Monetizing Your Spec Work with Advertising On Demand – Spexster.com

 

 

Panel

 

Sarah Marince

Justin McAleece

John Kubin

Jed Williams

Meisha Lee

Levi Ames

Jake McGhee

 

 

Transcripts from Talk

 

 

Sarah Marince:

Hello, everyone. Happy Wednesday. Welcome to crew talk brought to you by shoots.video. Welcome back. This is my first week back in a couple of weeks. I just did a big move from Orlando to Dallas, but I’ve missed everyone and I’m glad to be back today. We are talking to Jed and John of Spexster. So hello, Jed and John and I, of course I have my co-host Justin. Hey Justin, how are you doing? Yes, you have a home that you have somewhere to go. Awesome behind you. That’s great. Thank you. Still getting a set up. Still have boxes on the floor. Of course. Like any move it’s, you know, boxes everywhere, but I pushed him to the side for today to make it look good for you guys. So yeah, we have a couple more guests that we’ll be bringing on later, but for now, Jed, John, tell us a little bit about yourselves, where you are and who you are. Jed, you can go first.

Jed Williams:

Hey, I’m Jed. Thanks so much for having us. I mean, we’re just kind of getting started with our business here, but we’re super pumped to, just to be part of this. I live in, I live in Pasadena, so kind of outside of the craziest of Hollywood and John is my business partner. Go ahead and say hi.

John Kubin:

Oh, hello. Hello, good to be here. Yeah, I’m in Pasadena as well. And we’ve been Jed and I have been working together for god, what’s it been eight years or something like that. Almost 10 in production commercials, all that fun stuff. And so that’s kind of why we’re here today. Kind of talking about the new thing we’ve been working on for awhile, but we both kind of had a our run of about every production, Hollywood type thing and imagine out there. And so it’s all going to get kind of culminate into this new business we’re doing so thanks so much for having us and we’re excited to tell you about it.

Sarah Marince:

Awesome. So can you tell us a little bit about it? Like what is Spexster?

John Kubin:

So funny you mentioned it. So what Spexster is, I guess in a nutshell is first and foremost, it’s, it’s a place for spec. Now most your filmmakers are pretty familiar with doing spec work and a lot of it is a way to kind of break into the business to, you know, be creative, go out and shoot something. That’s your own, it’s your own idea. And usually the end goal is to, you know, have a, have something to showcase, try to, you know, get representation through it. And more than anything, it’s just a really fun thing to go do, you know, versus just sit around and watch Netflix all day. You know, people are creative and they want to go out and shoot and test a new piece of camera equipment, whatever it may be. And what we’ve kind of done here, with our business model is we got our start, excuse me, not enough copy today.

John Kubin:

We got our, we got our start doing spec commercials through various platforms. And so we would get together and just come up with a creative idea and go, Oh, that’d be fun. Like, can you shoot? Can you edit? No. And so we have to go like, figure out how to do these things on our own, but that was a really fun adventure to kind of go down and, you know, you, you kind of put whatever money you can towards it. You ask favors from friends. And that was kind of our humble beginning. And then we actually started booking jobs. And I’ll, and I’ll pass it off to Jed.

Jed Williams:

Yeah, I think the first thing we really attempted to do was for a is this kind of like a crowdsource site called Tongal, who kind of was gracious enough to give us our start. And we did a commercial for chips, a Hawaii, and the whole concept, which I think our first camera was a Panasonic GH three. And we just went out with this camera. We hired these two older gentlemen and we kind of did this like two old guys having the time of their lives, riding go-karts like slam dunking, doing a Cannonball into a pool. We just had this kind of just fun concept, but we went and shot it out in one day and we submitted it thinking like, Oh, that was fun. We’ll see what happens. And then we won like 5,000 bucks. We were like, Oh my God, nice struck gold on our day jobs.

Jed Williams:

So looking back at the quality of it and stuff, the quality was pretty bad. I shot it. But the idea was there and I think the fun was there and it was kind of like this thing that was just like, wow, like this is a possibility, you know, I think both John and I, we both came from like the performance aspect. He did stand up, I did improv and acting and all that fun stuff to kind of start when I came out here and then this is different. It’s like, okay, now we’re kind of learning a little bit of the tools of cinematography and stuff on a very, very basic level. But that’s kind of where our, our, our start was. And then after that, it was just like any kind of crowdsource site, like, you know, the Zupas of the world and Tongal and ICA and all these different companies were launching these campaigns that basically anybody could pitch and you’d go out and you shoot it on your dime, or they give you a small budget to do it.

Jed Williams:

And that was just like the drug. It was like, Oh, we got to like, just keep doing these projects, build our portfolio and had some just amazing experiences and actually learned how to shoot and, and hired DPS that knew what they were doing and kind of like we did film school kind of backwards. It’s like, we booked decent jobs with decent budgets, but we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. So we kind of figured it out as we went and our, our talent and our crew just really, I think, was the ones that educated us.

Sarah Marince:

The passion was there. And that’s what you need. Yeah. We talked about, we ended up talking about passion a lot on these web, these webinars. That’s awesome. And what a fun start, I mean, to win $5,000 on kind of your first go around with it. That’s pretty cool.

Speaker 4:

Go ahead, John,

John Kubin:

Because I, there was a lot of passion and, and co misery that, that goes doing these things. I think what we had so much fun with was that it was always a new challenge because it was something that like Jed said, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We were just kind of like, Oh, we’ve got to figure out how to build a crew. We’ve got to figure out, okay, we can’t afford like, you know, all these nice lights to go make it look good. How can we, you know, Hollywood, this thing and improvise here. And over time, you know, shoot after shoot after shoot, we kept meeting more people that were just way more talented than we were. And we were just trying to, you know, do the, the, the Maestro thing here and just get these creative people all in a room together and just go, here’s our idea. How can, you know, the actual good people bring this together? And, you know, we shot a lot of commercials. Let me shoot like 50 some commercial jet.

Jed Williams:

I think we shot over 70 for, just for Tongal itself. And then we eventually got representation and we’re winning bids just through our rep. And so we kind of know started from the ground up and moved our way up. But yeah, we’ve had a lot of shoots. It’s been fun.

Sarah Marince:

So because you kind of did things backwards and you kind of dove into it, you didn’t know what to expect, I would guess. And so everything was so new to you. So how did you overcome those challenges when you hit them?

