The Parallel Projects #2: Kalie Presteen & Nick Hanlon
H A N D I N G T H E C A M E R A T O T H E D I A M O N D S
Nick Hanlon and Kalie Presteen of 1123 Productions talk about how they are leveraging the brand to stir a movement, meshing film and graphic design and how to get the most out of a creative team.
Both hailing from small Washington towns, Nick Hanlon, co-founder of 1123 Productions, and his other half, graphic designer Kalie Presteen, spend their days (and nights) at their Bellingham, WA studio producing super sharp videos for a number of PNW and national clients. A team of four - Nick and Kalie work alongside fellow teammates Chris Garcia-Florez and Dustin St. Hilaire - 1123 Productions offers an "all encompassing approach to web-based promotional techniques", focusing in film production with an emphasis on graphic design. These guys cover a range of clients and content, from action sports to documentaries, and fitness to music videos. 1123's dynamic and innovative vision is attracting businesses and artists alike.
If you know Jarod and I, you know we have a tendency to run at a pretty high level of energy. But as we walked out 1123's studio doors, we felt like we might have met our match. After spending an hour with these two, our momentum was so fueled we mine as well just mountain biked down the stairs. Or jumped out their window riding a razor scooter. Or have gone out and just bought a Porsche. Or maybe three. Their passion is so evident, it really affected our disposition that day, and even still has us looking on the upside.
Nick and Kalie were meant for film production and you can see it in more ways than one. Aside from making beautiful videos, this team is thoughtfully approaching business owning, putting their community first and courageously living their mission to see the film industry empower the unexpected.
J: How did you two meet?
N: We met in sculpture class, I was super quiet, didn’t talk very much, didn’t necessarily have a reason to talk too much. And then I saw Kalie bouncing around being social.
K: I guess I would go up to everyone in class and always be like, “What you working on?? What are you doing? Why are you doing it??” And then one day I was asking you [Nick] what you were working on...
N: I was making some computer screen, with broken glass.
K: And it was the last day of class before before finals, and I knew it was the my last chance.
N: And when she asked me, I just said time machine, even though is was clearly not a time machine. And I guess it struck her enough to ask me if I wanted to go to the teacher’s BBQ thing.
K: And then you didn’t have a ride.
N: I didn’t have a car.
K: Yeah and I did.
H: Oh it’s so perfect.
N: Well that’s the funny thing. The whole team, like Chris and Dustin, are both mega car people. And we met them because of cars. And Kalie, offered me a ride…
K: Which was our first date…
N: So we all met through cars.
K: It’s like the glue of the group.
H: Can you tell us a little bit about 1123 and how it got started?
K: Riding out in the woods.
N: It got started, yeah, mountain biking. I used to do a lot of mountain biking, and then I met Kalie and tried to get her mountain biking, or biking in general.
H: Just on a bike.
K: Literally, in the first 6 months of us dating, I got hurt more than I ever have in my whole life.
N: Yeah, almost killed my girlfriend the first time I took her on a bike *chuckles. So it was mountain biking and me and two other friends. We all mountain biked and we thought we could shoot the trails again. We saw the videos at the time and were like, “psh those are crap”. So were like, we can do that. So we started filming, and before we even finished filming that project, we started the company. And we were just like, “Well, fuck it, we’re going with it.”
That’s like my favorite quote.
K: I remember you guys making certain rigs out of wood, trying to get just the right shot.
N: Yeah we made a zip-line in the trees for the camera, and sent $3000 flying through the trees.
N: But yeah, we started the website, because Corbin is a coder and James got all the business information done. Within three days we started the business. We were just like, “Well, guess we are in it now.”
K: I remember Corbin coding for like 2 days straight. I remember coming in and being like, “Okay well I should make you guys food or something.”
N: Yeah Kalie was like, “Alright you fat nerds..”
...Yeah, that was 2012.
H: Can you share with us how the team has changed and what it has been like leading a team?
N: Basically, there are 3 owners, me and two other guys. One guy is in Canada snowboarding, for the last 3 years, and the other owns Fairhaven Pizza. So they have both been a little absent and I’ve just been going for it for the last few years. I’ve been lone wolf and bless Kalie’s heart for supporting me with that lone wolf attitude. I guess since I moved into the Invent space, business has skyrocketed and been growing to the point where I can’t do it myself. So I found Chris when I was really drunk, Kalie has always been around, on the shoots helping out…
K: I’m always behind the scenes.
N: Yeah she also in the scenes a couple times.
K: Oh yes, actress every once in a while.
