According to Josh Hester great storytelling never goes out of style. And he would know because Josh is the man behind The Storyteller Studios, which continues to go from strength-to-strength right here in Springfield. Offering video production for websites, social media, and special events, Josh and his team are focused on helping clients reach audiences and build brands through authentic and valuable video content. We caught up with Josh in between shoots to find out more.
Josh began to realize there was a gap in the market for quality video content on social media and websites about five years ago. “Billboards and TV commercials weren't offering the same return on investment that they used to. We could see that many business owners and marketers knew they needed to be intentionally building their audiences on social media, but weren't sure where to start.” Josh, and his wife Andrea, co-owners of The Storyteller Studios, found the content that was working on social media was, not just video, but the kind of documentary-style video Josh had been making his whole career and the approach he was raised on at film school in Chicago. “It was like the marketing tools people really needed and the type of work I was most comfortable doing were converging,” he said. The pair never expected to end up running a business yet they took the leap and so far it’s paid off. “We've grown our client base, our team, our regional presence, and we've learned a ton about creating great video content.”
The Storyteller Studios launched in March 2014 and chose to make Springfield its home. “We're based out of Springfield, Illinois because we have a core client base here, but we do also consider ourselves a regional company. We've done work all over the Midwest, from Kansas City to Green Bay, Akron to Louisville,” said Josh.
Josh and his team are committed to delivering the highest production values and most effective storytelling they can. “This means we've invested in the equipment and talent we feel is required to do that. We strive for a cinematic look and authentic delivery. The old production styles don't do it for us. We avoid scripted voice-overs, hokey on-camera hosts, and professional actors. Instead, we like to use authentic filmed interviews to build our stories - so that the viewers hear from a real person in their own words, and from the heart.”
And the data, and trends, that Josh studies continue to show positive results for those investing in video on social media and websites. “Last year people spent an average of three hours a day on mobile devices, and it's projected that as much as 75% of the content consumed there this year will be video,” said Josh. “That represents a huge opportunity for business owners and marketers to get their message in front of people, where they are, and in the way they expect.”
Currently, The Storyteller Studios is made up of Andrea and Josh, Kevin Hume, an award-winning photojournalist and Berkeley graduate serving as Josh's producer's apprentice, Mary Bonn, a Springfield native serving as development and communications manager, and Carrie Watson, production assistant, and field Audio recordist.
Josh believes it is important to support organizations that are doing great work in central Illinois and that is why The Storyteller Studios is a member of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, The Young Philanthropists through the Community Foundation for Land of Lincoln, and Hope School Ambassadors. “We also support the Springfield Old Capitol Art Fair, Contact Ministries, and have underwritten programming on WUIS-National Public Radio,” said Josh.
The mission of The Storyteller Studios, ultimately, is to connect people. “We do that through our work. So I'm personally very proud of each of our projects that have verifiably done this in some way - like connecting potential donors and supporters to the mission of Contact Ministries, United Way, Community Foundation, or Hope School... anytime I'm stopped in the grocery store or out in the community by someone who says they've been moved or felt connected because of one of our projects, it's evidence we are accomplishing our mission.” Josh and his team have helped build organizations in Springfield through social media videos, such as HSHS St. John's Hospital and smaller, homegrown businesses, which include Renken Dentistry and Zara's Collision Center. “We produced a website video for Springfield School District 186 last year that I loved personally because it is the school district (and in some cases the same teachers) that raised me. It works. It's not without its challenges, but stories are powerful and it's fun to watch that prove true over and over.”
While things are going well at The Storyteller Studios Josh recognizes that in order to succeed there will be no standing still. “We know that the way we do our work tomorrow will be different than it is today. We're always trying to live and work in that reality. How can we do what we do better? How can we raise our production values even more? How can we help our clients reach more people more powerfully? How can we serve these stories better?”