Jed Williams:

Just real quick? I started out kind of doing acting stuff. So I had already been on sets a lot, like booking commercials and was on some episodic stuff. And I worked with some really great commercial directors Tom Kuntz. And I’m trying to think, who else, a bunch of big, big name directors. I mean, some of the guys that created like you know, speed stick commercials and big McDonald’s ads and stuff like that. And so I’d been on big sets. And so I was kind of just very observant, always asking questions and stuff. And I think when the bug really hit me to kind of get behind the camera and direct, I kind of had already seen it at a really high level. And so I knew what a call sheet was and knew how to set up storyboards and, and, and, you know, shoot and set my focal lengths and all that stuff on camera. Like, I, I just kind of learned that as it went, but I think, yeah, just seeing it in action just made it so much more like doable.

Sarah Marince:

What were you going to say John?

John Kubin:

I knew nothing from like a town of a hundred people in Kansas originally and came out, you know, doing the acting thing a little bit and dabbling in the standup comedy. And I would go to these auditions and I just was, you know, deer in the headlights with all of these moving pieces of, of the industry and what I really kind of fell in love with. I got really disenchanted with the acting and just kind of like that world, I guess when we started doing these productions, like that became the performance that I just, that was kind of a drug me to kind of go, all right, we’ve got to strategize how to like, make this work, because if we don’t pull this off within like so many, so much time and money, then we don’t get paid. We can’t keep the business going.

John Kubin:

And it kind of became the running joke with, with our business is that we’d win a commercial. And then we double down on the next one and then we’d lose that one and we go, Oh, crap, it’s going to keep going. And so, but we made it work and it’s kind of just all built into this new thing. And so we’re taking basically all these experiences that we’ve had, all the, you know, the highs and the lows of the business and kind of going, you know, we could really make this process so much better in a lot of ways in the fact that we’ve had to, you know, be the editors we’ve had to be, you know, the cinematographers we’ve had to hold the light, you know, Jed would be directing while he tagged me and I’d be picking up trash in the next room.

John Kubin:

And so when you, it’s just a wonderful experience that we didn’t do it, the, you know, the normal way, like going to film school and all this stuff, because we just were thrown into this mix. And we had to like learn really fast because we were working with people that had done it properly, had gone to film school, knew what they were doing, knew what to call it. She was, and we’re kind of going, we gotta figure this out really quick. And so we’ve been able to just find so many little things that we go, man, that could be a better process. This could be more fun for filmmakers because what happened was the more and more we did these commercials, it started getting much more corporate, you know, we weren’t shooting spec anymore. We were actually, they were saying here, you need to shoot this.

John Kubin:

And no matter what, sometimes they’ll never be happy with it. And then the whole idea that creativity of doing these commercial shoots really started getting trampled on. And we started losing, you know, the, the, you know, the passion and the, and the fun of doing these things. And while the money was a little bit more maybe secure or even better it was kinda like, ah, did we, is this what we want to do? And so what w what we wanted to try to do with, with Sexter here is bring back kind of that, that, that magic to, to filmmaking again, and just go, listen, go out and film your passion projects, go out and do what you’re excited about, not what someone dictates you to shoot. And it’s definitely a different process that we’re trying to communicate and get people excited about. And that’s what we really want to break down here. But that’s kind of where our journey has taken us, and we couldn’t be more excited to be bringing this to life.

Justin McAleece:

Nice. How long have you guys been working on it? How old is this platform?

John Kubin:

We’ve had the idea, I’d say for a little over two years, but it sat dormant until right when basically Corona virus did it last year. And then, so we’ve been building all the infrastructure until about October of 2020, and then we launched the site. And so we’ve only been up for about three months and it’s it’s, it’s growing pretty Fun, actually. We’re just amazed at what we’re getting uploaded to the site. Nice,

Sarah Marince:

Wonderful. Then how did, and we may have covered this. I can’t remember. How did the two of you meet and decide to do this? Did you meet onset?

Jed Williams:

We actually met through an improv group in LA somewhere monkey angler. Yeah. It was called monkey Butler. That was our team name. That’s funny. And yeah, they’re always, yeah, they’re always like dorky improv names, but that was our name. But yeah, we, we kinda met and, you know, we had a lot of friends in comedy that are still doing it, but I think John is probably the person that I was like, wow, this guy is actually like serious about whatever business or trade he wants to get in. Like, a lot of my other friends are like, ah, you’re fun to hang out with, but I wouldn’t want to get into like a production company or like a business with don’t just have the work ethic and the desire to hustle and make it happen. And it was like, all right, this is like something we can build together.

Jed Williams:

And like we said, we started with our production company, built that out, and this is kind of the new, the new business.

Justin McAleece:

Nice. Before we move on, is monkey Butler a Simpson’s reference? Don’t know. Well, sorry. Monkey’s Butler say Simpson’s reference. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Gimme that, gimme the reference. What Lord of the rings, like basically the bus goes into the water and then all the kids in the bus ended up as a, like a Lord of the rings scenario and all that. And Bart’s trying to tell everyone how it’s going to be great. And so they’re going to get monkey butlers, cause they’re going to make this whole civilization on this Island. And so that’s, they’re all going to get monkey gut. I didn’t catch that one. Yeah. Anyway, that’s awesome. Moving on. So I don’t keep talking about Simpsons. Sorry.

Sarah Marince:

That was a nice reference. A good catch. Awesome. Well, I’m guess it’s time to bring in our guests that we have on the panel now, Justin, do you think that would be a good idea? Let’s do it. All right. So we have Misha and Levi and Jake. So they’re going to be joining us now. Hello. Hello. Hello. So I’m just going to go through and have them introduce themselves Misha. Why don’t you go first, tell us who you are, where you are and a little bit about what you do.

Meisha Lee:

Hi, my name is Michelle Lee. I am currently in Vancouver, Canada. I reside out of Los Angeles though. So I’m originally from Vancouver. I immigrated to Canada sorry to the States to follow my career as a professional dancer. And then from there, I worked my way up the rankings to assistant choreographer, choreographer, supervising choreographer. And eventually I got to be an assistant director to the Ringling brothers Barnum and Bailey circus. So I literally put together a circus, but for the past couple of years, I’ve been producing reality TV and I’m happy to return back to my love of directing. So I like to direct pieces that empower women or have a diverse cast or show an unrepresented story. And I also, as a director, I love working with a non-typical crew. It’s really important to me to have that. So the last spec we shot in December actually had a 50, 50 split. We had 50% males who are Asian and the rest were female. So it excites me to, to create a space for that. And that’s the type of stuff that I want on screen. I want to see more minority stories highlighted on screen and more minorities lifted behind the camera as well. So that’s a little bit about me. I like chocolate and rollercoasters sushi for sure. Sushi. That’s me.

