How a COVID-19 campaign unveiled the caliber of Fort Wayne film talent

Over the past several weeks, you may have seen films circulating on local television or social media, urging residents to wear masks and take COVID-19 precautions as part of the City of Fort Wayne’s Defend the Fort campaign.

Thanks to CARES Act funding, the City had resources to create COVID-19 films, and it took an unconventional approach to the task: Hiring four local production companies for the job and giving each the freedom to share the message their own way.

While COVID-19 messaging will ideally be short-lived, filmmakers on the project hope the collaborative, creative spirit of this campaign becomes the "new norm" in Fort Wayne. They also hope that more local businesses and organizations will hire film talent from within the local market before sending jobs out of state.

We sat down with Lofthouse, Anchor Films, Blacklight Media, and PUNCH Films to talk about their unique creative visions for the Defend the Fort campaign and their hopes for the future of Fort Wayne’s film scene.

 

Lofthouse

"The old mindset of looking outside of Fort Wayne for quality content needs to go."

-Brendon Voglewede


The Lofthouse team, from left, include: Aaron Voglewede, Brendon Voglewede, and Demi Brunner.

Tell us about yourself.

We are a creative company, specializing in humanizing brands through video production and branded content. We believe the best way to tell a story is through real people and their experiences.

How long has your company been in Fort Wayne?

Lofthouse opened its first Fort Wayne office in January 2017.

Location and size of your team.

Wells Street Corridor. Our team fluctuates in size, but we typically have five to 10 team members.

Behind the scenes with Lofthouse.

What makes you excited to work in Fort Wayne, of all places?

Building our company in Fort Wayne has been a real blessing to say the least. What makes Fort Wayne special is how quickly the community embraced us. To have built a brand like Lofthouse in such a short period of time is really a testament to how this community rallies behind passionate people.

When we first entered this market, we were one of only a handful of “video focused” companies. It felt as if Fort Wayne was overdue for a fresh and youthful approach to creative content, and we assumed that lane without ever looking back. Our timing really couldn’t have been any better.

Behind the scenes with Lofthouse.

As a creative person in Fort Wayne, what community resources or assets have you found helpful over the years?

The most beneficial resource Fort Wayne has to offer is its people. We’ve had so many incredible people in this community elevate our brand by allowing us inside their circle. Coming in as outsiders and starting a business from scratch can be intimidating, especially in an industry that didn’t have much of a presence when we first started.

How do you find the people who need your service? How do you educate people on why your service is valuable to them?

Thankfully a lot of these questions were answered through our network. A lot of great people helped us connect the dots. The relationships that have ensued have been fruitful, not only from a business perspective, but personally, as well. A lot of people we work with have become part of our Fort Wayne story, and it’s really taken on a sort of family vibe. I think that’s unique to a city like Fort Wayne, and we’re happy to be a part of it.

Give us a brief overview of your films for the Defend the Fort campaign.

If you’re familiar with the “Lofthouse look” you know we focus on the human element in our storytelling first and foremost. When the City of Fort Wayne approached us looking for concepts for this campaign, we started by taking inventory of the people in this community we know who’ve personally been impacted by COVID-19. From there, we were able to narrow down our options and build a consistent theme for the campaign.

Our first piece featured a high-risk, elderly gentlemen we knew was experiencing a lot more difficulties navigating his daily life. Knowing COVID-19 is much more dangerous for the elderly, we wanted to really build off this. Throughout the past year, we’ve heard a lot of younger people make statements about COVID-19 “just being dangerous for old people,” and unfortunately, it kind of desensitized the terrifying reality many elderly people face. So we really wanted to provide an intimate look into the life of an elderly person using their own words.


 

Our second piece highlighted one of our favorite local establishments, Trubble Brewing. Knowing the food/beverage industry has been dealt a pretty tough hand due to COVID-19, we wanted to highlight the reality the industry has faced. The piece begins with a beautiful snowfall outside the brewery as Chad Hankee reflects on how it feels to walk through the brewery and see people enjoying their establishment, pre-COVID. We then take a hard transition to contemporary times as Chad’s wife, Kelli, is prepping an outdoor globe while talking about potentially losing their livelihood, which is the sobering reality many breweries face.


