Bottle Rocket Media specializes in video production, motion graphics, and virtual event production.
As a Principal and a Director at Bottle Rocket Media, Dan Fisher is excited to be able to combine his years of experience as an Editor, a Producer, a Director, and a Photographer to create content across many platforms.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Branded content is still the leader in commercial storytelling and advertising
- Using technology (camera, lighting, audio) makes all the difference when tapping into viewers’ emotions
- Lessons learned in 10 years with a creative business – principles matter
- Navigating a career of collaboration
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for High Velocity Radio.
Stone Payton: Welcome to the High Velocity Radio show, where we celebrate top performers producing better results in less time. Stone Payton here with you this afternoon. Please join me in welcoming to the broadcast with Bottle Rocket Media, Mr. Dan Fisher. Good afternoon, sir.
Dan Fisher: Hello. Thanks for having me.
Stone Payton: Well, it is a delight to have you on the program, man. I got a ton of questions. I know we’re not going to get to them all, but I think a good place to start would be if you could share with us mission purpose. What are you and your team really out there trying to do for folks, man?
Dan Fisher: So, you know, the company started in its most purest of forms, really. You know, I’d spent years and years and years in the Hollywood machine and wanted to kind of bring that quality to to the private sector. But since then, it’s really developed into this quest for just telling great stories in whatever and whatever manner we can. So we’re a small, mid-sized video production company based out of Chicago. And so what we really do every day, whether it’s a whether it’s working with a still photographer or a full crew or my editors, is just try and find that kernel of storytelling that that inspires people.
Stone Payton: So how did you get started, man? How did you get into this business?
Dan Fisher: Oh, I got lost along the way. And here I am. You know, fairly fairly traditional trajectory. I was very much a photographer at a young age and one day got my hand on a on a video camera and fell in love with it. After school, after college, I moved out to Los Angeles, where I where I didn’t have a lot of my friends and colleagues went out to be the next great director or the next great writer. And I really didn’t have that that specific goal in mind. So I wound up taking me all over the business because I allowed myself to try a lot of different things. So I’d spent a lot of years doing lighting. I spent a lot of years as a producer, some time directing my own things. And so all that sort of sort of culminated when I wound up getting a job in primetime TV in Los Angeles, which then that trajectory took me. I got a job at the Oprah Winfrey Show, which is what brought me to the Midwest. All that to say. I started as a I started with a love affair of the image, you know, and photography and videography and cinematography. And then when I started editing in Los Angeles, I really my my love shifted to telling stories. And so and so when I when I got the job at the Oprah Winfrey Show, that’s all I did for 60, 70 hours a week. Like a like a ridiculous amount of amount of hours, really kind of cutting my teeth and learning what works and what doesn’t in the nonfiction storytelling space so that when the show ended, I was able to sort of combine these two loves when I started this company.
Stone Payton: So when it comes to commercial storytelling, if that’s an appropriate phrase, I bet you’ve learned a ton, maybe even skinned your knee a couple of times. Have you kind of feel like you’ve cracked the code on some do’s and don’ts when it comes to commercial storytelling and using that to advance a brand?
Dan Fisher: Sadly, there’s no code to be cracked because every client is a different code. But I think there are some things that I’ve that I’ve learned over the years in terms of collaborating, in terms of working creatively with other people that that that I’ve developed over the years, that that has really helped. And they’re all obvious but still worth worth repeating, you know, for, for me. What I had to really develop into is to learn how to be a better listener. And you hear this all the time when musicians are playing together, like, what’s the most important thing you do? And they all say, Listen, But that’s true with that’s probably true with everything, but it’s certainly true with anything collaborative is to really allow yourself to be in the moment and hear what what people are saying. And that’s probably the big the big code breaker for me. And then I guess also. In the same vein as kind of listen to your gut. Right. So many people who do what. What I do. It starts from a place of of pure intention and art, but that at the end of the day, it just makes all of us insecure artists. And I can appreciate that. But also, there’s a good chance that if you’re thinking something or feeling something creatively, so is somebody else. And the best thing to do is just follow your let your let your gut take you where it needs to be. Because at the end of the day, it is just a creative endeavor. And I was I was used to joke and say, well, we’re not we’re not performing brain surgery, we’re not saving lives. And so, you know, the the the ability to at least put the idea, even if it’s not the best idea or not, the approved idea is still something that’s very important.
Stone Payton: So now that you’ve been at this a while, what are you finding the most rewarding? What what’s the most fun for you, man?
