Although Reel Ideas filmmakers Kris and Jim Sanders have not won an Academy Award (yet), they have accomplished a vital breakthrough by bringing high-quality videos to nonprofit groups in Pasadena.
“The idea behind this is that when you put video on the web, you have a much higher chance of being found by a Google search,” explains Jim. “The other goal is to describe what great nonprofits like College Access Plan (CAP, collegeaccessplan.org) are doing for our community. Video evokes the emotion of people. It’s a much more effective medium than reading a website or seeing photos,” adds the former still photographer.
The challenge for nonprofits has been the cost of producing industry-standard video. Usually it’s prohibitively expensive for a small organization,” Jim notes. “Yet amateurish-looking video can actually damage an organization’s profile by literally putting it in a bad light.”
“I want CAP to be better known in this community,” Kris says, describing their support for the free service for Pasadena School District students. “Some of these kids will be first-generation college students,” she emphasizes. “So they have no one at home to give them guidance for college. CAP fills that void.”
“The more I learn about what students are dealing with going to college, I appreciate these kids going through the process,” Kris explains, noting that she was surprised how competitive the acceptance process can be. “Some kids realize it’s possible to go to college, but don’t know how to apply or get financial aid; other kids don’t even know that they could go to college. CAP has a way to figure it out; there is a way for everyone. It’s just a matter of making yourself available to the process.”
The Sanders’ passion for CAP can be seen in their devoting hours to complete Reel Ideas’ CAP video—many hours. Depending on the approval process, Kris and Jim will spend approximately 60 hours crafting CAP’s three-minute video until they deliver the final video in mid-June.
For the first two days of production, the Sanders interviewed CAP Board members, students, teachers, volunteers, and the CAP staff. Over those two days, they shot 3.5 hours of footage, and they expect to shoot at least one more day.
Besides donating their considerable experience—Jim estimates together they have created 200 videos in 10 years—technology has enabled Jim to work in their home editing room without the expense of renting “professional” studios.
The CAP video was not the Sanders’ first for Jericho Road. Last year they created a lively five-minute video (http://youtu.be/svtbbgFfkRM) that describes what Jericho Road does for Pasadena.
“It was easy working with Melanie [Goodyear],” Jim recalls. “She keeps everyone happy.” Jim believes this ease grows from Melanie’s tremendous respect for volunteers’ time. “There is a structure; there is a list of goals; there is good project management. I think she wants us all to collaborate and learn from it.”
Kris and Jim traveled widely different roads to filmmaking. Jim attended the University of Miami and the Florida Institute of Technology. Kris studied acting at the Pasadena branch of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. California Federal Bank then acted as matchmaker. Kris had a temporary job in the bank’s Human Resources department. There she met Jim, who had worked as a video specialist for the bank, which was eventually acquired by Citibank.
They married in 1990 and moved to Pasadena in 1991.
Jim began his visual career as a still photographer but grew bored with the work. A mentor, who was a documentary filmmaker, opened Jim’s eyes to videography. While at California Federal Bank, Jim created 30 to 40 programs a year, mostly training and marketing themes.
After her brief California Federal Bank career, Kris found her way to Amblin Entertainment, spending 16 years as Steven Spielberg’s personal public relations representative, a position she calls her dream job. Dream job or no, Kris felt it was time to do something different, and she did have a husband at home who had a thriving business.
Although their responsibilities often overlap, Kris describes herself as a co-producer of the team (www.reelideas.com), as well as the chief financial officer and accountant, besides acting as first audience for her husband. Jim produces, directs, edits and often shoots, although they are both shooting the CAP video.
What about the tension of a couple working together as halves of a creative team?
“It’s great working together,” Kris insists. (And she was smiling when she said it.) “We’re fortunate. We get along.” However, they do have their offices at different ends of the house! “We may go a day without seeing each other. But we support each other in all ways.”
Besides their video for CAP, Kris and Jim partnered with Elyse Briggs, owner of Yoga at the Village in Glendale, to create a series of instructional videos. The series, titled Stretch in Time®, targets an older, more sedentary audience than most Yoga videos. The videos have been sold worldwide, particularly satisfying for Kris, who is also a Yoga instructor.
Jim’s goal, even with clients whose subject may be dry, is to create something engaging and retainable. “We want the client to be absolutely thrilled, whether it’s volunteer work or our paying clients,” he says. “I want to grab the audience’s interest and keep it.”
Kris adds, “Jim has the audience in his head.”
Jim and Kris can be reached at Reel Ideas, www.reelideas.com
Thanks to Jericho Road Pasadena volunteer Ned J. Racine for writing this article. Ned is a writer/photographer working in transportation construction and community outreach.