Chip Swetnam and Jay McCain know that video is one of the most engaging ways to tell a story, whether it’s being used in video testimonials, high-budget commercials or documentaries. It is a remarkable story-telling medium that the guys feel should be a required part of any strategic marketing plan.
Swetnam and McCain, along with Laury Christensen, are the principles of Skybridge Mediaworks, a high-tech video production company located in an enormous former warehouse in Bluegrass Industrial Park.
The company itself consists of the partners and employs about 15 freelancers that help meet the media production needs of many local and national companies, both large and small.
“Our group of freelancers lets us offer a wide range of specializations depending on the needs of the client. Using freelancers also means a lower overhead, which translates into savings for our clients.”
Although their paths crossed a couple of times over the years through various media projects, Swetnam and McCain initially became acquainted through their wives.
“Our wives knew each other and in their conversations about our work, something would come up about one of us needing help with a project and we ended up working together on a lot of them. We found that our styles were complementary.” McCain said.
Both Swetnam and McCain have extensive backgrounds in video production. Swetnam started a video production company when he was just a teenager, doing corporate work for clients like The Hyatt Regency Hotel. He enrolled in Eastern Kentucky University mostly for its video production classes, but once there learned that the university planned on phasing out those classes in a year. Determined to explore the art of media production that he loved, he convinced the professor to let him combine all the video classes into one year, including graduate courses in film practices and cinema history.
After college, he went to Disney Studios. “The cool thing about working at Disney is that we got pieces and parts of a ton of different projects—action movies, dramatic television, sitcoms. It offered exposure to a huge variety of styles of directors and production managers.”
He liked working on TV shows – at one point he was tasked with creating a “hurricane” around the exterior production set of The Golden Girls – but found movies to be very taxing. “When I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, I thought ‘I’m going to make movies.’ But when I actually started working on movies, I found out how hard it was. It almost killed me.”
That’s when he started focusing on producing, shooting and editing documentaries, commercial television spots, and corporate films. Upon returning to Louisville to live, he started a production company called Big Sky Digital Media.
Jay McCain is originally from Pittsburgh but moved here to work for WLKY. After leaving WLKY in 2001, he went to work for another production company in town for about seven years. “I was working there when HD came out. That company was kind of hemming and hawing about adopting HD. They were behind the curve and I wanted to be ahead of the curve, so I decided to start my own production company,” McCain said.
That company was called IronBridge Productions, which launched shortly before the 2008 recession. “It was scary timing, but I figured if a company can make it through that, it has a pretty strong chance.” McCain began to outgrow his space on East Kentucky street and was looking for a building that had more studio space.
When his lease was up, he relocated to the space he’s in now, an enormous former warehouse located in Bluegrass Industrial Park where Swetnam’s company, Big Sky Digital Media was located. In 2015, McCain and Swetnam decided to combine their companies, hence the name SkyBridge.
The building houses two green screen room and a white screen room for bigger productions, like those that involve vehicles or set designs. The editing room is full of state-of-the-art tech equipment.
McCain, a three-time Emmy award winning videographer, will finish his Masters of Communication with a specialization in advertising through the Newhouse School at Syracuse University this month.
Swetnam and McCain have amassed an impressive client list that includes companies such as Humana, RAME Contracting, and Heaven Hill Distillery. But McCain says Skybridge also likes to work with smaller companies.
“While the size and scope of the project might change, the quality of the result will be essentially the same–excellent.”
The recent tax incentives for film production in Kentucky, which cover documentaries and some commercials, Swetnam and McCain expect more and more clients will make the foray into video.
For more information about Skybridge Mediaworks, visit their website.