Bringing a Cult Film Festval to Your Town

8 06 2014

We have the great luck of a retail shopping destination client with a 500-seat cultural venue. On the not-so-great side, it’s a challenge to attract patrons and shoppers during South Florida’s off season – the incredibly hot and humid summers (with added bonus of hurricane season). Mainstreet at Midtown is known for its year-round outdoor festivals and events like a 16-week Music on the Plaza concert series (held during the drier and cooler months of the peak social season), its Peace Love & Wellness Music Festival, Children’s Festival, Cool Yule Tree Decorating Contest, and others.

swede fest palm beach 3So, we needed a summer event, and it REALLY needed to be indoors.

And then NPR did this great piece a couple of years ago about an underground film event that sounded like the perfect idea we could get behind and make our client’s own. Indie film festivals have a rich history of showcasing amazing undiscovered talent, where Hollywood insiders troll for the next big thing, where A-list stars promote the small labor-of-love projects they do between blockbusters. swede fest™ palm beach is an indie film festival with NONE of that going for it. In fact, our tagline is “Bad Movies by Good People.”

The key to understanding why is in the “swede.” A swede is a no-budget, laughably bad remake of a hit Hollywood film – the bigger, the better. The term comes from the 2008 Jack Black/Mos Def comedy, Be Kind Rewind, and was made up to explain the sheer awfulness of their remade films by touting them as European – “swedes” because it sounded really sophisticated. Not exactly a classic in its genre, but neither is it comedy kryptonite.

swede fest palm beach 3Next thing you know, there’s an underground sweding craze. Two guys in Fresno invited a bunch of friends to make films starring themselves, then get together to screen them, like they do at Sundance, SXSW, Telluride, Slamdance, Tribeca, and so on – but without the beautiful celebrities, coolness factor, or bidding wars. Hence the coverage on NPR.

We’re the third official swede fest™. First, Fresno. Then, Tampa Bay. Now, the Palm Beaches. This is the third year, and we sell out every time, create super fun/cheesy marketing, a great microsite, go crazy on social media: and , give out silly awards (Best Use of a Backyard Location, Best Use of Man’s Best Friend, Best Use of Tinfoil), and everyone generally has a great time and gets dressed up in total Hollywood drag.

Local schools get involved and sometimes do them as class projects, and the community and local media really get behind it because we deliberately created an all-ages event – you can swede any film, but your 3-minute clip must be PG-13, even if your source material is not. We’ve had swedes of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Thing, and already we have someone who has submitted The Wolf of Wall Street for this year’s festival on August 2. We’re anxious to see exactly how they’ll sanitize that one.


15 Days of Fame Into Less Than 4 Minutes

30 05 2014

Getting marketing and PR mileage out of an event can take some ingenuity. Big, splashy events with celebrities, music, celebrations, food – and sometimes all of the above – have a certain built-in traction that makes the job a bit easier. But what do you do when you’re marketing something that is still an intangible – a residential project that won’t be completed until January 2015, with no floor plans, no pre-leasing, no artist’s conceptions available for another couple of months? By painting a huge public art mural that takes 15 days. There are milestones you can get the media to cover and the public to take interest in: that first dash of color on the bricks, and the final touches when it is complete.

But then it’s over. How do you remind people of the scope, of the breadth, of the magnitude – and then show it to those who never even knew it was happening? And keep it out there to continually show prospective residents, the ultimate reason the investment was made in the first place?

Time lapse photography and a drone.

The final result is a video that is sharable, portable, and allowed the artist, the client, the city, and fans to make it a viral gift that keeps on giving. Credit where credit is due: Artist — Tristan Eaton and his killer team; Time Lapse — Gregory Dillard of Grapeseeker Motion Graphics; 7,000 square feet of “Canvas” — Ram Real Estate/Alexander Lofts.

The Intersection of Marketing and Art

14 04 2014

It’s no bad thing to have a client who is an art patron. And it’s an even better thing when that client, a real estate developer, is a huge supporter of Art in Public Places (#AIPP) and willing to budget for the creation of art as a way to improve the community in which construction takes place.