Sarah Marince:

That’s wonderful. We are very glad to have you today. Thanks for joining us. And then moving on. Hello, Levi.

Levi Ames:

Hi, my name’s Levi Ames, and I’m currently residing in Missouri. I’ve been here for the last seven to eight years or so, and I freelance mostly through animation, but when I got started, I got started about 10 years ago. And I got into animation because I thought it’d be a good way to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking because I always wanted to be in live action, but I loved animation so much. I’ve just stuck with it. And when I first started, I started off all the way into New Zealand and I was actually working at a farm animation studio called October animation. And we’re working on Nickelodeon shows like penguins and Madagascar, a Kung Fu Panda TV series, and a show at the time called robot and monster. And I came back and just started freelancing. And I’ve been freelancing with Lego Google just commercials here and there. And it’s just been something I’ve been carrying on and yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing freelancing and in animation. So there you go. Wonderful. And do you also like chocolate and sushi? Oh, sure. Probably chocolate more than sushi. Oh yeah. Well, it’s great to have you. Oh, and then you had, Justin has his Lego’s rights.

Sarah Marince:

Alright. Hello, Jake. And you were on mute. Okay. There you go.

Jake McGhee:

Yeah, not nearly as impressive as that. So Barnum Bailey or Lego or Google or any of that stuff. So I’m a, I’m a military ex-military guy got out, started doing filmmaking mid Texas Waco, Texas to be exact the motherland. And yeah, I mean, I got started filmmaking love movies, lovies action, snakeskin. If anybody’s interested, like that’s where it’s at big trouble, little China, Kurt Russell is my guy. So which wife would kill me if she heard me saying this right now. But yeah, so I, I just love movies. Want to get behind the camera. It felt like really, for me, like felt like the Lord opened up an opportunity for me to have, you know, I got back from deployment, had some money to invest. It felt like it was time to just start making films. And so I started shooting weddings and, you know, the rest is history. So to inspect work out of that, learn my camera and all that jazz. And then just recently really started to yeah, get, get into spec work and doing the stuff that, that I really enjoy, which is, you know, super creative, not really limited by your client, whatever the, you know, whatever the brand is. And a lot of times they’re a lot happier too, when, when you’re freed to do something super creative. So that’s my story.

Sarah Marince:

Wonderful. Well, we are very glad to have you here. All right. And before we jump into the questions for the whole panel, I just wanted to remind everyone who’s tuning in that we have our question and answer box here. So if you have any questions for anyone today, drop them into the Q and a box and I promise you we will get to them. And we actually have one right now from John. Hi, John, the spec samples, you referenced, wore short format, spec, TV spots. Will your site work for longer formats like documentaries or a video series?

Jed Williams:

Yeah, I think that that’s kind of like possibly something for the future. We would definitely look at. We’ve already had a couple of short films uploaded and they’re really awesome. It’s I think for, for what we’re trying to start right now, I think the advertising market is kind of what our focus is, but I could see how like having shorts or documentaries or anything that could be like distributed would be a huge thing for us. I think there’s a lot of great sites out there that are already kind of doing stuff like that. So for us to be kind of the niche of the advertising business is kind of essential for where we’re at now. But yeah, I think like some of the shorts that have already been uploaded are so amazing too, like, and those could be potentially taken to festivals and looked at and potentially purchased.

Jed Williams:

You know, I love this story of of the movie whiplash where Damien Chazelle, he went and he got his short film, made, took it to a festival that got money. He made another short, and then he got the money to do the full feature. Like, however that story went, but just stuff like that, that’s, what’s so amazing. I think having the spec idea, first of all, is like, we want to just incentivize people to make their own work and to build their own style out. And then hopefully, you know, advertisers will come on by that video or hire them to do their own thing. But I think we’re trying to empower the people to make their own content the way that they want to make it and let that be their business card or that be their portfolio. I see. So walk me through that process a little bit. I’m you know, I’m just a filmmaker, maybe I’ve done a few commercials, a few things here and there for actual paid stuff, but not very much not to sustain.

Justin McAleece:

And I come to a spec stir, like what, what am I going to be doing? What should I be looking to, to lead to?

Jed Williams:

Well, I think that’s the beauty of it is I think whenever you feel like you’re best at shooting, or if you want to like attempt to shoot something that’s like in a different market than you’re used to filming we want that we want you to be able to do that because, I mean, if you look at the typical bid process and we go through it all the time, it’s like you take the spots you’ve already shot or similar spots to what the client wants. You present that to them. And then they, you know, take the lowest bid or they take the filmmaker. Who’s got more clout than you are. So we’re just kind of looking at this and going, you know, we want your quality of, of what you shoot and to be able to represent you and be able to pitch that out to people. I see. Yeah. Nice.

Sarah Marince:

Awesome. So I’m going to jump into my first question here, and this is for everyone. So anyone can jump in and answer it. What has been the biggest high and the lowest low of your creator journey? What can you kind of learned from that lowest, low

Justin McAleece:

Levi? We could start with, you got, got an idea there. Okay.

Sarah Marince:

Check on what I asked.

Levi Ames:

Well, I’ll start with the low, because it goes right into the high about eight years ago I made a demo real. You got to make a demo reel of animation shots to apply for jobs. That’s just the way it goes. And and the primary job I’m going for is animator. And I apply, I made this demo reel. I applied to everyone that I wanted to rejected from everyone. And I held off holding applying to the big, the big one, you know, Pixar. And finally after all these rejections, it was just kind of like a hail Mary is like, I got nothing to lose, put it in, go for it. They actually replied back and I got interviews back for the job and it was going really well. And my hopes were, you know, coming up high and, you know, it was like, wow, I actually might have a shot to do this.