 

Our third piece highlights a local family navigating COVID-19. As the rock of the family, Mom, is high risk with diabetes and also late in the pregnancy of her second child. The piece was filmed in the family’s living room as they play with their young daughter while being narrated by the Dad talking about the anxieties of having a high-risk wife and mother of his child. We felt many people were overlooking what “high-risk” actually looks like. Again, the idea that COVID-19 only affects old people was a topic we wanted to address by showing an intimate look into the lives of a local young family.


 

Our fourth and final piece is rather unique. During the onset of the pandemic, our Creative Director made the decision to go out in the community and highlight what was happening as most Americans were on lockdown. What ensued was weeks worth of uplifting footage. He was able to capture Three Rivers Distilling Co. converting from spirits to hand sanitizer, food pantries staying open as others closed, local restaurants compiling resources to take care of furloughed workers and their families, and more inspiring material. We decided to recycle this footage to show the community what was happening behind closed doors March-June in hopes of creating a rallying cry to motivate the community to now do their part by wearing masks.


 

What about this project excited you or made you want to participate?

The fact that this project was a collective of companies that typically operate as competitors in this market, coming together, to rally the community was pretty special. While Fort Wayne may not receive the national attention for our creative community like other cities do, there’s certainly not a lack of talent in this market. This campaign was representative of what this creative community is capable of. It was a real joy to see how everyone took the task at a moment’s notice and each created pieces unique to their style yet consistent in messaging. This may be the first time a project such as this has happened, but hopefully not the last.

Behind the scenes with Lofthouse.

At a time when creatives might be feeling drained from the pandemic and racial unrest in our country, what has kept you inspired to keep creating during this time?

Exactly that.

Seriously though, as creatives we draw inspiration from the world around us. For us, we take pride in being aware of what’s happening in our community and use it as fuel for creating. When we look around at our neighbors on the Wells Corridor, it’s really representative of what Fort Wayne is all about. We see people of all backgrounds, affiliations, ages, aspirations and walks of life.

We don’t want to just operate in this city; we want to be a part of this community. So when tasked with a creative challenge, we’ll choose to highlight the real people going through whatever situation is at hand, instead of faking it. We want everyone to feel included in the work we do, and there’s no better way to do that then invite them to participate using their own voice and stories.

Any words of advice to other creatives in Fort Wayne right now?

Don’t worry about likes and views. As creatives, it’s easy to get caught up in metrics. We may even create our own personal value based on those same metrics. But don’t; it’s all a show.

Create the content you wished others were creating here. Before we started Lofthouse we used to joke about some of the cringy local TV spots that had been airing throughout our childhood. We understood that was a product of the past, and we had the opportunity to create the product of the future. So again, if you look around and it feels like you have something unique to offer the community, run with it. Fort Wayne is a great place for passionate people to build something.

Behind the scenes with Lofthouse.

Looking to the future, what could take Fort Wayne’s film scene to the next level?

More collaboration and community support. Unfortunately, we frequently get requests from video companies/agencies in larger markets like Chicago, LA, and NYC looking to rent our space, equipment or wanting our day rates to film their clients, which happen to be local Fort Wayne businesses.

The old mindset of looking outside of Fort Wayne for quality content needs to go. Fort Wayne is ripe with creative talent. Unfortunately, we still see a lot of this talent go elsewhere. If we can shift the narrative about Fort Wayne’s capabilities, we can start retaining more of our homegrown creatives. Whether it be through Lofthouse or one of our competitors, quality creative content can be achieved right here in the 260.

What’s next for your team in 2021?

You’re going to see Lofthouse start creating more content outside of advertisements. We’ve staked a claim humanizing brands with our work, which we’ll always continue to do. However, we’ve crossed paths with some intriguing people and feel there’s a lot of opportunity to experiment with creating content for entertainment.

As a team, we’ve been intrigued by the prospect of creating long-form documentary content like “The Last Dance”, “Making a Murderer”, “Wormwood”, etc. The term docu-series is brought up frequently around our studio and our Creative Director is pretty adamant about pursuing a few of the ideas the community has brought our way. Hopefully, we’ll see some of these ideas come to life in 2021.