N: Leading a team is a new thing. It’s only been the last few months that I’ve had others helping me and legally had paperwork done. So it’s been strange, but i’ve learned a lot from contracting with other companies, learning how to operate with other people and how to direct them.
I’ve always been the guy in the background, not telling people what to do, so now it’s really strange that people are asking me what to do.
K: And its interesting, even for me, I can even see an evolution in the last three or four months. Like when you go out, like with the Porsche and Audi dealership, and how you are directing all the boys and making this work.
N: Its not so much about being the leader in sense… Well the boss...
K: He hates being called the boss
N: Even as a joke...
K: And we joke about it a lot.
N: But its not about being a boss, but being a leader.
K: And lead by example.
N: Yeah and it's more important to understand how a team works, rather than how to lead a team. In a recent shoot for the Porsche dealer, it was strange to let go of the camera and let the others do their jobs, while I organize the next shot, so they can get their shot, 100% focus on that, and then move on to the next one while I’m again, getting the next one ready. And it turned out really well. That’s the importance of the team. And the importance of team effort and understanding each person’s contribution and having full confidence in them. You pick your team because you trust in their abilities. So believe in that and let them go do their job, instead of being like “No no no, change it, like this, like this…” And I kept wanting to grab the camera.
K: It’s letting go, but at the same time you are directing in solid ways.
H: We were talking about Jarod and I eventually bringing on someone one else and how I would want to first give up more of the technical work. But, I know that wouldn’t be easy for me to do. It would be a growing experience to let it go and trust that it will be done to my standard.
N: It also allows you to make more money. Because you personally have a max. So like, having Kalie come in, and her strength being in graphic design, having her do and design the graphic animations for the videos allows that person to 100% put her focus on that.
H: And their heart too.
H: How has being a part of a creative team benefitted your product?
N: I had an experience flying to North Carolina, for this big Porsche shoot for a week. It was my second time working as a team for video. Ever since I started it was just on my own, just with my friends or with Kalie. So doing it as a team, instead of a lone wolf, you feel, so much more, apart of something bigger. That experience hit me really hard, providing that experience for other people and to be apart of something bigger. Rather than just yourself trying to do this project; getting a bunch of people to do something together, is far more exciting, dynamic, full of ups and downs, shit goes wrong but you figure it out.
K: That is something I’m always bringing up. [Making a point to have] vision to be apart of something bigger than yourself. An idea, a mission, a goal to bring to the world. Its really cool to just join the team and realize that we are really starting to create that.
J: Yeah that’s cool how the community makes the experience so much better. And when you are at the height of your creative energy, of course the product is going to be even better
K: Yeah I love that. When I was still in design school, my professors would say if you are enjoying the process, it’s going to show in your work every time. And that’s one thing with 1123, we make jokes, we write quotes on the board, it’s a really fun dynamic.
N: It’s almost in the sense, like sarcastically hostile. Everyone has an equal chance of getting called a little bitch.
K: And we have our scooter too. So it’s just a ton of fun.
N: Its like the ultimate toy. We are actually looking to invest in a better one because we are afraid we are going to break this one.
H: Can you guys do any tricks?
N: We will do them. Yeah, bar spins, tail whips, 360’s.
K: I’m still getting used to it. I’m working on getting both wheels off the ground. I can do one.
J: How do you feel like developing 1123 benefits your guy’s personal relationship?
N: It gives us a common goal.
K: Yeah. It really does. And for me, every since we started dating, that was kind of my hope. To work and collaborate together. While we were in school together, when he would be working on ID projects, I would get done with my work and would go to help him or collaborate together on ideas. Even from the beginning, we have been subtly doing this kind of work together.
N: And that’s the thing with creative couples, if you are both in the creative field, you are both so used to working alongside other minds to get projects done. Kalie and I talk about how sometimes we live different lives, because she is a full time designer at another business at another town and I’m here, in town. But it’s no reason to believe that it’s going to be like that forever.
K: That’s one thing we always remind each other. To have the vision and goal of working together, on something we are both really passionate about and love.
N: One of my favorite Youtubers, Casey Neistat, he is this exuberant wild human, and his wife is a jewelry designer. And its seems, on his vlogs, that their worlds don’t really mesh. Except for when they spend time with their baby. He explained with the Venn diagram, where he’s like, “I have my thing, she has her thing, and then we have our thing.” And it works, there’s a good way about it, it keeps everyone sane. But there is this other fascination about what if [the circles] are kind of the same, what if there is more of the Venn in there?