Dan Fisher: So thanks for asking that question. It’s it’s an important topic for me. I for me now. What’s the most fun is growing. My team, as you know, because of the because of the inception of this business, it started with me and my business partner, Brett Singer. You know, so much of the so much of the growth of the business revolves around everything we do. And it becomes it becomes basically there’s there’s a one person audience and that audience becomes me. And everything my team does has to satisfy me. I’ve always kind of shied away from that and really just want my my team members to shine. We always say, like, the best thing we can do is put a bunch of smart people in a room and get out of their way. And so finally, at a place both as both as an owner and even as a even as a director, when I’m on set where I’m able to actually do that, I’m able to step aside. I’m able to provide provide guidance for the team and watch them, watch them. Take it to the next level.
Stone Payton: Well, you touch on a really important set of points, I think, because many of us there’s there’s practicing our craft. And if we want to be productive and have real impact, we’ve also got to run a business, Right. And to do that, we’ve got to we’ve got to produce results with and through other other people. What do you feel like you’ve learned about recruiting, developing, retaining, cultivating people and creating that culture that’s going to lend itself to to reaching those objectives?
Dan Fisher: I probably haven’t learned anything. I keep tripping over myself. It’s so hard. No one listening is going is going to question. When I say the generational thing really is, it really makes it challenging. It’s really hard when you’re recruiting. If you’re if you’re trying to recruit, if you’re trying to recruit somebody from Gen X, which is my category or or a millennial or a boomer, like, it’s a completely different set of rules and people respond completely differently depending on on what where they’re at in their career. And so, I mean. I guess, if I’ve learned anything. If there’s anything consistent, it’s probably that the onboarding process is critical. I spent a lot of time bringing people on and making sure they understand their value to to my team and what. And what I expect them, what I expect their value to do and how I expect that value to grow our team. And I’ve done it wrong more than I’ve done it right. I’ve had people leave because they felt they they I misrepresented what the job was. The job was more more intense than than they thought it was. The job was too easy. Like, I’ve really I say this is probably the area of most experimentation, but when it worked right, it worked right because I over communicated during the onboarding process. I spent I went that extra mile to find the right candidate. From the beginning, I didn’t I didn’t rush into anything, and I just made sure that whomever whomever the candidate is or the new or the new team member was really, really, really understood that, that they’re vital to the growth of the company. And my company has 15 people, so each person is vital to the growth of the company. Yeah, I’ll say so.
Stone Payton: Have you had the benefit of one or more mentors to kind of help you navigate this business side of things?
Dan Fisher: I’ve had a lot of informal mentors. I have I have colleagues and actually clients over the years that have been that have been champions for us that we were hired to do a project. One thing about me is I’m super transparent all the time. It’s it’s either my fatal flaw or my superpower. I haven’t figured it out. And so, you know, even we’re on set, it’s lunch. And, you know, I love to things as much as as much as my family. I love making videos and I love growing my business. And so that’s what I talk about. So that conversation has has inspired a lot of people to offer themselves up for advice, for consult over the years. But there hasn’t been one one person in a business sense that’s been there. That’s been my true mentor.
Stone Payton: Well, I commend you on your ability to seek out a variety of people and be and I guess maybe, maybe more importantly, to be open to absorbing what’s what’s out there. Because, I mean, we can’t we can’t do it alone. I mean, we really can’t write. I mean, we need to know.
Dan Fisher: No, I mean, before. So I think I, I think this business was a minute old when when Brett joined. And I always knew that I needed a partner, but especially in a in a space where half of your brain minimally has to be occupied by, by the creative side, and then there’s running the business. And I’m just a huge proponent of you can you can never learn too much. I, I read a ton about this stuff. You know, to to be clear, I’m just a I’m just a filmmaker who decided to open up a business 11 years ago. So I knew going into it, other than other than the dozen books that I read while while at night, while I was an editor, I knew from the very get go that I had no idea what I was doing. So so reading and talking to people is the only way, you know, to to advance well.
Stone Payton: And if you didn’t know it immediately, I’m sure you learned very quickly that you were going to be facing any variety of risk at any given time. Did you have you sort of developed a playbook for for taking smart risk or knowing when to cut your losses? Have you have you have you got the Dan Fisher playbook for that kind of thing put together?
