State of Content: Bao Nguyen speaks w/ Joe Sabia – Pt 1

(Sponsored by Digipost, RICE & Partners and The Lab Saigon. Hosted at the AIA Nest by Bao Nguyen with treats from W Bakes.)

Bao Nguyen is a Saigon-based filmmaker whose past work has been seen in the New York Times, HBO, NBC, Vice, ARTE, PBS, among many others. In addition, he has directed commercial projects for clients such as Google, Coca-Cola, the United Nations, McDonald’s, the US Department of State, and Hugo Boss.

Joe Sabia is the VP & Head of Development at Condé Nast, as well as a director, digital artist, musician, concept cobbler and International Pun Champion.

(Check back next week for part 2 of their chat where Joe and Bao get into the backstories of some of Joe’s most well-known independent projects and his advice for young creatives.)

A taste of some of the most recent work Joe Sabia has directed at Condé Nast:

(This transcript has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)

Bao Nguyen:
Working with iconic print media like Vogue, GQ, Wired, Glamour, etc. how do you approach the stories…because a lot of times these brands and these portfolios don’t have video content and they don’t know where to start. How do you, kind of, start the process?

Joe Sabia: 

Yea these brands are really iconic brands and, you know, before I got involved in Condé Nast–I joined it about two years ago–I never really was one that followed the brands. I didn’t subscribe to the magazines, and I didn’t tell anyone that when I joined–I’m like, yes! I love these magazines! I was very familiar with them but…I’m just an internet video guy. Like my whole career has just been making things and putting them on Youtube.

And for these brands, video is relatively a new thing. You know, when you think about some magazines that have been there, like Vogue, for 125 years, and the websites have been there for about…what? Ten to fifteen years? The idea of taking words and photos and doing moving images and sound effects is very, very new.

So for me, my sensibility as a creator was, just make stuff that’s cool. Make stuff that has an impact, it’s compelling, it’s emotionally driven. And when you come up with ideas it kind of falls beautifully in line with women, for Glamour, or hollywood for Vanity Fair, or you know, these big verticals of brands that Condé Nast has. There are something like 21 publications, it’s really convenient to find a home for a lot of ideas. So that’s kind of why I took the job, because all of the ideas that I can dream up that work on the internet kind of fall somewhere with these brands so it’s just an incredible opportunity.

Bao Nguyen:

And for you as a storyteller, you’re working with a big brand obviously, they’re more about getting attention, getting eyes on these videos. You’re trying to express something in a way that the audience can learn or can get a certain amount of information. How do you kind of walk the line between those two things?

Joe Sabia:

Yea, “viral,” we hear that word a lot…I mean we definitely have entered an “attention world.” It really has come down to which brands are better at capturing your attention. Where will you spend 7 more seconds watching something instead of your friend on snapchat? There’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of distraction.

So it’s very important to take what’s important to the core brands but also find a way to elevate. Period in two minutes is a great example. That’s information that you can find on wikipedia, that’s information that a blogger can write–facts, like did you know this about your cycle? But to construct something that’s whimsical, that’s fun, that’s artistic, that is 8 people in a room with hands choreographing…this really artistic expression is an example of elevation, it’s an example of hard work. It’s an example of how concept meets execution.

And that is what’s needed to kind of elevate it enough so that it gets shared. And then if it gets shared enough, sure, it’s viral, but at the end of the day it’s just artistic elevation, that’s kind of like the two words I say a lot for these types of things.

Bao Nguyen:

Yea and I would imagine that most of the brands, most of the people that you work for, they would think that the Emma Watson thing or the Samuel L. Jackson videos, that those would get the most hits but actually Glamour (the period video) got 97 million hits just on FB…

Joe Sabia: 

Yea, approaching 100 million views. You know for a lot of the brands, one of the coolest things about them is that it has a lot of access to celebrities and they’re basically coming in like crazy. Photo shoots are a big thing. Traditionally, Conde Nast has always had one day for photos for the covers and when video came along it was like the request at the end of the shoot: can you give us five minutes at the end? And what ended up happening was the publicists and the bookers were getting requests to have more time for video. Because they realized that people kind of care more about video.

They want to see an experience, they don’t want to see a Q & A. So I think that one of the coolest things we’re doing now, like Samuel L. Jackson is a great example, is that when you only have 15 minutes with a celebrity, the last thing you want to do is say “so, what was it like working on that film?” You kind of want to create an experience. That’s a lot of the motivation for what we’ve been doing…is it an experience? If yes, great. If no, it’s probably too boring and you shouldn’t just rest on the fact that he’s famous to assume that it’s going to be watched.

Bao Nguyen:

Obviously you’re integrating technology in the way stories are being told. But what’s the difference between a cave man drawing on walls with the way the you’re telling or integrating technology into, say, an interview. Like, where’s the connect between those two worlds?