Levi Ames:

And you know, for one thing or another, you know, they, they loved the work that I was doing. You know, it just wasn’t right for the job or for the schedule that they needed or the experience because I, you know, I was still working on that. And so at King crashing down, you know, it didn’t get the job, but come to find out about a few weeks later whatever fresh hires that came up for that movie, which was actually the good dinosaur, they ended up rescheduling the whole movie, 18 months down the road. So whoever they freshly hired for that time, they had to fire right away. It’s like, we don’t need you anymore for, for the movie. We don’t need to push for pro you know, the production. And so I felt like I dodged an emotional bullet there, you know, because, you know, hired for some you’re going to get fired for Anyway. Right. Oh man.

Levi Ames:

You know, I, I think I would have been more devastated than I was, but it still hurt, you know, that, that, that happened. And actually it was when that happened, I was forced to take on freelance work. This was so early on in my career, I was not ready to do this at all. But it ended up kind of planting the seeds in this, this new milestone into my career where slowly but surely it was like, you get, you got to fend for yourself, man. You got to start figuring stuff out. And so about a year into my freelance after that happened I started figuring out like, you, you need to start figuring out how to continue with your education, you know, continue to sharpen your skills. You know, it’s not enough to just be on your own. You need, you need to, you know, go sharpen iron with iron, with other mentors and other people.

Levi Ames:

And that’s when I had the idea of like, you know, who else is out there? You know, like who’s, who’s giving classes whose who’s got time available. I’m, I’m in Memphis, in Missouri, you know, I’m in the middle of the country. I can easily fly to the East coast, the West coast, all these places. Why don’t you start divvying up your time and start figuring that out. And and this is where the high gets in. You know, I figured out that Don Bluth, who is a pretty well-known animation director. In fact, this is a video game that he directed other productions that he’s directed his Anastasia and American tale land before time. So this guy was available. He lives in Arizona and he was giving classes, you know for a whole week. And I was like, Oh my God, like, that’s like, that’s like a, the monk on the high mountain type of thing.

Levi Ames:

And I was like, wow, okay. So, because I’m in freelance, I can make my time available anytime I want. So save up the money, fly out there, go and do it. I thought at the time when I was doing it, I’m only going to get to see him this one week. I’m just grateful to see him learn whatever I can ask, whatever questions I can, but that one week ended up being three and a half years. And I just, it just ended up being like a mentorship with him over time through multiple classes that I flew over to, and then eventually online sorta like this, you know for an entire year, you know, it was, it was amazing. So had I gotten that job for Pixar that never would have happened. And and, and besides Don, I was also figuring out other people to go get mentored by, or, you know, sharpen iron with iron and learn new skills. So, but Don Bluth was definitely like a real high, so

Justin McAleece:

Yeah, you never know how it’s gonna work out. You gotta keep the faith. You got to, you know, know in your heart that you’re you’re, if you’re doing enough to keep it going, that it’s eventually going to lead to the thing that you want to lead to. Hopefully. And then to the next, I mean, there’s, there’s always Another thing after that, obviously. Jake, what about you? You got, you got a similar story, highs and lows.

Jake McGhee:

Definitely got some lows. Yeah. I think that’s the thing. Right. You know, a lot of the filmmakers are you, you meet your, your idols and all that kind of stuff. And, you know, you just think of all the cool stuff that they’ve done, but what they had to do to get there. Like I’m a big rubber Rodriguez fan just because of how he started and what he’s done if for the indie industry. But for me personally, like my lowest low was I was working at this, you know, for about five years at the time, just plugging away, plugging away, plugging away nose to the grind I look up in my family is just in shambles. My wife is, you know, having a hard time because it’s really built on her back, you know, kinda keeping a stable income while the freelance stuff kinda comes in.

Jake McGhee:

She said, this come to Jesus moment where like, yeah, this isn’t working. And so you know, really being able to kind of take a step back and say, you know, where’s my identity, you know, is it in what I do if I’m not a filmmaker full-time or whatever, is that, does it define me? You know? And obviously the answer for me is no, you know, I’m, I’m me, regardless of what I do. But you know, it really gave me well, lit a fire under me, you know, and it gave me perspective to you know, really push into the spec work. You know, I did something kind of similar to Levi where I found a coach and I invested in that coach and he just poured all of this knowledge into me. And it was a lot of the spec work stuff. And it was just, you know, researching brands, who do you want to work for?

Jake McGhee:

Who do you want it? Who do you want to really kind of work? Do you really want to make, if you’re gonna make commercials, you know, why, why you make stuff you hate. And so you know, that really got me. That’s what I made a spec for Spotify and I but that really kind of launched my portfolio this next level. And then so maybe it’s something, you know, here in Waco, we’ve got Magnolia and you know, all those people chip and Joanna Revit thinks they’re our neighbors. Cool people, but harp is another company that’s here, art design. So they’ve got they make woodwork for a lot of the shows and junk like that. So I did a project for them and, you know, they, they have their own shows on HGTV and all that jazz, well, working with Glen, he was like, this is the most professional production I’ve ever been on.

Jake McGhee:

And I’m like, I mean, I’m just, I’m scrappy. I’ll tell you scrappy guy. And we just had a small crew. But like, like with Misha was saying before, you know, just having that, that crew is so important. And being able to like, let you create a vision kind of just drift and like work with people you really like to work with. And I mean, that’s, to me is really where I’ve found gold. And so for me, I made a couple of those projects invested my time and my money and my, you know, all that took a risk going out there. But now, I mean, I got a call. I was telling, I was telling Jed about this a little last week I got a call from a production company out in Virginia Beach who saw that work. And they’re like, Hey, yeah, we want to talk to you about directing some pieces for us.

Jake McGhee:

And I just spent all last week just creating treatments for them. I’m not ready. I’m not, I’m not, I’m a local guy here in Waco. So, you know, it’s just, there’s a power of like work, you know, being out there, putting your best foot forward and then not being afraid to fall one way or the other, because Hey, if this thing flops, I’m not going to die, you know, I’m going to come out the other side, I’ll, I’ll do whatever I have to do. One take care of my family. Right. And it to just take the next step. So anyway, that’s kind of where I would frame that question.

Justin McAleece:

Yeah. It sounds like there’s a couple of things there. Both of you guys mentioned mentors and how important it is to learn for someone who’s been there and done bigger things than you have been. And even going back to John and Jed talking about being on bigger sets and how important that is just to see the level of that stuff. I think that’s really cool. And it sounds like spec work is a good way to sort of ensure way into those situations backwards sometimes which can be really useful. That sounds cool. Misha, do you have any other sort of thoughts on that highs and lows?

