Doobies Inc., with Loren A. Roberts at the far right. Photo by Kat Roberts
Blog, film/video, graphic design, Pasadena and local, photography, portfolio, sound

“Music is my life, man.”

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I love music. My entry into filmmaking came only after an internship at a North Hollywood recording studio brought my recording chops up, and then I used that skillset to start location recording, and then sound editing, picture editing, post production supe duties, and finally producing…but I digress.

I’ve been playing music since I was five years old. First piano and drums (orchestra percussionist for five years), then classical guitar for a while, then cello for a few years, voice lessons in high school, and on-the-job accompanist training in college. So it should come as no surprise that my current business has a soft spot for musicians.

What does that mean? Well, I still need to make money. But I can cut deals that benefit an artist or label because of my varied skillset. I can do your product packaging, but I can also work on your website and advertising. We can work on a music video, brilliant photography, and even do some recording. Later on I’ll show you a few examples.

Matt McCormackBut first: the newest project that I’m working on is with a fantastic San Antonio-based artist, Matt McCormack. Check out this guy’s amazing songwriting. We met through a friend, and I played onstage with him a few months ago when he traveled to L.A. at Genghis Cohen (fantastic venue, and fantastic restaurant too).

So when Matt asked me to add some keyboard parts to his new recording project, we embarked on a long-distance back-and-forth to find the right sounds for these new songs. Here are the first two:

I’m really excited about the collaboration, and I hope to be onstage with Matt again sometime soon.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Check out this amazing 70s-style photo from a recording session with Shakedown Mambo:

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…and the photo that ended up on the back cover of their most recent album:

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PACKAGING

I did a rather long blog post on the creation of the CD packaging for T-Lou, a Zydeco/accordion artist here in L.A., but there are a few other recent additions. These are varied, but fantastic:

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(notice that I started with photography and moved to doing Shakedown Mambo’s packaging?)

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(Buddy Zapata is also the guy who introduced me to Matt McCormack…)

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MUSIC PRODUCTION

  • Avery Roberts (my son!)(see the above CD cover) needed some demos recorded. Those demos turned into a self-published album entitled “Where Nothing Can Hurt Me“.
  • The aforementioned keyboard tracks for Matt McCormack’s new album were recorded in my studio, and then added to the mix by Matt’s amazing production team in San Antonio — an engineer, mixer, and mastering engineer.
  • Check out my “audio” page for more examples of my experience working as a composer, engineer, and producer.

WEBSITES

VIDEO PRODUCTION

All of these videos were shot and produced by Hearken Creative:

LOGOS

I was a founding member (keyboards again) of a Doobie Brothers tribute band, and developed an “homage” logo for that band:

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As you can see, we are a one-stop shop for marketing musical acts. Does this limit us? No! We are still working on communications and marketing for pharmaceutical companies, nonprofits, colleges, museums, and more. But it’s fun to look at one market segment, and see how much incredibly fun material we have produced.

(The blog post title is from 2003’s movie “School of Rock”…)

Blog, business, film/video, graphic design, photography, portfolio, post production for film and video, sound

Are you busy or not?

I dislike the question “Are you busy?” — because I don’t know how to answer it. I don’t crave “busy-ness” — being busy just for the sake of being busy. However!…I love filling my life with experiences. Over the past decade, between my wife and I, we have added a teaching credential, several certifications, graduating from Cal State L.A., thousands of miles of travel for both business and pleasure, and — as of a few days ago — not one but two teenagers in the house! (Ooops — I forgot — now I’m directing a church choir too.) And that’s on top of the day-to-day running of a household and business.

The point is this: I love learning. Lately I have been reading Simon Sinek’s Start With Why (unsure if I agree with his premise, but still interesting), a bunch of blogs on HTML5 and e-mail deliverability, someone’s senior thesis comparing the Contemporary Christian worship/music industry to European Communism, and a bunch of online articles on both marketing and studio music production. I also try and read at least one work of fiction per month. Tonight I’ll be a chaperone for a children’s choir while they rehearse with Gustavo Dudamel at Disney Hall. All of this activity keeps my mind constantly seeing new things, new solutions, new issues, new opportunities. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

But would I jump at helping you out with a new project tomorrow? Of course! Give me a call.

Busy-ness aside, here are some new projects that just launched this week:

Matt Frazier/TAIMusic website homepage

Matt Frazier website. Matt and I have been friends for over 20 years, and when it was time for him to get a website makeover, he came to me with very specific hopes: short, easy-to-navigate, boldly individual, and something that he could continue to update on his own. We developed a one-page website out of relatively-simple HTML5, and Matt has already done a bunch of updates himself since it launched a few days ago. Matt has been in the music industry for a long time (and he’s a fantastic musician himself!), and has a deep understanding of music theory, money — as it relates to music, and recording/producing. We wish him all the best with the new website, and a new stage in his career.

