The Director’s Diary: Downtown Denver Awards
Cora Palmer, Creative Lead
On Tuesday, April 17, the Downtown Denver Partnership hosted their 57th annual Downtown Denver Awards. Since 1962, the Partnership has held this event to celebrate the businesses, organizations and initiatives that have made significant contributions toward creating a unique, vibrant, and diverse Downtown Denver. Westworks Studios, as proud video sponsors for the event (along with our larger company Comcast), worked to develop unique video stories for each award winner. Six of Downtown’s most impactful projects completed in 2017 were honored:
- Ashley Union Station
- Confluence Park - Shoemaker Plaza Reconstruction
- Le Méridien and AC Hotel by Marriott Denver Downtown
- Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Initiative at Metropolitan State University of Denver
- Rocky Mountain Seed Buildings
- Union Station Block A
There are just six weeks between the day the award winners are selected and the preview reception where the winners get to see their videos for the first time. From scripting to shooting, editing and polishing—it can’t start until the announcement is made, and we have to wrap it all up before the big event. Here’s your look at the magic behind the scenes.
Tour Day 1
February 14 (60 Days to Preview Reception)
I got to tag along with the awards jury to tour all of the finalist projects. Even though the winners haven’t been picked yet, I start taking notes for scripts and photos of potential interview locations during the tours. (“This spot is beautiful, great lighting, but it’s way too noisy for an interview, etc.”) The first day we got to see some incredible projects in the Union Station neighborhood. As someone who’s grown up in Colorado, everything in this neighborhood amazes me because I still can’t believe it’s not just a dirt patch behind the train station.
One of the coolest spots—a balcony at the Hotel Born that overlooks the Union Station train platform.
So much happening in the Union Station neighborhood. Every time I turn around there’s something new!
Tour Day 2
This day was so, so, so cold. The first project we went to see was Confluence Park. Outside. We were all shaking and shivering but thankfully we had awesome warm vans to jump back into (shout out to Hermes Transportation). The rest of the day flew by as we got to meet the rest of the future winners (plus awesome lunch, plus drinks! If you have the chance to be on the awards jury, don’t pass it up—what a cool experience).
I cannot even begin to explain how cold it was.
The awards jury checking out 54Thirty, the rooftop bar at Le Méridien. They just reopened the bar last week and I cannot wait to visit this summer.
February 28 (6 Weeks to Finished Videos)
Now we hit the ground running. We have our six projects and we start filming in one week. The team at the Partnership does an incredible job scheduling all six (or more) locations and literally dozens of interviews in just a few days. Scripts are started, and potential interview locations are selected based on my photos from the tours. As the key players and interviewees for each project are solidified, we start working on the interview questions. The camera crew is locked in and ready to roll.
First day of filming - DENVER HOUSING AUTHORITY
Our first day was an easy warm up—just one interview with Ismael Guerrero at the Denver Housing Authority, who was amazing. He’s also been a great supporter of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program in Denver.
CONFLUENCE PARK- SHOEMAKER PLAZA
It’s always risky filming outdoors in Colorado in March. Thankfully, we lucked out—the weather was gorgeous (I got a sunburn, no joke). One of the interviewees was Happy Haynes, Executive Director for Denver Parks and Recreation, and Denver’s deputy mayor for 2017. It was a Friday morning, and there were genuinely TONS of people on the plaza. During her interview, a fly fisherman walked into the background of the shot right when we she was talking about all the recreational opportunities the park provides. Jeff Shoemaker joked that it was his brother, and for a minute I believed him because it was too good to be true. This guy was really fly fishing in the middle of Denver in March. Because… Colorado. And actually, when you watch the video you’ll see he wasn’t the only one.
Yours truly enjoying some vitamin D.
The gals from the Partnership take a turn at the helm.
LE MÉRIDIEN AND AC HOTEL
These hotels are beautiful, and this was a great filming day because we were able to find all our locations on the second floor of Le Méridien and didn’t have to move around too much. Plus, we got to eat some amazing food from Corinne for lunch.
These bikes play a big role in the b-roll we picked. It was awesome to have some footage that was shot during the summer for this one!
ASHLEY UNION STATION
I knew this one might be a challenge because this is an apartment building that’s 100% leased. There was one open studio apartment that we saw on tour day, but it was totally empty, so it would have been pretty boring footage. We knew we wanted to interview a resident if we could but didn’t know if we could find someone that would let us film in their house. We met a resident named Eugene who was the sweetest guy, and his house was beautiful! We were able to film right at his kitchen island, and we talked to him for half an hour because he had the greatest story. He shared how he overcame homelessness and that he’s now a pastor who works with the homeless community. He was born and raised in Denver, but never thought he’d get the opportunity to live Downtown. He told us he uses his story and where he lives now as examples to show others that they can do it too.
You can see our jib setup for capturing b-roll here. We pushed this thing all over Downtown!
GO SPOT CHECK HEADQUARTERS
This was a great place to film because it’s just a pretty space with so much natural light, and it has a great vibe—everything you’d expect from a hip tech company—open floor plan, free snacks, and my favorite, dogs (which sadly did not make the cut for the video). We were there on March 14th, which is Pi day—3.14, so naturally there were pies for everyone at the office. I was constantly saying, “Wait, there’s a pie in the background of the shot. Let me get it out!” So, if I did my job you won’t see any pies…
Everything a millennial wants in a workspace—couches, natural light, food, and above all else, dogs.
