Jim Olen named Protokulture’s VP/managing director

Jim Olen: Protokulture’s new VP/managing director

After Jim Olen shuttered Rhythm Café last October, after 14  years as a commercial music house, he became a consultant with post and production companies “who were looking for a fresh point-of-view, a new perspective on business, a way to reinvent themselves,” he says.

When Olen approached John Michaels, the Protokulture owner/designer didn’t want a consultant – he wanted Olen to put his skills and energies exclusively into his eight-year old company and hired him as Protokulture’s VP/managing director.

“My background as an entrepreneur was exactly in line with what John was thinking,” says Olen, who started a new chapter of his career July 11.  “His goals matched my desire to expand a great company and take it to the next level.  The talent is certainly here.”

Protokulture founder/president John MichaelsAlthough Protokulture has full-service production/post capabilities, Michaels and Olen’s plan is to focus on being its design core, “a full-service digital monastery that worships design, animation and visual effects.” 

Michaels and Olen’s forward plan is to build on the company’s existing strength and bring aboard “innovative artists and producers that share our passion for the industry,” they say.

Michaels founded Protokulture in 2003, after having been a visual effects artist at The Lookinglass (now The Whitehouse), and held the same position earlier at now-defunct Swell Pictures.

Located in 4,000-sq. ft. of space on the entire fourth floor at 70 W. Erie, the staff consists of four designer/editors – Nick Hopkins, Benjamin Christie, Steve Knox and Michaels – and a support staff of three.

Protokulture animation for Wisconsin Lottery spot

Their client base is a solid balance of broadcast network and national commercial work. Recent work includes complete show packages for the Big Ten G4 networks; an animated Wisconsin Lottery spot for Milwaukee’s HY Connect (formerly Hoffman York), post for a Leo Burnett Blackberry spot, and animated pieces for Key Lime Cove Water Parks commercials.

The company also offers branding solutions, digital interactive content and all forms of visual communication.


Olen is a local 20-year management and development veteran 

Olen started his career at legendary Editel, one of the biggest post houses at the time.  He spent seven years there learning all facets of production and post, before starting Rhythm Café with two music composer- partners in 1994. Their arrival came at a time when Chicago’s commercial music scene was at its biggest and best.  

“We composed and produced original music for commercials and worked around the world. We did very well, grossing over $1 million annually,” he says.  

Said Olen at the time of Rhythm Café’s closing, “I want to use the entrepreneurial and management skills I learned as a business owner and manager to help a forward-thinking company grow its business.”

By teaming with Protokulture, it looks like he got his wish.