Meisha Lee:

This one is a hard one for me, cause I feel like not to be like Debbie downer, but I feel like the pandemic has kind of reiterated what, what success and highs and lows are, you know, kind of puts things in perspective and you’re like looking back and there’s, there’s so many, there are like a lot of amazing moments that, you know, you just go to bed going, gosh, that happened today. That’s like, how did that happen today? But I think like even just being present, I mean, this is an honor. Thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be recognized amongst awesome peers and the talent that’s on spec. Like it’s, it’s so inspiring. So just to be asked, I’m like, I’m going to say today’s my highlight. Low, I think it’s really hard and, and that’s, what’s going to be in the commercial world.

Meisha Lee:

It’s, it’s really hard, like pitching for a project and investing, you know, so much time into the treatment and really getting your hopes up for it and spending so much time and effort on it. And I guess I, there was kind of almost like a contest for a music video and I spent so long on this, on this, on this treatment. And I knew the coordinators and they still like, kind of pulled me aside and said out of the 20 submissions that they had, that mine was the best and that they were really rooting for me. So I got really excited with that. And then to find out that the client the budget didn’t go the way that they wanted it to go. So they picked another directors whose treatment was cheaper. I mean, that’s everybody’s story, but to, to have that happen, it’s just like, Oh, there’s days that you’re shooting.

Meisha Lee:

And it’s, it’s just the most wonderful thing when you’re achieving, you’re getting that last shot right before the sun goes down and you made magic happen or you’re able to turn around an actress is maybe bad mood, but got her to the right spot just to get her to get to deliver right before you had to rap. Like those, I think are my highlights of things that people won’t know how much work went into, like and how much synchronicity had to happen in order to get that one shot and focus and, and it to go through. So I’m going to say that that’s my high is looking at it in the editing and going, Oh man, that actually turned out if only the audience knew how bad it was to get it there. But the low would be yeah. To be bidding for something that you really strongly believe in and, and knowing it’s good and hearing it’s good. And it just not being right with the budget and not given the opportunity to bid lower. You know, you don’t often get that. You get one thing and you say your budget and you try to go in for a reasonable rate and to lose it. And then you go, Oh, I could have done this and this and this for the numbers, but I wasn’t even given that opportunity. So I say that’s pretty, that’s pretty tough. And every director knows what that feels like. So

Justin McAleece:

It’s such a catch 22. Those are difficult positions, you know, as running a video production company. A lot of times what my partner and I do is sort of give a number and then maybe give a discount on the number so that you’re not, you’re not selling yourself short necessarily. You’re only doing it say once, like I’m offering you less this time because we believe in your project or whatever it happens to be. And then that way that number can maybe like adding another five or 10% to a discount, seems like a very logical thing in that situation. Cause you’ve already given some some of that leeway. And so that’s one way to sort of look at that. Not that you could have done that or whatever, I’m not trying to, you know, talk in hindsight, but for other video production companies out there, that can be a useful way to look at that.

Justin McAleece:

And that way that doesn’t set a precedent necessarily for next time that you are just having low rates, you know, it’s a different way to look at it. So anyway, that’s, that’s one way we do that. And I think I’m speaking to the rest of your story is like getting back on set and being able to be a team, I think is one of the things that we realize now, how much we missed, at least I do. And maybe the rest of the people on the panel of like not being at Levi, you’re out of this, you, you sit in a room by yourself, you don’t count. I kidding. But you know, just, just being able to get back on set and contribute to those synchronicity moment, synchronous moments and have things happen just perfectly on set. And we’ve missed that. I think I’ve definitely missed that being on smaller crews or not that same types of productions that have happened in the past. Does anyone want to speak to that or talk about your highs and lows, Jed? Are we going to, we’re going to let Jed and John talk about two. Are we moving on, Sarah? You tell him

Sarah Marince:

We can absolutely talk about if they, like, if they have a quick story they want to share for sure.

Jed Williams:

Yeah. I mean, just in general, first of all, just hearing everyone’s story. It’s that’s, what’s so cool. I think about what we’re trying to build is just more of a community. I mean, everyone kind of has these stories of I’ve had great opportunities or I’ve like worked really, really hard to get where I’m at or I’ve been motivated in certain ways. And it’s really cool just to hear kind of everyone’s story and, you know, we’re hopefully trying to build something that, you know, benefits everybody and creates opportunity for people. That’s all we’re trying to do. And just giving an outlet, like if you have a really cool aesthetic or some type of a medium that you shoot best and you love to do, we want to like showcase that and get you hired and get somebody to give you a budget and, and, and run with it.

Jed Williams:

So in terms of highs like this is kind of John and I’s highs to kind of build a platform for everybody to like succeed. Like that’s the goal ultimately because we’ve been there and we’re, we’re still like creating, we’re still directing at the same time. So it’s, it’s, it’s something that we feel we are the filmmaking community. And we want to build that in terms of a low I might John, can I share a quick story about our green shoots? So we did a shoot. This is way off topic of something that I just talked about with the high, but we did a shoot for through Tongal the, the company that gave us the job for Listerine. And we got like a smoking deal on this house. We had to do the shoot in a bathroom and it was like such a weird scenario.

Jed Williams:

Cause we get there, we were all set up and the homeowner comes in and he’s just kind of out of his mind and scramble. And it’s just like, I’m so sorry, but a double booked you guys and we’re like, okay, but don’t worry. We’ll have the other shoot on the other side of the house. You guys are doing sound. So don’t worry about it. Like, you know, that the other, the other group, you won’t even hear from him. Good luck. So we were kind of like hearing some weird stuff going on. People are coming in and out of the house. And so we kind of sent our PA to go check it out and it was like they were doing an an adult film shoot on the other side of the house. So there’s porn shoot going on on the left wing of the house and on the right wing, we’re shooting this wholesome Listerine spot. That was a pretty interesting one. And then it’s pretty similar.

Justin McAleece:

Even adult actors need to have a clean mouth. I mean, let’s, Hey. Yeah,

Jed Williams:

I thought we could cross promote it, but let’s remember, it’s like feeling it. But so just kind of the, the, the fun of low budget and trying to make stuff happen when you’re just trying to make a buck and get your project finished. Totally. we have a question here real quick from Claire. What type of spec work is most sought after and what type of spec work stands out? It looks like Jake’s typing a, a answer as well, but Jed John, any ideas.

