Two Student Filmmakers Are Attracting National Buzz
Hudson Bloom and Landon Shimpa talk meth, their production company Jet Black and their similarities to Alejandro Iñárritu.
By Aaron Lynch, Front Range Community College
Last spring, the Colorado Meth Project held a contest seeking the best anti-meth video from both amateur and professional filmmakers around the nation.
Submissions were to be 30 seconds long, and the winner would receive a prize of $20,000, while having their work exposed to millions of people. Hudson Bloom and Landon Shimpa are two childhood friends from Fort Collins who have a knack for theater, and at the last minute they decided to enter the contest.
Bloom attended the University of Colorado-Boulder and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Film. Shimpa is currently attending grad school at the University of Wyoming for a Master’s in Accounting, and stressed that although he has a business mind, he likes to take a creative approach.
I met them last week at their office in downtown Fort Collins to discuss the contest and what they have planned for the future.
Aaron Lynch: How did this situation come about? How did you guys find out about the contest in the first place?
Landon Shimpa: So I graduated with my bachelors last year, and Hudson and another friend of ours came up to visit me in Laramie [Wyoming] to go to my graduation. We went to get coffee the night before, and just scrolling through Facebook at the coffee shop, we came across a sponsored post for the contest.
Hudson Bloom: It had started in January, and ended on May 31. And this was like, May 20. So, it was really a ten-day project. I mean we shot on the 24th.
Landon Shimpa: We just looked at this ad and thought, “Hey, we could throw something together,” and we spent the next day-and-a-half or so walking through houses and trying to picture a story.”
AL: So, what inspired you to take it in such a dark direction?
HB: The message they wanted us to get across was life vs. meth, and meth is very obvious for how we would represent it. So, then we started thinking, “How would we represent life?”
There are so many different things you could do, but what better way to represent life than with a family? And we had actually heard about a story down in southern Colorado of an older sibling murdering a younger [sibling] over money while they were doped up.
Plus, we wanted to hit the younger audience and thought, “What’s going to make you cringe? What’s going to not only make someone our age not want to do it, but what will make parents upset too?” I think parents get more upset when they watch our ad, because it’s about [their] sons and daughters.
LS: We really wanted to get across the big dichotomy between life and meth, so we thought to use a family portrait, something of a family all together that’s being broken apart by meth itself.
So, that’s what the reflection [shot] is all about: You’re looking at a family portrait, but in the background, meth is tearing them apart.
Really it was just an excuse to make something dark and intense. Can you imagine if we had made that just for fun?
AL: Did the prize money help you start Jet Black?
HB: Yeah, well once the ad had made it into the top three we figured, no matter what, even if we don’t win, we’re still in the top three and we can use this piece to jump-start a brand. One of the big things was that we got a couple of news stories out of it, and it’s been airing on YouTube ads and things like that.
LS: So what’s really fun is that now we’re in the same company as Alejandro Iñárritu, the director of “The Revenant.” He did one of these meth commercials. So, it’s really cool to be in that same segment.
AL: Does Jet Black have clients that found you through the contest?
HB: A buddy of ours worked for a company here in town called Decibullz. They make custom molded headphones, and he had seen all the traction we were getting all summer long. It was literally the week Jet Black started, and he asked if we would come in and bid a project; they were looking to do a commercial.
AL: That must have been nerve racking.
HB: Yeah, it was a little scary, but the owner had seen the meth commercial, so he knew that the quality was there. And we ended up pitching a really cool idea and they went with us, and now we’re doing another project for them that’s twice the size.
AL: What do you guys see for the future of your company/careers?
LS: So I graduate in May with no direct plans as of yet, career-wise. I want to do video work, and if I can I’d like to do [full time] production work for Jet Black, if it works out.
HB: While Jet Black continues its work here in Fort Collins, I’m actually going to head out to the East Coast to start prepping [our] space over there.
AL: You guys are going national?
HB: Yeah, but Landon will be here. And we’ll see what happens in the next six months or until the next big project comes up.
LS: We’re kind of gearing down to do event-based videos. Now that we have a cinema-grade camera, we can provide super-high quality productions without that expense of renting. We’ve got a handful of clients that are more interested in smaller projects. So, while Hudson’s away for the next six months or so, we’ll be doing more that style of video. And if we manage to land some higher budget stuff he’ll fly back out here to help.
HB: It’s intense, because we don’t know how it will all pan out, but that’s also what’s exciting about it. We have several ideas though.
LS: So far it’s worked. I mean, the business has been going for about six months now, and we’ve been doing pretty good for a fresh company.