Jon Leonoudakis website homepage

Jon Leonoudakis website. Jon and I have worked on several films together — both behind the camera, and in the marketing department. I shot footage for his award-winning documentaries “The Day the World Series Stopped” and “Hano! A Century In the Bleachers“, and then designed the packaging and websites for both films when principal photography was wrapped. So, when Jon needed a new website, he contacted me and we worked out a deal that was win-win for everyone. Like Matt, Jon was interested in having something that he could continue to update himself, so Hearken Creative set up a robust WordPress site where everything is modular, and Jon can continue to grow the site as his production company grows. We’re excited to see where Jon goes next with his unique brand of storytelling, and awesome producing style!

Other projects that have been happening recently:

  • I designed much of the collateral artwork for The Planetary Society’s spacecraft-building Kickstarter campaign, and they have almost completed fulfilling all of the “rewards” for the campaign. They also have recently named the new spacecraft — which will hopefully launch later this year — Lightsail2. You can see many of my photographs in the updates to the campaign.
  • Kendra Celise continues to post music videos from the live studio session we filmed at my studio. Over the course of six weeks, these videos have given her several thousand new views, and helped her launch her upcoming EP and her newest single “Admit It Baby” — we love her music, and hope that the launch is wildly successful!

Finally, I have been going back to revisit the footage that I shot during my two trips to northern Japan after the tsunami. We only publicly released one video from that footage — the wildly-popular “Nozomi Project” mini-documentary — and I’d like to see if I can show more of how local churches in Japan have been assisting with the re-building…both physically and emotionally. The people that I have met on my many trips to Asia are held in a special place in my heart, and it makes me happy when people see what great community-building work is going on there. So I hope to have some new Japan videos out soon — maybe even to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the tsunami in a few weeks.

So yes…we’re busy. But not in a bad way. And do you need a project like one of these for yourself of your company? Give me a call — I’m sure we can get something wonderful going. I’m never too busy to sit down and talk with you.

Blog, business, graphic design, Pasadena and local

Watching Your Baby Come Off the Press

interior page from December 2015 issue of The Planetary Report

It’s always fun seeing the fruition of months of work. We get to do it every quarter, with The Planetary Society’s magazine The Planetary Report. Because I am a stickler for details and always want to see projects through to the very end, I spend a day in Orange County at the printshop doing press checks and ensuring that each magazine prints perfectly. (They print over 50,000 copies of the magazine, on a big web press. It’s a fun process to watch.)

This type of work is not what most people think of when they hire a creative director or marketing manager, but quality counts. My aim is to make every project we produce a home-run for the client. It’s all about matching the right message with the right media — be it a website, or magazine, or brochure, or e-mail blast.

Over the next few weeks we will have a new website launch to feature, some more video projects, and more! Stay tuned…

Blog, business, graphic design, Pasadena and local

Enjoying My Clients’ Happiness

I received two notes in the mail this week, both with checks for payment on recent projects:

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It is gratifying to see clients happy with the end product, and Hearken Creative’s designs working as marketing tools, communication tools, and catalysts for increasing sales.

How can I help you over the rest of Q4 of 2015? New identity? New marketing strategy? Implement new tools for marketing and communications?

Writer John Schulian
Blog, business, graphic design, portfolio

New website launched for writer John Schulian

A confession: my wife and I loved watching Xena: Warrior Princess when it was on TV back in the ’90s. So when a friend introduced me to the co-creator of that series, I kinda geeked out. And then he asked me to build him a website!

So…my newest website is for John Schulian, who is promoting his first novel after writing magazine columns and editing books and crafting screenplays for the past few decades. For someone who is writing hard-boiled noir, and has covered bloody sports (he has some great articles on boxing), John is a wonderful human being — we end up talking about life, music, favorite books, and film every time we get together.

My aims in building the website were:

  • reflect the gritty quality of the novel, as well as the iconic L.A. skyline that graces the book’s cover
  • create an easy-to-navigate, responsive website that encouraged sales of the book
  • honor (and capitalize on) the body of work that John has amassed through books, magazines, and online stories

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I think the initial website is very successful here, and we will keep adding more content to the site as the book drops — signing and reading dates, sales, reviews and endorsements, and more.

As the web continues to evolve, it becomes more and more important to recognize the specific needs of each client. Do we need a static website? Do we need dynamic content? Is some sort of interaction warranted? How does what’s online affect the overall brand? As a marketing expert, these are the questions that I ask at the beginning of every project. Beautiful websites (or any design, for that matter) are secondary to the ultimate goal: achieving increased sales, donations, or overall market share. What we do is innovate in such a way that your company — be it one author or a major company — can attract eyeballs…and sales.

Blog, business, film/video, graphic design, photography, portfolio, post production for film and video

New indie movie released with HCS support

I did mention that we do movies, right? Hearken Creative supported the release of Hano! A Century In The Bleachers on so many different levels:

  • Loren A. Roberts shot some of the interviews for the film
  • HCS designed the e-commerce website for the film
  • HCS designed the DVD packaging and marketing graphics
  • Loren A. Roberts shot the “hero” studio photography for the film’s key art

HanoDoc-DVD-hero-box-final-733x1000When coming to Hearken Creative, director Jon Leonoudakis knew the breadth of skills that were available from us: Jon has collaborated with us on two previous film projects — Not Exactly Cooperstown (camera) and The Day the World Series Stopped (camera, packaging, website). Jon’s passion for baseball is infectious, and we have found ourselves with a new respect for the game — even hitting up some major and minor league games recently! Jon’s professionalism and passion has paid off: both previous films have been recognized worldwide in film festivals (and Not Exactly Cooperstown has even been screened at the Baseball Hall of Fame).