K: And for us, it really crosses over. Like when you live together, and then starting to work together. But it works.
N: Its all an experiment right now. Who knows?? So far, there has not been a problem. ‘
K: Yeah, just give us a couple months *chuckles
J: Where do you see 1123 in the next 2-3 years?
N: As far as the company, not just video. The goal is to grow into the graphics area so we can grow into the branding and creative advertising/marketing field.
K: Essentially a one-stop-shop.
N: The end goal is to be doing exactly what we want to be doing, and having people buy into that. Instead of clients saying we need this, you’re good at it, go do it.
K: I think it’s a really great experience for us. Obviously we need to understand clients and how they work and operate and get in their minds. But like you said before, Casey Neistat, where he puts out material and people just love it. People love his life and what he does.
N: People buy into the character, his lifestyle. He isn’t trying to get people to buy his stuff, people are going to him for it. So that’s the end goal. It goes from where we are now, to the one-stop-shop/multimedia creative branding structure, and then to ignoring what people are wanting us to do, doing what we want, and people wanting it.
J: It makes sense with going into graphic and branding. The better you can brand yourself, the more people are going to be interested,
N: Everyday we are learning more about advertising and how to target a market. We had a meeting with a big client at a coffee shop the other day, and they were like “What do you mean, digital marketing?” And I went on to explain in detail why TV audiences and Youtube audiences are two different worlds. And they have benefits on both sides.
The thing is, on Youtube, people watch it genuinely. They are not forced to watch Casey, they choose to watch him.
H: They seek it out.
N: Yeah, but creating content that a certain demographic wants to see, is so much more powerful than just making something and putting it here and forcing it down people’s throats.
K: With that, you always do bring up how you would like to be apart of some sort of a movement or cultural shift.
N: Yeah isn’t that going on with you guys?
K: Which I can see. You guys are starting something.
N: The culture of this plain, minimal, white t-shirts. Like right when you guys walked in, I was like, you must have some white Eames chairs with some green plants or something.
J: *chuckles No white Eames chairs.
K: Yet, yet.
H: That would be amazing.
N: But you guys definitely have a white wall with just one thing on it. *laughter
But earlier you were talking about moving a subculture. And that’s what we are trying to do. Like when we all wear our black hoodies, there is one kid who saw us at Trader Joe’s and he was like, “So uh, are you guys a gang or what do you guys do?” And that’s the right question to ask, “Are we a gang or are we a company?”
K: Because that has not been done before.
N: When you think of your classic filmmaker, what do you think of? This college kid, trying to be professional, wearing some fedora and a vest, and some big ass shitty camera. So, we are trying to redefine what it means and looks like to be a filmmaker, and having this edge.
We [reference] the golden AK. The AK is like the street god. The gangsters, the street rats, they have the AK’s because they last, they go through hell, and they still work. But when you make it gold, it takes this street vibe and polishing it, and you’ve reached the top. This golden AK movement, is taking underestimated people, and polishing them to the point where you can go to the club with jeans and hoodie and yet, you are to be respected.
This subculture, this movement, this diamond [the 1123 logo], people will see this diamond. This one guy was like, “You guys make sick-ass shit.” And it’s like, I’m sure most companies don’t get in that, like gauged people, approaching videographers, is kinda of a cultural combination of people who have not been represented in this field, and now feel like they can relate. Like I’m sure the other film company in town I’m sure they don't have a more urban type people approaching them saying, “I like your stuff because it represents me.”
J: It’s cool you have a direct audience, but it’s very much one you relate to as well.
N: The thing is, the work, I don’t see it directed toward a specific audience. We have done Porsche stuff, we have done medical stuff, fitness stuff, all over the place. But it’s the people that do that stuff, they feel represented.
What I mean by that is like, you can walk into a corporate environment, talk the corporate talk, be the classy class. And then come back, and you produce this video for this corporate industry, but you can look at the people who do it, and who does that? Do you expect some shirt and tie person, or do you expect the golden AK person? So getting that bridge between yes, you street rat people can be doing to the same stuff the corporate people are doing.
H: Yeah, you’re just as capable.
N: So that diamond isn’t necessarily representing 1123, it’s representing the idea of who is really behind the camera and who is leading this movement. That’s the idea behind the movement.
Its the people on Instagram hanging their feet over the side of a bridge who we wish to see being attracted to and going after those big clients. Instead of just being like “I’m gonna take picture of my feet forever.” Its, “I’m still going to be that person, but I’m going to go after those bigger clients.”