Where can locals follow your work?

https://vimeo.com/lofthousefilms

 

 

Blacklight Media

“Eliminate the gatekeepers, and instead become gate-openers.”
-DJ E-Clyps

 

DJ E-ClypsTell us about yourself.

Blacklight Media was born out of a need that many minority businesses and community-based organizations here locally spend so much time saving and planning just to start their venture, but never consider now that venture must be marketed to the masses. So what we do is sit down with the client to find out what they do, and then find the best way to put together a campaign to tell that story in a powerful way.

Whether that’s in the form of video content, photography, or a strategic marketing push: The goal is to put them in a position to gain maximum visibility, which hopefully, leads to more business. Another thing that we do is projects we feel passionate about that tells stories we feel are overlooked by the primary media, such as the news and print.

How long has your company been in Fort Wayne?

The concept of Blacklight Media started around 2018. It’s a relatively new venture as it is evolving from simply being a photography- and video-based company into more of a marketing agency, as well. So, it would be safe to say Blacklight Media as an agency is still in its first year.

Location and size of your team:

Blacklight Media is based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In terms of a team, I do the majority of the work on my own for now, but teams are built on a per-project basis, depending on the scope and size of the project. We have a solid crew of creatives that we implement based on that. To have a full-fledged staff on hand would require a building, working capital, and a steady client base to keep them actively working, so for the time being, it’s a pretty skeleton operation that emphasizes quality and maximum impact in anything Blacklight Media takes on.


 

What makes you excited to be doing this work in Fort Wayne, of all places?

Simply put: There is a need for it. Blacklight Media is a black-owned company, which in the agency realm here is highly under-represented. Too many times agencies are hired to make content that appeals to Black & BIPOC audiences, and most often they don’t have the personal connection to those communities to fully understand how to reach them. It’s deeper than looking up numbers and statistics…. Do you really know them?

It’s much more intricate than that, but most often agencies are hired who don’t know these audiences, and to be honest, in some cases: Don’t know the city. So what works in Nashville or other markets may not necessarily work here. There is no cookie cutter approach to it. But that’s the strategy many implement.

There are talented creatives here, and the reason they move is because they’re not properly utilized, so they go elsewhere. Fort Wayne is a great city, and the sooner Fort Wayne begins to recognize their own homegrown talent, the faster we will grow as a community.


 

As a creative person in Fort Wayne, what community resources or assets have you found helpful over the years?

Honestly speaking? None… prior to the protests last year. After the protests, many companies and people began looking for the Black Creative to align themselves with to say “Look, we’re all about diversity!”… as if these creatives haven’t been here most of their lives, if not all of their lives. I think organizations like Hyper Local Impact helped change that. I think also Black Creatives getting noticed on national platforms forced that change, as well, because now we’re not simply relying on the city to finally acknowledge we’re here; the world now knows we’re here.

Most resources here locally have been locked behind closed doors and gatekeepers. If you weren’t a part of those circles, you didn’t know which resources and assets were available. To meet certain people who could help you, that required a bunch of flaming hoops and hurdles that were set up to keep you boxed out. We were considered after the fact, and usually, by the time that came, the resources were already depleted and allocated. This shouldn’t be. So in all honesty, our best resources as Black Creatives has been the resilience to push forward despite the obstacles with a determination to get to where we needed to go: Help or no help

Give us a brief overview of your films for the Defend the Fort campaign. What about this project excited you or made you want to participate?

This pandemic has affected everyone, especially in the Black & Brown community. So for me, this started as a passion project. It was a project I started on my own prior to the Defend The Fort Campaign in order to raise awareness, and help people in my community take Covid-19 seriously, while showing real-world examples of how it affected people in our city.

For these films, I wanted to feature stories that hit closer to home than just looking at the overall numbers in the city numbers and dismissing it. I think the Defend The Fort Campaign was needed, and still is… as we are looking to be dealing with this for longer than anyone may have thought. It is real, and we as a community need to take it seriously, not just for ourselves, but for all who are around us.

