October 21, 2013

SCA Family Stories: Vibrancy Studios

USC Sits Down with two Entrepreneurs from Crit Studies

Technology has changed everything. From preproduction, to production to post-production to distribution. From video game design to education to architecture. Trojans Steven Corrigan Fine  and Marcus Yves Garfinkle are two young businessmen riding the digital wave by founding Vibrancy Studios, known as the Creative Studio of the Digital Generation.

Steven Corrigan Fine and Marcus Yves Garfinkle

Steven and Marcus recently sat with SCA Family Stories to discuss their company, the opportunities for Trojans looking to start their own business and how the uncertainty of the digital age lets small startups compete with industry giants.

For more information on Vibrancy Studios, please visit: http://www.vibrancystudios.com/

Let’s start with your names and Graduation Years:MYG: My name is Marcus Yves Garfinkle and I graduated from the School of Cinematic Arts with a major in Critical Studies in May of 2013.

SCF: My name is Steven Corrigan Fine. I’m graduating from the Bryan Singer Division of Critical Studies in May of 2014.

Tell me about your company. SCF: We’ve just launched a creative studio with some of the most talented artist and creatives within the USC School of Cinematic Arts network, all of whom are digital experts. So we have everything from film and video production to photography, graphic design and website design and development. So, what we’re doing is creating digital experiences and unique and differentiating brand identities.

This is for artists and for businesses.

Who are you targeting? Who should be looking into you? MYG: Everyone. So, what’s great about our business is that we can service everything from businesses that sell shoes or that manufacture chairs to musicians and actors who need acting reels, head shots, or websites.

This is the digital age, so everyone needs digital content. Digital media. We want to be looked at as the go-to studio for any and all digital content creation.

How did the idea come about to start the company? MYG: The idea really sprung up a couple years ago. I realized how many talented friends I had in the USC community. USC immersed me in this community of some of the greatest artists of our generation. People who were hungry to collaborate and so talented at what they do but not too many people knew about these individuals.

I wanted to create an online showcase that would bring all of these artists together to one place. To allow them to collaborate and to showcase their work. That was called Vibrancy. That was a website I developed last year and took about eleven hundred hours. I brought together about one hundred and six profiles, which was the beginning of an evolution that has culminated to this point.

We’ve taken this thing, this idea, this passion, and this conceptual framework, and developed it into a revenue generating fully operational business for creating incredible content for our clientele across the creative spectrum. We’ve entered this age where, if you’re an entrepreneur,  you really have to have that strong website with the strong mobile presence, strong social media presence and your content has to be of a very high caliber. That goes for artists and really anyone within the economy.

So we’re really excited to be able to offer really great services to aspiring artists and businesses that are similar to us.

Steven Corrigan Fine

What are some of the end products you produce? SCF: A client of ours could end up with anything from a music video to a commercial to a set of headshots to a logo to a beautiful, fully customized website that they can update with their own content.

This is the first time in history that people who have just graduated from college, people that are just finishing up their studies can launch a company like this. Five years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to start this. Let alone ten or fifteen years ago.

Right now everything is moving online. It’s becoming digital.  It’s becoming mobile. These are some of the things that are really exciting about this transition. When we’re creating content, we’re creating it in with a cross-platform mindset. We’re creating everything to be transmedia. When we’re making a music video, we want to make sure people can watch on their phones or their tablets or their laptops.

In the last five years, what has changed that made Vibrancy possible? MYG: It really has to do with the access to technology, the access to software and the access to high-volume social networks. We have someone on our team named Brandon Jacoby. He’s the world’s youngest Adobe certified expert.

He’s been designing, developing and selling websites since he was eleven years old. He’s now seventeen years old. Still in High School. He’s a testament to the power of our generation and to the incredible timing we have right now. Someone like Brandon has had access to Adobe Creative Suite for eight, nine years. That’s changing the game. We can really compete with the big guys because we speak the language of digital.

We are the digital generation. Our tagline is “the Creative Studio of the Digital Generation.” We’re really making it a point for people to understand that communication is changing. It’s either going mobile or it’s going social media or it’s going cross-platform.

Alot of companies are trying to speak to our generation and we speak a different syntax. A different dialect.

SCF: It’s a digital language.

What do you mean by digital language? SCF: Something that’s been discussed frequently with reference to our generation is that attention spans are getting shorter. The difference in the way we are consuming is that now there’s a ton of information that is very easily accessible and that tends to be graphic heavy.

Before, with a newspaper, there were pictures but it was mainly words. If you listen to the radio, it’s only sounds. Or you’re watching television, that’s where you get your news. Now, online, you’re bombarded with photos, videos and several different sources. It’s a democratization. Especially, when you’re talking about film and video production. Everyone with an iPhone is a filmmaker.

Even as something as simple as Vine with a six second video that’s replaying. There’s so much. One element of the digital language is to cut through the noise  and create great content.

Another element is to be able to know how to distribute it properly so people can see what’s good. The cream doesn’t always rise to the top on the internet. There’s so much content weighing it down.

What do most people get wrong when they are thinking about the new digital language? SCF: Content is king. Period. That still stands in the digital marketplace. It’s something that most people neglect. They think, “What do we have to do different online?”

One of the transitions from film to television was that everything got closer. The shot sizes were smaller. There were tons of close-ups because you want that intimacy. You want that connection but because it’s a smaller screen, you need to get closer.

This is another thing that will affect if you’re trying to move from a TV to a computer monitor, you have to change. That’s not even mentioning going from a computer screen to a phone. These are the types of things that are throwing content creators off their game. They need to learn how to adapt.

