February 25, 2014
Last week, we spent time with one of the premier content creators on Vine, Meagan Cignoli. Meagan’s stop motion videos are entertaining and creative, and her skills have caught the attention of top brands like Lowe’s, Puma, GE, HBO, Downy, YSL, and the list goes on.
We partnered with Meagan to create an original video for a client’s campaign, and while on-site at her studio, we chatted about how she got started on Vine, how fellow Vine star Jerome Jarre is “a little Tony Robbins” and what would surprise people about the process of creating a 6-second Vine video.
What were you doing before Vine?
I was a photographer for 13 years, doing mostly fashion work and portraits. I was mainly freelance, and I still do a lot of photography work now.
How did you get started with Vine?
I signed up for Vine right away when it launched- just over a year ago in January 2013. I was starting to get a bit bored with my work in photography – I was wondering about the future and wasn’t sure if continuing along on my current path was going to make me happy. I even talked about quitting photography completely, instead I began traveling more. During one of those trips, I downloaded Vine and tried to create a few videos, but they were terrible! I just couldn’t figure it out, and nothing felt interesting enough to post.
Then late one night, around 3am, used a photograph of a model, and started making it move – her lips, giving her different eyes, and having fun with it. I kept making more and didn’t realize they were stop motion until someone called them that! It was just interesting to me, and people really responded to them.
Over the next two weeks, I produced more and more of these stop-motion style videos. I didn’t even have a tripod, I was doing it all by hand. My arms and back hurt from trying to keep the camera still for so long! But I didn’t really care, I was so inspired by the entire creative process and outcome.
You won a Cannes Lion for your work for Lowe’s “Fix in Six” campaign. How long did it take for the big brands to come knocking?
Only two weeks after I posted my first stop-motion video, I got a call from BBDO about working on the Lowe’s campaign. The next day, Puma called, and then the next day, eBay called. It was surreal. It’s all the result of the popular page—that’s how the brands found my work. In the beginning, you could make it to the popular page with a relatively low amount of likes. My first few videos were getting 90-ish likes, and then slowly thousands, and then tens of thousands of likes as the app gained popularity.
— Lowe’s (@Lowes) April 20, 2013
And now you’re fielding inquiries everyday. Do you do it all yourself?
No! I have a five-person team that helps with all aspects of the business- from inquiries and accounting to creative concepting, shooting and building sets. I’m blessed to have a great team, and we all have our strengths, from inanimate object character story telling to more generally aesthetic look and feel. I’ve built this team by reaching out to talented past colleagues, and also searching through online portfolios, looking for a particular blend of patience and creativity. When things were just starting, everyone would be taking days off their regular jobs to come work with me, but now everyone is pretty much full time.
How long does it take to make a 6-second video?
Not including concepting, it can take anywhere from a few hours to three days to produce and shoot a video. The time to build a set and source and purchase materials can be really involved and time consuming. Editors Note: We can vouch for Meagan’s commitment to sourcing the best materials for the shoots– she had not one, but four different options for faux snow for our shoot!
With the new updates to the app, editing capabilities have made making videos a bit simpler, but do you ever have to completely start over?
Not usually, but with stop motion, we can run into some unique complications! For instance, we were shooting a video for Nest thermostat controls, and we had to switch the battery out mid-shoot. During the swap, a battery fell out, and all of the coins we had arranged around the thermostat scattered – dozens, all out of place! We tried to rearrange them so we wouldn’t have to start over, but it was just impossible to get it back to perfect. So, in the name of getting the best possible video, we started over. Editor’s Note: You can see the final video here.
What would surprise people about the process?
I’m sure people would be surprised at the amount of time it takes to make a 6-second video! Also, just how DIY everything we do is, and how detailed the set development process is. In addition to shopping for specific materials, we get creative with things that we have around the house – nothing is safe!
Any funny stories? Ever set anything on fire, or anything like that?
Well…yes! I’ve done a few installments of this series with Steph Barkley where we dress up like little kids and do science experiments. During one shoot, we were using sparklers, and the table actually started on fire! I noticed and instantly went out of character yelling, and it took Steph a minute to realize what was going on!
It’s safe to say that 2013 was a really big year for you – what’s next?
Well, right now, the inquiries are steadily coming in, and I don’t have to pro-actively pitch anything. I’m sure that will change eventually, and when it does, I’m looking forward to it. It’s a welcome challenge! We’ve also started branching out to other platforms, such as Instagram to keep our offerings well rounded. And I’d like to start working on longer-form content. Writing for longer form non-stop motion is a different ball game, but it’s something we’re all excited about.