For another perspective on the scale of this project, this is Tristan painting Alexander Graham Bell’s eye.

For another perspective on the scale of this project, this is Tristan painting Alexander Graham Bell’s eye.

That said, you’d like to have the artwork depict some subtle tie-in to the project, even though Art in Public Places is pretty strict about there being no commercial aspect to the projects it approves. The client, Ram Realty Services, decided that we would conduct a Call to Artists with the prompt that the 7,000 square foot mural would honor Alexander Graham Bell and communication, since the historic structure was once the regional headquarters for Southern Bell, and the converted residential units will be known as Alexander Lofts.

To provide a sense of scale, these next images were taken from the painting platforms.

Looking down...

Looking down…

Looking up...

Looking up…

After a lengthy vetting process that included representatives of Ram Realty Services, Alchemy, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, it was decided we would work with Los Angeles-based Tristan Eaton, an internationally known street artist and designer whose work can be seen in galleries around the world and in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Eaton is renowned for creating large-scale murals in urban landscapes (NYC, Detroit, LA, Cleveland), and is an art consultant to major brands such as Fisher Price, Nike, and Disney.

It took him and his two assistants over 600 cans of spray paint and a total of 12 days to conquer the wall.

While there is no commercial aspect to the final artwork that in any way promotes Alexander Lofts, the prominence of the huge mural makes the building a landmark in Downtown West Palm Beach, and generated a tremendous amount of media coverage.

And it doesn’t hurt that the enormous mural and the name of the building both pay homage to Alexander Graham Bell – subtle, but present.

The finished 7,000 square-foot mural.

The finished 7,000 square-foot mural.

The investment in this tremendous artwork is a fantastic branding tool, as we are able to generate interest in the project on social media, on the project website, and in future marketing efforts as a way to identify the location of the property.

BDB Wins First-Place Awards from The Florida Economic Development Council for Alchemy’s Creative

19 08 2012
Just some of the components of the "Right Here. Right Now." multimedia campaign developed for the BDB.

Just some of the components of the “Right Here. Right Now.” multimedia campaign.

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County was honored at The Florida Economic Development Council’s (FEDC) 2012 Annual Meeting with three first-place awards in promotional and marketing innovation — and two of those were for creative work done in collaboration with Alchemy.

The BDB received the first-place award in the following categories: Ad Campaign for its “Right Here.Right Now.” multimedia effort targeting out-of-state corporate headquarters via a direct appeal to those companies’ CEOs (produced with Alchemy); External Publication for its annual business magazine and investor/member directory, Profile Magazine (primarily an in-house effort with the help of an outside publisher specializing in this sort of hybrid product); and E-Media for its micro-site at, the web-based component of the “Right Here. Right Now.” campaign (again, with Alchemy).

As part of the campaign, the microsite was accessed via QR code with a smart phone or tablet

As part of the campaign, the micro-site was accessed via QR code with a smart phone or tablet.

FEDC’s annual awards both emphasize outstanding marketing strategies and encourage the development of more effective marketing tools through example. Judging criteria included creativity, impact, quality, originality, and substance. In a press release announcing the wins, the BDB’s President and CEO, Kelly Smallridge, said, ““We are extremely proud to be recognized for the way we market Palm Beach County to businesses. The BDB was able to compete statewide and win three awards due to the commitment of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners and the private sector.”

Ms. Smallridge went on to make direct reference to the ongoing work Alchemy has been doing with the BDB over the past two years in rebranding all of its collateral and revamping the look of its various media, from print collateral and ads, to web and social. “We updated our brand through the design and implementation of new print materials and a new website to better market the attractive business climate in Palm Beach County to potential corporate headquarters. It’s very rewarding to be recognized by our peers throughout the state as having programs which are innovative and designed to showcase the assets of our corporate environment.”

