MarTechSeries: Interview with David Mason, CEO and Founder, StudioNow

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Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What made you start StudioNow?

I have been an entrepreneur for the past 25 years. Along the way, I have dabbled with having a normal job here or there, but always found that my passion was to create ideas and companies from scratch. My key ingredients have always been to identify a large-scale trend (internet retail, WiFi communications, digital video, etc.) and then create a new business model for that industry that utilized technology to disrupt the status quo. I started one of the first internet bookstores in 1994, which later became Buy.com, which was then sold to Rakuten. I started StudioNow in 2007 because I was taking a ton of birthday and vacation pictures of my five- and two-year-olds at the time and never got around to doing anything cool with that content. While thousands of these pictures and videos were clogging up my hard drive other and more experienced individuals with film school backgrounds and editing software were uploading funny and entertaining videos to YouTube and generating millions of views. My original idea was to create a marketplace where less experienced individuals (people like me) could be matched with video experts to turn their pictures and videos into something that was worth watching. StudioNow 1.0 was born and on the first day, we had about 80 video professionals sign up to be part of the StudioNow Creative Network. Fast forward to today, and we now have over 10,000 creative vendors from mom and pop creative shops to some of the largest, high-end production companies in the world. We stopped making video content for individuals in 2008 and our software platform now manages the video creation process (vendor sourcing, bidding, project management, contracting, payment, etc.) for some of the largest companies in the world, including Coca-Cola, P&G, HP, Bridgestone, etc.

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Creative Network Story: Asher Warren

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Asher Warren, Creative Director at Franc, tells us how he finds success in taking on creative challenges, how he works hand in hand with his clients, and the rewards of simplifying complicated messages with beautiful direction and animation.

StudioNow: Where do you call home? 

Asher Warren: The short answer is Maryland. The long answer is that I was born and grew up overseas, went to college in Tennessee, and then moved to Maryland.

StudioNow: What do you do?

Asher Warren: I am a creative director / art director / animator. I launched my animation studio, Franc, this year with my business partner and fellow animator. We’re a small shop so I have to be a bit of a jack of all trades.

StudioNow: How did you get started in film and video production?

Asher Warren: I was fascinated by film directing growing up. I watch the “Making Of” DVD extras over and over again. I think I watched the extra features on the Star Wars movies more than I watched the movies themselves. In college, my focus was film production and I spent a semester in Los Angeles interning for a studio. I had always dabbled in stop motion animation but hadn’t really given much thought to it beyond it being a fun side project.

After college I was worked as a video editor. One of the projects needed some more traditional character animation so I volunteered to learn the software and give it a shot. I immediately fell in love with animation and have been doing it ever since.

StudioNow: When given a blank canvas, what’s your creative approach with a new project?

Asher Warren: A true blank canvas is an invitation to failure. Having parameters help guide us to success.

Every project has to begin with a lot of questions. I think too often creatives discount the contributions of their clients but it is vital to remember that not only does the work you’re creating belong to them (they pay you!), but they understand their business and the audience you’re communicating to. They live and breathe the content. When a client feels that you’re listening and that you value their contributions, they will trust you in return. There has to be a dialogue back and forth. I like to share images and videos that I think can help inspire the direction we ultimately go in, and possibly spark ideas from the client side. When we act as a team, we’re more likely to both walk away happy with the result.

StudioNow: Share with us your most recent/favorite piece of work. How is it reflective of your style and what about it are you most proud of?

Asher Warren: The project I’m most proud of at the moment is the new brand film for our company Franc. I think this is most reflective of our style in that it embraces so many different approaches. It also demonstrates where we want Franc’s work to go in terms of tone, pacing, and level of animation. I love the rhythm and flow of the piece. We were really careful to think through pacing; adding pauses in dialogue and music to help bring out the right impact for each vignette. Those quiet moments can be even more important than the loud wiz bang.

Check out some of Warren’s videos

StudioNow: What would you say sets you apart from others in your field?

Asher Warren: I think it’s a combination of two things: an ability to learn quickly and an appreciation for strategic thinking. In my previous role as a creative director in an agency setting, strategic thinking was paramount. It’s given me an ability to see how animation can be used to address problems and when it’s going to provide the most bang for the client’s buck. I like to dive deep into our clients content and messaging—they can’t send me too much relevant information. Sometimes my favorite projects are the ones with the most technical information. The challenge of finding creative and entertaining ways to simplify and communicate complex ideas is really rewarding to me.

StudioNow: If you could tell your story through your work, how would you?

Asher Warren: I don’t do a lot of introspection but I might say that my work reflects my desire to tackle new challenges and experiences. I’m always looking for ways to learn new techniques and my work reflects that desire to constantly be growing and evolving as a person and creative. The work I do for clients is my creative outlet so I’m not holding back my creative ideas to use on some personal project.

StudioNow: What/who inspires you?

Asher Warren: It’s a cliche but I’m most inspired by travel. A new setting helps to reset my brain. I try to stay in one place for an extended period so I can get a taste of what it’s like to live there, rather than just snap some pictures of all the tourist sights in a day. The food is also pretty important, if not the most important element of travel. One of the most formative moments in my life was a tiny restaurant in Rome, basically located in this one man’s living room. There’s no menu—you just eat what he cooks and you drink whatever he pours you, all while his dog hangs out under your table. Those are the kinds of memories I draw from when my batteries feel low and I need inspiration.

StudioNow: What other forms of media and art do you draw inspiration from? Art, design, fashion, architecture, music, etc.

Asher Warren: The majority of my inspiration comes from the work of other illustrators and animators. I think that animators are really pushing the boundaries of video and are creating an entirely new film language. I am not ashamed to say that I try to soak up as much as I can of other people’s ideas to create my own work. If I’m not working on a specific project, I’m watching videos, pinning illustrations, taking screenshots, reading blogs, and writing notes. On the more eclectic side, I take a lot of inspiration from drag queens. A few years back, my brother and his wife introduced me and my wife to RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s the perfect mix of so many art forms: the creativity to develop unique costumes and personas; amazing performances, and genuinely inspiring personal stories. It’s creativity combined with really entertaining television. I will actually be going to RuPaul’s Drag Con in New York in September, so be on the lookout for animated projects inspired by that. If you want some real inspiration, look up KimChi—she is animation brought to life.

StudioNow: What’s next for you?

Asher Warren: I’m really at the very beginning of a new chapter so for me it’s about putting our new company, Franc, into high gear and cranking out some incredible work for our clients. Simultaneously, we’re looking for innovative ways to increase efficiency for clients without sacrificing creativity. Whether that’s streamlining the process or using and creating new tools that speed up production.

Thanks to Warren for sharing his story. Be sure to check out his homepage at Franc, or go to https://www.behance.net/johnasherwarren to see some project he’s directed in the past.

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Want us to share your story? Click the button below and be sure to keep your eyes open for the next StudioNow Creative Network Story. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Cameron Gray
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Cameron Gray

 

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