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Filming in the time of Covid

Like many other businesses, the film & video industry came to a screeching halt in the early months of of the pandemic, but since July, Maestro Filmworks, along with many others, have found ways to capture video footage safely. In addition to pivoting to virtual and streaming services, we’ve managed to keep a slow but steady stream of work flowing by following strict health & safety guidelines as well keeping our rock star post team slated with animation and post-production only projects.

Safe Sets Certification

In addition to getting certified by Safe Sets™ International, the Maestro production team, led by Geoff Nichols, has been adhering to stringent Covid safety protocols on set. Masks and gloves are mandatory as are temperature checks upon arrival and many other guidelines on set.

“Thankfully, we have managed to continue to film safely and without incident since things started opening back up,” says Kris Mendoza, Maestro’s EP. “The important thing is we continue to stay vigilant and take things seriously, and not let our guard down.”

Interested in what pre-cautions you should take to conduct as safe of a film shoot as possible? See below for some of our things to consider:

  1. Clearly and visibly display Safety Protocols and signage in several places as well as conduct a safety briefing at the beginning of each shoot
  2. Temperature checks shall be taken before each shoot with a non-contact thermometer on the day of shooting. Any person showing symptoms associated with the COVID-19 disease should leave the set immediately.
  3. Production will ensure that disinfectant gel and masks are provided to all workers. A
  4. No non-essential crew, client or people may be present. Only the “essential technical and artistic film crew,” selected beforehand and clearly identified, shall have access to the film set.
  5. Masks are required at all times. Production will have backup masks in case a crew member forgets or mask malfunctions or breaks.
  6. Determine maximum capacity for each room in use, taking into account distancing measures.
  7. A sufficiently large waiting area shall ensure control of the in- and out- flow of people.
  8. Masks cannot be taken off, unless in case of extreme necessity (such as talents stepping in front of the camera).
  9. The premises will have sufficient toilets for effective hand washing, with water point, liquid soap, disposable towels and closed garbage can.
  10. A cleaning procedure for surfaces and equipment (including electro, set design, hair & makeup…) will be established beforehand and implemented during the whole shoot.

While this has been a challenging year in many regards, we’re grateful for our amazing clients who continue to trust us not just creatively but with their safety and well-being as well. The hope is, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but in the mean time, be safe, be well and wear a mask.

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And the Emmy Goes To…

Maestro Filmworks, along with Nerd Street Gamers, is proud to announce their first NATAS Emmy® Win! The FTW Philly segment “Enabled Gaming,” won the category of Lifestyle Program at the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Award last month.

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This is a tremendous feat for the Maestro team and validates the tireless efforts we put into this show,” says Kris Mendoza, Executive Producer at Maestro.I’m proud of the work we put together and this was easily one of my favorite segments we produced for the show.

 

The Enabled Gaming”  segment featured Maestro’s own Andrew Czudak, who was also nominated for an individual Emmy® award for technical excellence in Motion Graphics!   His work centered around developing better access to gaming for senior citizens. Czudak took his love of gaming and used it as a means to bond with his grandfather and connect with him as he battled dementia. 

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Director, Jo Shenn, shares her experience, “I remember biting on my nails nervously and my heart was racing a mile a minute as Andrew watched the final cut the night before its release. We knew we had to get this one right.  Not only because we are telling a story of our own but of a loving grandson who truly believes video games can be for everyone, including his grandfather.  They can bring so much more to the table than just entertainment, it was truly an honor to be able to help tell his story.”

Watch the segment here and don’t forget to catch this award-winning show for a second season premiering on October 23, 2020 on NBC Sports Philly.

 

Credits:

Title: “Enabled Gaming” featuring Andrew Czudak

Director: Jo Shen

Executive Producers: Kris Mendoza, Alex Frederick

DP: Weston Fahey 

Editor: Rob Jennings 

Art Director: Kate Feher 

Camera operator: Clay Hereth

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Studio Networks Solutions x Maestro Filmworks

Keeping a smooth post-production operation is crucial at Maestro, and our newly streamlined process is what keeps us organized and moving.  Check out this feature article from Studio Network Solutions, highlighting Andrew Czudak, Maestro’s officially unofficial IT guy who was key to setting up our 8 bay EVO shared server storage system.  

Maestro Filmworks Scores with EVO for Esports Production

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Maestro’s Post-Production team, headed by Joanna Shen, rebuilt their video and motion graphics workflow last year, just in time to neatly handle the demands of producing FTW Philly, now a 2020 NATAS Emmy Award Winning program broadcasted by NBC Sports.  EVO’s automations engine and API, Slingshot, relieves the team from manually backing up media to any secondary server.  It automatically does that for them, and as we move into a second season of FTW, the collaborative ease of this EVO system proves essential.  Not only is Maestro able to have a team of editors seamlessly accessing footage, but EVO also allows them to edit remotely via Nomad.  The program automatically generates proxies when importing video files.  The team can then retrieve that proxy or source media at remote workstations quickly, which in a time of Covid-19 keeps us all safe without inhibiting our creative process.

