Live on the Navy's YouTube

The first 18 videos from our production with the Navy are live on the Navy's YouTube

This is your official invitation to rabbit-hole (not in the psychedelic experience way, but in the "get lost on the internet" way) on some of the coolest jobs in the Navy. 

Here are some of my favorite:

MU - Navy Musician

Navy Musicians are one of the main PR arms of the military, traveling around the world to represent the United States. And it felt like every person we talked to had at least a Master's degree. They were an amazingly warm and friendly community of musicians. 

AO - Navy Aviation Ordnanceman

Probably the coolest interview location that I've ever been in. We were on the front of the flight deck on an aircraft carrier, wind whipping, ship underway at sea, and helos were snatching payloads of ordnance and ammo in the background. I could barely hear myself shouting the questions to the AO during the interview. 

CS - Navy Culinary Specialist

Everybody has to eat, and these sailors do a great job of making food both tasty and look good. This is probably the most important job in the Navy for maintaining good morale among the sailors when they are at sea.

Again, here's the link to all 18 videos. 

We won a Gold Telly Award!

Seeing this photo was one of the most rewarding parts of my week. It's proof that telling stories that have an impact isn't limited to big brands or national TV.  

In the photo is a heart attack survivor in his early 40s, with him are his wife, their youngest child, hospital leadership, and one of the nurses that cared for him.

The patient coded in the hallway outside of ER, and the hospital’s team did CPR for 52 minutes to keep him alive. Miraculously, he lived and had zero brain damage.

We helped the hospital tell the patient's story in an unusual way: The voices of patient and his wife recounted the details of the event, while the scenes and experiences they described were brought to life with animation.   

At the national Telly Awards the film beat out submissions by massive brands like Google, Amazon, FoxSports, Harvard, PepsiCo and others — winning a Gold Telly.

How did a small-town hospital win a national advertising award?

The hospital led with their mission. They focused on the local, letting the people they served tell the story. And they took a risk on creative, embracing animation, an unusual approach for the video.

As the hospital’s community outreach leader said:

This award is a tribute to the story and the relationship of Shawn [the patient] and Angela [his wife]. With the film being seen and utilized by more people, the goal is to help others recognize early signs and seek help.

Watch the film and read an article that I wrote about the hospital’s approach. Their experience shows that even local brands and small-town hospitals can earn a national spotlight.

Watch "Life After"

Drone + Warship = Scary

Drones are cool. Flying a drone around a warship at sea is scary as what. 

  1. We may have been the first ever (!?) to legally flying a drone around a US Navy ship while underway at sea. (Definitely to fly one as close as we did.)
  2. The ship has to turn off the spy radar, otherwise it could "fry the drone's electronics" and it would fall into the sea.
  3. Drone's are programmed to fly from a fixed point on land.* If the controllers loose contact with the drone, and the ship is sailing forward at 16 knots, the drone thinks it's "home" is miles behind you, by default it will fly back to it's "home" point and splash down in the sea.
  4. Landing on the deck of a ship is tricky. You've got wind, pitch, roll and it's moving at 16 knots.

We're flying a pro drone, if we lose it we kiss about $8k in gear goodbye. Also, we flew in sport mode which means top speeds of 65mph, (awesome for big moves) but flight times last roughly 20 minutes.

So get out your hanky and wipe the sweat off your forehead, because this is a high stress filming environment. :-)

*Attention drone nerds: There's a GPS transmitter that you can buy that makes your controller the "home" point. We didn't have one.

Away at Sea: Sixteen-Foot Waves. Man Overboard! Combat. Canons. Eye-Rattling F-18s.


This is what 30 degrees of roll in 16-foot seas looks like from the pilot house of a missile destroyer.

Shortly after this picture was taken, the ship's XO commented on the sea state, "It'll be good for sleep tonight, but bad for doing anything else. We're running with the waves, and the ship makes a kinda snake-y motion. It rocks you right to sleep."

Over the last 3 months we've done 30 days of production with the Navy. We've been capturing digital assets that show what sailors' jobs are like in each of the 140 different rates in the Navy.

Our last embark was with the USS Momsen, a guided-missile destroyer. Normally, you hit rough seas off the coast of Oregon, but the seas had a mind of their own on this trip, and it was the coast of central California that gave us the roughest water.


Five minutes after calling "man overboard" they had rescued the dummy.

Boatswain's mates are the backbone of a Naval ship's operations. In the photo almost everyone you see, besides our camera op and the SARs swimmer, are Boatwain's mates.

While on board the USS Momsen we had the opportunity to film what's know as an "Oscar" drill. A dummy is sent off the side of the ship and the crew has 5 minutes to launch the rib, get a swimmer in the water and make the rescue.

To my surprise, there was no running. Everyone moved at a smooth, steady pace. After about 3 minutes, the rib wasn't in the water yet. I was sure that they were going to overshoot their target time, probably double it.  

