Get to Know Stept Studios: Q&A with Executive Producer Lindsey Hagen
Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv
Stept is an award winning creative and production studio known for work that feels more like entertainment than advertising. The studio partners with brands, agencies, and platforms to create campaigns, commercials, and branded content with authenticity at its core. Their award-winning roster of directors represents the next generation of storytellers, working across commercial and documentary genres. The film-quality driven, forward-thinking nature of their work can be seen in recent work Stronger Than One for Nike. Brand Storytelling caught up with Lindsey Hagen, an Executive Producer at Stept, to learn more about the studio, their approach to branded entertainment, and their recent work with Nike:
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Lindsey. Can we start with an introduction to what Stept is all about?
Stept Studios is a full-service production studio ranging from creative services through all aspects of production from pre-production through postproduction. We have a talented in-house creative team that handles creative services and strategy for 360 global campaigns, we have a robust post house with a specialty in VFX and CGI and we also have an entertainment division that focuses more on storytelling initiatives in both the branded and network space. Stept also owns a rental house called Vault - we have an excellent roster on exclusive Directors and a collaborators list that is continuing to grow. We're based in Los Angeles and the company was started 12+ years ago by Nick Martini, Alex Martini and Cam Riley.
What sets Stept apart as a brand studio?
We don't come from the cut-and-dry agency space; we understand production and storytelling because that's how the company was started. Our founders use and operate cameras, edit and direct. We are creators at heart with a fundamental understanding of the nuts and bolts of production. Over the years we've refined that passion and skill set and have brought on incredible Directors and Creatives resulting in a handful of Telly Awards, Vimeo Staff Picks and Festival success. We take our passion for storytelling, our knowledge of production, quality teamwork and we bring that to every job from the commercial to entertainment space.
Why is it important to approach the work in a way that makes it feel more like entertainment than advertising?
There's a lot of content out there, so why not make it beautiful? We're filmmakers first, so visual storytelling is always a high priority and we pride ourselves on up-leveling scripts or docu work with outstanding visuals. There is a lot of intention that goes into cinema and we try to bring those qualities to our work regardless of the ask.
What are some of the ways in which you strategize, develop, and tell stories with your partners?
We have an amazing research and development team, and we are constantly working with Directors to workshop concepts and take them to market in the entertainment and branded space. We've also had good luck fostering relationships with amazing individuals whose stories we believe are so compelling that we actively bring them to brands to support as a one off of part of a larger series. We've had luck bringing these interpersonal relationships to life with partners like Facebook, REI, Google, Diageo, Merrell and the Wall Street Journal. In my eyes, story comes first - it's just a matter of matching the right partner.
Recent work with Nike on the “Stronger Than One” series provides a great window into Stept’s work and ethos. Can you elaborate on the process of generating that work with such a large and well-known brand?
This series came to us through our existing relationship with Nike. We had worked with the LA & Football division last year on a scripted/docu hybrid showcasing a talented young female football player from East LA named Dalia Hurtado. Dalia's family immigrated from Mexico and our story took place in a predominantly Latino neighborhood so it was really important we partner with storytellers who could best share Dalia's story through the lens of Mexican culture. We partnered with Director Jazmin Garcia who grew up in Mexico City and now lives in LA. Her work focuses on LatinX storytelling and her style of storytelling were a perfect fit for Nike. It was important that our Director and DP and much of our crew were also bilingual. This production was a huge success and fostered a great relationship with the subject and the brand.
As a result, we took a similar approach with team and crew selection on the 8 part "Stronger Than One" series we've been working with Nike on this past year. The idea came through Nike's Football division as they wanted to showcase the community story behind some of the most praised Football athletes of our time and show how these athletes are giving back off the field. Given the community integration element of this series, building a team of Directors that had an intimate connection to each community was hugely important and took priority. For that reason, we had a new Director for each episode with a curated team that best fit the needs of the creative and each community we were showcasing. The common threads throughout were our EP David Brickell, CD Adam Rachlitz and the creative and marking team at Nike who played a very hands-on role throughout.
What excites you most about the work you do?
As a participant in media, I have an opportunity to hold space and with that in mind I try to be very deliberate about the subject matter and collaborators we work with.
Media holds power and that's not something I take lightly, whether it's stunning visuals, profound messaging or opening doors for voices seldom heard this line of work breaths lots of opportunity to bring good into the world.
What’s next for Stept?
We thought COVID would slow us down, but we saw quite the opposite and have continued to expand our team in the past year and have become increasingly nimble and savvy with the COVID production workarounds. In 2021 I anticipate you will see more of a presence from Stept in the entertainment space.
About Lindsey Hagen
Lindsey Hagen is an Executive Producer, Story Producer and Director with a focus on cause related storytelling. Lindsey has a background in sales and marketing, journalism and brand strategy. She leads a successful career ideating and pitching meaningful stories to brand and network partners, creating compelling human centered films and campaigns.