Dan Fisher: I got the Dan Fisher playbook. If you if you if you ask anybody on my team, they’ll say it starts with a calculator in my hand. Prior to starting Bottle Rocket Media, I’ve been an independent contractor basically my whole career, and so I’m not averse to risk. You know, I have a family, I live in a house, I drive a car and, you know, I never had a full time job. So. So for me, like, the smart risk is always about limiting my financial exposure. So we might have great ideas as a team that we want to do and we will get to them, but we might not get to them today. And so it’s really just about chipping away and doing doing my homework as to what the exposure is and. You know, making I’ve made a lot of small risks that didn’t pan out. But to me that’s better than making a big one and having to recover from from a giant. From a giant. Because. Because risks are going to fail. We know that. And that’s and that’s the point of them. But I’ve always wanted the blow to be a little bit I’m a little bit more conservative in that. In that sense, I’ve always wanted the the failures to be less profound.
Stone Payton: So how does the whole sales and marketing thing work for a guy like you? An organization like yours? How do you get the new the new business?
Dan Fisher: So this is actually a great a great story. So I have a small marketing team. It’s run by run by our marketing director, Tamika Carlton, and she has been with us for about three years prior prior to Tamika joining the team, We. We spent probably seven years or so doing nothing but outbound a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls, a lot of coffees for for local people. And. And then we. Brought on someone to run marketing right on the eve of the pandemic. And this isn’t a this isn’t a pandemic story as much as. Well, I guess it is in that we spent seven years doing outbound and then we completely stopped doing outbound because there was no point of it during the pandemic. And we did three we’ve done now done three years of only inbound. And at the beginning of this year, Brett decided to move over to focus solely on sales. And so we’ve basically been doing all inbound. We’ve really been working the the SEO and the marketing circuit, you know, basically taking advantage of of the Internet. And as outside of return clients, a large percentage of our clients find us and we’ve recently started to. Get back into our outbound ways. And so it’s just a lot of like every small business finding the equation that works for us. You know, if you had told me ten years ago that I could that I could procure sizable video production budgets by being present on Google, I would have laughed at you. But the but the. The landscape is changing and very, very, very big companies and big agencies are simply seeking, using Google like everybody else to find what defined the services they need. So we’ve gotten some really nice size clients just by by having a very strong presence on the Internet.
Stone Payton: I often get asked about some of my favorite or most interesting interviews. Do you ever get asked about do you have a favorite shoot, if that’s the right word or two that kind of stuck out. Man, I really enjoyed that one.
Dan Fisher: So, you know, it depends it depends what lens I’m looking through. But I would say personally, for me, my probably my favorite stuff to work on is pharmaceutical stuff. It’s super dry. I know. And if you’re not if you’re not super familiar with with what that looks like, it might you might you might shake your head. But. A lot of times when we’re doing the pharmaceutical stuff, we get to work with real people, real patients, and we get to make these tell these really intimate stories, like maybe mini documentaries. And it could be like a day in the life of using a using a medication or what it’s like to live with a certain condition, all kinds of things, all ages of people. And for me, that’s really a big component of why I do what I do, because I love talking to people. I love talking to real people and getting to know them. And so for me, that’s those are some of my favorites. And of course, most of those are proprietary. And I can’t I can’t show you them. I can’t tell you who they’re about. But but they’re really the process is great. On the flip side, if you’re looking for specifics, American Girl, the doll company is one of our clients, and several years back they called us to do a music video with. With a dozen girls dancing on stage. And that one shoot is just something I look back on fondly because it was you know, we had all the toys, We had a choreographer, We had kids dancing. It was just one of those like, spectacle type things, type shoots that really that was a fun one. And everyone was really happy with the product.
Stone Payton: So I got to give a shout out to American Girl. I am the father of two girls. My brother has a girl they all had. They all got from their grandmother at art prodding and art with a little bit of facilitation from us, an American Girl doll. So what a what a great company. What a delight. I’m sure that was to to work with them. I’d love to. Before we wrap, leave our listeners with some insight, some perspective on a couple of fronts. One, just kind of how you see the kind of the state of the industry, if you will, you know, the importance of video in these times. And so I’d love your take on that. But also maybe for those of us that really don’t necessarily even know the questions we should be asking, what to be looking for when we’re considering engaging a media firm to come in and help us captur video to help us go to market more effectively.