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“We recognized that EVO is focused on not just storage, but being a complete workflow solution for production companies,” said Czudak. “I knew it would be a good fit. SNS understands what production companies need.”

Many content creators and post-production teams moved from in-studio online editing to at-home offline editing workflows this year.  So if you need visual/sound effects, editing, color grading, and motion graphics to evolve without media duplication or unintentional overwriting, we’ve got it all figured out thanks to this system.

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Inc. 5000 List – Inc Magazine

We are super thrilled to announce that we are on the Inc 5000 list for Inc Magazine’s fastest growing companies in the US! We’re grateful for this recognition as our organization continues to grow and seeing the other companies on the list is both humbling and encouraging. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and we’re proud to employ bright and creative minds, especially in our industry, and be able to continue to find ways to innovate, grow and excel in our craft.

Here is our official rank page on Inc Magazine’s Website.

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Masthead2 Maestro Filmworks has been nominated for three Mid-Atlantic Emmys this season for our work on FTW Philly, a show we produced with Nerd Street Gamers which aired its first season this past fall on NBC Sports Philadelphia.  Two of these nominations celebrated Maestro’s achievement in Programming for Education as well as for Lifestyle, and the third for individual excellence in the category of Graphic Arts/Animation for our animator Andrew Czudak.  Throughout the season, Maestro chased stories inter-regionally, covering pro-tournaments, massive construction projects, university programming, and pro athlete team training. Executive Producer Kris Mendoza says,   

“It is exciting and validating to be recognized by our peers in the industry

and well deserved for the hard work the team put into Season 1 for FTW Philly.” 

  The Emmy Nomination for Maestro’s piece on FTW Philly Collegiate Esports dove deep into the burgeoning world of esports as a pro-athletic career.  It highlighted the gaming industry’s curriculum potential and covered schools such as Rowan University and Lebanon Valley College.  It exposed some big opportunities, not only for varsity and pre-professional levels but also for degree programs that would one day create gaming situations for other educations like medicine and business training.   https://youtu.be/GkNt_6wNmU0
“FTW Philly- Collegiate Esports”- Maestro Filmworks/Nerd Street GamersKris Mendoza, Executive Producer   |  Geoffrey Nichols, Producer  |  Joanna Shen, Producer  |  Marisa Magnatta, Talent  |  Weston Fahey, Director of Photography  |  Eurica Yu, Camera Operator  |  Conor Kelley, Editor
  Equally important was the nomination for Enabled Gaming, where Director Joanna Shen carefully told the story of a lifelong gamer who used his passion for gaming to create an innovative solution for him to not only bond with his grandfather but to also assist him as he battled dementia so he could sharpen his mental skills and rediscover the joy of driving. https://youtu.be/yIOdSUOolxE
“FTW Philly- Enabled Gaming”- Maestro Filmworks/Nerd Street Gamers: Kris Mendoza, Executive Producer  |  Alex Frederick, Executive Producer  |  Geoffrey Nichols, Producer  |  Joanna Shen, Director  |  Weston Fahey, Director of Photography  |  Rob Jennings, Editor  |  Kate Feher, Art Director

NATAS Emmy Nominations

No Justice No Peace

Silence is Complicity

No Justice No Peace

You’re probably wondering why we’re breaking from the regularly scheduled program to make this post. But with the current state of our country right now, it is hard to act like it is “business as usual.” Too many times have we lost innocent black lives. Too many times have we seen protests. And still we are in the same boat almost 60 years after the Civil Rights Movement. Nothing will change until individuals and businesses use their voice to let the world know we are all united in the war against hate and racism.

As a business, we have a platform and we’re going to use it because the time to remain silent and be “politically correct” has passed. If we lose relationships, business or clients over being outspoken, then so be it. We hope many other businesses use the same moral compass and platform they use for commerce for good as well.

To that end, we’ve compiled an initial list of ways you can help, dialogues you can be having and what you can do to enact change.

1) Steps for non-optical allyship
A very well written and concise list of practical ways to promote change and not just post about it on social media

2) Support the National Police Accountability Project
This group, a project of the National Lawyers Guild, helps people find legal counsel.

3) Sign a petition. Here are two you can sign right away — it takes 2 minutes and let’s your voice be hard:
Color of Change, a Civil rights group, launched a petition asking that all the officers involved in Floyd’s death are brought to justice
Change.org. The “Justice for George Floyd” petition on Change.org already has 8.5 million supporters.