I was wrong. With 120 seconds remaining — the rib was launched, it zoomed out to Oscar the Dummy, and the SAR swimmer had made the rescue.

As the Navy SEALs say, "slow is smooth...smooth is fast."

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Some sailors have never even seen the ocean before joining.

It's surprising how many sailors in the Navy come out of landlocked towns from the middle of America — like Witchita, Kansas and Sweetwater, Tennessee. Some have never even seen the ocean before joining.

Kaleb Brack is one of those guys from a landlocked town. He's a Damage Controlman (DC) on the USS Momsen that's from Kansas. As a DC his job is to fight fires and repair hull breaches. Basically, during the scariest times that you could ever have on a ship, fire and flooding, he's the guy that's trained to lead his shipmates in saving the ship.  

He's not the only one, in the engine room we interviewed two Gas turbine system technician (GSM) females. They're responsible for maintaining the ships engines. One was from rural Mississippi where there was "nothing but cows." For her the hardest part of joining the Navy was passing swimming. Despite her fear, she overcame, and had nothing but positive things to say about life at sea serving in the Navy.


Combat: "Engineering is the muscle, combat is the brains of the ship."

That's what one Operations Specialist (OS) told me about her job.

We got the rare opportunity to film extensively in Combat on a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Momsen. In the photo is the commanding officer, CDR Elaine Brunelle, readying for a live fire exercise with the 5-inch deck gun.

Unlike what I pictured in my civilian brain, the captain is not in the pilot house standing at the wheel of the ship during a combat situation. She is levels below surrounded by screens with every type of data and specialists that are helping her evaluate each aspect of a rapidly evolving battlefield.

This was one of the coolest moments for me during our 30 days of production with the Navy. To give an idea for the uniqueness of the opportunity, the Gunner's Mates said that they only get to fire the 5-inch about once per quarter.

We learned later that the graveyard shift had spent 8 hours scrubbing the space so that classified information was protected from our cameras.

I'm super grateful for the previous shift's hard work and that the CO made it possible for us to film some of these rare moments.


Mommy works on a warship shooting big guns.

If you like things that go BOOM you'd like being a Gunner's Mate (GM) or Fire Controlman (FC) in the Navy.

In the photo a GM is cleaning up after a live fire exercise with a 50-caliber gun on board a missile destroyer. One of our film crew (red jacket) is asking questions.

I interviewed an FC that enlisted in the Navy when she was 30-years-old, shortly after having her third child. She joined because she wanted to provide for her family, and was not the only mother on board.

The parents I talked to said it wasn't easy, there are months at sea where they are only able to connect with their families through email.

It's a small consolation, but at least a GM or FC's child can say, "Mommy works on a warship shooting big guns."  

GMs and FCs service and operate everything from the smallest weapons on board, 50-calibers, to the largest, the 5-inch canon and missile systems.

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"You shake my bones and your rattle my brain. Your kind of love makes a man insane."

When an F-18 takes off and you're standing on the edge of the runway, the force from the engines actually makes your eyes rattle inside their sockets.

The temperature on the tarmac was 100+ at Lemoore Naval Air Station (where the photo was taken). It's one of the training grounds for the Navy's F-18 and F-35 pilots. For filming, we had driven out to an outlying runway to capture F-18s practicing touch-and-goes.

We were saturated in The Top Gun references. For example, "Iceman" was the actual call sign of the instructor in the shack by the runway grading the pilots on their landings (he says he gets a lot of flack for his call sign). And, while we were filming in the control tower, the production designers for Top Gun II showed up to take reference photos of the tower so they knew how to set dress the new feature.

This photo was shot on iPhone, so it's a pretty wide angle. I'd say we weren't more than 40 feet from the fighter's wheels as they hit the tarmac.

Filming for America's Navy

The last three months of filming for America's Navy have been a wild ride. And for Pathfinder, the 4th of July marks the symbolic conclusion of production for #ForgedByTheSea. 

During production, we went underway with two warships, an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic and a missile destroyer in the Pacific, and filmed at over a half dozen different bases. 

Watch one of the videos:

Did you know that when a sailor goes on deployment with a ship that they could be at sea for up to 9 months, working 7 days a week? Or that America's 13 nuclear-powered carriers only have to refuel once every 25 years? 

At every turn we soaked new experiences that made us proud to be American, proud to be filmmakers, and honored to work with the Navy.

But nothing could beat getting to meet many of the dedicated sailors that serve our country each and every day. 

To celebrate the trip, we put together a photo blog from our first leg of production including filming aboard the aircraft carrier CVN 77 USS Bush in the Atlantic and on base in Norfolk, Virginia.  

See the photo story:

Our 2018 Showreel

We're excited to share our 2018 reel with you. In the last year we made new friends, pioneered new genres, and won some awards. 

