Matt Chick and Aaron Macrae are the definition of seizing the moment, and following your intuitions. Together, the pair turned a bartering scheme into a full-fledged creative agency that has brought them across the US and Canada for photo and video projects inspired by local landscapes, and natural beauty. We chatted with them about work ranging from a campervan design and build, to high-end hotel shoots, and the coffee that keeps them fueled along the way.
How did each of you get into the world of photography, videography, and branding work then come together to create The Rolling Van Creative?
We first met in the summer of 2014 during an orientation for a summer job in Lake Louise, AB. Simply put, this unrivaled location had everything to do with our first step into the world of photography and videography. Prior to this summer, neither of us had ever laid eyes on a landscape so enchanting. It was almost impossible not to invest in some beginner camera equipment and commence capturing as much as we could. We went back to school that fall, and this new-found hobby of ours stuck. It so happened that Aaron was enrolled in an independent study during his final semester of design school. He opted to earn his credit through a campervan design and build. We juggled part-time jobs, school, countless trips to Jay peak (we had season's passes to this Vermont ski hill), and completing the campervan from January to May. As soon as the build was complete, we took off for the road unknown. Two months into our trip, we found ourselves in Alaska with really no disposable cash. We wanted to experience some tours and get on the water so damn badly. The cost was just not leaning in our favor. We needed a solution. We swiftly came to the conclusion that a barter could potentially be enticing to these tour operators. We proposed some photos and videos in exchange for a couple of spots on these epic tours, and it worked! After a few more of these exchanges, it quickly became clear that we should be charging for our services. Thus, began the start of The Rolling Van Creative.
Can you tell us more about your two years on the road perfecting your craft and working remotely? Where did you go? What were some of your most memorable moments personally, and in your work?
Following Alaska, we continued to partner with more and more adventure tour companies. We had projects in the Yukon, Oregon, Utah, California, Nevada, Arizona, British Columbia, and partnered with a couple brands. These projects provided a huge learning curve and enabled us to keep investing in our business (i.e. upgrading our camera equipment). We felt like this was exactly what we needed to be doing, and that it was important for us to continue expanding our skill set. We wanted to begin filming in areas other than, let's say, kayak tours; therefore, we started shooting at the Airbnbs we were staying in for practice. These shoots were done with a goal in mind; to tackle bigger budget corporate projects in the future (luxury hotels). Off we went and presented these real estate films in our pitch to several hotels, and we instantly received interest. We were doing something right. We landed one project with these examples, which resulted in our first solid hotel portfolio piece. We would go on to use this as a launch pad to partner with several other hotels. The big budget contracts we were hoping for.
Our favorite moments on the road would be way up North in Alaska, and the Yukon. These destinations are so remote, authentic, and absolutely captivating. We've travelled all over North America and have always been drawn back to these locations. This would tie into one of our favorite memories for work; filming a jet ski company in Alaska. We put on our wetsuits, and sailed towards Blackstone Bay. Thunderous mountains with jaw-dropping glaciers were everywhere we looked. We witnessed a whale along the way to our destination. When we arrived, seals were perched on floating ice that had caved from the glacier that sat before our eyes.
Do each of you specialize in one aspect of your work, or do you collaborate on all parts of Rolling Van?
We both actively try to be involved in both the video and photo processes of every project. However, during the post-production phase, Matt handles the video editing while Aaron tackles the color correction and photo editing.
Can you describe your process when working with clients? How do you make sure you represent and elevate each of their unique businesses and stories?
Strong communication and setting boundaries are vital to us when working with clients. Several meaningful conversations and having the client fill out a creative brief prior to filming are essential steps in our process. Phone conversations are great for laying out the framework for everything, but also having their ideas and thoughts written down is even better. We keep this by our side, and establish ways to seamlessly mesh together our vision with their story.
Additionally, we firmly believe it's important to set boundaries when filming. Sometimes, the client can unknowingly sabotage a shoot. We always establish a set of rules and instructions before we begin a shoot. This ensures everyone is on the same page and understands what needs to happen in order for a day to be successful. The main thing is, the more time we have to film and capture our best shots, the easier it will be to tell the business' story effectively and creatively. Too often than not, we are cleaning up a room to film in, re-staging something, etc., and this cuts into our filming time.
Do you have a favorite project you have done recently?
We would have to say our project for Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts would be our favorite experience. It brought us back to the landscape that inspired this all. It was incredibly nostalgic filming in a location that was, and is, so special to us. We're always looking for an excuse to head back to Banff/Yoho/Jasper National Park, and being able to travel there for work was simply incredible.
How do you balance the creativity and ambiguity of storytelling, with the technical aspects of video and photo processes?
It's the story that matters the most. It's what will have the impact. We always place the story at the heart of the shoot and implement our video and photo processes afterwards. We determine the audience and focus our style of shooting based on that. At times, it's the harder way to go about things, but it's the collaboration of these two factors that results in a solid execution.
Okay, tell us a bit more about your relationship with coffee! How did you make and enjoy coffee on the road, and what are your home coffee rituals in Montréal?
It was certainly difficult balancing our digital media company, travel, and handling our business back home without having our consistent go-to workspace. We heavily relied on coffee shops for a solid internet connection and our creative processes. Not just any coffee shop though…
We needed coffee with a bite, a solid environment, and an aesthetically pleasing interior design to get our projects completed. We often up and left some shops if we 'weren't feeling it'. A mixture of yelp and Instagram were our guide to finding those sweet local spots.
Our home coffee rituals in Montréal? We used to live in a trendy Montréal neighborhood (Le Plateau) where countless coffee shops were steps away from our front door. Currently, we're situated in a cabin one hour north of Montréal. We have to hop in our truck and drive a solid 15 minutes before getting anywhere solid. Therefore, our Ratio coffee machine has become our lifeline. It effortlessly provides us the necessary fuel in the morning, and our midday pick-me-up. When we're traveling, if we stumble upon a cup of coffee we thoroughly enjoy, we load up on the beans. Our last trip was in Denver and we really enjoyed the brew at Huckleberry Roaster. We grabbed three packs from them and are currently brewing that at the moment.
What’s next for The Rolling Van Creative? Do you plan to get back on the road for another cross country adventure, or stay put for a while?
We're in the process of a rebrand for our media company. However, we're keeping The Rolling Van Instagram page active. For the time being, we're operating out of Montréal, and finding travel opportunities for work whenever we can. An open road trip will always be on the back of our minds and could happen at any moment..
Website: The Rolling Van Creative
Cabin: Hinter in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec