Whether promoting SuperFeet insoles or helping Bellingham to seduce Google into making Bellingham a Google Fiber pilot city, Max Kaiser and his team at Hand Crank Films do more than set up a camera, point, shoot and cut. The creative choices — the quality of the light, the texture of the images, the composition of the shots — set Hand Crank Films apart from the average industrial video. Not only is the work of premier quality, there’s a sincerity to the kinds of projects Hand Crank tackles. Sure, they do a lot of straight-up commercial work, but even within those marketing conventions, the videos they create are still centered around a heartfelt sensibility. “It’s storytelling,” Kaiser said. “But even that’s kind of a cliché these days. We want to create stories that people want to share. I call it ‘shareability.’” Kaiser describes their style as “movie-style” storytelling. “We employ all the equipment and techniques used in Hollywood movies.” That cinematic quality shows in everything they do.
The team at Hand Crank Films is also invested in projects that matter to them. Every year they select four nonprofits to assist in fundraising and marketing. In the wake of the controversy over citing a mosque near the World Trade Center, they BADGETTcreated a moving, elegant video for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Most recently, they helped Our Treehouse, a nonprofit that helps kids who have lost a parent, sibling or primary care giver. With the help of Hand Crank Films, Our Treehouse tripled their donations in one night. “We select one nonprofit per quarter, and there are some requirements: it has to be a small nonprofit, and our work for them has to have the potential to make a big impact. We want to at least double their donations. We also consult on fundraising strategy.”
Sharing is a big part of the culture at Hand Crank, as each of the employees is allowed access to company resources: the high-end Red camera, the editing suite, all of the gear. “I want them to explore and create. I want filmmakers. We employ all the equipment and techniques used in Hollywood movies. We’re all filmmakers first.” So how does one join the team? Kaiser and his producers watch the local scene closely. They look for style and ability. “The best way to get our attention is to shoot a lot. Shoot for people who can’t pay you. If you’re good, our producers will notice.” It takes a year of working with one of Hand Crank’s directors before an assistant is given his or her own project. Hand Crank Films isn’t just a company, it’s a filmmaking community. And though 90 percent of their business is in Seattle, Hand Crank is very much a Bellingham company. “Being in Bellingham allowed us to develop our own style as a boutique.” That style is best characterized as luminous, luxurious. With so much invested in getting great images, Kaiser and his team absolutely deliver.