Interview with Adam Lisagor(@lonelysandwich)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video camera captures multiple frames per second, and an editor weaves those pictures together into a single video, doesn't that mean a video is worth thousands and thousands of words?

No one knows the untapped power of a strong video more than Adam Lisagor, founder of Sandwich Video. Sandwich is a company designed to create kick-ass videos for kick-ass products, and they succeed basically every time. At the helm of this ship is Adam, a veteran sailor in the sea of video production. Through passion and obsession(the good kind) Adam and his team are able to present ideas in clean, short, sweet, and infectious videos(not as easy as it sounds).

On the Sandwich website all the way down at the bottom(which you should not get to unless you have watched every single video before it) there is a short "about" section for the company. One line in the brief description is: "We're not here to sell - we're here to share through the medium of video." After talking with Adam I can see why Sandwich Video values this statement so strongly and moreover, how this attention to the medium makes them the best at what they do.

Over the course of about 45 minutes, Adam and I covered everything from cameras to zombie apocalypses and everything in between. It was a real honor to sit down and chat with the Sandwich King himself.  Enjoy.

adam

Please note what is transcribed is not the full conversation, rather the main questions and their corresponding answers. I would highly recommend taking the time to listen to the full audio. Adam said some pretty awesome things. The answers are abbreviated.

And yes, this was a little more than five questions. 

When in your life did you decide you wanted to make videos? 

I was eleven years old. I'm thirty-six years old now, I was born in 1978, and in my generation(by the way in terms of film making you can break up generations into different chunks of time because it's all technology dependent. So a generation in film school context  is probably five years or so, and I would consider a generation in a more board respect as 15-30 years), when I was a kid, the way that young, budding filmmakers learned how to start making films was that probably your parents had a gigantic VHS camcorder and one day you were bored with your friends and your tried to make something, tell a story, or replicate something you had seen on a favorite movie. In my case, one of my favorite movies had this little sketch bit where a basket of fruit was on a table and then you here "bing" and it disappears, so I thought how do they do that!? And you start experimenting. Back then we didn't have iPhones, we didn't have HD cameras in our pockets or in a container smaller than the iPhone. We had a cassette that you put into a machine and then you press stop and start and that was basically how you edited. So I discovered that if you set up the camera and put something in your frame and then pause and move that thing from your frame and then press record again and then play it back it looks like that thing disappeared. That's how I discovered visual effects essentially. That started happening when I was eleven...

Why is a great video, possibly a viral one, the current "go-to" marketing tool for startups and new products? 

Well it's essentially advertising and advertising has been the same thing since advertising was invented. You're trying to get as many people as possible to realize and recognize that you exist. And that's the same now in this new form of maybe the two minute product or app video then its been since I Love Lucy days, since radio days, since "Step right up and test my new magic snake oil, it'll cure all your ailments." It's all the same stuff, I'm just doing it in a more modern and progressive package. But I wouldn't call them viral and "powerful", thats subjective,. It's important to note that the intention of these videos is never to reach as many people as possible, because once that becomes your intention your motivations are corrupt. Once you say you're making a viral video you're doing it for the wrong reasons, or you're doing it for the right reasons and you're just a sucky human being. To go back to the question: why is this format becoming such a influential format for the industry of tech and startups and what not, and it's because they're trying to advertise their goods just like Coke and Pepsi are. They just don't have the same means to do it. So what't interesting is we approach the market of it accidentally by doing things that were smaller and more quaint...

(Included in this answer: talk of the innovator's dilemma and what we deemed to be corporate agility)

If I had a company that was growing really fast, would you have any tips for me to keep our dexterity and agility? 

