‘Low overhead, high talent’ approach works for Burly Studios

10/04/2012 12:00 AM

10/03/2012 10:51 PM

Coffee mug in hand, outfitted in shorts and flip-flops, Chad McClure could be the poster boy for the new way of running a creative business.

In McClure’s company, Burly Studios, there aren’t employees sitting around waiting for the next project — just a bunch of talented freelancers he calls on when needed.

There isn’t a huge work space, but rather a small loft where McClure works, makes coffee and plays with his guitar collection during breaks. And there definitely aren’t a lot of suits, especially when the video that McClure’s crew is shooting might mean splashing through mud puddles or standing on a concrete studio floor for 12 hours.

"The work should speak for itself, not the way we dress," McClure said.

The message seems to be getting through. McClure’s latest project, a TV commercial for Intrust Bank’s new mobile banking service, is running now, and the agency has a couple of dozen more clients.

The Intrust commercial shows a well manicured pair of woman’s hands using a cellphone from a variety of locations. McClure said he got a sketch of the commercial from Shawn Harris of Sullivan Higdon & Sink — “a cool dude” — but there were still plenty of issues to work out to turn the sketch into a finished product.

On McClure’s suggestion, Burly built small sets in a studio for each segment instead of shooting on location, saving the client time and money. The crew shot the hands and backgrounds separately and filled in the phone’s screen with motion graphics. Then they electronically put all the pieces together.

“This is the kind of stuff we thrive on,” McClure said.

McClure started Burly about two years ago. He moved it into the Finn Lofts in the Commerce Street art district a short time later, after spending some time sharing space with his brother Justin McClure, owner of Justin McClure Creative in Delano.

Chad said the two separated “because we’re brothers and wanted to stay brothers.”

An El Dorado native, Chad McClure spent a decade working for other studios before, he said, “I figured out a better way to do it.”

He calls the approach “low overhead, high talent.”

“We’ve got a crew of seven that get work on a regular basis, sometimes up to 12 or 13. The best talent are freelancers. We’ve perfected working through the cloud,” he said, referring to collaborating over the Internet.

On shoots, of course, they typically work together in person.

“They’ve got their own language,” Bianca Tyler, who works as McClure’s project manager, said. “It’s really interesting to watch.”

McClure said about half his studio’s work consists of live action work, and the rest is animation and motion graphics. Different freelancers take on different roles depending on the project, he said, but “in the end, I’m the creative director.”

Other Burly clients include Koch Industries and subsidiaries such as Georgia-Pacific and Invista, for whom Burly has made business-to-business productions. For Koch Fertilizer, McClure recently completed an employee recruitment video that was "almost a documentary on engineers."

In addition to SHS, Burly has worked closely with the Howerton+White and Rowley Snyder Ablah agencies. McClure said he’s grown his client list by building relationships and understanding that advertising agency employees frequently migrate, spreading his web of connections in the process.

McClure has made one concession to the traditional production studio model. Burly is installing its first studio — a 1,700-square-foot space in the Finn Lofts where McClure’s crew will be able to do much of its work.

In addition to the convenience, McClure said, “There is something to be said about having a studio that people can see.”

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