John Kubin:

I think what is really been interesting to see is, you know, what we’re trying to do with our S our site is just open up the possibilities more than anything. And with specs, it’s, it’s a little subjective because you have to go where the market is. You know, you have to pay attention to trends in, in commercial world. And but you know, you’re not limited to that either. If you have a good idea you know, you can translate that into a 32nd format or whatever it may be, and people are looking more for those stories now versus like, Hey, can you film the heck out of this product? And just, you know, so I think our generation has become so saturated and can, can smell a fake, you know, cell from a mile away that we want to connect more with with our fellow humans and, and people that can, we can relate to.

John Kubin:

And that really leaves a lot of possibility open to what you can go out and film. And I think first and foremost, what we want to do at specter is kinda go, you know, again, like you guys have been saying, everybody’s got a unique story. And everybody’s got a unique way of filming and directing and, and how they, you know, bring something to life. So, you know, what is your speciality? We’re not trying to tell people on our platform to say, Hey, go out, spend a bunch of money, get like the best camera equipment, you know, do all this stuff. And just, we’re kind of going, you know, use your resources at your disposal. You know, like if you can film something for cheap and you can still make it look good, if you can ask for a favor or a friend, like that’s great.

John Kubin:

Because I think people will never stop, you know, wanting to be creative. And if, if we can give you a reason to, you know, pick up the camera, animate something and be able to sell it I mean, that’s what we want to do here. And we’re trying to just create more opportunities. And especially with like this whole pandemic thing that’s taken place, I think it really has opened up a ton of opportunities for people that even us, you know, we were sidelined from filming our typical stuff we would go do. And so now these brands and companies are scrambling and just going, how do we promote our products? We can’t hire our normal film crew. And if someone who’s, you know, filming something, at least in the genre of what your company is say, it’s like, you know, outdoors, commercial, okay. What does your mind go to?

John Kubin:

I could go film like a hiking type of commercial. I could go film something with boots or hunting, you know, whatever it may be. And so we’re trying to say, spectator, make something that’s creative in the wheelhouse of something that you’re passionate about, or you have a lead on a company that, you know, this would be perfect for. And so many people, I think they’ll try to film like the Nike commercial or specifically for Coca-Cola. And we’re trying to communicate that like, Hey, how many up and coming Coca-Cola companies are there? How many, you know, you know, craft beer or new shoe companies are out there. I mean, again, 99% of the, the economy is small business. And so why try to go for this? You know, the number one brand that’s probably not gonna hire you. They’ve got their own teams, they do it their way.

John Kubin:

So why not open up the possibilities to like, you know, a thousand different companies in the same genre that would be interested in your commercial and plus they can just get it instantly. They can brand it, you know, one, one way to a thousand ways with like simply a slap in their logo on it, or just saying, you know what, this person is so good. I just want to hire them to do a whole new thing. And so that’s what we’re really trying to promote and open up in the site. And it’s a little hard to, I guess, say what’s the best to film, but we’re actually putting out a contest pretty soon. Just kind of a fun little challenge to get people out there and give them leads. So Jed, can you kind of speak to that a little bit?

Jed Williams:

Yeah. We got a nice little partnership with a rhino camera gear. Who’d makes a, these amazing little motorized sliders. And basically our contest is we want to see the best tabletop work, food and beverage CBD and THC market. And so go out and, you know, take your, your, your slow motion camera or any kind of like a cool edit you want to do animate it. Any kind of like probe shot with like like allow a 24 millimeter lens. Something like that would be fun. You know, we, we kind of wanna just open up the market to you guys as filmmakers and just go shoot what you want to shoot in the food and beverage market, like build your, you know, food and beverage portfolio, go out and do that. So

Justin McAleece:

That’s a word too, because you can, you can do it, you know, if you have any sort of room, any sort of studio area, that’s a really good thing to do during COVID right? Cause you don’t need to involve that many other people like you can do it overnight. Like there’s so many ways to find the opportunity to shoot tabletop stuff that other things with actors out in the wild is harder to do.

Jed Williams:

You can limit your budget and you know, people are hesitant sometimes. And I even see questions like how do you expect to shoot some of this stuff on a limited budget? I mean, I mean, nowadays there’s a lot of cool tools like share grid is a company that you can go rent gear from local people in your area. You can go down to best buy and pick up like an [inaudible] for like 3,500 bucks if you have that. So there’s, there’s definitely ways around it. You don’t have to have this, you know, huge Alexa set up with is all these crazy lights, just to make something that will get you work for the future, especially. So we’re just trying to give incentive to people, go film stuff. This helps build our community. This helps get us more Leads to brands. But we want people to feel like they’re, you know, motivated to do something creative and make some money.

John Kubin:

And I think just to tie off on that, you know, the stuff we were selling, and this is God, eight years ago, we were shooting and, you know, had no idea how to edit and color and all this different stuff. And we just shot them what we had, but we were selling these to brands and what they were buying was the idea, you know, the, the quality wasn’t there, most of the time until we started getting a little bit better. And then it shifted into like, well, the quality is great, but then the idea gets killed because it gets, you know, goes through six committees with these clients and stuff. And so I think there’s a really cool, happy medium that we don’t want to scare people off from saying, Oh, well, I don’t even want to participate. Cause I’d have to spend a bunch of money and I can’t do this.

John Kubin:

And we don’t want to discourage that. We just, we want you to get out and just have fun, you know, experiment, you know, even people that just get out and like buy a drone or do a test shot, like you don’t understand how valuable that piece of content is to the right buyer. And what we’re trying to do is find those right buyers and connect them with you were otherwise, a lot of times you, as a filmmaker, you’re, you’re just waiting on the right representation. And that could take, you know, a year, two years to find something like that. And then the meantime you’re not shooting anything. Cause you’re just, you’re waiting on these opportunities versus creating your own opportunities.

Justin McAleece:

Yeah. There’s a absolutely, there’s a question in the Q and a and it’s from Tony. And I think we’ve sort of answered that as like whatever’s in your backyard. I don’t know where you live, but I think that there might be something unique about it or about what you have access to or about the people, you know, that might want to be actors, any of those things that seems like you’re solely in possession of that thing that other people around the country around the world might want to see because they don’t have access to it. I mean, I think we discount that stuff cause we’re around it every day, but that’s something that definitely can be useful to other people that we had no idea would be useful to them. We got to give away some money.