At a time when creatives might be feeling drained from the pandemic and racial unrest in our country, what has kept you inspired to keep creating during this time?

Knowing that what we create speaks to people and also speaks for those who cannot. Not everyone has the opportunity to have their voices heard, and I say that often in every interview because it’s true. Not everyone gets the opportunity to use a platform for good and to keep the momentum of change moving forward, so even if one feels drained… the bigger purpose fuels you. As creatives, we’ve been given that opportunity, to tell these stories, to stir emotions, to spark conversations, and keep issues that normally would have faded by now in the forefront of peoples’ minds.

That is what keeps you creative, and honestly, makes you even more creative. It’s kind of the thing you were preparing for all along and didn’t realize it fully until you were in the midst of it. Creatives have been the voices of every moving moment in history whether it has been by song, photo, film, art, or spoken word since the beginning. In a sense: It is our job to do so. Even in our periods of fatigue, we can be that motivation that keeps someone else motivated even when they don’t want to… and when you think about it: That’s a pretty dope job to have.

Any words of advice to other creatives in Fort Wayne right now?

Stay creating, but also take time to breathe. Surround yourself with people who you can talk to and draw strength from—and give strength to them as well. Even when doors look shut, know that they will open if you stay the course. For every door that closes, one opens. Also, know that all you need to do is influence or impact one person, and that person leads to two, and so on. In the age of social media, it’s easy to get discouraged when it seems like it’s not catching on, but it will if you work comes from your heart, and not from simply seeking hype.

Looking to the future, what could take Fort Wayne’s film scene to the next level?

Fort Wayne needs to embrace the power of collaboration, and cast a wider net when looking to work with others, and sometimes that means with people outside your normal circle. Outside of your race. Outside of the familiar. I’ve been blessed to work with companies and meet people I’ve never worked with before, and seeing what can be accomplished together without looking at each other as competition has been encouraging. I think the film scene would benefit from more true mentorships and less “competitions.” More creative spaces. More access to funding for projects that would speak to the masses. Eliminate the gatekeepers, and instead become gate-openers. I think the city would be amazed on how fast we’d grow.

What’s next for your team in 2021?

Who knows… today isn’t over yet. However, anyone who’s interested in providing funding or grants to further the work, by all means contact me. There’s a lot to be done, but it takes accessibility to resources in order to do it.

Where can locals follow your work?

www.blacklightmediafw.com

www.Instagram.com/blacklightmediafw

www.facebook.com/blacklightmediafw

And the new book ‘Voices’ is available now at Barnes & Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/voices-dj-e-clyps/1138417222
 


Anchor Films

"We believe people breaking out of their silos and collaborating more within the industry would help take things to the next level."
-Matt Ayers


Ayers

Tell us about yourself.

Anchor is a full-service visual production company that works with regional and national brands throughout the Midwest. We provide a range of services, including filmmaking, animation, and commercial photography, and we help brands differentiate themselves. Ad agencies and businesses hire us to refine their ideas, craft compelling narratives, and share their message in succinct, memorable ways. Sometimes, that means we’re shooting TV commercials, and other times, it’s an ad campaign for digital placement.

How long has your company been in Fort Wayne?

Anchor was founded in 2012. We had a loft-style space downtown for seven years, and recently moved into a new, more functional studio. It has 20-foot ceilings and a large cyc wall, so we can shoot everything from vehicles to product to lifestyle imagery.

Behind the scenes with Anchor Films.

Location and size of your team.

Our studio is located near Washington Center and Coldwater Road. We have three employees, and a team of five to 10 freelancers. For larger productions, we scale up and have 15-20 crew members on set.

What makes you excited to work in Fort Wayne, of all places?

Fort Wayne is unique in that it has many big city amenities while being a fairly small city, so it’s a perfect place to own a business and raise a family. And while much of our work is local, we’re still close enough to large markets that we’ve been able to develop relationships with national brands, like Ford and Schlage.

Behind the scenes with Anchor Films.

As a creative person in Fort Wayne, what community resources or assets have you found helpful over the years?

