The same creative energy reverberating through cities like Los Angeles, New York City and Portland can be found in Kansas City, said Marc Havener, the filmmaker behind Lawrence-based Resonate Pictures.
His message for fellow creatives: “We can make this back home.”
After 10 years on the sets of blockbuster movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Legally Blonde,” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” Havener traded life in Los Angeles for rural roots in Lawrence.
“I wanted to be in a position where I could direct my own projects,” the production company CEO said.
Dozens of boxes and a moving truck later, Havener found himself traveling down a new road — one void of yellow bricks; paved instead with opportunity.
Resonate Pictures began to take shape 11 years ago, under the belief “people don’t want to be told, they want to be moved,” he said. Turning common, corporate video themes on their head quickly became the company’s strategy.
“Story is the tried and true method of how human beings are inspired,” Havener said.
Under that philosophy, he and his contemporaries believed Resonate Pictures could shatter industry barriers by offering clients heartfelt, dramatic, training videos with cinematic flair.
But how does a startup production company cut through the noise of an oversaturated industry? Personal relationships make a difference, Havener said.
“Be good to everyone,” he advised. “People you hire now will (someday) be hiring you.”
The music streaming service employed the talents of Nashville-based artist Stan Herd — a former colleague of Havener — in June and early July to create crop circles in fields outside of Lawrence. The images formed were promotional art for the company’s “Hot Country” playlist.
“I came in as a drone photographer,” Havener recalled as he detailed a “tissue session” with Spotify and Herd. After staring at storyboards and absorbing the company’s vision for a TV commercial, Havener thought, “How can we find the magic?” he said.
The filmmaker got to work.
“At this point I wasn’t invited to the table … all I could do was speculate and get creative,” he said.
Doing so resulted in a pitch for three separate commercials, advertising the “Hot Country” playlist — featuring artists Luke Bryan, Kelsea Ballerini and Jason Aldean.
Hopeful Resonate Pictures would be given a chance, Havener sent his ideas to Spotify and fell asleep. He awoke 15 minutes later to dozens of e-mails and messages praising his pitch.
“We had a legitimate shot,” Havener said, beaming.
Excitement, however, soon turned to disappointment. Despite loving Havener’s pitch, Spotify chose an L.A.-based production company to lead their project — a decision Havener said he understood.
Although it seemed Spotify had closed a door, a window opened. The company was granted the opportunity to direct a web spot for the streaming service.
This was a direct-to-brand project,” Havener explained. It was rare air for a company of Resonate Pictures’ size, much less a local production house.
“The lesson learned is to focus on the creative,” he said Spotify saw that.
Not only did Spotify respond to Resonate Pictures’ creative thinking, so did the project’s celebrity subjects, Havener said.
“Jason Aldean loved it and wanted his own version of the video to put on his social streams,” the filmmaker said proudly.
Moving forward, Havener’s company plans to use its experience with Spotify to build momentum and bring in new business — proving to clients that the seemingly impossible can be achieved with limited resources, he said.
Check out Resonate Pictures’ web commercial for Spotify below.