One thing that almost every business person says almost universally is "overhead is bad for business." When you're talking about "overhead" usually you're talking about anything that costs money on a regular basis that you have acquired to support your business. That can mean more computers, that can mean more office space that you have to rent, that can mean more people that you have to pay on salary. All those kinds of things mean you have to keep doing what you're doing. There is no way around it. You can't stop and say, "I don't want to do this anymore I want to try this other thing" because if that other thing doesn't work, if you're taking a risk on another thing and it fails, then all that stuff you have acquired goes away. Somebody comes and takes your computers, and they evict you from your space and the people that get a paycheck from you to pay their rent can no longer do that. So that's why...it's all fear motivated. What you have to do to combat that is always be weary or rapid growth. In term's of the resources you need: try to do as much as you can with less than what other people think you need...

If you had to order the idea, the equipment and the editing in order from most important to least important, how would you do it and why? 

Ideas, editing, and equipment. By far. Not even close. Those are orders of magnitude different from each other. Ideas are the thing of the most value in this world. You can say that unequivocally. Editing falls into the purview of execution. More than half of what we do, and what makes Sandwich, Sandwich is editorial and by that I mean deciding what not to do. These are all maxims that come right out of the Apple playbook. You decide what in your product line does not need to be made. I decide on a constant basis what clients not to take on. And that means some of them are big, huge clients that you certainly know and have products of those in your home, and some of them are small things you've never heard of, but you know they won't probably make any sort of dent in the universe. So when you're making those choices you're editorializing, you're sort of focusing your scope. The other side of that is more on the content side: film editing is a very very powerful thing. I feel like we have a unique voice in our editorial style, that no one else can do because it's our voice. People can sort of do something similar, or maybe they have their own editorial voice, and it's just as prominent as the "additive voice." Editing is subtractive but what actually goes on camera is more of an additive process...

(Included in this answer: discussion of Inside Apple by Adam Lashinsky, and what leadership is evolving into). 

If you could travel back in time and talk to your 16 year old self, is there anything you would want to say to him? 

It's such an amazing question, a hypothetical question: what would you say to yourself at 16. There are a couple examples of this kind of thing. There's an incredible video on Youtube that there's a scene where this guy interviews himself as maybe a twelve-year-old. So beautiful. Somehow this kid as a twelve-year-old had the foresight and was just goofing around like I was making videos and he and the foresight to go: "wouldn't it be amazing if me a twelve-year-old conducted this imagined interview with thirty-year-old me." And he asked his thirty-year-old self all of these questions and then as a thirty-year-old he dug up that tape and did the other side of the interview. It's one of the most brilliant things I have ever seen. Anyway, what would I tell myself at sixteen? Holy shit. There's so much. Yes, it's important to work hard, but it's also important to explore and not work sometimes. And it's okay if you fuck up from time to time. The people in your life that are telling you have to do everything perfectly right now in order to achieve a certain future, they're not doing that so you do everything perfectly. They're doing that do have a better chance to correct your huge mistakes...

(Included at the beginning of this answer: discussion of Boyhood (the movie), also included at the end: what would I tell my fifteen-year-old self)

If you had to pick, which of your videos is your favorite? 

The Knock video is what what I would consider the most pure example of what I do. Which is just show an amazing technology working. And if you get the opportunity to do that without words, even better. So Knock was good. Breaking News was really fun because when I was on the phone with them for the first time, the Breaking News people, and they were talking about this idea that the tradition and respect for news lost, and in my mind I got this crusty, old Walter Cronkite type character railing against what the news has become. And so that came together pretty organically. I really like the Warby Parker one because it was also organic how that idea came to be, because I was just hanging out with my friend Noah, who is the guy in the video (a real photographer), and we're out at dinner and I'm telling him about Warby Parker and he's like...

(Included in this answer: why the Coin video is Adam's favorite....ever)

Tomorrow there is going to be a zombie apocalypse. What must you have by your side? 

You have to listen to this one! No cheating.

 

I would like to thank Adam one more time for being an awesome interviewee and taking the time out of his ever-busying schedule to talk to a 16 year old about some pretty crazy things. It's hard not to like this guy and I know I'm going to be hearing a lot of Sandwich video in the future.

David Silverman