Wide Awake Films is honored to be working with the Friends of Arrow Rock in developing a script for a forthcoming documentary on the life of Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham(1811-1879). An important pioneer of Western art and Luminist painting, Bingham is thought by many to be the first regional Missouri artist, and one of the greatest American painters of the 19th century.
As filmmakers with a long track record of producing historical documentaries, we jumped at the opportunity to shed some light on an artist so closely tied to Missouri, especially one with roots near our home. Bingham was one of the many notable residents of Arrow Rock, MO, located just a few short hours away from Kansas City, and home to the state’s first recognized historic site. While living in Arrow Rock, Bingham created his most iconic works. The George Caleb Bingham House, built in 1837, still stands in the historic village and has its own separate designation as a National Historic Landmark.
As excited as we are to bring the history of George Caleb Bingham to others, we were equally thrilled to get to spend a day touring this historic frontier town, preserved in toto as a National Historic Landmark. Nestled near the bank of the Missouri River, and the edge of the Arrow Rock State Park, Arrow Rock retains much of its original 19th century character and charm. It is commonly regarded as the birthplace of historic preservation in Missouri, so it’s near and dear to our hearts here at Wide Awake Films.
As filmmakers and historians, it’s our goal to make history come alive for our viewers, and it’s a rare pleasure to work in a place where history seems as close to the surface as it does in Arrow Rock.
We’ll be honest. It’s been almost five years since our last website refresh! Since then, we’ve stayed busy: continually adding new clients and vendors to our already visionary roster. We consider ourselves fortunate to get to work with creative minds every day. We got to thinking about how lucky we are….and that got us thinking that our projects needed a better showcase, in the form of a slicker, cleaner, hipper, awesomer online gallery. So, ta-da!
Welcome to the new WideAwakeFilms.com!
Here at Wide Awake Films, we’ve been collaborating with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre for about a decade, and since 2006, we’ve filmed every one of their stage performances — lucky us! We like to think of ourselves as part of the KC Rep family, and we’re excited to help them celebrate their 50th Anniversary. As part of the big anniversary celebration, we were thrilled to produce two films announcing the Rep’s Patron Party fundraiser and spectacular annual Fearless Fete – this year, a celebration of the decades, featuring fabulous fashion, tunes and, of course, theatre! The Fearless Fête has become a Kansas City tradition, known as one of the most exciting and unusual fundraisers around town. The proceeds from the Fête help the Rep continue its mission of promoting artistic excellence and inspiring a love of the arts in over 12,000 local students every year through the Rep’s educational opportunities and its community outreach programs.
We spent two fun-filled days filming with the Rep’s creative team and with this year’s Fearless Fete sponsors, Greg and Deanna Graves, local philanthropists and civic leaders who astounded us with their acting prowess. Greg, chairman and CEO of Burns & McDonnell, took a break from his day job to reenact the Rep’s most memorable onstage moments along with his wife Deanna, who makes a stunning guest appearance:
Founded in 1964, the Rep provides a learning experience where theatre students can work side by side with professionals. Across its 50 year history, the KC Rep has remained true to the goal of its founders by continuing to provide theatre students an opportunity to learn their craft alongside some of the best in the field, while also providing Kansas City access to some incredible performances. The Rep has put on hundreds of plays over the past five decades: among them, classics like Death of a Salesman, Cabaret, Into the Woods, and Our Town; the anticipated world premieres of one-man-show Clay and hip-hop musical Venice; and of course the annual holiday delight of A Christmas Carol.
We look forward to many more years of excellent theatre and good fun from our friends at the Rep!
Since early March, we’ve been working with Google Fiber’s Product Marketing team to create a video announcement debuting their newest revolutionary product: Coffee to the Home. Based on extensive consumer research, Google’s new service utilizes existing hardware to deliver piping hot coffee, direct from Google HQ in Mountain View, California, straight to your mug.
Google is piloting this service right here in Kansas City, so click here to sign up!
This week’s COTW is a behind-the-scenes look at at the making of London Grammar’s music video for “Wasting My Young Years.” Owen Silverwood and Dave Bullivant, a British directorial duo known as Bison, built a handmade rig with hundreds of pinhole cameras to execute their unique concept. Hats off to you, guys.
