagues, to discuss what makes Retrospec Films unique and why business is booming.
Tell us about Retrospec Films
Jason Burks (Owner + Executive producer + Writer + Director + DP): I would describe us as a boutique production company. For us it’s never been about money; it’s always been about excellent quality and storytelling. When we take on a project, whether the budget is five thousand dollars, or half a million, we are going to drive it all the way until it’s perfect.
We work with a lot of agencies, but also have an increasing number of clients who approach us directly to write, concept and create their videos. We have positioned ourselves as a turn-key creative solution for video, which I think is one of our most unique aspects. Because we can run a project from start to finish, working day-in-day-out with each other, we can really make sure to take every project the extra mile.
We have our own studio, cameras and equipment, and have a full-time team of 10 who specialize in editing, sound, VFX, producing, planning, scheduling, shooting, finishing... all that stuff. We have a phenomenal team, and find that being in the same environment, working with the same people five days a week makes us better at what we do. I still work as a freelance director as well, but have yet to find the amount of success, on-set and in post, that I see here at Retrospec.
What sort of videos do you make?
Jason: I would say we spend about 60% of our time doing TV commercials and about 40% doing non-traditional forms of video – that may be product videos, online videos, internal communications, web series. We did a television pitch series last year, and are getting ready to do a music video at the moment – we produce a wide range of work.
But it’s mostly advertising based, videos created to further the growth of a business in some way shape or form, primarily for television. We are definitely growing, it seems like everyone wants us to do something right now.
What defines success for you and your clients?
Jason: Success for us is success for our clients. On a more personal level, I see success being measured in two ways. One is ‘artistic success’, based on creating great work. I just finished working on a motion picture and the objective for that is art, story, character development, great locations, and ultimately making a movie that people really want to watch. Looking at something and saying “it’s beautiful, it feels right, it sounds right, it moves people, it changes how you see something”, that to me is one form of success.
The second form of success is when our clients feel the impact of the concepts that we create. When we come up with a TV campaign for a business and they say “we did $3 million in extra business as a direct response from that campaign”, that’s success.
Why did you start using Wipster?
Josh Tackett (Motion designer + VFX + Editor): We’re always looking for cool new tools and when Nathan sent me a link to Wipster, I was like “wow!”. It was a solution to a problem I didn't quite realise I had until that moment, so I had to try it, it just made so much sense. So I got everyone using it, starting with some small projects to see what it was like and how it would affect our workflow
We loved it so much that we now use Wipster for every single project, which is about 20–50 per week. All revisions are communicated through Wipster, even if we’re working in the same office. It’s too messy doing it face-to-face and can lead to mis-communication and time wasting. I know that when I comment in Wipster there is no question about what I’m talking about, or what frame or version I'm looking at.
How has your workflow changed since you started using Wipster?
Nathan Groves (Producer + Project manager + Assistant director): It’s been simplified. Everybody knows where to upload video, look for changes, how to get it to a client – we even know when the client has looked at it. Before Wipster everything was spread out, using Vimeo, Dropbox, email, Wetransfer, or other shared services, but now with Wipster it's become a really simple process, and that’s what really caught my eye, the simplicity of it.
Some clients are technologically unadvanced and yet they can still use Wipster. Offering great customer service means giving your clients a voice, showing you care, and allowing them to be involved in the creative process, and Wipster gives them that voice.
We have some clients who love to be incredibly hands on. Ten years ago it was common for an ad agency to come in and supervise every edit session, with the art director, creative director, copywriter… all sitting there behind the editor while he’s trying to work. That’s fine, but in this day and age where everybody wants things done faster and cheaper, there often isn't the time or money to allow that. So if we can make our clients feel like they still get the customer service level of sitting in our editing suite, without actually having to be here, then we just get more work done, quicker.
What do you do to stay inspired?
Jason: I’m an avid outdoorsman and feel like most of my inspiration comes from nature and through seeing and experiencing new things. I travel a lot, spending time shooting in big cities, and always try to get out by myself, roam around and explore new places. Things that make me think differently help me to write and come up with new ideas.
I’ve always been someone who comes up with ideas in my head, rather than look to copy what other people are doing. I watch films all the time; I have all my favourites, and definitely pull some inspiration from that, but when I look for inspiration in other people’s work I prefer to look at people who are way beyond us, like what the best filmmakers in Hollywood are doing, rather than the competitors down the street. I think think that kind of attitude keeps us trying new things and pushing for excellence.
What advice would you give to video producers just starting out?
Jason: Commitment to excellence is number one. So many people want to be in film production but when it really comes down to it they don't want to write a script for three hours, then get told it sucks and rewrite the whole thing, then make a storyboard, get told it sucks and redraw the whole thing, then pick a location… [laughs]. I can joke about it because when I first got into this business, that’s what it was like. It was just me, just like any other guy with a camera trying to do something. I was scared, I had to do everything I could because there are other people out there fighting for the same jobs.
There are just so many elements that go into being successful in film production that if you are dedicated and talented and strive for excellence you will have no trouble being tremendously successful.
That would be my greatest encouragement, to just push for excellence and to push yourself.
Excellent advice. Thanks, Jason, Josh and Nathan, it's been great chatting with you guys and learning more about Retrospec Films. Keep pushing for excellence and we look forward to catching up again soon.