Connecting with other business owners through GFW has been helpful and meeting with other creatives through events, like CreativeMornings, has been encouraging. One of the most important resources we’ve had as a small business has been our bank––1st Source. They’ve offered guidance and support to Anchor from the beginning, and we truly appreciate their partnership.

Give us a brief overview of your films for the Defend the Fort campaign.

We knew many people (us included) were tired of seeing COVID related ads, so when we were dreaming up ideas, we worked really hard to come up with fresh takes on masking up. And we felt that leaning more heavily on strong visuals, a minimalistic script, and playing to the audience’s emotions would be stronger than trying to convince them to mask up through a lengthier voiceover or gimmicky idea.

The first spot speaks to how COVID-19 has changed the way we gather. It showcases eight iconic locations that are part of the fabric of Fort Wayne––places that have been mostly empty since the beginning of the pandemic. At each location we placed an individual alone in the environment, drawing attention to places we miss and encouraging everyone to do their part and mask up, to help get life back to normal.


 

The second spot was much more lighthearted. It was shot in-studio on colorful backdrops and shows a variety of people wearing various forms of protective equipment––things that may be uncomfortable or inconvenient, and yet, things we don’t think twice about wearing––oven mitts, a hardhat, and sunscreen, for example. It ends with three people donning a mask and the voiceover says, “Protection. It just makes sense.” Our hope is to help people rethink their perception of masks. Yeah, they’re uncomfortable and inconvenient, but if they protect us and others, then, it just makes sense.



 

What about this project excited you or made you want to participate?

Working on a project like this is much different than helping a corporate business sell more “widgets.” It’s very fulfilling knowing our ads could truly help keep our community more safe and get life back to normal more quickly. And working with the City of Fort Wayne was a true pleasure. We pitched our ideas and then had full creative freedom to execute them. That autonomy was incredible and also put the onus on us to deliver great spots. And the timeline––just a few weeks from concept to delivery––made it an incredible challenge and loads of fun.

At a time when creatives might be feeling drained from the pandemic and racial unrest in our country, what has kept you inspired to keep creating during this time?

Initially, the pandemic and shutdown was a bit overwhelming and frustrating. But after accepting that this would be an odd year for business, it actually became liberating. We’ve been fortunate to stay busy with work and yet have also had time to explore personal projects and rethink what type of work we want to pursue. A studio renovation, time to reflect on our aspirations, and unique film/photo projects has kept us inspired.

Behind the scenes with Anchor Films.

Any words of advice to other creatives in Fort Wayne right now?

COVID-19 has forced us to recalibrate as a business. It’s changed the way we pursue new clients as well as create content. It’s easy to be frustrated, but embracing these changes and accepting the new reality has truly helped. And carving out time to create personal work has been incredibly fulfilling.

Looking to the future, what could take Fort Wayne’s film scene to the next level?

Unlike larger cities, Fort Wayne doesn’t have a huge film scene, and as a result, it seems like a lot of people in the industry work in silos. More industry support (like a large gear rental house or studio rentals) would help, but more than anything, we believe people breaking out of their silos and collaborating more within the industry would help take things to the next level.

What’s next for your team in 2021?

We have a lot of new work coming out soon we’re excited about and are stoked to be shooting lots of new content in the studio in 2021. And we’ve been working with some new technologies this past year and are excited to continue doing so––specifically 360 VR video and audio––creating immersive experiences for brands.

Where can locals follow your work?

@anchorfilms

www.anchorfilms.com

 

 


PUNCH Films

"Creativity is a core ingredient to solving the issues of our time."
-Derek Devine
Devine

Tell us about yourself.

We are a production company that creates and produces digital content, from animation to commercials to cinema. We collaborate with agencies, businesses, not for profits and individuals to imagine, and craft custom productions that meet the unique requirements of every project. We take pride in the team’s wide skillset and experience. We have the creative and technical depth to properly address a diverse range of conceptual challenges.

How long has your company been in Fort Wayne?

PUNCH started in 2005 (15 years ago).

Location and size of your team.

We are located in the old Colwell General building on 6th and Harrison. It’s a neat, old loft-style building built in the 1800s. It’s 43,000 square-feet with a 60-foot cyc wall, edit suites, podcast stage, and lots of space to host events and unique filming needs.