It has been rewarding for Alchemy as well to work with a client so open-minded to change and willing to step away from the tried-and-true look developed by so many economic development organizations around the country with which Palm Beach County competes.

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County is the official public/private economic development organization for Palm Beach County and Enterprise Florida. Founded in 1982 — and celebrating its 30th Anniversary, for which Alchemy designed a special logo that will be unveiled at its annual Gala in September — as a not-for-profit corporation, the BDB’s primary purpose is to attract and retain new industry, business investment, high-quality jobs, and workforce development through corporate relocations, expansions, and international trade. During the past five years, the BDB has assisted companies that have created more than 7,900 direct jobs with average salaries greater than $55,400, resulting in more than $400 million in capital investment to Palm Beach County and an economic impact that exceeds $1.8 billion. And that benefits us all.


12 08 2012

Any time you work on a brand-new event with a client, there’s always the possibility that — even with a great concept and a clever hook, after everyone’s hard work, late nights, inspired ideas, creativity, sharp copy, media hooks, great pitches, relentless social media outreach, promises from everyone to cover the event, smart media buys, great sponsors, high-profile partners, and every other factor you can imagine — you’ll have a half-full venue. There are so many intangibles you can’t control; then add in that it’s summer, in Florida, during hurricane season, when it usually rains every afternoon from 4:00pm until 7:00pm, it’s hot and humid and hair gets frizzy, people are away on last-minute vacations before school starts and/or work gets back to a more normal schedule, and did we mention it’s summer? And that no one knows what a “swede” is?

Midtown's Belle Forino and Sherri Gedraitis in front of the step-and-repeat using our logo and graphics

Midtown’s Belle Forino and Sherri Gedraitis in front of the step-and-repeat using our logo and graphics

Yet none of that seemed to matter last Friday night when the inaugural SWEDE FEST™PALM BEACH launched to a sold out crowd of over 500 attendees on Mainstreet at Midtown.From the red carpet in front of The Borland Center for Performing Arts through the final credits, this was high-energy entertainment for everyone involved, with “swedes” submitted by amateur filmmakers ages 10 to 60.

First, the BG. A swede is a no-budget, laughably bad remake of a hit Hollywood film – the bigger, the better. The term comes from the 2008 Jack Black/Mos Def comedy, Be Kind Rewind, and was made up to explain the sheer awfulness of their remade films by touting them as European – swedes, because it sounded really sophisticated.  No, you probably didn’t see it — it’s not exactly a classic, but neither is it comedy kryptonite. If you did see it, it was probably late at night on Skinemax. We mean Cinemax.

Next thing you know, there’s an underground sweding craze. Two guys in Fresno invited a bunch of friends to make films starring themselves, then get together to screen them in another homage: to the indie film festival – but without the beautiful celebrities, coolness factor, or bidding wars.

And that is the somewhat long and winding road that leads to swede fest™ palm beach, the third official swede fest™. First, Fresno. Then, Tampa Bay. Now, “the Palm Beaches” but really, Palm Beach Gardens, where our client is located. We suggested it was important to secure the trademark in such a way to lock up the event in the area and own it; anyone who wished to come afterward and imitate it would not be able to just tack on another word and piggyback on all our client’s financial investment and hard work. Sad, but a fact in the world of marketing and events.

swede fest logo, color variant #1

swede fest logo, color variant #1

Our job was to come up with the logo, tagline, all of the graphics necessary for social media, create a WordPress-based website for swede fest™ palm beach, write all the content for it, produce two 15-second promo commercials to be show in the local Cobb movie theaters (one promoting the call for entries and the other promoting the festival itself), and work closely with Belle Forino, our client Midtown’s Marketing Coordinator, to manage the social media while she approached local schools, the Palm Beach International Film Festival, the entertainment community, the Palm Beach County Film Commission, and Digital Domain (who became a major sponsor along with its Digital Domain Institute) to drum up support for a grassroots amateur film festival in which short, DIY versions of big-budget feature films are reproduced as cheaply as possible, using family and friends as cast; bedrooms, backyards, and local parks as sets; and toys, pets, and found objects as props.

swede fest palm beach Call For Entries :30 TV Spot from swede fest palm beach on Vimeo.

