Some 200 invited guests for Bridges Media 10th anniversary celebration Friday night will walk the red carpet to the River North studio that’s going to be decked out like a klieg light Hollywood premiere.
The team that leads Bridges – CEO John Polk, chief operating officer Chris Dilillo, both 31, and executive producer/creative director Chris Robins, 32 – have plenty of reasons to celebrate, not the least of which is having reached a milestone that many good companies fail to achieve.
Bridges Media started with the notion of offering high-end full-service HD video production. Polk calls the model “ideal for agency and corporate clients who come to one place for all aspects of their projects.”
In January, 2001, when Polk was a student at the University of Illinois, his now-retired father, Vaughn Polk, started Bridges as a successor to several similar companies he had owned over the past 25 years.
Since joining the company in May, 2002, with a newly-minted degree in speech and communications, John Polk has done his old man proud.
“Our revenues have doubled since 2008,” he says, attributing that leap in dubious times to bigger budgets and more inclusive projects from their long-time clients, and Bridges’ company culture: “We’re motivated self-starters. Everyone here works hard and is passionate about what they do. There’s not a lot of turnover here.”
Bridges’ staff of 14, whom Polk calls “a prolific group of people” works out of an expansive, 7,000-sq. ft. of space on the top floor of a three-story building at 100 W. Kinzie St.
In the facility are an 18×25-sq. ft. stage, with a green screen, four edit suites, six graphic stations, four administrative offices, a bay for three producers and a conference room.
Projects in various stages may be screened on a 10×6-ft. HD projection TV monitor in an comfortable area simply called “the bar,” which was purchased from a former restaurant and bar and faithfully recreated as place to relax after work or kick ideas around.
Beer-on-tap at the authentic 10-ft. long tavern bar, is brewed by the staff’s craft beer enthusiasts. “And it’s pretty good, too,” Polk says.
Company boasts a 50/50 agency corporate clients
Bridges’ clientele is divided 50/50 between agencies and corporate assignments. Those clients include Aon Insurance, Whirlpool, Euro RSCG, Leo Burnett, Abelson Taylor, DDB, Draftfcb, Razorfish, and marketing firms August Jackson, Swanson Russel and Gyro HSR.
One of Bridges’ biggest and most challenging projects was an online video for digital agency Razorfish’s launch of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Cheddar Explosion.
And it was literally an explosive concept, whereby the winner of a contest would get to press the button to blow up the Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. “But it didn’t turn out as originally planned,” explains Patrick Lewtschanyn, who was the director, editor and colorist on the job.
“The idea of capturing the Texas Stadium implosion quickly moved to shutting down a major highway, stunt drivers, techno cranes, helicopters, a multitude of cameras and cheese exploding out of a stadium.
“However, since the stadium didn’t collapse the way the 3D team anticipated, however, we had to figure out a new story for the cheese and how it would come out of the middle of the stadium,” Lewtschanyn.
Explosive expansion isn’t the model Polk is looking for as Bridges heads into its second decade. Rather, he says, they will continue along the path of “continuing growth and staying on top of rapidly-changing technology.”
In preparation for the challenges ahead, the ambitious studio head is taking part-time classes at Kellogg School of Management for an MBA in marketing.