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Cave 76 Is Guided by Empathy and Walking in Their Clients’ Shoes

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Gabriel Munitz-Alessio, founder and creative director of Cave 76, tells LBB why empathy drives the company and how thinking on their feet has often saved the day

Cave 76 Is Guided by Empathy and Walking in Their Clients’ Shoes

Bruce Lee once advised to be “like water”. Why? “If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.” In the advertising and production world, where schedules are tight and budgets even tighter, being this fluid seems impossible. Yet Cave 76, a full-service video house, does it instinctively – using Lee’s advice as a guiding principle. 

“We were on set trying to make a New Jersey airport look like a Los Angeles backlot. The time and the budget are tight, talent’s availability is limited, and we’ve spent weeks prepping and storyboarding for the shoot,” recalls Gabriel Munitz-Alessio, the founder and creative director of Cave 76. “We’re waiting for a car to arrive that’s vital to the production and when it gets there, it’s different to the description, plus damaged too. Unusable.” No one panics - calls are made to an extended network of friends and acquaintances made over decades in the industry and within hours a new, better vehicle is sourced and ready to shoot. 

“The creative director arrives, and we’re walking through the hangar to show him this new car, making our way past a helicopter. He stops in his tracks and wants to know if we can use it somehow. We’re supposed to be shooting the car - we planned lots of Edgar Wright-esque crash zooms, and the CD says that it’s fine to start with the car, then he points to the helicopter declaring, ‘Wouldn't it be cool - and I'm just thinking out loud here - wouldn’t it be cool to get that in there?’” Gabriel recalls, laughing in disbelief.

It would cost thousands of dollars per minute to get the helicopter in the air. Gabriel and his team went back to the drawing board to find a solution. A Russian Arm was already set-up and waiting, so the team figured out a way to fake the landing using the magic language of film and some manual manoeuvring of the blades. While “not an ideal scenario” they got the shots they needed and, unbelievably, wrapped early too. Clearly, Cave 76 has absorbed Bruce Lee’s advice, shifting form, like water, when the moment called for it. 

Founded in 2016, the company is “guided by empathy”, says Gabriel, applying the ethos to employees, clients, and projects alike. “When it comes to clients, we get the pressure they’re under, the various people that need to be answered to and the financial realities everyone is dealing with today. We've walked in their shoes, and we understand what’s at stake - that’s why we’re always keen to find a solution,” says Gabriel. This approach has already netted them projects with Mercedes-Benz, PepsiCo, Google, The Tory Burch Foundation, the Wikimedia Foundation, and AWS. 

The ethos applies to staff too; he adds that “the film industry isn’t always accommodating to ‘normal life’ or career development.” With this in mind, the company holds frequent creative sessions where anyone is welcome to use a set amount of resources to create and develop short projects that the team then workshops together. It’s a way to keep the creativity flowing and to help staff continuously develop and refine their skills. 

Cave 76 was born out of Gabriel’s passion for all things film and from years of experience working on sets as an electrician, teaching himself how to be a DP, and figuring out directing with tireless curiosity and drive. It’s not surprising that he’s surrounded himself with likeminded people, full of “on the ground” experience and autodidactic attitude - lifelong colleagues who now happen to be great friends too. They bring together invaluable experiences from Hollywood productions, television, indie shoots, music videos, and commercials.

“We have the hard skills married with the capacity to organise it all. We really understand the relationships between the different creative and practical elements because we know every side. That starts with the decisions that a creative director or a client might make, right through to how it’ll affect the art department, budget, lighting, equipment, truck size. We can quickly assess the implications of any last-minute changes, taking into account quality and budget. It’s about visualising the set and the workflow itself,” explains Gabriel. 

One question the team often asks themselves is “What’s the relationship between creative decisions and the space where the rubber meets the road?” Cave 76 can answer this question because they’re as comfortable storyboarding a shoot as they are setting up and troubleshooting equipment. “We’re fluid and we have the instincts of people who’ve worked on hundreds of shoots combined with the ability to make critical decisions about creative, budget, and logistics.” For clients, this translates to integrated creative production and post-production services that are ready to meet them where they’re at. 

Looking to the future, Cave 76 is leaning into its unified creative offering. “We’re being brought in more at the strategic script stage, which we’re really happy about. We’re also further developing our creative offer,” says Gabriel. “We’re keen to keep a certain amount of flexibility around as it benefits both us and clients. Ultimately, we’re here to make people’s lives easier, to make a positive impact on the industry, and have a good time doing it,” he adds with a laugh. 

Cave76 confidently tackles any stage of the storytelling process - starting with the idea, script, and storyboards, through to production and then finishing, all while remaining creative and flexible throughout. It’s that kind of attitude, together with decades of experience in the industry’s trenches that gives Cave 76 a sense of unflappable pragmatism. “We keep an open mind about how things might need to get done.”

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Cave 76 Productions, Fri, 10 Jun 2022 11:28:53 GMT