It’s also a great work environment to social distance. We have eight team members that include producers, animators, editors and cinematographers.

Behind the scenes at PUNCH Films.

What makes you excited to work in Fort Wayne, of all places?

Fort Wayne is a very film-friendly town. It’s easy to move around, park, obtain location permissions. There is a great collaborative spirit in our city that makes producing film very rewarding. We’re also well situated in the hub of all the great Midwest cities. We’ve been successful attracting clients and conducting work in many of our neighboring cities.

As a creative person in Fort Wayne, what community resources or assets have you found helpful over the years?

I highly value our arts community. I’m excited to see it continue to grow. I appreciate the improvements to downtown. We’ve had clients from out of town really enjoy the new sights and sounds.

Give us a brief overview of your films for the Defend the Fort campaign.

We created three concepts: One concept was a playful interchange between TinCaps Johnny mascot and some well-meaning/slightly over the top teens.


We produced a series of interviews with frontline health professionals to hear first-hand their thoughts on the importance of mask-wearing. Finally, we reached out to some area photographers and asked them to capture a diversity of concerned community members wearing masks. It was intended to be a thank-you for supporting the cause of wearing masks in this pandemic.


 

What about this project excited you or made you want to participate?

Wearing masks is very important to me. I immediately became a mask wearer. My initial thought on the matter of masks was to support healthcare professionals who I view as our “soldiers” in this war on the pandemic. We, non-healthcare professionals, need to do everything we can to support them, and wearing a mask is a really simple and easy way to show them that we value what they do, that we are heeding their advice, and making an effort to support the wellbeing of our community.

Many others need this support, as well: Grocery store clerks, public officials, friends, and colleagues, especially those at risk. Making a commercial was an opportunity to help encourage more of that support, especially among many who are well intended, but are maybe getting tired of the effort after so many months.

At a time when creatives might be feeling drained from the pandemic and racial unrest in our country, what has kept you inspired to keep creating during this time?

Escape. And a good escape at that.

There are so many issues that concern us right now. There are many issues that we need to wrestle with and address, but at the same time, we can’t allow ourselves to be dragged down. In the same way we try to exercise and eat well to protect our bodies from life’s physical burdens, we need to keep our minds sharp and refreshed. Creative activity is sometimes viewed as one of life’s electives—optional, when there’s enough time and no distraction.

I see creative activity as a vital exercise for our mind. When we have to process big, new realities, an actively creative mind can engage with these thoughts in a constructive manner. I’ve personally used creativity to push back on the temptation to consume copious amounts of bad news. I don’t suggest we hide from the news, but we need to balance the mind’s diet to find our way to respond to challenges put forth.

Behind the scenes with PUNCH Films.

Any words of advice to other creatives in Fort Wayne right now?

Keep creating. Show up every day, and keep striving to be the best you can be. Know that creativity is a core ingredient to solving the issues of our time. Just look at the words people like to throw around. Pivot. Innovate. Think outside the box. Paradigm shift. These are just fancy ways of saying: Be creative.

Looking to the future, what could take Fort Wayne’s film scene to the next level?

A bigger, better PUNCH! I’m kidding. I will let PUNCH take us where PUNCH will take us. I think that if Fort Wayne desires a next-level film scene, we need to encourage filmmakers and engage with the talented story-makers in our midst.

Every film starts with a story, which can only be written by hand. Technology and gadgetry come later in the process. No ideas? No script? No film. And not to be harsh, but quality is important here, and that requires a solid vetting process.

What’s next for your team in 2021?

It’s going to be an unpredictable year, which makes it hard to plan. I had some audacious plans in 2019 that I’ve had to table in 2020. I’m dusting those off in 2021. If I can act on some of them, I will, but at the very least I will use 2021 to proof out future plans, build my network of consultants and continue to meet new people and create opportunities.

In short while 2021 swirls around us, I will be using the environment to test new ideas.

Where can locals follow your work?

On our Facebook page and our website www.punchfilms.com.


 

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
Signup for Email Alerts