Sarah Marince:

Yes it is. I’m yeah. It’s time for our giveaway. So we have a $50 gift card to BNH and no, none of our panel can enter, sorry guys. This is for all of our audience tuning in. So before I ask the question, I will let everyone know that the link you need to go to the website you need to go to Blake has already dropped it into the chat box. So it’s, it should be in there. I know he dropped it. I, I did see it, but the question is what listing displays first in Boston’s. This is, if you go to the shoot step video website, what listing displays first in Boston, drop your answers into the chat box, not the Q and a box into the chat box. Okay. Let’s see. In Boston, in Boston, do you know the answer, sir? You know the answer, they didn’t give me the answer. One time I called out the wrong answer, but they gave me the right answer.

Sarah Marince:

Do you see it? Navi, Navi. Got it. It’s the Duchin Productions. Okay. That is the answer [inaudible] who’s been here. A number of times has been on the show I believe. Yeah. And again, yeah, totally.

Justin McAleece:

I love the little giveaway, Mike. Mcgonigle sorry, man. He was second. So close. I love that people put Blair media. I don’t know if that was an educated guess or they’re just like, hell Blair media. It’s always going to be the right answer. Yes, it is always the right answer. We should give Tony five bucks. Good job. Navi. Congratulations. so we have a few more minutes. So I’m going to ask one more quick question before we wrap it up. What trends are you seeing in the industry? And Levi, I’ll start with you. You can go ahead and answer that one. If you look with you.

Levi Ames:

Okay. well I can only speak from animation experience. But as far as, I mean, John kind of covered it already where like, everything is kind of going towards storytelling, you know, like you can smell the sale a mile away and you know, I can’t tell you how many times I click away from an ad inside a YouTube video, even when it’s integrated in there, if they’re trying to sell me something, but it’s the ones that integrated in having an emotional connection, have a storytelling element in it that helps me stay on, you know, help, help me watch the whole thing. So as far as the trend goes, you know, it’s already there and it’s just going and people just gotta keep going. So

Sarah Marince:

Meisha, what about you?

Meisha Lee:

Yeah. I mean, that’s what John said it so well, but more and more you see companies trying to put people that are relatable. So you’re seeing, which is great. You’re seeing them more diversity on commercials and just stories that speak to you like yeah, that I totally just did that yesterday or that’s exactly my problem. And it just reminded me of a commercial. There was one that WordPress did and it was John Malcovich looking at his computer and, and trying to get John malkovich.com, but it was already taken. And so he’s just so frustrated and anyway, it plays out, but that’s what you remember, you remember this silly scenario, but you, you relate to it. And and then afterwards they flash WordPress, you know, and that’s it. They didn’t talk about the product at all. They just, it’s just a relatable experience and I’m seeing it more and more. It’s either a heart pulling or it’s a comedic beat where something that’s gonna, you’re gonna feel. And

Meisha Lee:

Then I think those are the most effective commercials right now are the ones that are, have some kind of pull on you.

Justin McAleece:

And I think from a spec perspective too, is like, I mean, Geico commercials, they’re all basically spec commercials where they just tag 15% off in 15 minutes or less at the end. Like they almost never have anything to do with Geico. And they all seem to be just like throwing ideas at a dartboard. And so I think like you could make a commercial tomorrow that could easily end up as a Geico commercial or they would redo it. But the same idea because there’s a lot of brands out there that do the exact same thing. Yeah. That was, that was one of our major influences was Geico. Yeah. This business, we would look at these commercials while we were cutting together. You know, something that we had to do every little thing, right.

John Kubin:

That the brand had laid out and we’re just going, this commercial has nothing to do with Geico at all. Like I want to do that and just like, say like, you know, go Kohler or something on there. It just would’ve been so much more fun. Yeah. And even, you know, even kind of what Levi was saying about human interest pieces, almost like that kind of stuff is, what’s so great with kind of like this open-ended spec idea that we have is like, you just want to see like, you know, like kind of a short film or kind of this docu-style thing about a person or an emotional relationship or something. And then you can put whatever brand you want on that. That could be an insurance company that could be healthcare banking. I mean, it doesn’t really dictate what that specific product is, unless it’s flashed in front of your face, like a really, you know, like a used car salesman. So yeah, totally have anything to add kind of the same themes, I guess, but Jake, yeah, go ahead. Yeah.

Jake McGhee:

Yeah. I think that, you know, practically right. There’s there’s trends and there’s things that, you know, you see different humor trends and that kind of stuff, but really there’s principles, there’s principles to marketing there’s principles to making films that have been the same since celluloid was a thing. Right. And if you can stick to those and study the principles like principles in marketing, what are these brands trying to do? They’re trying to sell stuff. How do you sell stuff? Every buying decision is based off of emotion. So they’re trying to evoke emotion. So what brand are you targeting? What targeting a very serious brand that their demographic wants to feel this emotion, bingo, that’s the emotion you’re going to target. And you get to come up with a creative way to target that emotion. And so that’s the winning formula. Every time it could be Coke, it could be anything you ever wanted to be. It could be 30 years ago or it could be right now. It’s just, what do they want to feel? And so, you know, to, to bring it back to a practical place, you know, that’s, that’s how I structure it. And when I talk to brands from small, small business to, to larger brands, that’s all they care about and you can do that. And so anyway, that’s that, that would be my 2 cents for it.

Justin McAleece:

And that’s really why it’s two is because the more specific you are, there’s sort of a paradoxical situation there. I forget the exact term for it. But the more specific you are, the more people think it applies to them. So brands out there are going to see that spot. That is this, this unique story about one little thing about how, you know, caring, whatever it happens to be is the, you know, the general tenant of the story or whatever. And they’re going to be like, that’s our brand that applies to us and you didn’t make it with them. Even you had no idea they even existed yet. It feels like that because it’s a universal thing. So in that takes being specific, being broad and generic and being like, here’s a good story. Like that doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day. And so I think what you’re saying really makes a lot of sense and probably is the best way to proceed with that sort of stuff. Right. Yeah. John. Yeah. Well, Sarah, what time are we at? We got to, we got a couple more minutes.

Sarah Marince:

Yeah. I was going to say, should we ask another question or I, one thing I’ve also asked people is kind of, what’s your favorite piece of advice that you’ve received either in like the beginning of your career or something that’s just really helped you are stuck with you. You just, what if we can just all go around and say that, so Jake, I’ll start with you.

