CASE STUDIES: A behind-the-scenes look at some of our favorite client projects

Client: Brooks School

Spark: Brooks approached Willa and Firestarter to create a series of videos to headline The Campaign for Brooks, the largest capital campaign in school history, with a turnaround time of less than two months. After a successful launch, Firestarter continues to work with Brooks on an ongoing basis. 

Firestarter Approach: Willa collaborated on a plan with the Communications and Advancement team at Brooks to create a three-video series highlighting the priorities of the campaign, and the stories of faculty, students, and alumni behind those priorities. Our team spent four days on campus capturing interviews and footage of the campus, classrooms, sports, and student life, and set to work developing narrative and visual stories: an overview video for the campaign, and two additional videos focused on a new Center for the Arts and Financial Aid. The videos are featured on The Campaign for Brooks website, which won Gold recognition in the inspirED School Marketers 2016 Brilliance Awards, stating:

"The videography and photography was exceptional....Well-designed site. The video was particularly impactful. Though the concept for it is not new, the interview content was terrific....They stated their case in a compelling simple way. It engaged the viewer by telling the Brooks story clearly."

Afterglow: We're proud to be collaborating with Brooks on an ongoing basis. After creating The Campaign for Brooks series, we returned to campus to capture the campus at peak foliage and interview students about their experiences for a new Admissions video and other website content. We're excited for continued great collaboration in 2017. 


Client: ALOHA

Spark: A startup leading the way in the wellness space, ALOHA approached Willa:Firestarter with the desire to create a spectrum of video content showcasing their products and establishing an authentic voice for their brand via the digital magazine.

Firestarter Approach: After several in-person meetings with ALOHA’s New York team, Willa:Firestarter devised a flexible and multi-faceted approach enabling the ongoing production of several products at a time including living background video loops for product pages, story-driven lifestyle pieces featuring brand experts on topics such as meditation and how to be happy, and live event coverage capturing the social face of the brand in glam still photography and short, sharable video formats. To us, authentic brand storytelling means living the brands we collaborate with: we are proud to partner with ALOHA as brand ambassadors, and enjoy sharing the story of how we incorporate ALOHA products into our day-to-day lives across our social media channels.

Afterglow: It’s an honor to truly collaborate with ALOHA, a brand who shares our core values of wellness, mindfulness, and balance. We admire their beautiful brand aesthetic and the strong vision behind all that they do. On the road or in the office, ALOHA’s convenient green juice packets and superfood chocolate keep us balanced and energized throughout our days. We're passionate about helping build the brand through our work, and also to share it with you! 


Client: Williams College

Spark: With a critical upcoming Capital Campaign, Williams College approached Willa and Firestarter with the desire to create five compelling 3-4 minute call-to-action narrative storytelling videos focused on primary campaign priorities: Alumni Giving, Science, Financial Aid, Student Experience, and Faculty. The catch? Summer was just around the corner, and these videos needed to be ready for the start of the academic year and campaign kickoff. With only rough story-lines developed and interviewees yet to be finalized, let alone scheduled, there was much to accomplish in a short window of time. 

Firestarter Approach: Unphased by the tight turnaround requirements, Willa and the Firestarter team devised a production and post-production schedule to accomplish the required timeline. Willa traveled to Williamstown to meet with the core team working on the campaign, and emerged from the meeting with a clearer understanding of the objectives for each video. Over the next two weeks, Williams and Willa worked together to schedule all fourteen individuals to be interviewed, from the Williams campus to New York, Boston, LA and San Francisco. Willa made travel arrangements for the Firestarter team, and a month later all interviews were complete and post-production underway. From storyboard to rough cut to fine cut and final polish, Firestarter worked closely and tirelessly with Williams—on weekdays and weekends, doing whatever required to accomplish the timeline—to hone the complex and meaning-filled narratives and refine the visuals of the five videos to perfection. 

Afterglow: To produce twenty-two minutes of polished narrative-driven storytelling video, rich with broll scenes, from fourteen documentary-style interviews, three hundred-plus pages of transcripts, and countless hours of broll in around three months was no small accomplishment. The revision process was intensive and collaborative, marked by good communication between Firestarter and Williams, and a lot of it. The greatest accomplishment? Williams was thrilled with the final product, and so were we—and the videos were polished and ready to go by campaign kickoff. View the series here

Client: Qantas Airways and Queensland Tourism

Spark: In an effort to attract more well-heeled American travelers to Queensland, Australia, Queensland Tourism and Qantas Airways launched a video campaign called #24HRSQUEENSLAND, sending five American filmmakers—including Firestarter founder Willa—to five regions of Queensland with a greatest-hits sightseeing and activity agenda, luxury accommodations, a strict 24 hours to film, and requirement to hand over a two-minute finished video upon touchdown in Los Angeles. Willa’s destination: the stunning Whitsunday Islands, complete with her own personal golf cart.  

Firestarter Approach: From ferrying out to the great Great Barrier Reef for a snorkel, to flying high above the reef in a helicopter, to sunset sailing, Willa’s approach—the Firestarter approach—is always the same: capturing and crafting authentic and heart-driven stories that convey depth, meaning, and connection with the people and places she encounters. Willa's #24HRSQUEENSLAND video submission interweaves field-recorded narrative—reflections from a Qantas pilot, boat captain, marine biologist, helicopter pilot, pro golfer, and fellow travelers—with stunning landscape and lifestyle footage, capturing the spirit of Queensland and the Whitsundays in a way that is both alluring and approachable.

Afterglow: While Willa’s video didn’t win the contest, at over 14,000 views, an opportunity to explore a new continent, and to swim in and soar above the Great Barrier Reef, she has no complaints. Willa's #24HRSQUEENSLAND entry showcases Willa:Firestarter’s belief in the power of conveying brand experiences and stories through found talent and real people.

Client: The Global Family Initiative

Spark: The American nonprofit Global Family Initiative works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, taking children off the streets and out of the dire conditions of the city orphanage and creating safe and loving home environments, as well as providing healthcare and education. The organization wanted to capture the story of their work on the ground in Ethiopia through photography, video, and interviews for use on their website and in fundraising initiatives back home.

Firestarter Approach: With her camera as her passport (well not literally: she got a visa too), Willa boarded a plane bound for Ethiopia and immersed herself in the lives of The Global Family Initiative's twenty-or so orphans for twelve days, eating ceremonial Christmas goat and injeera at their table, playing clapping games and communicating with laughs and smiles, visiting their school, and interviewing their ‘moms'—local women in need employed by the organization—with the help of a local translator to capture the authentic story of the organization's work in the lives of real children and making it clear why it's an initiative worthy of support.

Afterglow: A Firestarter core value is giving back: to our environment, to our global community. While we love working on projects with budgets that support bringing our big creative dreams to fruition, we are also passionate about saying yes to heart-first projects like this work with Global Family Initiative. We believe in karma and generally say yes to travel, particularly for a cause as worthy as this.