Getting to know Carrie Stett

Since I was a small girl I loved movies and as I got older I appreciated how these stories connected all of us. People love stories, we always have. We all tell them. Even when our own personal stories could be so different, there was always a thread, something that could connect us, a shared thread of humanity that’s very real and that’s very present even in make-believe stories. We crave stories, so we can connect.

I feel comradery with Carrie in more ways than one, but definitely in that there isn’t just one person specifically to look up to, there isn’t just one person out there doing exactly what I want to do either. But after only a short time speaking with Carrie, she is somebody to admire, to be inspired by. And if you asked me, I think that she has a great sense of that connecting thread, of what makes a story stick with you, she connects. Both in her stories and in her life.

Tell me. Where did you go to film school? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana and I went to Emerson college in Boston. One day I saw a flyer for Emerson’s film school. I was like, “You could learn television and film, it’s something you could do?” It was always something I had wanted to do, so I applied and I got in. Emerson was the kind of place where on day one I had a camera in my hand. It was awesome.

Who or what was an influence on you growing up that inspired you to be a filmmaker, besides the flyer?

Besides the flyer. I always had a love of Southern authors and Southern literature. Early on I became fascinated with writing and storytelling, and I was inspired by writers like Alice Walker, Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. I wanted to take the richness and humanity in stories like theirs and bring them to life somehow. Also, I think that growing up I saw things on TV and in movies that I didn’t see in my daily life. I wanted to bring a different voice.

It sounds like you have the explorer tendency to see what’s different and what’s out there in the world?

Definitely. I was always the one who wanted to go out and explore the world. After school, I lived in London for many years and loved traveling and working all over the world. It was definitely breaking the mold or the norm to do these things. When I told my parents I wanted to go to school in Boston, they were like, “Why would you do that? You’ll need a coat!” But they came around and were eventually very supportive because they knew I was following my passion.

So, what was the first film set that you were on? What was that like?

Well when I was really little my aunt had worked at the local TV station in Louisiana and they were doing a local furniture commercial. I might have been like six years old, but they put me in the commercial. I was the Sun Furniture girl and I wore big sun rays around my face. I recited this whole thing about coming to shop at Sun. It was just me on a stool saying this to the camera and I just remember being terrified. Let’s just say that was the end of my on camera career.

What was your own first film project like? Were you always trying to direct or was there something else that you started out doing?

I wanted to be a screenwriter, so I spent most of my energy writing and rewriting and getting rejected and realizing that I wasn’t meant to sit in a room by myself and type all day, I was better working with people and creating what was in my mind. So I went out and made a short film many years ago. It was terrible but I learned a lot!

Oh. I want to hear about how terrible it was. We can see how far you’ve come!

It will demonstrate that. It was a comedy about trying to find Sandra Bullock in Austin, there was a running joke that she had moved into town and there were “Sandra sightings” everywhere. My sister lives there and looks a little bit like her, so she would often get approached by people. So, it was a family joke too. We ran around town trying to find her and mostly just got thrown out of places. We went to a local BBQ joint and they were like, “She comes here all the time. You just missed her.”  It was really interesting because we met a lot of different types of people. I did learn the nuances of documentary-style filmmaking and capturing great characters. It was so silly, though.

Who do you look up to, professionally?

That’s a good question. Who I look at professionally is interesting because it’s not just one person, because there haven’t been a lot of people, at least as a woman, that’s doing what I want to do. Now there’s Patty Jenkins and Kathryn Bigelow, of course. There are so many talented people out there doing amazing work, but I don’t want to copy them. I want to be me and have a unique voice.  

What was a turning point in your career? Or when you decided you wanted to Direct rather than only Write?

As a writer, I always felt like you create and then you hand it off, but I saw my brother-in-law writing feature films, then making them and my cousin is a film director. Seeing them have success, I realized that maybe this is something that I can do. I think that some of my prior doubts about whether I could do this work came down to being female in the industry. But the story background that I got from focusing on screenwriting for so long really has helped me and I’ve had some wonderful opportunities at VIMBY, in particular, to go out and direct stories that allowed me to grow as a filmmaker.

What was one of the most memorable, touching stories you’ve worked on?

The Kleenex Cares campaign had so many of them. We were often in situations where we were creating a life-changing moment for people. The chef at the firehouse in Florida… Chef Rob was particularly memorable because he’s someone who had struggled for so long and he was so passionate about helping other people. We were there to do something good for him and it meant more to him than I ever could have imagined. And then that video went viral like many of the others.

But then World News Tonight invites him on set to be the man of the week. He was calling me from backstage and in the taxi. I was practically with him the whole way by phone. He was so excited and it made me so happy to have gone to work one day and made a lasting impact on someone’s life.