Jake McGhee:

It just got home. So if they’re screaming, that’s what’s happening real quick. Oh, influence biggest influence for me. Investing in myself and not my gear. So as filmmakers out there, just stop buying cameras, stop buying crap, just invest in yourself. And what I mean by investing in yourself is, you know, when I, when I did the coaching thing, that, that changed my whole mindset and, and, and to do this, to do this kind of work and get paid for it consistently, you have to think differently. You can’t think in small budgets, you can’t think and things, if I can’t or how do I get around? You know, I can’t do this because coconuts here, I can’t do this because I don’t have a crew. Your, your mindset has to switch into how do I do it? You can’t be a no person anymore. You have to be a yes person in all the right ways. So that’s the best advice that I’ve gotten. And then I’d love to have a part

Sarah Marince:

Wonderful Meisha. What about you?

Meisha Lee:

I was saying that I live by is how you do anything is how you do everything. So that’s how I live my life. But I think encouraging quote that I was given as a director is, don’t worry about like, everyone’s going to criticize, but the people that are in front of you are never going to criticize you. It’s only the people behind you because the people in front of you will actually look at what you’re doing and just applaud you for trying. And that’s what you really should be paying attention to. So only people behind you will criticize you. And that’s really helped me in my directing journey.

Justin McAleece:

Absolutely. And to speak to your first part too, about, you know basically when I’m on set, when I’m a director of say, or a DP and someone is trying to get on set with, or trying to be a crew member and they do something like wrapping stingers or putting away, geared and setting sandbags on top of each other and whatever it happens to be very menial, seemingly not all that important things. I pay the most attention to those things, because I know if they don’t care about that, that they probably don’t care about the rest of the jobs like that sort of transcends it. And so just to anyone out there, cause I know a lot of the people we talked to in these videos are potential crew members or current crew members like that. Stuff’s super important to the people that are at the top of the call sheet. They’re watching how you, how you wrap a stinger. Like there’s not many things more important than that in a way. And so it’s always worth paying attention to the little stuff because then the big stuff works accordingly. Yeah.

Jed Williams:

You know, I think like just both John and I’s philosophy of just shooting so much was just take care of your crew. Like set morale, just it, you set the bar when you really like set up. If you have like nothing for lunch, you don’t pay them on time. We’ve had so many positions where we started out at the beginning and worked for other people and we didn’t get paid at the time. And it was just such a like bomber. Like, I don’t know if I want to like do this again. And so we just tried to like set the momentum for the crew of just pay everybody on time or ahead of time, take care of people. It’s it’s as little as that. And they will like work their butt off for you and keep that loyalty. That was just something super simple that we just tried to stick by. Great. John, do you have anything you want to add to that?

John Kubin:

I think Jed said it best, but I mean, if randomly, if best advice I could give is I wish I would have taken more advice. But I think it’s really the fact that we went into this business kind of just not having a lot of experience and just barreling into it. It kind of really made us grow up really quick and just figure things out a lot faster. So if you know, you’re passionate about something, I mean, my philosophy is just like, if you’re going to go for it, then go for it. If you’re going to fail, then, then go down in flames type of thing. Because at the end of the day, it’s like, this is stuff we love to do in one shape or another. And if you’re not pursuing what you’re doing, then you’re in the wrong business. You know, you need to go after it and you gotta take risks. And that’s kinda what the philosophy of specter is. This is spec and we’re just saying, you know, go film your passions and make it work, you know, make your own destiny here. So I think a lot of people are just waiting around for that opportunity to find them. And you need to be the one that gets out there and makes the opportunity.

Levi Ames:

Yeah. So for me you know, like if you are pursuing the thing that you want to do, no one tells you the kind of marathon run that you’re on. And so I had a teacher tell me, he’s like, listen, you know, they’re going to be good days are going to be bad days. You might even be working on a project where you hate the people. You might even hate the project, but need the money. You know, there’s just going to be all these different elements that are happening, but he said like, you need to pay attention to at least one thing that is like a victory throughout the whole thing. So for me, if I’m animating and it’s like, I don’t like the people, I don’t like the project, but if I can pay attention to like this one principle of animation that I’m learning and just keep going, just keep going until, you know, you get to something that’s just even better, you know, just paying attention to the small victories, you know? And that helps because like, if even when you are pursuing the thing that you want to do, you gotta have the stamina, you gotta have the, the marathon race to keep going because you know, it’s not all rainbows and puppies there. So like you gotta, you gotta keep, keep finding those small victories.

Sarah Marince:

That’s so true. Well, thank you guys. All of you so much for being here today and for giving all of the information that you did. This was wonderful. And just to wrap up, we’re going to go one by one and you can just say your name again and tell us where we can find you if you have a website or on social media. And also if you’d like to drop it in the chat box for all of our audience to find you on Instagram or your website, whatever you can do that too. And Levi we’ll start with you. We’ll go backwards.

Levi Ames:

You can find some, some videos and animation work at vimeo.com/leviames. Or you can find me at Instagram, Levi Ames @ Leviames, and I’ll just have it in here.

Sarah Marince:

Great. John

John Kubin:

I’m John, a founder of Spexster, and you can find a, both Jed and I at Spexster.com Make sure there’s two S’s in Spexster and a yeah.

Sarah Marince:

Jed, do you want to add on to that at all? Yep.

Jed Williams:

Jed. And you can find us on Instagram at, at Spexster Inc.

Sarah Marince:

Justin, you want to promote anything?

Justin McAleece:

What do you think I want to promote to get out of here? Brick Madness is a movie we made it’s on Amazon right now. You can go to brickmadness.com. You can find out about it buy DVDs and Blu-rays. Or just go to Amazon and watch it because it’s really good. And you’ll like it. I bet. And if you don’t, then it will give you your money back guaranteed. Yeah.

Sarah Marince:

Awesome. Thank you, Justin. Meisha?

Meisha Lee:

You can find me on Ig Meisha Lee and my website is directormeisha.com.

Jake McGhee:

hisgraceproductions.com get on my website, got Instagram Vimeo links from there.

Sarah Marince:

Wonderful. And I’m Sarah Marince. You can find all of my voiceover and fun stuff on Sarahmarince.com and I’m on Instagram at Sarah Marince. We will see you on the next crew talk and a couple of Wednesdays, but thank you everyone again for tuning in, and we will see you next time. Bye.

 

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