4) Donate to a Bail Fund.
Bail funds help those that have been wrongfully arrested, either randomly or during protest, post bail and fight their case. Usually, these people are POC who cannot afford bail and end up taking a plea deal just to get out of jail.

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Happy 15th Birthday, Maestro Filmworks!

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Maestro Filmworks has turned 15 years young in the midst of a year none of us are likely to forget.

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Since we last celebrated a birthday, Maestro has been full steam ahead!  Americano made an exciting drop to Amazon and iTunes for a sparkling July 4th.  In house, we finished our summer intern program with an (action-packed!)  Student-Run Long Story Short.  Our Stay True Philly Photo collaboration, part of The Conductor Project also wrapped!  The students celebrated a wonderful season by hosting their annual gallery show.  With that,  We headed into the fall with exciting Corporate projects to tackle from some long-term clients like Deloitte, SolePac, and Lagos. With a growing business, we looked to grow our team, snagging Rob Jennings for a new editor and team member!

 

FTW Trailer

Then came NBC SportsPhiladelphia and a chance to partner with Nerd Street Gamers for a 10-episode series on the rapid development of the Philadelphia esports scene, including the groundbreaking of Fusion Arena, linking it to the global growth of the overall industry.  For the Win (FTW) pushed us flying through the finish line of 2019 with opportunities to cover massive tournaments, interview the industry’s biggest competitors, sharpen our voice in an award-winning episode featuring Women in Gaming (directed by our own Joanna Shen), and take an in-depth look at college programs, and the future of gaming education/development.  We packed in the talent, blazing a trail with a Post Production Team that would later boast 3 Emmy Nominations, including an individual recognition to Maestro Animator, Andrew Czudak.

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During this time, Maestro acquired Sharp Shot Media Company and signed its creator, Geoffrey Nichols to the role of VP of Production.  With his background as an Emmy award-winning broadcast news videojournalist and editor, Geoff brings with him a level of experience and management that help take the company to the new heights.  With a January kickoff under our belt, Maestro received accolades from Best of Local in a full print spread and voted #1 corporate video production company by Peerspace.  

 

 Quick to prepare in the wake of a global pandemic, Maestro launched Behind the Masks on March 27th. It became a challenge and call to action to the creative community to make 1 million homemade masks to assist in the shortage of PPE during the COVID-19 crisis.  Just a few days later, the CDC put out an official recommendation for all civilians to wear masks as an extra layer of protection as well, furthering the importance and accessibility of homemade masks.

 

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Executive Producer and leader of this initiative, Kris Mendoza, says “ I felt helpless, and that didn’t sit well. 

This is a way to get everyone (even the film industry) involved. “  to NBC News.

 

See More of our retrospective here!

 

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It has been a fulfilling journey and privilege to be able to make films and tell stories for a living. We are grateful to be working alongside such creative and talented individuals that come together to make great things and for our amazing clients who keep us busy and trust us with telling their stories

 

 

 

We’re constantly hungry for more challenging work and it feels great to have plenty of variety to show for this year! 

We have so much to be proud of, we cut three epic reels featuring corporate, narrative, and animation achievements:

 

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 Maestro Corporate Reel

Our first reel showcases our corporate, commercial and broadcast work in addition to some documentary projects.  (Edited by Rob Jennings)

 

 

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Maestro Narrative Reel

We also presented our first fill reel of only narrative content, showcasing our best story driven content through the years. (Editor Rebecca Schwartz)

 

 

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Maestro Animation Reel

Our best animation & motion graphics work to date! Sometimes, creating “worlds” from scratch is the best way to convey or enhance a story. Conceptualizing, designing and executing on that notion is one of our strengths and in addition to our animator Andrew Czudak we’re grateful for the handful of talented designers and animators we get to collaborate with! 

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Behind the Masks #1millionmasks

On March 27th, Maestro Filmworks launched Behind the Masks, a challenge and call to action to the creative community to make 1 million homemade masks to assist in the shortage of PPE during the COVID-19 crisis.

Just a few days later, the CDC put out an official recommendation for all civilians to wear masks as an extra layer of protection as well, furthering the importance and accessibility of homemade masks.

In an open letter from our founder, Kris Mendoza, the initiative was set into motion in an effort for those sidelined to channel their anxious energy into something productive. Here’s a clip from NBC 10 covering the initiative:

Interested in joining the challenge? Head over and Take Action to see how you can start making masks at home and join the challenge.

Here is the instructional video that the Maestro team produced in the effort to streamline the process for those at home:

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An open letter to the creative community regarding COVID-19

To my fellow creatives:

I need not preface this letter with the current state of how this virus has found a way to affect us all. With anxiety looming, countless jobs in our industry lost, and uncertainty facing each and everyone of us, I felt moved to try and unite everyone who has been dispersed and holed up in their homes (like they should be!) waiting for the storm to pass.