Bringing a swede fest™ to the area was Belle’s idea after hearing a story on NPR. She contacted the Fresno-based originators, and we were on our way with their blessing and the trademark.

Next came the design of the swede fest™ palm beach logo, and the creation of our tagline “A celebration of bad movie by good people,” which has been variously attributed to other people and festivals, but was created by Alchemy for Midtown. Swede fest tampa bay liked it so much they asked to use it, and in the best swedeing spirit, Belle said, “Of course.” Swede fests aren’t about competition; they’re about the love of movies, a fondness for a good time, and how sometimes bad can be so very good.

Once we settled on a basic logo design, we needed a variety of iterations: a “call for entries” version, a general all-purpose version, a variety of sizes to accommodate Facebook, Twitter, various electronic media buys, the creation of a masthead for the website, and versions in two complementary color schemes in various resolutions for print, web, and other uses.

The electronic "mea culpa" on the date thing

The electronic “mea culpa” on the date thing

We decided the fastest and easiest way to create a web presence for the festival was to build a WordPress-based site hosted on the servers, availing ourselves of the handy array of templates and widgets that would eliminate the hours of programming necessary to create a site from scratch or add everything we envisioned it needing to the existing Midtown website. The site could then be constantly modified, added to, and manipulated by Alchemy rather than adding to the already heavy maintenance schedule of Midtown’s webmaster.

The date for the festival, the opening of the entry submissions and the deadline for those entries, and other milestones were scheduled in early March. However, everyone was so focused on educating people about swede fests, getting them excited about creating films and entering them, creating all of these ad/promo/social media elements, getting the local media interested in the event, securing an emcee, and all the thousand other details that ONE LITTLE THING escaped us that had a tremendous impact: the announcement that the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London would be on Friday, August 27th. Yes, the same day we’d scheduled swede fest™ palm beach.

Rather than see this as a PR disaster, once we knew we could roll the date back one week and still have our venue, we recommended that we make a big joke out of the situation rather than engage in any hand-wringing (we did enough of that internally). So we put out a media alert that said:

We’ve tried to ignore it, but it’s time we addressed what you all have been thinking: yes it’s true, the opening ceremony of the London Summer Olympic Games is ON THE SAME NIGHT AS SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH.

The date change graphic

The date change graphic

You can’t fight the power. So we’re taking the high road. We’re willing to step aside and let the U.S. Olympic athletes, and the rest of those competing, have that special night without us siphoning off their audience. We’re moving SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH back a week to FRIDAY, AUGUST 3. Same time, same place. Because there’s no way they can pull off such a sweet move.

Since we’re moving our renegade amateur film festival back a week, we’re going to give our sweders another week, too. THE DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES ROLLS BACK TO FRIDAY, JULY 20. Everyone wins.

Put it on your calendars now. SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH deadline for entries is Friday, July 20. SWEDE FEST™ PALM BEACH is Friday, August 3. Screenings begin at 7:00PM at The Borland Center for Performing Arts. Take that, London.

And created a graphic that we emailed to the database and posted to all our social media that was essentially a gigantic mea culpa. It worked.

swede fest palm beach Event Announcement :15 TV Spot from swede fest palm beach on Vimeo.

The "sweded" Mainstreet at Midtown logo

The “sweded” Mainstreet at Midtown logo

And in spite of the fact that this did create a few glitches (the need to find new emcees — The Jove Comedy Experience stepped in and were just amazing; the fact that so many community calendars had already run the original date and it was too late to get most of them to run the new date; and a few other little things), the client was thrilled with the media coverage, the event turnout, how many new visitors of all ages were on Mainstreet at Midtown that night, how many great people volunteered “in kind” sponsorships to be involved (edited to mention that Hollywood Cupcake makes Kelly’s heart sing for joy and her cupcakes are little sugar bombs of happiness and rainbows and angels singing. Was that too much?)