There are different technical things you can be doing but, without a doubt, neglecting good content is a huge mistake. This is one of the problems with our generation. They think, because I can create content, they think they’re creating something valuable. That’s not the case.  Just because you’re creating something doesn’t mean it’s something people will watch, and will prove valuable to them and not waste their time. Another major element of the equation is relevancy: am I creating content that is relevant to my audience, and specific to their needs, their desires and their interests? Knowing your audience is paramount.

MYG: Effectivity is very hard to come by.

What do you mean by effectivity? MYG: Creating a piece of content that has a specific target audience and really understanding what that target audience wants. What they’re personally looking for. How they can relate to it and how that client can really reach them.

SCF: Relevancy. This is how people build social media campaigns. First, you need to identify who your target audience is. Then, you have to ensure that what you’re providing is relevant to their life and what they’re interested in. This is why topicality is one of the main drives of virality.

This is another element of digital media and social media.

Marcus Yves Garfinkle

When something goes viral, you’ve hit the homerun. You don’t really need a box office splash when you have something on YouTube. It’s a different game with different stakes. Now, it’s a couple hundred thousand to a million views and you’ve done extraordinarily well, depending on what your goals are. The digital metric, impressions, relates how many people were exposed to a given piece of content. Per our discussion, the relevancy of the impressions drives the value of those impressions, and is a determining factor in the monetization of digital distribution and advertising/marketing campaigns.

If someone’s already a content creator but they aren’t good with the digital language, why should they hire Vibrancy? SCF: Because not only do we speak the digital language, but that informs the content that we create and the way it is distributed online. Also, the notion of collaboration is one of the foundational elements of our studio. So, we want to be collaborating with people who are both inspiring to us and others as content creators.

If someone weren’t familiar with the digital media landscape, we will work with them. This is something we were born with and raised into. This affects the way that we look at media and the way we’re creating it.

If we were to collaborate with someone, we would be the digital experts. We would help them understand the different ways things go viral and why they go viral. It would be a collaborative process.

Most businesses want people in the millennial generation. Our generation has only been coming to age in the last five years. Most of the people that are going to be hiring us aren’t going to be that familiar. When they want to collaborate, they will come to us because we are the digital expert.

What do you bring to the table for businesses that already understand the digital landscape? MYG: We bring the skills and youthful creative energy of the digital generation, and create engaging and effective digital experiences. What we’re bringing, outside of our unique perspective and our work, is our collaborative community. One of our favorite parts of the studio is that we provide infrastructure. We provide a way for artists to do what they love to do. They love to create. We handle everything else. We can handle payments to the getting of the business. This means that we can be the home base for some of the most innovative and inspiring creatives; everyone from web developers and designers to photographers, filmmakers, and social/digtial media experts can call Vibrancy Studios home and really benefit from the foundation that we’ve created.

Its really is great because Steven and I are both filmmakers at heart. We’ve come to understand the importance of building a foundation. A network. A team of collaborators that allow us to create anything you want to create. And a foundation of capital. That allows us to create and produce anything you want to create.

We don’t want to ask for other people’s money for the rest of our lives. We want to create a sold foundation of people and capital. So, we can work with the best filmmakers and musicians and designers of our generation. We can work together to create anything that we want to create. We provide the foundation.

SCF: I think what differentiates us is that we’ve really done our due dilligance to get a team of some of the most talented and experienced artist of the digital age. Content creators. The difference with us is that you have the professionalism and the high quality of a more established studio of the older generation but, with us, you have the new perspective that understands how things work online and why they work online.

We bring that approach to the filmmaking. To the photography. To the web and graphic design.

As digital experts, where do you think digital culture will be in five years? SCF: A major element of the transition from traditional to “new” media will be the transformation of the notion of distribution. In one sense, it’s almost disappearing because, once you’ve made content, all you have to do is upload it to the internet.

You’re already exhibiting. Distribution is going to be digital. It’s going to be in a place where it can be exhibited. Now it’s going to be more about getting people to know where it is. To get people to find it. Things will be online and functional before you know what to do with it.

I think, when you talk about the connected culture, one of the craziest things is that, we’ve been approached by clients in Colombia, Brazil, Miami, New York, and can create digital products for them remotely. One of the big things was people becoming familiar enough to exchange money online. Then, people became comfortable making friends online. This increasing familiarity with an online interaction is only increasing

Someone could hire us to do a fifty thousand dollar music video. A hundred thousand dollar commercial. They can do this online without having met us. That’s a game changer.

People have been raised on the internet. Culturally, it breaks down a lot of barriers. Ethnic. Economic. National.

If we’re talking about globalization, it’s going to be huge. It really allows greater access to information but, for those who are diligent about going out and teaching themselves the new tools, it’s really allowing us to become experts at a much younger age. I mean, Brandon Jacoby built websites at 11 years old. It’s unbelievable.

I’m able to go home and, with Netflix, order DVDs - and even that’s going to sound ridiculous in five years - I can teach myself about Swedish Cinema with Ingmar Bergman, and Italian Cinema with Rossellini and Fellini. Which, I wouldn’t have had access to without the Internet. These are different things that are enabling the progress of people who are interested in learning.

MYG: We’re capitalizing on mobile, for sure. Everyone wants more. Usage on phones is through the roof. I just got the chance to get the new iPhone. The speed really convinced me that apps are the future. That’s one of the next steps within our studio. We’re developing the app department.

Someone can hire you to build apps? Yes. It’s changing this way and we’re capitalizing on the digital age. The most important thing, moving forward, in a crowded marketplace is that everyone understands that they are their own band.

Everyone needs to create a cohesive brand identity. With Vibrancy Studios, we’re going to be able to help people with a logo. With a website. The photography to compliment that website. The video to compliment that.

And you’re taking clients now? MYG:Absolutely. People can contact us through the website, www.vibrancystudios.com.