  • Includes: Clips from our first musical, "Cha Cha Land," a city branding campaign produced for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. "Cha Cha Land" won Gold ADDY Awards both locally and regionally, and has now gone to nationals.
  • Award-winning work for Mueller Company that took us to 13 locations, 6 states, and 2 countries
  • Scenes from our first animated documentary short, "Life After," produced for Adventist Health Simi Valley. It's the miraculous story of a 40-year-old heart attack survivor. The film won a Gold in the national Telly Awards for branded content. 

[Since the writing of this post, "Life After" has won a Telly Award Gold for Branded Content: Fully Animated.]

Pathfinder's got a new brand!

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Pathfinder's New Brand
We've made an update to our visual identity. The previous mark served us well for the first three years of Pathfinder Films, but we were due for a refined look that better embodied our way-finding spirit and the careful attention that we bring to our filmmaking. 

We were excited to partner with Counsel Creative for the branding, and will be working with them to update our website this summer. 

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Meaning Behind the Brand
The clover-like mark at the very core of this brand is rooted in historical relevance. The continuous creative validation helped us to revive an iconic legacy and fashion a new interpretation that stands ready for another test of time.

Reminiscent of the roadways that lead us to places unknown, this shape reminds us that the path for one isn't the path for all. Pathfinder Films helps clients identify the right path and find the story that matters most. The difference maker.

From heraldic charges that represented design, disciplines, ceremony and rank in 400 AD to pendants found in the lower Tennessee River as early as 1250 AD, this is a symbol of significance. In 1530 AD, this was known as a "true lover's knot". In more recent history, you'll see a similar shape on old film reels and in Nordic street signs marking places of interest.

The video idea that SHOULDN’T work...

A hospital in California came to us with a problem: They had a story that they were itching to tell about one of their patients, but they didn't know how to make it into a good video.

Watch the Film: Life After

On paper it was a good story — a heart attack patient in their early 40s with a young wife, kids that almost lost Dad, heroics from the hospital’s medical team that kept him alive — but it’s a hard story to tell with video.

Imagine the Hollywood dramatization: Tense music, red ambulance lights flashing through windows of a suburban home. Dad is loaded on a gurney as his crying wife clings to his hand. His forlorn children are seen lined up on the curb through a receding ambulance window. At the hospital a handsome surgeon leads a well-trained medical team through action-movie-style shots to save the man’s life.

I knew the truth, "It’s melodrama. We’ve seen this story a thousand times."

I agreed to do a pre-interview with the patient and his wife, but my gut told me that this was going to be tough story to make into a good film.

To my surprise, their dynamic was playful and upbeat. They laughed, LAUGHED, as they told their story. Then they cried, only to lighten the mood and laugh again. These people were something special, and we had to find a way to tell their story with a different approach.

That pre-interview led us to the creative strategy for Life After.

Capturing the dynamic they had when the told the story together was critical. We scheduled 2-hour interview where we could film with both of them at the same time. It was less directed and more of a character piece — think StoryCorps, where the goal was to find out who they were as people.

Their story was laced with beautiful word-pictures like, “It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest,” a visual that would have been impossible to recreate in a video.

From that moment forward, we didn’t record another second on camera. Instead, we recreated their experience with an animated documentary.

Animated documentaries are uncommon in the healthcare space. Maybe it’s because with animation it’s more difficult to maintain authenticity because you no longer see real people screen or the world they call home.

However, preserving the story’s authenticity was very important to the hospital’s creative team. So, the approach we took was using the real voices of the patient and his wife. Amazingly, none of their audio in the final edit was re-recorded or coached.

Being true to place was also important for the hospital. They’re based in a tight-knit community in Southern California that does not identify with the surrounding region of Los Angeles, Malibu, or Thousand Oaks. To maintain that connection to place we designed custom artwork that reflects the neighborhoods and landmarks that people from their town would recognize.

Why am I sharing all these behind-the-scenes details?

Because if you’re a healthcare marketer there’s good news! Your marketing doesn’t have to be overwrought, sterile, or corporate. It can be both authentic and fresh. However, getting there might mean leaving the safety and comfort of healthcare marketing’s “best practices.”  

In my opinion, the creative team at the hospital, Adventist Health Simi Valley, deserves a big round of applause for their vision.

Here's to the people of 2017

Here's to the people behind-the-scenes that made 2017 a great year.

When we started Pathfinder Films we decided that our company was a people company. Swanky gear is only a tool - if it helps helps our people succeed and makes our creative better, awesome. But gear isn’t and never will be the end-game. When we’ve had to make tough decisions about where to invest, we’ve chosen and will keep choosing people.

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Here's to our clients and our friends. It's been an honor to collaborate with you. 

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"Hard decisions, easy life; easy decisions, hard life." — Jerzy Gregorek

*Thanks to Josh Ramsey for inspiring us with this quote.