Outside Madison Square Garden in New York City, filmmaker Steve Janas gazes intently at the LCD on his Sony MiniDV camera, ignoring the frigid winter winds that blow around him. His business partner Jesper Olsson and journalist Lavinia DeCastro, who will be doing the voiceover for this particular project, stand nearby, seeking shelter against the cold. The trio are creating a commercial for the travel website Orbitz.com; one of seven. And this is their crew; No trucks, no trailers. Just three creative minds and a camera.
Janas and Olsson’s production company Reelstuff Entertainment got the job through TurnHere, Inc., an online video company that sponsors and posts short commercial and documentary film content online. It’s an arrangement that allows them to pursue film making full-time.
“They probably account for half of what I do,” says Janas. TurnHere gives Reelstuff regular jobs yielding a steady stream of income and an opportunity to practice their craft in a businesslike setting. Their favorite project so far was in Reykjavik, Iceland, where they visited the luxurious Blue Lagoon resort. TurnHere maintains a roster of several hundred other filmmakers just like Steve Janas, all creating documentary and commercial content.
Janas, Olsson and DeCastro are here in New York to capture what Orbitz.com refers to as “West Mid-town.” Everything they need to shoot is within walking distance, so they don’t have schlep the tripod and camera equipment around in a cab. Still, it’s a cold Sunday. The previous day’s glimpse of spring has somehow evaporated during the night.
After shooting the exterior of Madison Square Garden, they move on to Herald Square and get some footage outside Macy’s department store. They’ve taken notes about what to shoot from Wikipedia.
They make their way up Seventh Avenue, also known as Fashion Avenue. DeCastro begins looking for a Starbucks and is perplexed that they have discovered one of the few stretches of road in Manhattan where the ubiquitous coffee chain is noticeably absent. Meanwhile, Janas shoots more b-roll footage.
Further up Seventh Avenue, DeCastro inevitably finds her Starbucks and leaves for a moment. The wind is unusually strong today. As DeCastro returns, Janas captures some more footage of her walking back towards them on the other side of the street, a nice hot coffee in her hands.
TurnHere films try to capture the true feel of a place. “It’s be there before you get there,” says TurnHere founder Brad Inman. “Pictures have got credibility because it’s real. Especially our style: local narrator, local people, real people. It’s not experts standing on top saying ‘this is where to go.'”
Longer infomercial-type video advertising is a growing force on the Web, especially for localized advertising, according to a recent report from local media consultancy Borrell Associates, which predicts the local online video ad industry could be worth $5 billion by 2012.