French Butter, the food and beverage production company, has capped its recent surge of attention-getting work by celebrating the role women play in its sales, management and growth. A certified woman-owned business by WBENC, French Butter is home to director/DPs Brett Froomer, Anneke Schoneveld and Etienne Proulx.
Working out of its own custom-designed, 20K square-foot production facility and commercial kitchen in Chicago, Pilsen Studios, the company is not only notable for the ‘craveable’ quality of its work – a hallmark of Brett Froomer’s food imagery since his days as a still photographer – but also for the largely all-female team that’s been powering their growth.
With recent work for Burger King, Campbell’s, Clif Bar, Cracker Barrel, Little Caesars, Hidden Valley Ranch, Zaxby’s and Noodles & Co. over the course of the past year, French Butter boasts a woman CEO, as well as women running business affairs and finance, staffing its studio operations in Chicago and handling its sales representation from coast to coast.
“Our designation as a woman-owned company signifies to agencies and brands that we place a high value on inclusivity,” says Susan Froomer, French Butter’s CEO, who spearheaded the push for certification and keeps a sure hand on the studio’s management and marketing. “More and more advertisers have instituted mandates to ensure that their work is being awarded to both women and minority-owned companies,” she notes. “Being certified by WBENC, the Women’s Business Enterprise Network Council, underscored our desire to pursue new opportunities that can leverage the role of women across the entire palette of French Butter.”
In addition to Susan, the French Butter team includes Business Manager Karen Callahan, a production veteran who’s handled business affairs for producers in both the advertising and entertainment sectors, and Angela Gross, the company’s seasoned finance manager.
French Butter has also added two recent grads from the film and television program at DePaul University: Megan Janek, Associate Producer & Social Media Manager, and Justyna Lepa, Motion Control Camera Tech & Website Designer. “We brought them on as part of our commitment to empowering and inspiring the next generation of women in the tabletop sector,” explains Susan.
Rounding out the French Butter all-female team is its network of reps. In the East, the company is represented by Sarah Jenks of Sarah Jenks Repping. In the Midwest, French Butter is represented by Sonia Blum of Sonia Reps On the West Coast and in Texas, they’re represented by Lisa Gimenez of Lisa G & Co and Deirdre Rymer Rivard of Blush Creative │ Partners. Together, these women regularly strategize on how to keep French Butter on the lips of agency producers and clients across the entire food and beverage category.
Their work has been aided by the company’s strong reputation with clients and agency partners. Elena Robinson, Head of Production at the Chicago agency OKRP, which includes Burger King as a client, has worked with French Butter a number of times. She’s impressed by their setup at Pilsen, both in terms of the technology they have on hand and the ease and efficiency of working there. “They bring a high level of expertise to each project, which is nice to see,” she says about working with the company.
The space is highly conducive to client comfort, Robinson notes, but adds that most of the focus is on what’s happening on the studio floor. “Clients love the space, but when we’re there, we spend most of our time talking about the food – which looks amazing,” she observes. “They’re true craftspeople, and the directors have surrounded themselves with top-level crew. They know how to get the best out of the best.”
“Our women colleagues, whether on staff or on crew, are essential to the tone, candor, and character of French Butter,” adds Susan. “We pride ourselves to be not only an exceptional food, beverage and lifestyle production company but also in nurturing client needs on set and anticipating their future needs for upcoming repeat business.”
For director Anneke Schoneveld, who signed with French Butter late last year after stints with Bent Image Lab and Schrom, joining the company was motivated by concerns beyond just production support. “I was also looking to be a part of a team,” she explains. “I believe we rise by lifting each other. French Butter approaches everything with a family mindset – we’re in this together. Here, our focus is on connecting as people and sharing our admiration for each other’s talents and our love of the craft.”
Schoneveld appreciates the women-led quality of French Butter, too, and understands its importance. “I’ve had countless small moments on set where my being a female director has had an impact,” she points out, “from having other female directors come and shadow me on my set to the young girl in the art department telling me that this was her first time seeing a woman in my job and hearing how that gave her permission to want to dream bigger for her own career. These moments stay with me always. They push me to want to keep dreaming bigger, too.”
Susan Froomer acknowledges that in many respects, the company’s female influence not only plays up to its creative and technical strengths, but helps it go beyond. “Our secret sauce is passion,” she admits. “It affects everyone, from the directors to our EP to our production partners, all the way down to the crew and our PAs. We all love coming to the studio and creating something beautiful and exciting for our clients.”
Executive Producer Irec Kriske says the company’s family feel has a lot to do with how well everything comes together on set. “We typically work with a very small crew who’ve been together for a very long time, and we take great pride in each other’s contributions to the final production, many of which show up on screen,” he points out. “There’s a great vibe in the air when we film, and our clients can see that result on the monitors.”
Brett Froomer, French Butter’s founding director, would agree. “The point here is that every day there’s something fresh being captured on film,” he says, and all of us are excited to be fully engaged with that journey. That’s why we love French Butter!”
The group photo includes (clockwise from top left) CEO Susan Froomer, Business Manager Karen Callahan, Finance Manager Angela Goss, Assoc. Producer Megan Janak, East Coast Rep Sarah Jenks, Midwest Rep Sonia Blum and West Coast and TX reps Lisa Gimenez and Deirdre Rymer.
To view recent French Butter work, visit their website.
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