We love working on projects like this: where quality and passion come together to make something truly unique. We congratulate Jon on his newest release, and look forward to the next project that we get to work on with him!

Blog, business, graphic design, photography

New Photography Portfolio Page!

We’re slow to toot our own horn around here, mostly because we’re so busy with current projects. But I wanted to mention a new portfolio page on the site, even though we have been doing this for years: PHOTOGRAPHY.

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We create iconic shots for our clients all the time. For instance, the image above is from Shakedown Mambo‘s CD packaging, which we designed (we also did their website!). The photo captures the energy of a recording session in progress perfectly, and feels like one of the iconic photos of 1970s jazz or rock bands.

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We have also created one-of-a-kind architectural shots, like this one of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. Multiple photographs from all hours of the day and night were composited to create this other-worldly image of their building. It’s a stunning image.

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Event photography? Yes. Production shots for shows? Yes. Portraiture? Yes. Product photography? Of course. Check it all out on the photography portfolio pages. We will continue adding more photos to keep it fresh!

Blog, business, film/video, graphic design, photography, post production for film and video, sound

Welcome to 2014.

Well, we’re legal. Or, of legal age. Or will be really soon…my business will be drinking age in the state of California this year!

Hearken Creative Services turns 21 this year. I don’t know what significance that holds, except that we’ve been working with some truly wonderful vendors and clients for a very long time.

Let me tell you a few things that I have observed over the years.

First, whether it be print or web or video or skywriting, story is essential. And not just any story, but a story that invites you in to partake in the story. Here’s an example:

Cecilia has been working to learn English and support her family at the same time. She now has a good enough grasp of the English language — through the help of “Charity X” — that she has enrolled in college to get her law degree. But she needs your help to finish this wonderful task: Cecilia will spend an hour volunteering in your community for every dollar raised towards her college education — giving back through her education in response to your giving.

Or here’s another one, for a pharmaceutical company:

Phil has spent his entire adult life researching Type Two Diabetes, because it has claimed so many lives in his extended family. Finally, after years of dead ends, Phil’s partnership with “ABC Pharmaceutical” has paid off, and they have received approval for a revolutionary treatment that will change the lives of millions of people living with Type Two Diabetes. There is nothing so rewarding as finding a solution to a problem that plagues so many people — and Phil wants to share it with you.

Story changes everything. It makes you — the reader — interact with the product/service/philanthropic cause in a way you never would if it weren’t for story. Remember the Axe deodorant commercials from a few years ago? Whether or not you liked them, you can’t argue with the power or the “stickiness” of the story: put Axe on, and the girls go wild over you. You remember that meme, and therefore remember the brand.

Second: you get what you pay for. Nothing worthwhile is ever free.

I remember a tradeshow that one of my clients went to — this was some time ago — and they wanted to cut corners significantly. So, instead of printing up brochures, catalogs, posters, and ads, they asked me to create “masters” of a few flyers that they could print up themselves on colored copy paper, using the company copy machine. I understand that there is a time and place for cheap flyers, but this was not the time or place. The event tanked for them, and they lost money and credibility within that community.

You want video? It will cost. But why would you not pay for good quality video? At this point, YouTube ensures that any well-produced video you create could potentially still be working for you in 3, 4, 5 or more years. What brochure could do that for you?

You want to send an e-mail blast? Like those tradeshow flyers, you could throw together a cheap, poorly-designed e-mail, but why? This could potentially be the sales tool that convinces someone to buy, so why try to cut corners? And here’s something more: YouTube was going to give you returns beyond the initial cost over time; a well-designed e-mail could be sent to double or triple the number of people on your list — you just have to find those people!

Finally (at least for today): Experience counts. Twenty years ago, I was a good designer. Today I am a fantastic art director, brand consultant, and project manager. Fifteen years ago I was a good audio mixer. Today, I have the experience to produce, direct, and monetize corporate audio and video for my clients. That doesn’t mean I don’t like working with younger talent, but it does mean that I understand the value of experience. It also means I love partnering with people who are even more experienced than I am. Right now I’m working on a video project and, because of my schedule and experience, I felt that it would be a good idea to bring another director/editor to work with me. He brings a set of skills that are a little different from mine, and I value the opportunity to learn from him. And, the client gets an even better product!

I truly don’t know everything; (hopefully) I’m learning new things every day. But it is gratifying to see this little freelance company that I started — after getting laid off from the entertainment industry in 1993 — chugging along 21 years later, helping people through design, marketing, brand management, and video marketing.

Happy New Year. May your story be told, spend your money wisely, and may you have ever-greater experiences to bank on in the new year.