Video production is more than just going on a shoot and running some clips through Final Cut Pro. Even basic videos for the web can require a number of post-production tweaks before they’re ready for their online debut. You’ve got to rosy up the skin tones, get rid of that stupid garbage truck that blasted its horn during the alley scene, and digitally replace the actress who quit mid-shoot with a cartoon koala. This is hard work, people.
Fortunately Chicago startup Coat of Arms is more than up to the task. A growing organization packed with talent (including animators, sound designs, video editors, and much more), Coat of Arms is equipped to handle a variety of postproduction needs with its nimble and tight-knit team.
I sat down with Coat of Arms founder Jonathan Lacocque, who told me about the journey that led him to start his own company before digitally airbrushing a Rush t-shirt onto my torso in post.
What is the backstory behind Coat of Arms?
I’ve been in the industry for 10 or 12 years now. I’ve always had this dream of having my own company and having the freedom to do good work and be selective with what we’re putting out there. I wanted to ultimately create a good environment for employees, clients and anyone that’s working with us.
While I was working at the Tribune Broadcasting Company I was also doing freelance. I began gathering clients and getting to know people and developed a Rolodex of artists that I admired or liked working with. I had already established Coat of Arms LLC in 2010 but I didn’t really dive in full time until March of last year.
What have been some of your favorite projects to work on?
Generally speaking what’s really awesome about Coat of Arms is that we’re getting a lot of diverse work. Whether it’s editing a film or doing color correction for a director, to doing animation and short films. There’s a breadth of work where you’re always excited about what’s coming next.
Specifically we really loved working on a set of explainer videos for a company called Restaurant.com. We had a really tight turnaround so we ended up having to hire out four animators, three illustrators, and sound designers. It basically allowed us to expand the team up to 10 people and they’re all people that we love to work with so it ended up being this great family affair.
What are some upcoming projects you have in the works?
We’re doing a couple of similar animated corporate videos for the Restaurant.com project. We’ve been doing quite a bit of music video posts with a director in New York and director Thom Glunt in LA. We’re doing three music videos for a Chicago band called Great Divide.
Who would you pick if you could work with any director?
There are tons of directors that come to mind. I love Wes Anderson’s work. I love Spike Lee and David Fincher would definitely be one -- Spike Jonze. Being in this industry I’d love to work with any of these directors so it’s really hard to pick.
If I had to choose one I’d probably go with David Fincher. If you look at his work, whether or not you like the content, it’s about as perfectly done as it can be from production to post. He’s diligent with every frame of his work. He’s meticulous. I think he’d be a fun director to work with, though at the same time difficult, I imagine.
What has been your biggest failure?
I think one failure would be not starting earlier. Something that I faced and I think a lot of people face is fear when they’re setting out to start something new. I think fear exists in everyone, whether you’re a famous performer or the guy that gets up in front of the boardroom -- everyone has to deal with that. Like many people that kept me from going for it as early as I cold have. I think it’s a failure to one degree, but I’m also extremely happy where I am.
What advice would you give to any beginning entrepreneurs out there?
Keep learning, keep growing. The further I get on a professional level, a business level, and even on a personal level the more I realize I don’t have all the answers. Just keep growing and don’t feel like there’s ever got to be a point of stopping.
Just don’t be afraid. It is scary to go out on your own and do something where most people will say you’re crazy. It’s crazy sometimes to be an entrepreneur and start your own thing, but in the end, if it’s something you believe in, I totally think it’s worth going for.
What’s next for Coat of Arms?
We’re currently expanding. We’re in Chicago but we’re also now going to be spending a good deal of time in Helvetia, West Virginia. It’s a small, Swiss/German-like village in the Appalachian Mountains. The reason we’re opening a place there is that our business is a model that allows us to be extremely nimble. A lot of our work is now coming from places like New York and D.C. and we wanted to find a place near the East Coast that was affordable and close enough for meetings.
Last year we ended up hiring about 30 different independent artists. Some people may think 30 isn’t a lot, but for me it’s such a rewarding experience to give work to people that you enjoy working with and are good people. I can only hope and imagine that that number will increase.
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