Adam Lisagor, founder of Sandwich Video, has been described as the "director of choice among Silicon Valley startups looking to gain visibility" by Bloomberg Business and "the geek-next-door archetype" by Forbes.
Just imagine a combination of Wes Anderson, Leonardo Da Vinci, a Furby, and your kind-hearted, soft-spoken Uncle Ron, and you'll start to get the picture.
We had the pleasure of talking to Adam about all things video—from creating a unique aesthetic to acting in his own work.
What are some of your favorite parts about making launch videos?
It's been said so many times, but a good product has that effect of magic when people see it, especially for the first time. You don't want to screw that up. You don't want to squander that opportunity, you want to really highlight it and try to recreate it as best you can as though it were real life happening in front of the viewer.
Creating an illusion of something was always really fascinating to me because it can elicit this emotional response of delight, surprise, and joy. We all enjoy when magical stuff happens in real life, like a double rainbow or something. So, if we get the chance to recreate something like that and try to elicit a similar emotional response using our tools, then that's always a good, fun thing to do.
It's the thing that we can do with our tools that has the greatest effect on our audience from a marketing perspective.
What contributes to the unique Sandwich Video aesthetic?
A lot of times it's editorial decisions. It's knowing what takes to choose. But it's also making mistakes in the right way that only we can make them. Do you know the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi? Wabi-Sabi is basically taking something perfect and then messing it up a little bit for a beautiful aesthetic effect.
Wabi-Sabi sort of embraces chaos in nature. It's not like it's something you do intentionally, but it's something that happens accidentally. You follow the rules—maybe you shoot with the rule of thirds in mind—but then you throw some other pop of color or you mess something up a little bit, and it has this effect that's not reproducible because it's chaotic. It didn't happen by any mathematical structure, it happened on a whim. I think that's how to create something that's one of a kind.
What is your approach to concepting a video?
It's not very structured. I try to pay attention to how I'm reacting to the product the first time the ideas sink in. As I'm understanding the concept of the product, there's almost a little skit or a play going on inside my head of how it's being explained to me… there are little characters dancing around inside my head and saying words to me. It's not a conscious thing at all.
One of the challenges is trying not to repeat myself too often. There's a storytelling structure that's existed since the dawn of storytelling, so it's okay if your template stays somewhat the same. State a problem, show a solution, explain what that solution is, introduce some ancillary benefits, and restate the solution.
For me, it's all about helping people understand the elemental ideas in a product in the right order at the right pace so that everything sinks in. Essentially, I'm trying to educate people about a solution to a problem that they didn't even know they had.
How would you describe yourself as a director?
I went to school for directing, but I never felt like I had the knack for it. I always had my hands on the technical stuff. I didn't really learn to start directing until it was in a professional capacity. After film school, I started working in post-production, and I had really given up on the dream of directing because I just didn't think I had it in me—it wasn't in my veins or my personality.
Then, when I started making my little videos for tech companies it was out of necessity that I was the one manning the camera. There was no director, and I guess by default that was me. And then, as we started to slowly get larger budgets and could then hire more people, I became the one telling those people what the vision was. I started to steer the ship and correct the errors.
That's basically what I discovered directing is. Everything gets set up in front of you. Then you say go. You watch for problems, watch for mistakes. Then you tell people how to correct those mistakes. That's one perspective on what directing is.
My directing style is pretty reactive in that way. It maybe took a year or so for me to get comfortable with that notion of being the person whose job it is to correct the errors and steer the ship on the course toward the goal. Then I started being okay with calling myself a director.
With no real training in acting, you appear in many of the videos you produce. How do you prepare for these roles?
I always tell anybody that I work with that I'm not an actor. I'm decent when I'm looking at the camera and talking to the viewer, but if you have me look away from the camera, I fall apart. It's miserable. I've been thinking of taking an acting class or two just for fun, to know how the other half lives.
Right before we roll, I try to remember what it is that's exciting about the thing that I'm about to present to people.
Francis Ford Coppola said something like, "the best favor you can do for yourself is only work on things that you believe in, because then you're not lying. You're telling the truth. And if you're telling the truth, then it looks like you're telling the truth." So, that's the favor I give myself. I choose to represent products that I actually believe in. Then I don't have to act.
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