About four times a week, at some point in the afternoon, the three men of creative house Lunch and Recess — Ryan Cockrell, Ethan Jackson, and Dorian Warneck — will stop what they’re doing and commence with a hip-hop dance party. It is the only part of their week that is ever typical. Some days they may be meeting with clients, on others they may be traveling to far-off locations to shoot material, and on others they may be taking whatever footage they’ve gleaned, hours worth, and undertake the painstaking process of whittling it down to a few minutes. They still always manage to find time for the hip-hop dance parties in their Broad Street office.
Lunch and Recess is not an advertising company, not in the Mad Men sense. They don’t make print ads. They won’t design your website or set up your Twitter account, though they can make referrals if that’s something their clients want. Instead, they tell stories. The guys are aware of the ongoing synergy between television and the internet and how, in a way, advertising is becoming entertainment. “We always preach to our clients: Don’t try to just fill your customer’s head with a message about yourself,” Cockrell says. “You’ve got to entertain them, because they’re just going to click off.” They’ve made promos, book trailers, mini-documentaries, and more, all primarily for the web.
Jackson comes from an advertising background, and Cockrell comes from a production background, while Warneck is a 20-year-old high school drop-out who Cockrell met in the Columbia skateboarding community when Warneck was only 14. He edits the videos. The two older men started the company in Columbia almost two years ago, naming it after Cockrell’s two favorite subjects in school. The three moved the business to Charleston last September.
Lunch and Recess has done work for WebMD, the Palmetto Cycling Coalition, and a 24-hour design revival in a former West Virginia boom town, clips they can pull up for visitors on their office Google TV. Most of their clients have heard about the company through word of mouth, and the men will meet with prospective customers and determine compatibility. “We really believe that we’ve got to like the people we’re working with. We’ve got to like what we do,” Jackson says. “The more you like the people you’re working with, the harder you’re going to work for them, and the more you enjoy it.”
Next, they’ll come up with a creative brief, and then there’s the shooting process, when Cockrell will set things up and hire whomever they need, often local members of the production community. They’ve traveled as far as Barcelona and Barbados to film, with Cockrell directing and Warneck shooting. Then it’s back to the office, where Warneck puts everything together.
This last part is the most painstaking one. “It’s usually hours of footage broken down into, at the most, usually a three-minute piece,” Warneck says. “But I think between me and Ryan, we’ve developed a pretty good system that we kind of follow for each project.” The two have gotten so used to working together that they know what the other likes and what should ultimately go into the finished piece.
At the core of Lunch and Recess’ style is authenticity. All three of them would rather present something that’s true than try to make what they have into something that’s not. Cockrell says that’s what people like about them. “We always want to use the funniest moments that aren’t always necessarily perfect,” he explains. “If somebody trips, we want to use that part, whereas most people would want to edit that out.” It might take an entire day of shooting for them to find those little touches, but that’s what will make it into the end result.
“We’re always growing because I think we all have this interest of one-upping ourselves,” Cockrell says. “For our own personal pleasure, it’s … how can we shoot this better, edit it better, who can we work with that is going to improve our look, our style.” They average a handful of customers a month, and in slower times, they get to work on their private passion projects, stuff that they want to shoot for their own sake. “We’re not sitting around waiting for Nike to call us,” Cockrell says. “If we want to work for these brands and these people, we’re creating things to give them a reason why they might want to work for us. And so rather than wait on that dream job … we’ll just create the dream job.”
And they’re bringing work and recognition to the Holy City. “When the tide is high, all the ships rise,” Jackson says. “The stronger the creative community in Charleston, the better it is for everybody. We’ve been really lucky to have jumped in and made such an impact.”