In times like these, as creatives, it’s not uncommon to feel helpless — to feel like what we do is somehow irrelevant when the sky is seemingly falling. But I’m here to tell you that no matter your craft — whether you’re a filmmaker, photographer, artist, actor, musician, dancer or whatever your calling may be — there are ways for us to make an impact together.

How you ask? Well, I’m a filmmaker and storyteller by trade, so let me start with a story of the last time I felt this feeling of helplessness.

I remember my first day in film school. I had gotten into NYU and I was going to learn how to make movies. I felt like I was on top of the world. I moved into an apartment in downtown Manhattan and everything I ever dreamt of had materialized. But it only took 4 days for my world to be turn upside down

It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001, my fourth day of college as a film major with my heart set on being making films. It was also the day when the world was shaken and changed forever. I’m sure every American could attest to being glued to the television that entire day, watching breaking news on every channel as the horrific images were replayed over and over and the story developed. Well, there I was, questioning whether I had made the right decision of following my passion and going to film school. I questioned the merit of such a profession, asking myself if this was the right choice, and thought that at a time like this, how was a filmmaker going to help people. I watched, sidelined, as policemen, fire fighters, nurses and doctors were helping the victims of such a tragedy — and I never felt so helpless.

I felt like I had to do something, help somehow, but didn’t know what that something was.

By the end of the night, I had the most uneasy feeling in my stomach. As everyone staying at our apartment retired to their rooms, I was left on the couch by myself, still stuck on the news since it was on every single channel. I decided I couldn’t bear to watch anymore so I grabbed the only DVD that was on the shelf by the TV and stuck it in the DVD player. It was Meet the Parents starring Ben Stiller and Robert Deniro. It was my first time seeing it and I can honestly say that all my worries took a backseat and I really got into the film. I even laughed out loud a couple of times and that uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach seemed to vanish. All of a sudden, when the movie ended and the credits rolled, I was jolted back to reality and I found myself back on the couch in that apartment on what was possibly one of the darkest days of my life thus far. It was so surreal and it was then that I realized I had made the right decision. I’ve heard it so many times, but films (and art) really and truly are an escape from reality. For an hour and forty-eight minutes, I was able to laugh and smile during a point when I was a complete and utter mess. It affirmed my decision and erased all of my doubts, and I told myself, this is how I’m going to help people.

That was almost 20 years ago, but I think about it often. I reflect on that fact that being a filmmaker will never compare to being a teacher or a doctor or the everyday heroes of our society, and therefore, it is a privilege to do what we do, so I take immense pride in being able to let people escape into fictional worlds that we create. It’s no wonder that during recessions when morale is low and unemployment is high, history has shown that people still find the time and money to go to the movies and just get away from all the noise around them. Whether it’s for a few minutes or an hour and a half, I can only hope that the work we produce accomplishes the same and that to me will have made it all worth it.

So am I writing this open letter to motivate everyone to go out and make a film in a time when social distancing is recommended? Absolutely not. I share that story because it was the last time I had this feeling of uneasiness and helplessness and as things devolved quickly in the last few weeks, I kept trying to think of ways to make an impact and I was comforted in the power of numbers in our creative community.

To that end, Behind the Masks was born. There is undoubtedly a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (or PPE) for our medical friends who have been battling this virus on the front lines every day without having the proper equipment to protect themselves. It is their tireless work that is fighting this virus head on and it will be them that will find us a way out of this. After some research, I came across some information that shows that we can create DIY masks at home to help supplement the shortage. While nothing can replace the safety of N95 masks and surgical masks, there are some homemade DIY solutions that can help. There have been reports that some medical staff have resorted to making their own masks, while others have been using bandanas or even told to wash their masks to reuse them. This is the equivalent of going to battle with no armor. This is where we come in.

I am calling on everyone in the creative community to come together to make 1 million masks. In a time when we are all dispersed and separated in our own homes, we can come together in a way we have never done before. If you’ve found yourself in the same situation as I have, with jobs going away and the near future looking bleak, join me in making a difference, so that years from now, when we all look back on the Covid-19 era, we can rest easy knowing that we took a stand and did something that matters…safely.

So how are we going to do this? We’ve created a toolkit and video on materials and information you need to make masks at home. This virus has infected our world exponentially. So let us fight back exponentially and use our strength in numbers. Make a mask. Spread the word. And whether you’re able to make 1 or 10 or 1000 masks, we can all share in the pride we’ve created something together. And once we’ve made 1 million masks, we’ll make a million more.

Sincerely,

Kris Mendoza

Executive Producer, Maestro Filmworks

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