As a filmmaker, what are some of your best tips for being on set?

Don’t forget to drink water. I get so busy and so focused that I don’t eat or drink. That’s not good. It’s a physical job. You have to nourish yourself.

What’s a great kind of moment on set, maybe a moment you’ve had?

When everybody’s working as a team trying to get the shot. And everybody is on board to go the extra mile and get it. This shoot I was on recently, we were in a blizzard. It was freezing. The gear was freezing up, our toes were frozen but everybody was in it. We went out in the snow. We’d warm up and then we’d go back out until we captured our shot. That was fun. As a team.

What are some of the challenges with pursuing the dream? What would you let people know?

It can be a hard job and you have to make sacrifices. There are ups and downs and instability. I think you shouldn’t do it if you don’t feel intensely moved to do something like this because it’s a challenge.

Do you have any advice for young, aspiring female filmmakers?

Aww, $**T. How do I start? I say this as advice for myself too, believe in yourself. I know it seems cliché but I also have to remind myself of that. It is particularly hard to do that when you’re a little bit younger, when you’re new. It’s easy to be intimidated when you have a bunch of people telling you you can’t shoot something that way or you should do it differently. Or trying to make some of the millions of decisions you have to make in a day. There’s not necessarily a right answer. If you’re directing, it’s your vision you’re trying to create. What everybody’s there to do on the day is to create your vision, so believe in that and go with it.

So, what’s up next for you?

I’m doing this great campaign with Cheerios and Walmart’s One Million Moments of Good. Somehow I’ve become the surprise expert. I have literally directed every single kind of surprise you can do and I love it. What’s fun about these is they’re all moments of giving help to people in need. As someone who has worked in reality TV, I thrive on creating actual real moments in which people are genuinely moved. Gosh, what a nice way to spend your day and then you make someone’s day brighter.

What is your dream job?

My dream job is to … I would like to direct a feature film. However, I am enjoying doing short format at the moment. I like that more people see something I made that’s on the internet than the amount of people who watch Monday Night Football. I just want to keep telling stories any way that I can.

You also have a daughter? Anything special you do for her?

Sometimes I’ll leave a little sticky note or something in her lunchbox that with positive messages like “You could be anything you want to be.” I don’t know if she even knows what that means yet but one day she will and I can’t wait to see her fly.

Box Tops For Education

As we turn the corner into September it finally feels a bit like Fall here.  Welcome back to school!  OK, some of you probably have kids that went back to school over a month ago.  That is INSANE.  August is no time to be in school.  It’s a time for beating the heat, spending less time learning and more time binging Netflix, eating popsicles, riding the Slip N Slide.  OK pardon me as I get off my August Is No Time To Be In School soapbox…

All kidding aside, we are proud of our participation in General Mills’ Box Tops For Education program.  Back in 1996, General Mills developed Box Tops as a way to support education and benefit America’s schools.  Fast forward to today, where collecting Box Tops from various General Mills products is an easy way to raise funds for your local school.  Over 70,000 schools participate, and the Box Tops program has raised a whopping $840,000,000 for American schools.  We have produced some Box Tops content in years past, but this year our involvement went to another level.  We sent out our talented local crews to tell the stories of 35 of schools across the country, from Seattle to Miami, Baytown, TX to Terre Haute, IN.  What we found was powerful on multiple fronts.  It was inspiring to see that our country is filled with passionate educators and eager learners, who are being treated to quality educational experiences.  And it’s awesome to see major corporations like General Mills and its retail partners getting behind such an impactful program to make sure schools can afford to fuel their students’ passions.

Here’s a recap of where we went, and the happy students we celebrated.

It all started in California in 1996.

General Mills wanted to create a program to help support education and benefit America’s schools – and so, Box Tops for Education™ was born. As part of the initial test program, Box Tops were only available on select Big G cereals, such as Cheerios™, Total™ and Lucky Charms™.

The program was such a huge success that it soon launched on other General Mills products and expanded across the nation. By 1998, more than 30,000 schools were clipping Box Tops and earning cash to buy the things they needed: books, computers, playground equipment and more.

Over the next four years, the Box Tops for Education™ program doubled to include brands such as Pillsbury™, Old El Paso™ and Green Giant™. By 2004, over 82,000 schools across the nation participated in Box Tops, earning more than $100 million.

In 2006, for the first time, non-food brands began to participate; now families could clip Box Tops from Ziploc®, Hefty®, Kleenex® and Scott® products, too. As the program expanded, school earnings increased. By 2010, schools across the nation had earned over $320 million.

Today, America’s schools have earned over $800 million, and you can find Box Tops on hundreds of products throughout the grocery store and online.

F&#% That’s Good!

We pride ourselves in being ambassadors of authentic voices.  Natural, and at times locally oriented content from real people is a powerful way to convey brand messaging, if done properly.

