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Inside View: Back Alley Films

Tyler Smith 
Producer, Back Alley Films
Kansas City, Missouri • www.backalleyfilms.com

by Christine Bunish

Tyler Smith, Back Alley Films

Markee: Back Alley Films launched in 2008, a challenging time for all production companies with the recession and a changing media landscape.

Mr.Smith: "Traditional media began to change and more money was allocated to interactive, while broadcast budgets continued to shrink. Competition between production companies became increasingly more so. Add in the great recession and you were facing the hardest time our industry has ever seen.

"We knew that opening Back Alley Films during this time would prove to be a great challenge, but partnered with our sister postproduction company T2 we had an advantage going in. Being able to offer a cohesive workflow from production through post, all within the same creative workspace, opens up great creative synergy with our clients. When working with clients who ask us to bid a job through post, we get T2 involved from the initial treatment stage with our directors. It assures our clients that their project is going to be well executed in as efficient a manner as possible on both ends, and I think they really appreciate that. Our directors like it too: The more we can offer in terms of creative solutions the better. Our directors combine a wide array of talents that we like to tap into for any given concept, whether it be writing, music, photography or simply acting as a creative director to help concept."

Markee: How is this new director's model reflected in your talent roster?

Mr.Smith: "The directors who continue to stay busy in this industry are those who are able to think between the lines. The directors we represent understand all the media components involved in a campaign; they get involved early and take ownership of the production. They find being more involved in the creative process is very rewarding.

"Our directors are a good match for all kinds of agencies that have started to surge these days. These agencies are not built on traditional broadcast but on a more creative approach; they're starting to land projects instead of just large commercial accounts."

Markee: Does Kansas City offer a particularly strong creative and technical base for your directors?

Mr. Smith: "Historically Kansas City has always been one of the top advertising markets. We have some large corporations here like Hallmark and Sprint. There are many fantastic agencies here: Bernstein-Rein, VML, Barkley, and we have really good relationships with them. Kansas City has always had exceptional, experienced crews, great production support from our local vendors, gear, stages, and ideal location options. It's a very production-savvy and friendly market to work in."

Markee: What projects are on Back Alley's reel these days?

Mr.Smith: "Director/DP Joshua Reis just wrapped a commercial for Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Keller Crescent/Evansville, Indiana which we shot on location in Memphis at the Germantown Commissary barbecue restaurant. Joshua also shot a web video 'itour' of the new SAP website for VML. It features live action captured with the RED camera on a set we built inside Union Station here in Kansas City. T2 did all the post, combining additional stock imagery with motion graphics.

"We also worked with director/DP Michael Dali on a spot for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas City from Hickerson Wahaus. Michael used the new Canon 7D DSLR camera, and it worked out great. T2 did all the post for this spot as well."

Markee: What's the business outlook for the rest of this year?

Mr.Smith: "The first two months of 2010 were a world of difference compared to the same time last year. Production has picked up dramatically with agencies in Kansas City, and we're starting to see that on a national level, too. Interactive video will be more prevalent this year, but TV is making a resurgence as well.

"It feels like Back Alley Films has weathered the storm by being lean and creative and by focusing on where the industry is headed and embracing that."