For being a young company, the Main Idea is charting a quick path to success — one of the highlights of 2016 was the spot they shot with Alicia Keys. Pretty impressive after only four years of operation, but it’s the result of the group working hard, doing what they love, and that love being returned.
The Main Idea was started in 2012 by Joey Szela and Galin Foley. The two — along with producer Ben Weigher, director James Pereira, and content specialist Andrew Percival — met while in Vermont. They were studying different things but were drawn together by their shared passions: hip-hop, fashion, and action sports. Joey and Galin had already been creating ski and snowboard content for a couple years.
When they found themselves juggling (or skipping) school more and more to do client work, they knew it was time to take the leap and turn their passion into a full-time venture. While fun, making ski movies wasn’t exactly financially rewarding. “It works when you’re younger,” says Galin, “but not when you’re trying to build a career. It was time to grow what we were doing, and that’s what we did.”
So the Main Idea was formed as a video production company, and they migrated toward more commercial branded content. Pretty quickly, they went from producing content for a few local clients to shooting videos nationally and internationally. “It was cool to see that happen in a short period of time,” says Ben.
They especially love the music content they’re creating. “Music videos are a blank canvas for creativity, allowing us to see through on a vision, often more so than commercial work,” Joey says. Ben adds, “With music videos, there’s more opportunity for storytelling, and fewer parameters than with commercial work.” That creative freedom is important to the team — it keeps things interesting and allows them to nurture their style.
The video they shot with Alicia Keys for FACT magazine is understandably a highlight. It was the result of an earlier collaboration with the London-based music and youth culture magazine — a shoot with rapper Freddie Gibbs. A few months after doing that in L.A., they got the call. Obviously they jumped on it.
The process was straightforward. They started by researching Keys, what she was saying about her new album Here, her inspiration, what she’d been up to. Then they came up with the questions James, as the director of the shoot, would ask her, making sure the interview would drive a good narrative while covering a lot of important bases in a little amount of time.
“Our initial research was a big factor in our success — we knew we had to maximize our time with her,” says Ben. So they identified what they needed to cover, and what would be a bonus. As a result, once on set, they were able to stay pretty true to their vision.
The first day was spent with the singer, interviewing Keys and shooting in her studio, Jungle City Studios. They like to keep interviews casual, letting the talent do the talking, so they treated the interview like an informal conversation. “Alicia was everything we expected and more,” says Joey. “She’s an awesome person and great to work with.”
Once the day wrapped, they reviewed the interview. They already had some ideas about what they wanted to film the next day, but her interview helped them determine additional locations — the things and places she’d spoken about that were important to her. “Alicia grew up in New York City, so we wanted to show how the city inspired her,” says Ben. The next day, the crew went around New York capturing her story visually.
Read FACT’s cover story, How Alicia Keys Arrived Here.
The Main Idea team says research and pre-production planning are critical to any successful shoot. “It’s where it all starts,” says Joey. “Understanding the subject matter, the client, the work, the audience — research is everything to executing a successful project.” With almost every project, there’s at least one person on the team who knows the artist or brand well and can fill everybody else in on what it’s about, what it’s up to, who the target market is.
They also use that research to determine the crew, being as flexible as possible in their roles. “We’re not in the ‘you can only do one thing’ camp. We’re often interchangeable,” says Joey. “We like that we can function in many different roles.” Galin says they start by determining how to tell the story in the most efficient way — who will direct it best, shoot it best — then crewing it out from there.
When the team isn’t working on a project, they carve out time to shoot stock footage for Dissolve. “We wish we could do more,” says Joey, “especially now that we know what we’re doing when it comes to popular content, avoiding logos, and getting releases.” They especially like the freedom shooting stock allows them. “It gives us free rein over what we’re shooting,” he says. “It’s interesting to think of what will appeal to certain audiences, and knowing that if you do stock footage well, it will sell well.”
What’s the Main Idea’s secret? Pursuing their passions and taking on projects they actually care about. “We aim to work on things we enjoy through and through, from pre to post,” says Joey. “Sometimes that’s not the case, but we’re finding that the harder we work, the more that goal is coming to fruition.”
Ben agrees. “The more work we do, the more our style shows — and the more we hear from clients looking for something like what we’re already doing, what we want to be doing.”