In fact, we think you can consider a first-time event a success when the client tells you at said event the date she’s chosen for next year’s event.

The best-dressed swedeing team EVER

The best-dressed swedeing team EVER

swede fest™ palm beach will be on Friday, August 2, 2013 for those of you who want to start planning what film to swede now and whether you’ll be raiding Goodwill’s toy department for your cast, your pets will play supporting roles, or whether you’ve always secretly wanted to wear a superhero costume and/or play Wolverine. You know you want it.

The team who sweded "Old School"

The team who sweded “Old School”

Yep. we’re going to go out on a limb and say that not only do people now know what a swede is, we’ll easily double the almost 40 entries in swede fest™ palm beach 2012 with an embarrassment of riches — in this case, a plethora of swedes — in 2013. This is what special event are supposed to do for your client, and this little renegade, amateur film festival really delivered.

We’re News…

20 07 2012

Alchemy Communications Group Joins
Regan Communications Group’s Growing Portfolio

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County was nice enough to put our press release up on its website this week, and then we made the “Hot Leads” column in today’s South Florida Business Journal.

We feel like we’ve hit the big time!

Hey, we know all the press up to now has been because Regan Communications Group (RCG) is a big deal, they’ve been around since 1984, they’re major players. The local pick ups are nice because they’re a bit more about us and what we’ve accomplished since we started Alchemy in 2009. We aren’t exactly flashy, and it’s never been in our nature to self-promote. We’ve always felt that our work speaks for itself, and maybe that’s both naive and idealistic in a world where people tweet their every…um, passing thought. And post things on Facebook that are better left to a one-on-one conversation rather than a permanent digital record.

So, we’re going to get better at “PR.” Especially since we’re part of one of the largest PR firms in the country. Although our relationship is based on Alchemy bringing our unique vision and abilities to this relationship, continuing RCG’s mission to become a full-service marketing communications firm, we will absorb some of their culture as we bring a creative perspective to the relationship that comes from a wholly different place.  This is an exciting time for all of us…

We Got Married!

19 07 2012
The New Alchemy Logo

The New Alchemy Logo

Okay, not really. But that’s how George K. Regan put it when describing our relationship last week. He’s the Chairman and Founder of Regan Communications Group (RCG), one of the largest privately held public relations agencies in the United States, and Alchemy merged with RCG in late June. The firm is headquartered in Boston, and has offices in New York City (at 75 Rockefeller Plaza, no less), Cape Cod, Providence, Hartford, and we’ll be heading up its South Florida operation. We’re going to move our stuff into RCG’s existing offices, which means Steve and I will have to get up and walk out of our respective offices to have our next girly slapfight.

“We’re proud to welcome Alchemy as a member of the Regan Communications family,” George said in the official press releases, which were picked up by the New York Times, the Boston Herald, PR Week, and more. “Alchemy’s expertise in advertising and marketing will help Regan Communications service the business communities of Florida in ways that our competitors in the marketplace cannot. We have grown to become a one-stop communications solution for clients in New England, New York, Florida, and nationwide.”

Steve Owens, partner | creative director

Steve Owens, partner | creative director

I added my own two cents: “We feel that we have found the right partner at the right time in Regan Communications,” said Kelly Owens, co-founder of Alchemy Communications Group.  “This partnership will allow us to continue to grow and offer new services including crisis communications, event management, and in-house video capabilities while also receiving the strongest support and unparalleled expertise from one of the country’s most well-respected agencies. We couldn’t be more excited about our future together.”

Kelly Owens, partner | editorial director

Kelly Owens | editorial director

We even went and had pictures taken — that’s how serious it is. We stay behind the cameras, thank you very much, so this was a real moment. Thanks to Dana Hoff for the snaps.

So, we’ll keep you posted when we have our new contact info. We’re moving into the new space any minute; we need to find the time to actually do so! And thanks to everyone who has already called and emailed to say congrats.

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