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David Neelsen

Partner / Brand Strategist / Executive Producer

Principal Photo

David Neelsen

Partner / Brand Strategist / Executive Producer

As a career business and relationship guy, Dave had a crazy idea at the height of the recession in 2009. Social media was driving a new opt-in culture and marketers were dealing with a new reality of audiences with control. They actually have a desire to connect with brands, though no longer do they have to accept being sold. Dave’s crazy idea?  Stories!

 Well, okay … maybe it’s not an original idea. However, with a filmmaker son and a career filled with helping clients, from small business to fortune 500 market and connect with their audiences, an innovative approach to brand storytelling offered new power in a world with a new consumer mindset. That led to the launch of StoryFirst Media as a brand storytelling and video agency. Bringing together a collective of savvy marketers a trained storyteller in the form of filmmakers. It’s four years later and Dave and StoryFirst’s collective have been telling brand stories ever since.  Okay, that’s not totally true – Dave will always stop when a quality craft beer is put in front of him.  Wisconsin born-and-bred, though having logged many years in Illinois and Texas, he’s equally at home having that beer in a Milwaukee tavern, a Chicago blues joint, or an Austin ice house.  But while you’re having that beer, don’t ever question the excellence of the Green Bay Packers.  Did we mention that he’s Wisconsin born-and-bred?

 

Principal Photo

Michael Neelsen

Partner / Director / Writer

Principal Photo

Michael Neelsen

Partner / Director / Writer

A learned storyteller and filmmaker, Michael Neelsen has been writing and directing cinematic content for over a decade. He developed his bonafides on the Universal Pictures back lot in Los Angeles as a graduate of the New York Film Academy’s Directing for Film program, where he was selected as one of the school’s most promising filmmakers. He has continued his professional development in Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, bringing his experience to the world of branded storytelling as co-founder of StoryFirst Media in 2009. Besides several award-winning shorts and campaigns, Michael directed the company’s first feature documentary, Last Day at Lambeau, which was released in 2012 and enjoyed wide acclaim on the film festival circuit. He is moderator of the film discussion podcast Reel Fanatics, finds purpose in the pursuit of big ideas, and is ready to travel to “the bottom of the world” to see Tom Waits if he ever goes on tour again.

 

Our Collaborators

Michael Nie

Director of Photography

Michael Nie

Director of Photography

With extensive experience in a variety of work environments from feature films and commercials to episodic television and music videos, Michael Nie has been telling stories that are both visually compelling and emotionally accessible since 2004. As a member of the International Cinematographers Guild, Michael was honored with the 2011 Emerging Cinematographer Award for his work on Not Your Time. He first worked with StoryFirst Media co-founder Michael Neelsen on a short film in 2006 and most recently in 2013 on the Turning Points campaign for Herzing University. He’s a Madison, WI native and works in Wisconsin, Los Angeles and wherever on the globe the story takes him.

Brian Alberth

Director / Cinematographer / Editor

Brian Alberth

Director / Cinematographer / Editor

If you’re dialed into the film and production community it’s only a matter of time until you cross paths with Brian. His work as a producer, director, director of photography, editor, and writer for over 13 years, spans film, television, commercials and online stories.

In recent years, Brian’s camerawork can be seen on projects like the 2011 Hulu Original Series Battleground and feature length documentaries like, That’s Crazy, Adult Rappers, and Wisconsin Uprising. His work has been recognized withmultiple awards, and in 2011 the animation “Statisticks” he directed for the United Way of Lake County was placed as one of TEDTalks top ‘Ads Worth Spreading.’

Brian also somehow finds time to serve as President of Media Communications Association-International (MCA-I), and as President of the Madison chapter.

And, he still finds time to teach courses at Madison Media Institute in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

Steve Coss

Creative Director / Writer

Steve Coss

Creative Director / Writer

Steve Coss is a creative director, copywriter, and radio, video and commercial producer. He has worked for some of the country’s largest advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson and DMB&B, and for regional agencies including Stephan & Brady, Malcolm Marketing, Zizzo Group and TMA+Peritus. Steve’s work has been for brands that includ Ford, White Castle, the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, LaCrosse footwear, Kraft Foods, First Business Bank, American Family Insurance, Group Health Cooperative, and Herzing University. He has been a Madison resident for over 15 years and lives in the city with his wife and whichever of his four sons happen to be home at the time.

Jason Caldeira

Designer

Jason Caldeira

Designer

Jason is an immensely creative and talented designer. His work has touched just about every medium, from print and web to environmental, multimedia and video.

Jason lives in and loves the city of Chicago. He plays guitar in a band called Helicopters that performed at Lollapolooza in Chicago. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon, he has worked as an Art Director for Kerry Americas and Oprah.com. His work has touched brands like the John Buck Company, Monsanto, Eli Lilly, TAP Pharmaceuticals and Toyota/Scion.

Katy Echols

Art Director / Assistant Camera

Katy Echols

Art Director / Assistant Camera

A born-and-bred Texas girl, Katy traded her cowboy boots for flip-flops in 2006, moving to California to attend Chapman University. Since graduating with a BFA in Film Production in 2009 (and following stints in both the art and camera departments), she has settled into the world of production management, exercising her knack coordinating budgets, organizing contracts, and wrangling cast and crew members.  Katy has had the privilege to work with some of the best crews in the business on projects ranging from independent films and commercials to some of the biggest live events on television.  Her passion for working with people and logistics allows her collaborators to focus on capturing a compelling story.
When she’s not traveling the country for work, Katy enjoys cooking, running, and traveling for fun, always ready to see where life’s adventure will take her.