Our Clip of the Week features the best use of found footage we’ve ever seen:
Our newest installment in the Civil War Trust’s interactive animated map series, The Battle of Gettysburg, launched this week, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the epic battle. Overwhelmingly, our clients, friends and fans are telling us they all favor the same ten-second shot: our depiction of the death of Union General John F. Reynolds. Here’s how we did it:
View the entire Gettysburg Animated Map presentation here!
An Original History Geek
Spending some time in my early youth in Decatur, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln was my gateway into the hard stuff: The American Civil War. As a kid of 8, I marched – by myself – dressed in union blue in small town July 4th parades. My parents thought I was affected. I think they still do. That’s me with the bag on my hip at the 125th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It being 1988, I had to call my folks on a pay phone so they could pick up a few extra copies because I made the cover.
Along with my good friend and business partner, Ed Leydecker, we brought a passion for the Civil War and history into Wide Awake Films when we founded it back in 2001. Because of this… some folks only know us as the “Civil War Guys.”
But, little do they know (insert evil laugh here) that WAF’s elite “Team of Eight” pays da bills serving high-end corporate and commercial business clients. It keeps the challenges coming. It keeps our toolset uber-sharp. It keeps us on our toes. It’s the other thing our team loves to do.
So, you may ask, why would a corporate marketing person give a crap about the fact that we’ve won Emmys producing history-based programming for PBS or that we regularly work for the likes of BBC and the National Geographic Channel?
Damned good question. Here are four reasons:
#1: You want it right don’t ya?
We approach all of our historical-based programming by first sifting through the original documents and photos. We’re the guys who can’t watch a western because the hats are all wrong. We’re the crew that buries itself in the research during pre-production and program design/storyboarding. We believe that authentically following the history leads to the best stories – to the good mojo. It’s a discipline we instill on every project we do.
And it shows up in all the work we do – historical or otherwise.
We recently produced a historical documentary for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, one of North America’s oldest craft unions. We applied our regular historical process to telling their 130-year legacy. We uncovered fascinating nuggets along the way that ended up in the finished piece. For example, collaborating with the client’s research team, we discovered that a Boilermaker went down with the U.S.S. Monitor, the US Navy’s first ironclad warship. So in one month’s time, our animation guys cranked out a 3D simulation of the epic Monitor versus Merrimac (CSS Virginia) battle. The finished show left most of a Las Vegas convention floor, comprised of some of the brawniest Boilermakers we’ve ever met, in tears. We took this as evidence of a job well done.
It pays to do your homework or you could get your ass kicked.
#2: We can turn on a dime.
A lot of production companies niche themselves into a healthy market segment. Maybe they only shoot spots with kids. Maybe they only do industrial training films. Maybe they dig the stress of live events. Or maybe they only do agency spot work.
We don’t specialize. We think it’s boring. We adapt.
Our historical work has led us into many eras that we originally knew nothing about. We welcome the challenges these types of opportunities provide. Just last week we were editing a spoofy “Most Interesting Woman in the World” video for a growing start-up, 3D-modeling George Washington’s house at Mount Vernon, researching 1970’s clothing looks for an upcoming training film, and filming the world’s first tele-robotic pitch thrown at a Major League Baseball game.
It’s how we roll every week and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
#3: We dig for the story.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from working with history it’s this: check your source. The winners write history. And the losers whine a lot. Somewhere in between lies the real story.
It’s a filter we schlep to every commercial project we do. As a production company that acts as a creative agency on many projects, we are often tasked with distilling loose original ideas into a tight, finished project. Often what’s really simple to an internal audience is vastly complex to everyone else. We often become the bridge between these two worlds.
That filter is why our historical projects are successful. And it’s why corporate marketing teams keep coming back to talk projects and have cocktails on our deck.
#4: Short, Tall, Grande or Venti?
We’ve filmed with five camera crews amidst 8,000 Civil War reenactors blasting muskets and cannons at each other… on 17 separate occasions. We’ve served Cajun food to a cast and crew of 300 while stranded on a reef waiting for the tide to roll out. We’ve cranked out 130 minutes of national-caliber programming from initial concept to successful projection in five months time. And, yes, we’ve taken our camera equipment through Canadian customs.
Our historical projects have become the infrastructure and logistical anvil upon which we’ve also hammered success in the commercial arena. We enjoy projects of all sizes and all levels from the $6,000 motion graphics spot to the six and seven-figure documentary or film project… every one, no matter the size, gets a high-level of craftsmanship.
That’s what makes Wide Awake Films different: our craft just happens to be honed on history.