A Creative Legacy: Katie Kennedy, AAF Madison Silver Medal Award Video

Photos of Katie Kennedy as seen from above on a black desk

This year marked our 8th time sponsoring the Silver Medal Award for AAF Madison. The primary way we sponsor the award is by creating a short video vignette of the winner featuring soundbites from friends, colleagues, and family; some storytelling from the winner; and some fun b-roll that adds to the story and helps to highlight our subject’s personality.

Katie Kennedy was another stellar addition this year to the list of Silver Medal Award winners. As we interviewed her we quickly found out why. She has always been willing to put in the hard work, from training with the Waunakee football team in her high school years to rebuilding the Daily Cardinal as an undergrad at UW after it had closed its doors; from co-founding Ad2 to starting her own business and later stepping into ownership with her brother Chris at the business founded by their father, KennedyC. Oh, and somewhere in there after Washington DC, New York City, and Silicon Valley… she returned to Madison, started a family, and had three daughters.

It was clear from her story that Madison is important to her and we definitely wanted to bring that out. Her contributions to the Madison community are profound and we were surprised to find out that she was foundational to of some of the Madison events and organizations we take for granted. If not for her leadership, The Daily Cardinal, Freakfest, and Ad2 Madison (to name a few) may not exist as we know them today.

One of the ways we worked to insert some personality into her video was to start with inspiration from some of her favorite directors, Wes Anderson and John Hughes. Wes Anderson gave us a strong visual style to begin working with. The iconic center framing and colorful backgrounds we perfect for the interviews. We also drew heavily on the intro sequence from The Royal Tenebaums for the intro of her piece. It was the perfect way to strike an artistic, slightly quirky tone, and a fun way to introduce our interviewees.

Another artistic choice we made was in the way we would handle the photos, awards, and newspaper clippings she shared with us. Although Ken Burns created a recognizable and acceptable style for documentary filmmaking, we find that the slow zoom of digital images gets a little old. Wes Anderson does use digital images some in his work, preferring a tiled look instead of the single photo zoom. But another method I noticed in some of his work was to film the physical photos either on a surface or hung on a wall, sometimes including a bit of fun action from an actor or just some hands. We used a ton of this in our film to show all of the elements that Katie shared with us – even printing out digital photos that had been shared in some instances and putting them into frames. This method is perhaps more readily associated with Jared Hess’s style in films like Napolean Dynamite, Nacho Libre, and Gentlemen Broncos… but he may well have been inspired first from Wes Anderson so we still felt like it fit.

The John Hughes influence was perhaps a bit more subtle but we felt that it would work itself in through some of the 80’s references and then of course we had to wrap things up with the classic Ferris Bueler ending gag.

To pull off all of these backgrounds in a tight timeline, we decided to shoot on green screen and then Max went to work with the help of some AI tools to generate backgrounds. But the deep dive on that is probably best suited to another blog post.

The most rewarding part of working on the Silver Medal video project is getting to know leaders in the advertising business in Madison and learning about some of the agencies they’re worked with or built and the marketing campaigns they’ve lead. An additional bonus is that the subjects we’ve filmed have always been willing to lean in to a fun creative direction and give us enough leeway to make something awesome. We can only generate the best creative short films when the client is willing to step outside of “plain and safe” and go for it with us!



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John Shoemaker
John Shoemaker is an owner and director. John's children think he goes to work to play with puppets and eat food. His wife has not corrected them.