Starting Your Own Production Company

Hello Ryan and thank you for speaking with the Lights Online Film School – Music Video Department about your film production company Lucky Branded Entertainment based out of NYC. Many of our readers have their own production companies or wish to start their own production company. Can you tell us a little bit more about how Lucky Branded Entertainment came into existence and what its goals are as a video production company?

Sure thing. I started Lucky with Jonathan Rosen in ’08. We met in NYU’s Film Intensive Certificate Problem the summer before. We got along great, had similar background and both saw the potential for combining our advertising background with our directing endeavors. Lucky was originally created to be a Branded Viral Film company. We felt that clients would do braver work if it were viral. However, as time went on, we realized longer format was where it’s at so we’ve been more focused on selling 2 TV pilots we directed.

You’ve done a lot of commercial work (travel ads, car ads, event ads etc). Can you tell us a little bit more about how you’ve gone about finding clients for work?

Clients usually come through referrals. A friend or past client enjoyed the experience of working with you and the recommend you to someone else. Sometimes we pitch clients, but the best way to land work is through referrals.

You’ve also shot music videos. Can you tell us a little about the differences between working with a company producing a commercial and working with a band / artists / label shooting a music video?

Music videos offer you the ultimate creative freedom. It’s about exploration, expressing your vision and usually it’s on a shoe-string budget. Commercial work still needs to be intriguing and creative, but you’re held a bit more accountable to the effectiveness of the messaging. You usually have pretty good budgets with commercials but along with the higher budget comes more responsibilities and sometimes more stress. I love working in both worlds.

The music video for Alan Wilkis entitled “Shadow” is a beautifully shot music video! Well done! I’d like to talk with you a little bit more about this music video, but first let’s take a moment to allow our readers to watch the video

Let’s jump right in here. Tell me a little bit more about the interior location at :38. How much of this location is designed vs. natural? What were you looking for when you were location scouting for interior locations?

The location is pretty awesome.It’s called Forgotten Works Studio. It’s only a few blocks away from our studio and our producer John Zhao found it. It had some incredible natural light that spilled through the front windows and because it’s owned by a photographer, there were a lot of great props in it. Most importantly for us, there was a bathroom that could double as our darkroom as well. When scouting, I knew that the location was huge. That along with the wardrobe was all we had to set our place and time so I put a lot of energy into location and wardrobe. At the end of the day, I was trying to recreate these scenes I had seen in photography books as a kid from the photographer John Hedgecoe. He shot a lot of nudes in settings with a lot of natural elements (brick, plants, etc…) and yet there was a bareness to it. That’s the tone I was trying to set.

What were you looking for when you were location scouting for exterior locations?

Exteriors had to be nondescript. We were trying to set this piece in 1979. A particular time and if we saw too many cars or modern signage it wasn’t going to work. We shot by our studio in DUMBO on purpose as its’ quite industrial and has a lot of rawness to it yet.

When you were shooting indoors were you waiting for a particular time of day to shoot these scenes based on the position of the sun?

Definitely. We had to time the light coming in through the window for the interior scenes and then we wanted a more attractive light for the exteriors…so we shot those later in the afternoon into the night.

Did you use any artificial light in these interior shots?

We only had one fill light that we used sparingly.


What lenses were you using for these shots at around :54 (above)?

We shot with a Canon 5D, using L-Series Lenses. I think we shot at about 320 on a 24-70 2.8L.

I love the casting for this film. Can you tell us a little more about your casting process? How long did casting take? Where did you find the actors?

Sure thing. A lot of the cast are close friends who agreed to be in the film for the kicks of it. But the leads (nude model and photographer) were both people we auditioned. I love the casting process and think it’s one of the most critical elements in directing. However, it was the first music video I’ve done and I realized that it’s hard to cast when people don’t have lines. So this time around a big part of it was about looks people had. And then we also played around with a few fake scenarios in our auditions so that we could see the range or our actors and the approaches they had in mind for the character. It was a blast.


I notice in some of your outdoor shots you have nice rim lights on your actors. Are you using studio lights for this or just positioning them against the sun accordingly? For example, when the assistant looks around the corner at 1:45 he has a rim light on him. And then from his point of view we see the two women speaking and they also have nice rim lights on them  at 1:46 (above). Is this natural or artificial? Or did you just reposition your actors and play around with the the geography of the scene to get rim lights on everyone?

That’s cool that you like the way that looked. We actually just used natural light and bounced some back into their faces. Definitely had to cheat them a bit as well.

Do you find it takes a lot of pre-planning to plan your lighting when you’re working so extensively with the sun?

I am a huge pre-planner when it comes to directing. However, we were supposed to only shoot one day for this video and it became 2 in the end. So I would say that things got a bit looser than I would have liked on this shoot. The studio shots took a lot longer and then we were chasing our exterior light for quite a while. I wanna say that first day of shooting was 16 hours long.


When the assistant is riding the bike at 2:02 (above) how are you tracking him with the camera? How do you have the camera stabilized?

To get the bike shot, my DP, Corey Fontana held the 5D along side him as he ran trying to mirror the bike’s speed. Some of the other shots I would jump on a skateboard with Corey and we’d hold the bike as we shot.


What lens are you using around 3:40 (above) to handle so well in low light?

Same lenses throughout. L Series from Canon. This was shot with our 70-200 2.8. I think the ISO was at like 2000 or something quite high here.

You mentioned you shot this on the 5D and 7D. What did you use each camera for specifically? Which camera did you use more often?

Most of this film was shot with the 5D. We only used the 7D for when we had to play with the frame rates…i.e. slow motion shots.


How are you stabilizing your camera around 3:52 (above)? Those DSLRs are so light so I’m assuming your not hand holding the camera. Are you on a shoulder mount?

We had a Red Rocks system. Corey just had a jimmy-rigged shoulder mount because the original kit we ordered got screwed up and we sort of had this weird monster of a kit to build from.

Do you have any last words of advice to filmmakers looking to start their own production companies?

I’d just suggest you go for it. There’s always going to be fear holding you back from going out on your own. But having so much freedom and control by far outweighs any fear.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today Ryan. I speak for all of us at Lights Online Film School and all of our blog readers when I say “thank you” for sharing your insights into your production process. Good luck with your future productions.

Thanks so much!


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