Joe Sabia: 

Ah, cave drawing. I actually started out as a cave artist, that’s where I got my start. (I’m kidding). Um, you know, I always say that good stories always have a really strong concept. There’s an idea about it and then there’s an execution. There the publishing of that idea, there’s an expression of that idea. And I think that as technology has evolved it’s become one of those things where the ideas…and this is kind of like my central thesis–the ideas always seem borrowed.

There’s always going to be a love story. A Romeo and Juliet love story with someone out of town falling in love with someone else but the medium–the way that radio turned to film and that turned to the internet, there are just so many different ways to bring new life to that, to all these different stories that have just kind of been recycled. So I think that in today’s world, where we tend to forget things five minutes after they happen, there’s kind of a new opportunity to recycle. But also to just kind of be more inventive and be more creative because the tools are there for us to kind of do whatever we want and it’s really exciting right now.

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A Short Perspective on Story Telling by Nick Jones

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Since the dawning of time, people have been telling each other stories. Stories surround us everyday, from the films and television that we watch, to the books that we read, the photographs that we see and the music that we hear. Even in our day-today lives, we are telling stories when we recall a funny incident with our friends at a bar, or repeating a bit of gossip we’ve heard about so-and-so. Our world is built around stories, they educate our children, terrify our parents and amuse our friends.

It is film, among many other forms, which posits itself as one of the most impactful and accessible ways to tell a story. It is in the editing process where we see a story grow and develop…it’s often said that if production is where the film is conceived, then post-production is where it is born.

In fact, film is a relatively new way to tell a story; it’s only a little over 100 years since the pioneering experiments of Eadweard Muybridge and Thomas Edison at the turn of the 20th century changed the way we tell stories forever. In that time, film, it could be argued, has evolved more rapidly than perhaps any art form in history (if we are to include the advancements in CGI). It has become a complex and sophisticated medium, allowing audiences across the world to see and experience everything from heavenly dreams to maniacal nightmares.

Like never before, creating film has been democratized. Access to editing software is getting more and more easy, cameras are getting cheaper and more people are willing and eager to learn the craft. Today, each day, filmmakers from all over the world, from every social-class, from practically every country, of all abilities and of all ages, share and upload new video content on a unprecendeted scale. Never before has artistic output being so readily shared and available to watch. Never before have there been so many stories accessible to digest.

Nonetheless, many themes of dramatic work, tragedy, comedy and revenge for example, we still see in cinema today. There are several fundamental components about how to construct films with these themes: character arcs, key plot points, character depth etc, and these elements can be studied ad infinitum, from books and by watching films, however, I want to recognise that, aside from these things, film has the awesome power to affect.

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I’ve always felt that the strongest stories are the ones that say something, about life, about society. Stories have the ability to make us look inwards, and to discover things about ourselves that we might not have had the chance to otherwise. It can challenge our preconceptions, and give us new perspectives, on both an individual scale and a societal level as well.

As an editor and filmmaker, I try to follow the Free Cinema Manifesto which, in part, states that: “An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.”In essence, this means that your own attitude to a subject should inform your style and visa versa. Similarly, the The Free Cinema-ists also wrote that “No film can be ‘too personal’” meaning that there is no limit to the amount of “yourself” or your personal experience that you inject into the film. This makes films uniquely personal expressions, and on several degrees connect us in our common “human” experiences of life.

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So for me, telling a good story is about putting ‘oneself’ into a film emotionally or psychologically. In addition to this, I think using film’s power to connect to people, it’s a good way to say something unique, to make a critique or to voice an opinion.

So here’s the Free Cinema Manifesto (abridged), as written in 1956 by Lindsay Anderson and Lorenza Mazzetti:

As filmmakers we believe that

No film can be too personal.
The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments.
Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim.

An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.

An article by Nick Jones.

Building a future with Content.

DIGIPOST Content Development department was launched in early 2015, specializing in web documentary content.

Our Content team is the founder of RICE ( https://www.youtube.com/ricechanneltv ), an online channel featuring original web series by filmmakers in Saigon and other cities in Southeast Asia. Our team is made up of a collective of filmmakers who are given freedom to create content independently.

With the quick growth and success of our channel, our team is embarking into 2016 looking for more filmmakers who want to create content, unrestricted by conventions, and taking on projects that need documentary style content.

We have developed successful web series like ‘You Are Here! Saigon’, ‘Saigon Mad Men’ and ‘Young Saigon’.

Contact us (andy@digipostglobal.com) if you want to produce or collaborate on content for a single video to an entire series!

Check our reel and support our work.

Saigon Mad Men series under the RICE channel!

