From videos to commercials, business is booming
As often as not, making films in Iowa is far removed from
big-screen presentations like The Bridges of Madison County
or Twister. A case in point would be The Chicken Magician.
Dropping from the skies aboard his Chickojet, or his Chickocopter,
or his Chickoballoon, or scooting along on his Chickocycle,
the Chicken Magician, the animated version of an old poultry
farmer, spreads the gospel of poultry to children of grade-school
and junior-high age. He does so in two 15-minute videos conceived
and produced by writers and artists of the McCormick Advertising
Agency of Des Moines and the West Des Moines-based Image Mill,
a consortium of 18 illustrators, animators, and designers.
"When advertising agencies hit the wall with stuff they
cant do, they call us," says James Mathis, Image
The Chicken Magicians role was to teach children about
where the poultry they see in the supermarket comes from,
about its nutritional importance, and about safe food handling.
"It had everything from talking chickens to you name
it," Mathis says.
The videos were made for the veterinary medicine division
of the Bayer Corp. at a cost well into the six figures, Mathis
says. Mathis says that about half of the work done by the
Image Mill is traditional illustrations for printed material.
The other half, he said, is animation for commercials, training
films, and other moving-picture productionsthe kind
of work, he says, that was almost nonexistent in Iowa two
Among other recent Image Mill projects, Mathis says, was
a portion of a training film for McLeod USA of Cedar Rapids
that stressed the importance of honest dealings. The lesson
was taught bywho else? An animated George "I Cannot
Tell a Lie" Washington.
The breadth of the industry in Iowa is amply illustrated
by Metro Communications of Cedar Rapids, a growing, 15-year-old
company that has filmed, taped, and done live feeds on everything
from presidential debates to professional wrestling. The company
has sent crews to Mexico and Japan to make promotional programs
for Iowa corporations, produced a video on brain injuries
for the University of Iowa, produced a teleconference at a
Kansas City hospital that involved two open-heart surguries,
and provided footage for Inside Edition, Good Morning America,
the Today Show, and other network television shows. The company
says it can make commercials and videos in many languages
and has the talent and technologyincluding access to
a national pool of actors and musiciansto craft any
message a company wants to convey, usually for a lot less
money than companies on either coast would demand. Toyota,
John Deere, Amana, and IBP are some of the companies for which
Metro has worked. Keith Hindman of Metro says the company
has 16 employeesquadruple the number of a decade agoand
is putting $2 million into a new production studio.