I’m constantly finding impossible-to-capture reflections. Sadly, this one didn’t make it into the final version of the video.
UNION STATION BLOCK A
This project was definitely our most challenging just because of the sheer size of it. It’s basically a city block: a hotel, office building, two restaurants and a market. But they were all beautiful spaces, which makes it easy, and we got to have a delicious lunch at Tavernetta so I can’t complain too much. Our coolest spot to set up, probably for any project, was on a balcony overlooking the Union Station train platform. We interviewed Continuum Partners founder Mark Falcone there. The lighting was just right; it was a perfect setting. Plus, we were able to get the shots of the train platform we missed earlier in the day after getting the boot from the RTD security guards. Next time we’ll call Dave Genova at RTD first.
Thankfully we got this clutch shot from the platform before security came!
DENVER MAYOR MICHAEL B. HANCOCK
My camera crew and I have been to interview the Mayor quite a few times now, so we know the drill of where to park at the City and County building and what to expect from security. Like usual, Mayor Hancock showed up, knew what he wanted to say about each project, and was done in about five minutes! Easy peasy.
Last day of filming - AEROSPACE AND ENGINEERING SCIENCES BUILDING AT MSU DENVER
This building is so cool from a technical perspective, but it also has these two beautiful spaces—sort of an amphitheater and then a study lounge that features a half-scale model of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. I wanted to film interviews in both spaces. Both locations are on the West side of the building, which is all glass windows—it’s a great view. The sun was setting and the shades were down, which was perfect for filming. What I didn’t know was that these are “smart shades” that automatically raise and lower based on the sunlight. So right in the middle of our interview with Brian O’Connor and Mark Yoss from Lockheed Martin, the sun must have gone behind a cloud or something, and the shades went up. I stopped the interview, but there wasn’t a switch to make them go back down. I thought we might just have to wait for the sun to come back out. Luckily, we were able to get someone from facilities to work some magic and we were able to finish the interview.
Inside one of the workshops/classrooms at the MSU AES building. It was spring break, so getting students for the b-roll was tough.
It’s my first day back in the office. My team has been hard at work while I’ve been in the field, and already has rough edits of most of the videos. We did 26 interviews and have more than 6 ½ hours of interview footage alone. I can’t even count the b-roll.
Le Meridien was able to get us some of their own b-roll that they recorded last year. The footage is beautiful and it was mostly shot on a RED, and lots is super-slow mo, so it’s dream footage. But… there’s almost a terabyte of it. And we only have a couple days to get the edits done. Have you ever ordered dessert at a restaurant and it comes out and it’s just way too much? It’s like that.
I just got off a red eye flight from Chicago where I was filming another project. I’m so glad I have a team that can take care of business! We’re wrapping up the first edits and finalizing the scripts so that TaRhonda Thomas from 9News can record the voiceovers. With this many videos at once, the narratives all start to blend together… Did we say that in another script too, or am I crazy?
Some much-needed coffee to keep the editing juices flowing…
One week to final videos
Now we have final voiceovers and it’s time to make these puppies shine. Ashley Union Station is really data-heavy, so I’m trying something new this year and adding text graphics to illustrate some of the numbers.
The videos for Confluence Park, Rocky Mountain Seed Buildings (or RMSB as we’re calling it) and Ashley are uploaded for their first review! Getting closer on MSU, Block A and Méridien… still sifting through b-roll…
One Day to Target Delivery Date
All the videos have been reviewed and we have feedback from the DDP. Nothing too major, so we’re right on track to deliver tomorrow.
I spent today writing small “behind the scenes” stories for each project based on my diary. I’ll present tonight to the award winners and awards jury! This is the big moment—these are the people who matter most. This is the story of their blood, sweat, and tears.
Me presenting the videos for the first time. Photo credit Brit Diehl!
The view from the Polsinelli law offices where the preview reception was held. We realized you could actually see 5/6 winners from this window.
There were only a few minor changes from the award winners—a misspelling, a wrong title. NBD (no big deal). But WAIT… There’s a decision coming down the pike that ALL the videos need to be shortened. Projects like these are tough for this reason—there are multiple interviews and so much data and detail that needs to be conveyed in the process. Who did the design, who pulled together funding? But in the end, it’s got to be entertaining and visually exciting. It’s a big decision on a Friday with the event Tuesday, but it’s one I agree with…
Today’s the big day! After a long night on Friday, we were able to get all of the videos to 4 minutes or less. Once we got started, it was easy to see what could be pulled, and the stories are definitely stronger as a result.
A lot of the WestWorks Studios team was able to come to the show, and we got to get all dressed up and fancy! We were able to show a Comcast in Colorado sizzle reel during the program, which was a great addition to our sponsorship and really highlighted all the different ways Comcast works in our community.
Overall, the event was a huge success again this year and the videos were well received. It’s always an incredible feeling to put your time and energy into a project of this scale and then to see a room of 1200 people all soaking in your creation. The team at the Downtown Denver Partnership was, as always, outstanding to work with. This is a big project for WestWorks, but there’s no way we could make it happen if it weren’t for their efforts. A big thanks to Jim, Kate, Liz, Adina and Brit! We can’t wait for next year.