The latest episode of Saigon Mad Men will be released under the recently launched RICE Channel! We have incredible success with this series and we feel that it should be rewarded with a proper content channel.

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Do subscribe to RICE on YouTube and Facebook!
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqwLPipkZ8xZmq3BojTVQ0A
https://www.facebook.com/ricechanneltv

The new episode will feature the lead vocalist of Black Infinity (metal music band based in Saigon), Hung BlackHearted and his new clothing line, The Black Clothing. This was graded black and white to create an grittiness to the video.

Check out the video!

CREDITS:
Creative Studio & Post Production: Digipost – ‪http://www.digipostglobal.com‬
Production: T-Stop – http://t-stop.vn/
Director: Nick Jones
Camera: Ngo Minh Thanh, Vu Duy Quang
Editor: Nick Jones
Music Supervisor/ Sound Mix: Chris Skipper
Producer: Andy Ho

Fresh Hot Sauce! by Saigon Charlie

Charlie Page was formally an Executive Producer at Group M. Between punching out and punching in the next day, Charlie started making hot sauce. His girlfriend Linh gave him the inspiration and encouragement and his friends supported him.

This clip captures a raw, honest look at what goes into making a bottle of artisan chili sauce made by the combination of Linh and Charlie’s energies.

Featuring Charlie and Chi Loan in the kitchen, and Chi Nhuy at the market.

For more on Saigon Charlie’s sauces, check out his website:
http://saigoncharlie.com

and Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/saigoncharlie?fref=ts

‘Saigon Mad Men’ is a web series on advertising/media personalities in Saigon sharing their passions outside of work.

Check the rest of our series:
vimeo.com/album/3259236

CREDITS:

Creative Studio & Post Production: Digipost – ‪digipostglobal.com‬
Production: 50mm – ‪50mmfilm.com‬
Director: Nick Jones
DOP: Tung Thanh Le
Editor: Nick Jones
Colorist: Alexis Odiowei & Nhan Luong
Sound Designer & Mix: Chris Skipper

Executive Producer: Andy Ho

Special Thanks:
Charlie Page
Chi Loan
Chi Nhuy
P. Weeratip

‘The Guitar-Maker’s Labor of Love’ by Hubert Leong

This episode in the Saigon Mad Men series features Hubert Leong, who talks about his labor of love making guitars.

Hubert Leong has been an advertising industry veteran for over 30 years. He has worked and lived all over the region and now has given it all up to settle in Vietnam to build guitars.

HL Custom is a custom guitar service based in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. For more information, please check out his Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/HL-Custom-Guitars/322834917738549?fref=ts

‘Saigon Mad Men’ is a web series on advertising/media personalities in Saigon sharing their passions outside of work.

Check the rest of our series:

CREDITS:

Creative Studio & Post Production: Digipost – http://www.digipostglobal.com
Production: 50mm – http://www.50mmfilm.com
Director: Nick Jones
DOP: Tung Thanh Le
Editor: Alexis Odiowei & Nick Jones
Colorist: Alexis Odiowei
Sound Designer & Mix: Chris Skipper
Music: David Tran & Tuan Anh Bui Huynh

Executive Producer: Andy Ho

Special Thanks:
Hubert Leong – Luthier/Founder HL Custom Guitars
Ngoc Thuc – Master Luthier
Minh – Master Finishing Craftsman
Thang – Master Inlay Artist

‘The Bandits’ by Daryl Villanueva

Daryl Villanueva was born in the Philippines, raised in Hong Kong, Australia and Malaysia. His advertising career spans over 10 years with tours in LA, Dubai, Saigon and Beijing.

Besides Bandit9 ( http://www.banditnine.com ), he is also a Partner and Creative Director at The Lab ( http://www.thelabsaigon.com ) that does everything from interior design to industrial design.

‘Saigon Mad Men’ is a web series on advertising/media personalities in Saigon sharing their passions outside of work.

Check the rest of our series:

CREDITS:

Creative Studio: Digipost – http://www.digipostglobal.com

Production: 50mm – http://www.50mmfilm.com
DOP: Tung Thanh Le
Assistant Camera: BlakRay

Post Production: Digipost – http://www.digipostglobal.com
Editor & Director: Nick Jones
Colorist: Alexis Odiowei
Music & Sound Designer: Chris Skipper

Producer: Andy Ho

Special Thanks:
Bandit 9 – http://www.banditnine.com
Acacia Vintage Motorcycles – http://acaciavintagemotorcycles.com/
Blackmagic Design – https://www.blackmagicdesign.com
The Media Village – http://www.mediav.com.sg
The Work Saigon – http://www.worksaigon.com
Dream Catcher Media – http://dcmediavn.com

For more of our works, please check:
http://www.digipostglobal.com