Beth Skogen

Documentary Photographer

Beth Skogen

Documentary Photographer

Beth Skogen’s photographic philosophy is to use available light to capture – or document – life. The images she takes reflect life as it happens and capture genuine emotion. Her background is in photojournalism and she’s worked in and around Los Angeles, New York and Madison. Her collaborations with StoryFirst Media include the beautiful motion photography in stories produced for Hausmann-Johnson Insurance, Trachte and The Ronald McDonald House. She currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin.

Michaela Vatcheva

Animator / Editor

Michaela Vatcheva

Animator / Editor

Michaela was born in Sofia, Bulgaria.

After having the opportunity to host a music show on the Bulgarian national radio station for 2 years, she decided to dedicate her life to media and went to study at the Friedrich-Alexander University in Nuremberg, Germany. Her passion for camera work and editing got her a scholarship to study at Teesside University in England.

Michaela traveled, shot, edited videos and did motion graphic throughout Germany, the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Monaco and Bulgaria, then settled in Paris to do some internships while finishing her Master’s in Media Science and Linguistics. She worked as an editor and motion graphics designer at the French national TV channel TF1 and the innovation agency faberNovel, as well as the international, multi-platform Untitled Magazine, editing beautiful fashion and art films, some of which had an opportunity to be shown at the Facets of Figuration Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, among other exciting places.

Since 2011, Michaela has been living quietly in Madison, Wisconsin, which she swears is America’s best kept secret – hence her starting to grow roots (both literally and figuratively). These days, Michaela specializes in 2D motion graphics and video editing, all the while humming Fiona Apple songs.

Melanie Schmidt

Brand Strategy Consultant

Melanie Schmidt

Brand Strategy Consultant

Melanie is an advocate for the power of storytelling to inspire people, reinforce brands and drive consumer behavior. As a strategy consultant who helps businesses and organizations become more effective through combined attention to strategic thinking, practical planning and intentional communications. Her 20 years of experience working with organizations ranging from grassroots nonprofits to government agencies to international corporations, brings a fresh perspective for storytelling in stakeholder engagement.

Joe Pudas

Writer / Story Consultant

Joe Pudas

Writer / Story Consultant

An avid, arguably even rabid connoisseur of movies, television, and comedy, Joe Pudas has been writing screenplays and film reviews for over a decade. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from UW-Madison, where he was the student newspaper’s film columnist and most prolific film reviewer. Joe moved to Austin, Texas shortly after graduation and eventually attended UT-Austin, where he recently received an MFA in Screenwriting. Subsequently, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a professional career in screenwriting and filmmaking. In addition to interning for Russell Brand’s production company on the Warner Brothers lot, Joe currently cohosts the film discussion podcast Reel Fanatics and regularly contributes to the Reel Fanatics blog. He enjoys mild weather, strong women, and any kind of bourbon.

 

Will Lindow

Music Composer

Will Lindow

Music Composer

A musician, songwriter, producer and film composer for a combined 15+ years, Will Lindow has done and seen quite a lot that the “music scene” has to offer.  In those years he has been the lead singer, guitarist, pianist, bassist and drummer of several bands, toured the US, and had songs placed on HBO, FUEL tv and others.  He has also been featured on CNN, CBS, and in Forbes Magazine for his production work, having produced and written for some of Austin, TX and New York’s hottest up and coming artists. Over the last few years, Will has ventured into the world of film/tv, scoring award winning films like “His Name is Bob” (International Film Festival Platinum Award Winner), marketing video and commercials for companies like Samuel’s Diamonds, Death’s Door Spirits and Hausmann Johnson Insurance, and his recent work with StoryFirst Media on Last Day at Lambeau. Will embodies the words “passion for music”, and he carries that passion with him into his work with StoryFirst Media.

Alexander Valdes

Music Composer

Alexander Valdes

Music Composer

Alexander Valdes is a jazz double-bassist and composer originally from Madison, Wisconsin. After completing a bachelor’s degree in Jazz at the prestigious University of North Texas he relocated to Barcelona, Spain where he lives today. There he continued his studies in music production & technology by pursuing a master’s degree at the Universitat de Pompeu Fabra, under the team behind “Reactable.” He continues performing in various groups, composing, and teaching in Barcelona.

Katy Miller

Digital Media Consultant

Katy Miller

Digital Media Consultant

If it has a cord, Katy gets it. She has spent the last 10 years studying online consumer behavior and understanding how interactive channels can build brand equity and sell products. Known as the Enigma Machine, she can shed light on the mysterious world of search engine optimization, pay-per-click, mobile and online advertising in general.

Katy hails from Louisville and graduated from Transylvania University. She has used her experience to enhance brands such as DeWalt, Black & Decker, Master Graphics, Louisville Ladder, Mortenson Family Dental and Tumbleweed Southwest Grill.

Dano Johnson

Animator / Illustrator

Dano Johnson

Animator / Illustrator

Dano Johnson studied educational television at the University of Texas at Austin and interned in the Creative Development Department at Sesame Workshop (producers of Sesame Street).
After spending three years in the eLearning industry and teaching himself animation software, he founded Collection Agency Films.  Dano’s political ads have won Emmy, Telly, and Pollie awards and his short films and music videos have won awards at SXSW, Bradford Animation Festival, and Channel Frederator.
His proudest achievements are bringing FLALTAND: THE MOVIE and the sequel FLATLAND 2: SPHERELAND into existence to inspire students to think of math & science in new ways.

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BEYOND HUMAN NATURE

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Short Stories. Real People. Under Ten Minutes.

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