J: Thats an attractive thing to do. Big companies are gonna see that, and see they are staying true to themselves. And there is a whole new shift of how things are being done.
N: Its that power of the people. The entrepreneurial spirit via small companies are all taking a share of markets instead of letting big companies own them. So letting more people realize, hey you can actually go up. You don’t have to stay where you are at.
K: And even the team members for 1123 too, really resonate with that. In certain ways, I think some of us have maybe been the underdogs.
N: We were all kind of the underestimated ones.
K: It really resonates with me. To envision that one day, we will be apart of this movement and idea.
N: Everyone on the team has a different background, either growing up or what they chose to do. I came from farmland and did industrial design. Kalie did graphic design and photography, and came and went from it and rediscovered it. Chris is from Columbia, as a refugee and Dustin is a car nerd who builds cars in his garage. Everyone has their own backstory and no one comes from money.
K: Yeah, it’s this idea of, “We started from the bottom now we’re…” yeah.
N: *mumbles something probably sarcastic about Drake*laughter
H: But despite the labels that have been put on you your whole life, you guys are grasping your potential, your worth, what you’re capable of. And you aren’t letting those things define you.
J: You know who you are and you are staying true to that. You know you are empowered and can do this, and you are bringing others along to make it even better.
H: And you are living what this project is all about. It’s authentic.
K: Yeah for so many years, Nick would tell me, just work and let your work tell your story, and eventually things will happen.
N: There’s a balance between leading by example and telling other people about what you’re doing. I don’t like to tell people too much about what I’m doing, but would rather let them find out.
And Kalie’s job at the print co., I don’t think they fully realize what she is capable of. And they were missing out. And that’s why it failed, because they miss out on opportunities they choose to ignore.
K: It gets to a point, even if you are trying to show what you can do, and they know you are good at this other thing, but when it comes down to it, it’s about business and profit and what is safe.
N: And that’s what I’m discovering about owning a business, you have to have some amount of republican in you. As hard as it is to say that, its true.
K: Because everyone needs a share.
N: You have to be safe and how you move things.
K: But continuously innovative.
N: Yeah to be so conservative, that you choose to not progress yourself, and you find a way and that works, that’s not gonna work in the long run.
K: And not take a giant leap, but overtime, if we are continually trying new things and testing and pushing limits.
N: Yeah it’s like Apple. Apple phones minimally progress. One year they do a body design, the next they do software design. And they flip flop, because they need the time to do it right.
J: Yeah we are going through the same thing. With this new line and having new ideas. We want to be able to expand, and expand in a way that makes sense. Taking it one step at a time. We do want to move into new areas and products, but we have so many steps to take for those new areas to make sense. But expanding into graphic design, makes sense for where you are headed
N: When we say graphic design - like right now, Kalie does a lot of ads where it’s just she is pumping them out.
K: I could do 60 ads a day.
N: But its all kind of plug and play. That not what we mean by graphic design. We want to incorporate it into the bigger idea of getting a whole series of videos. Where there is a brand in it, colors, themes, fonts.
K: Yeah for graphic design and video to mesh. And that’s an exciting place for us.
Its interesting for me, because I work at a newspaper and print shop and they are in a lot of ways stuck in their ways. It’s a family owned business, but it needs a shift and it needs to happen soon. I’ve tried to address this and I’ve showed them research and ideation and concepts I can do, so it’s an interesting time and with that I can see how print is phasing out but not only that but static graphic design. I’ve seen such a trend with fast media, with scrolling social media and Instagram, things need to be instantaneous and can't take too long to read, it sounds bad, but its true. In a lot of ways, its been good to work there to understand an older demographic and realize how to cater to them, but also, this new demographic thats coming up.
N: The tweens are the the biggest buying power. They influence the top charts.
K: It’s crazy. They’ve been teaching us how to edit.
N: I learned aftereffects on my own, and I learned from 12 year olds on youtube. They have no other obligations in life.
K: It’s the prime time to learn.
H: What’s one piece of advice you would give a couple who are starting their own creative business.
N: I hate this piece of advice but sometimes it hits me like a ton of bricks. An old boss once told me, “Don’t start your own business.” And every now and again it hits me, like “Like wow, I really don’t want to do this.” I mean other people are making money traveling and I’m stuck here in this little box. But what he means, is that, you better be really really prepared. It can suck, but it can also be really really great. You just need to be patient.
Leading by example. Doing good work and putting it out there quietly. Stay humble.
K: Be truly authentic and relate with your clients. When it all comes down to it, it is understanding others vision’s and making it about your clients.