Dan Fisher: Good questions. I mean, if I have to communicate to to you or people listening the importance of video, I think nobody’s paying attention. It’s it’s amazing. You know, frankly, I’ve never been this spot on in terms of in terms of a business idea, you know, to focus on video. I don’t think anybody could have anticipated it going the way going the way it has. I mean, it’s it’s and I don’t I don’t use the term loosely. It’s literally everywhere. So I think there’s there’s no there’s no shortage of ways to use video. And and that’s at all at all levels of any organization, whether you’re communicating your mission, whether you’re training employees, whether you’re whether you’re if you’re if you’re a larger company and you just need to communicate a consistent message, you know, and forget about social media and advertising and all this stuff, that that is that is more obvious. There’s just there’s just no there’s just no shortage of how to use it. And, you know, I am a proponent of of what I would say, like a well balanced video diet. It doesn’t all have to come from a from a production company. We all have some of the best cameras we own are on our phones or on our computers or right with just a little bit with just a little bit of love from a from a microphone or something. You can have a you can create beautiful video. So I think it’s everywhere. I think it’s it’s not going anywhere. I’m a little bit of a reader. And so it’s sad to say that again, this is not news.
Dan Fisher: People aren’t reading the way they the way they were. But but everyone is watching video. Everyone is. Let me put it to you this way, Stone. If I’ve downloaded Tik Tok on my phone, then the worm has turned. I mean, you know, it’s just it’s just ubiquitous. You know, everything is everywhere. When you when you search something in Google, the first thing that comes up is a YouTube clip. And YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world. And that’s not even that’s not even taking into account the entertainment value. That’s just data. So so video is. Video is here to stay. It’s only going to it’s only going to get more. It’s only going to get bigger, faster, more, more present. And I don’t even really know what that means. But but the technology is growing. So, so well. So. So will the video component. In terms of what to ask. So my so. Our business is like any other business. There’s there’s people who are good at it and there’s people who are not. There’s people who are nice. There’s people who are not. There’s people who are transparent and there’s people who are not. And so for me, you know, it’s not so much about the questions to ask. I mean, certainly I probably have written this blog half a dozen times, and we have actually we have a lot of information on our on our website. If people are really interested in knowing how to engage with a video production company. But I think what’s most important is that you that you work with people that are that are open to collaboration, that are of course not overpriced and that because there’s so many.
Dan Fisher: Components to a to a video project. It starts with it starts with the concept. It’s there’s a lot a ton of planning. There’s a lot of moving parts. If there’s if there’s a crew, there’s post-production is very subjective. Is that if if the company that you’re working with or the people that you’re working with have a process in place, I think that says a lot about what the experience will be because. You hear all the time people that go through the process of making a video. They’re not unhappy with the product. The product came out well or okay, but the but the process was miserable. And it’s one of those weird it’s one of those weird aspects to this business where you can have a really bad time. But at the end of the day, the product, if the product is is reasonably close to what you thought it would be. People are accepting of it, but it just doesn’t have to be like that. So I think, you know, like, like any other vendor of any other industry, you know, look under the hood, make sure you read the fine print and and, and if you feel like they’re being transparent with you, then you’re going to know exactly what you get. And with a little bit more preparation, I would have had this exact blog standing by on my screen and I could have read you five bullet point stone. But I don’t I don’t have it in front of me.
Stone Payton: Well, that’s all right, because the next thing we’re going to do before we wrap is we’re going to make sure that our listeners have an easy path to connect with you tap into your work. So if they would like to have a conversation with you or someone on your team or just start to learn more about your work, let’s equip them with some coordinates. Let’s make it easy for them.
Dan Fisher: Oh, sure. You know, I think the best place to get in touch with us is our website bottle Rocket Media dot net. There you can click on all kinds of links to communicate with the team members and of course, see our work. And we have our our I mean, we’re a video production company, so I don’t get to talk about our blog much, but it’s pretty extensive. We’ve got we’ve got a very big library of of of material that would answer all of these questions, how to work with a vendor, how to work with music, what’s the best way to do X, Y, and Z? You know, no shortage of opinions here. And then, of course, we’re we’re all over social media. Instagram bottle, Rocket Media three 1 to 4 Chicago area code. Facebook, I think is just bottle Rocket media. So we’re around where everywhere that you would think we would be. We are not I’m not sure if we’re on Twitter and we’re not on Tik Tok yet. That’s just because we’re too busy.
Stone Payton: Well, Dan, it has been an absolute delight having you on the show this afternoon. It’s been informative, inspiring. I really appreciate you investing the time and energy to share your experience and your insight and your perspective. And man, just keep up the good work.
Dan Fisher: Thanks. Thanks, man. Really appreciate.
Stone Payton: It. It is my pleasure. All right. Until next time, this is Stone Payton for our guest today, Dan Fisher with Bottle Rocket Media and everyone here at the business Radio family saying we’ll see you in the fast lane.