This Kraft Mac & Cheese spot caught our eye recently.  Some of us here are old enough to remember when TV was dominated by only three major networks, and cursing was strictly verboten.  If you heard a borderline dirty word like “ass” or “bitch” you’d be aghast.  Shows that had any sort of edgy language risked losing sponsor support.  So it’s kinda funny to see how far we’ve come, when a huge consumer packaged goods company like Kraft makes a spot, albeit digital, that not only features some fowl language, but it’s centered around it.

Hey, they’re just words, and the comedic effect of them being bleeped out makes it even more amusing.  By championing the need that most parents have faced to curse in the face of challenging parental moments, Kraft celebrates real moms in a fresh, not, um, cheesy way.  F&#%’n A, KUDOS TO YOU Kraft!

Noses On

“Jessie Graff and a crew of Ninja Warriors and Olympians”

It’s that time of year again, America!  Red Nose Day is back we are thrilled to be a part of it once more.  This tremendous charity raises money to fight childhood poverty here and abroad.  For just $1, you can buy a red nose at your local Walgreens and the profits go to a variety of charity partners who work to lift kids out of poverty and hunger.  It’s just about the most fun way to make a difference one can find.

Red Nose Day 2017 Launch video

Last year, when Walgreens approached us to help raise awareness for the cause, we created an ambitious content marketing play:  50 States, 50 Stories.  We were moved to hear that even in its first year in the US, Red Nose Day charities helped kids in all 50 states.  We wanted to bring that idea to life and over 2 months, 47 VIMBY filmmakers created 53 original works, across the nation.

We thought it could not get any more exciting than that, but Red Nose Day 2017 has proven us wrong for two main reasons:

The Ride On for Red Nose Day

In partnership with People for Bikes, Walgreens is sponsoring two intense but rewarding bike rallies with professional cyclists and talented hobbyist (many from the Walgreens organization).  We were embedded every step (or pedal) of the way and turned around an edit of the West Coast ride within 12 hours of its arrival in Vegas.

Red Nose Day Live

This is probably the most exciting development at VIMBY this quarter and not just because it brought a bunch of puppies to our office!  Though we have done many FB Live broadcasts for brands, we have never been a part of an execution this tactical and disruptive.  We don’t think anyone has.

To raise awareness for Red Nose Day, Walgreens is going live on five consecutive Fridays, with over 600 associates broadcasting live simultaneously from their personal profiles (which we know Facebook elevates over brand pages) and driving tune in to VIMBY’s tentpole events.

We’ve seen engagement 3-4x benchmark, which we hope will help continue driving record breaking sales of the noses.  Speaking of, why don’t you tune in each Friday to see what surprise we have in store and head down to Walgreens and help us fight child poverty one nose at a time?

A look back at 50 States, 50 Stories

It’s A Miniature World After All

Today’s uncertain world can make you feel small and insignificant.  Perhaps that’s why I’m a sucker for miniatures.  OK, the real reason why I’m a sucker for them is because they’re so darn cool.

Miniature dioramas are one of those 21st century art forms that answer the question “why I love the internet”, along with videos of panda bears playing on jungle gyms and tilt shift photography.

I recently came across this very cool Miniature Calendar, created by Japanese artist Tatsuya Tanaka.

On the site, he describes it in the manner one would probably expect, coming from a Japanese miniature artist:

Everyone must have had similar thoughts at least once. Broccoli and parsley might sometimes look like a forest, or the tree leaves floating on the surface of the water might sometimes look like little boats. Everyday occurrences seen from a pygmy’s perspective can bring us lots of fun thoughts.

I wanted to take this way of thinking and express it through photographs, so I started to put together a “MINIATURE CALENDAR” These photographs primarily depict diorama-style figures surrounded by daily necessaries.

Just like a standard daily calendar, the photos are updated daily on my website and SNS page, earning it the name of “MINIATURE CALENDAR” 

It would be great if you could use it to add a little enjoyment to your everyday life.

Every day I see a new post from him on Instagram, with that day’s miniature calendar scene.  So.  Darn.  Cool!  But we are not innocent bystanders in our love of miniatures.  We have profiled artists that specialize in creating compelling miniature work.  Influenced by extreme weather and archival disaster films, Lori Nix creates apocalyptic dioramas from her NYC apartment.  If that’s a bit too bleak for your fancy, check out C+C Mini Factory.  Based in Brooklyn, these ladies’ work is a bit more fanciful and earned them the 2015 Shorty Award for Best Instagrammer!  Sheesh if I can get my daughter and wife to like one of my photos on Instagram I feel like I won the internet.

Check em out – they, like the Miniature Calendar will hopefully bring some small happiness to your day.  See what we did there.