Hello Jamestown

The Men and the Mission Behind the Viral Recruitment Video

Article Contributed by
Cortney Linnecke

The video opens with a slow-rolling, aerial shot at daybreak. Roads thread their way between Lego-block houses; the sun grazes stout treetops, plating them in gold; on the horizon, craggy industrial buildings thrust from the earth, interrupting an otherwise seamless pattern of suburbia. A moment passes, and then words unfurl across the translucent sky: Hello, Jamestown, NY.

This idyllic introduction sets the tone for the rest of the five minute clip. The video, which is entitled “Hello, Jamestown NY 2017” and has recently gone viral on Facebook and YouTube, is serving as a tool to inspire and revitalize Jamestown locals and tourists alike. It spins a positive perspective on the area, celebrating the professional and recreational opportunities that abound in Chautauqua County.

The video may seem effortless, but in truth, it is the product of more than a year-long collaboration between its videographers, Kranky Plate Productions, and its commissioner, Jamestown Up Close, powered by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC). Go behind the scenes with the filmmakers, and it will quickly become apparent: this video is much bigger than its innocent five-minute marking would have it appear. It’s a film with personal meaning for its producers, a film with purpose for its commissioners, and a film that’s part of a movement for Jamestown as the city strives to build, grow, and thrive.

The Men Behind the Film
Staying true to a mission to rejuvenate business in Jamestown, the commissioners of “Hello, Jamestown” chose a local company to film, edit and produce their video: Kranky Plate Productions. The two men who comprise the company, Kipp Reynolds and Sheridan Smith, are every bit as creative and lighthearted as their company’s name would make it seem. Both also have roots in the area, as they met in their freshman year at Jamestown Community College. Reynolds had just created a feature-length comedy that included, at his grandfather’s persistent request, a cantankerous paper plate puppet. It was a character that, little did Reynolds know at the time, would become his company’s namesake.

Sheridan Smith of Kranky Plate Productions

“It had one eye going one way, the other eye going the other way, these big thick eyebrows, and a clear scowl. It was the most ridiculous thing,” said Reynolds, executive producer of Kranky Plate. “But the video sort of developed this cult following, and Sheridan was one of the guys that loved it. So we built a friendship on mutual respect.”

The friends eventually parted ways: Reynolds to Boston, to train in film, and Smith to the University of Buffalo, to secure a degree in philosophy. Over the years they learned, they travelled, they worked, and both eventually found their way back to Jamestown to settle down and start families.

“When you’re from Jamestown, the tendency is to say, ‘I can’t wait to get out of here!’” Reynolds said. “But after living abroad and travelling the country, you appreciate what this area has. That’s kind of what happened to me.”

Once back in town, Reynolds says that both he and Smith were holding down jobs that paid the bills, but were unfulfilling. After unexpectedly being let go from his position, Reynolds said he decided to wholly invest in filmmaking.

Kipp Reynolds of Kranky Plate Productions

“That job wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I wanted to be in video production, it’s what I love,” he said. “So when I was eliminated, I chose to see that as one door closing and another door opening. I just kind of jumped fully into film.”

Not long after, Smith also decided to quit his job and fully commit to Kranky Plate Productions. He began producing podcasts, vlogs, and even a documentary on Jamestown’s drug crisis. It was this documentary, entitled “Recover Jamestown,” that drew attention from Dr. Lillian Ney, Chair of the Health Care Action Team (HCAT) and board member of the JRC. Ney would be the woman who eventually recruited Kranky Plate to produce the “Hello, Jamestown” video.

“The bug bit him,” Reynolds said of Smith’s documentary. “We’ve been teaming up ever since.”

The Motive Behind the Film
The seeds for “Hello, Jamestown” were first planted two years ago by HCAT, which was looking for updated promotional tools to recruit young medical professionals to Jamestown. The idea for a video was proposed, and the wheels were officially set in motion.

“The JRC agreed put the video under its umbrella, and it was decided that the video needed to be used for a more general recruitment effort, not just physician recruitment,” said Ney, who was co-chair of the JRC at the time. “We wanted a…video that would highlight the experiences of young people from the area or those who had moved to our area, and that would also capture the essence of living here, including recognition of the beautiful environment and the people who live here.”

While the video was always designed with a clear agenda – to recruit young professionals to Jamestown and imbue locals with fresh energy and appreciation – it quickly became clear that the video was more than just a marketing tool. It was a personal statement for many of its collaborators, including Reynolds.

“This video is my love letter to the area,” he said. “I wanted to remind everyone what makes this area so attractive, and how much it has going for it. Everything that is said on screen I completely agree with, because those were all the reasons I moved back.”

Screenshots of the Hello Jamestown video

The Process Behind the Film
Once they had a clear mission and sentiment in mind, Kranky Plate Productions set out to film interviews for “Hello, Jamestown.” According to Reynolds, they were looking for interview candidates who could offer unique perspectives on Chautauqua County.

“The idea was to recruit people who were just starting out their careers and starting to find what they wanted to do with their life,” Reynolds said. “We wanted to show that locals don’t always look at Jamestown quite the same way as other people; sometimes they can take the area for granted.”

Reynolds and Smith ended up getting soundbites from a wide array of professionals, businesses, and schools across the county. They also secured scenic shots of the city in all four seasons, with ski footage provided by Ashley Baron and drone footage provided in partnership with Dream It, Do It of Western NY.

“Once we got involved in the process, our ambitions just started taking over,” Reynolds said. “My rule of thumb is to always enjoy the process of what you’re doing without getting married to the outcome… Our real challenge came at the end, when we had to try to whittle all this great footage down to a digestible, five-minute experience.”

Once completed, the film was uploaded to YouTube on Jan. 10th, where it instantly began garnering online attention. At the time of press, the video had more than 14,300 views on YouTube and had been shared on Facebook at least 838 times.

“The reactions [to the video] have been overwhelmingly positive,” said Sarah Gilbert, grant writer for the JRC, who was responsible for uploading the video. “It’s been shared so often that it’s even reached other countries – we had 75 views in Canada, and then a smaller number in Europe and other countries.”

“[The video] has exceeded our hopes, dreams and expectations,” said Ney. “It is everything we wanted and more. It has already been used in physician recruitment, and it is in widespread use among our area organizations and attractors… We extend warm thanks to each and every person who participated in the video and made it shine.”

Haven’t seen the video yet? It can be accessed via a search on YouTube or Facebook, as well as on the JRC’s website. For more information on the video or the JRC’s campaign to recruit professionals, families, and tourists to Jamestown, visit JamestownUpClose.com or call 716-664-2477. To learn more about Kranky Plate Productions or watch more of their films, like their page on Facebook and visit KrankyPlate.com.