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The Multimedia Men

Creo Productions was born during a six-week backpacking trip through Europe, as co-founder Aaron Carriere traveled while taking a break between jobs.

“Traveling and seeing the world in both its beauty and devastation always gives us fresh eyes and ears and perspective, and helps us discover what’s really important,” Carriere says. “Seeing the world gave me a bigger perspective, and a lot of time to think about the company and where it could go.”

When Carriere returned, he and college friend Andrew Tingley founded Creo Productions as a video production company. Today, the full-service video, audio and creative production company takes clients’ projects from start to finish, including concepts, animation and graphics.

In their quest to find the ideal intersection of art and commerce, Creo Productions uses a cinematic element to give their productions a unique feel. “We find the most interesting aspects of a product and go with it,” Carriere says. “This helps us show things in interesting ways, without using the traditional ‘in your face’ methods.”

Carriere and Tingley met at Ferris State University in 2001, while Carriere studied business and public relations and Tingley studied television and digital media production. After they graduated in 2004, Tingley took a job in TV production, and Carriere worked for a book publisher. They had talked about starting a business together, and in 2006, the timing and circumstances seemed right.

“We’ve grown up with technology surrounding us, and have seen how sites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube have evolved and changed the industry. We’ve realized that youth is not a liability – it is an asset, ” Carriere says. “It has been an interesting journey.”

Imaging the Next Move
Last December, Carriere went on a journey of his own, a mission trip to Zimbabwe. The 15-hour return flight left him with a lot of time to think about the future of Creo Productions.

“I had a moment of clarity,” Carriere says. “I was scrambling for paper – I had all these ideas of what Creo Productions could be, and where it was headed. I started to think of the company differently, not just as a video production company.”

The rethinking of Creo Productions included not only incorporating an audio studio, but also repositioning the team as new media storytellers.  “I realized we could help artists, entrepreneurs, and others to share their stories using new media,” Carriere says. “We have the ability to tell stories creatively by communicating messages that can impact others around the world.”

After Carriere returned from his trip, the duo began immediately looking to relocate from the 200 sq. ft. space they were occupying in Carriere’s East Grand Rapids home.

“We wanted to find a location where we would also be able to record musicians and bands,” Carriere says.

After their idea for a recording studio met some initial resistance from building owners, Carriere and Tingley found Creo Productions’ future home in a location owned by Dwelling Place. The nonprofit housing agency was receptive to their studio plans and had available space on the corner of Division and Weston.

So in May, Creo Productions expanded into their new 1,800 sq. ft. space along the Avenue for the Arts. Their new studio allows the company to not only expand its video production capabilities, but also to add an audio recording studio.

Behind the company name and logo that adorns the large storefront windows, Carriere and Tingley sit at two desks facing the front door. Tall ceilings give way to bright white walls and wood floors. Just through the kitchen papered with Ansel Adams photographs is a set of steep stairs leading down to what will become the audio production studio.

“The lower level requires a bit of imagination right now,” Carriere says as he explains how they will essentially build a room within a room in the basement.

Right now, the brick walls and exposed pipes house an assortment of recording equipment, a computer and a whiteboard that lists current and future projects. To transform the room into an audio production studio, the walls will be treated and soundproofed, and a sliding door will separate the recording space from the production area. They hope to have the audio studio completed by fall.

The 21st Century Art of Communication
The new audio studio will allow Creo Productions to expand services, including the ability to record studio musicians.

“We can do both audio and video for bands, which is important today with all the ways bands are marketing themselves, like on Myspace,” Carriere says. 

Matthew Korn, an audio engineer and subcontractor to Creo, handles the audio production. They also have an intern this summer, who was a student in one of the video production classes Tingley teaches at Ferris State University.

But, after viewing a sample of the company’s produced work, it’s hard to believe the material was created by such a small team, and not a big-budget studio.

One current Creo Productions project is a CD of music from Zimbabwe. Carriere returned to Zimbabwe in April with Korn and plans to record music.

“All the systems that are in place in the U.S. – political, social, economic – are all broken down over there,” says Carriere. “The people are living in a really oppressive place, and it was just an incredible experience.”

Carriere and Korn recorded four nights of music, and Vital Connections, a local nonprofit, will sell the CD and donate all proceeds to Zimbabwean charities.

"There are a lot of immediate concerns and ways we could use the money to benefit the country,” says Carriere. “Proceeds from the music project will go directly to helping orphans and meeting the needs of desperate people.”

A network of mission organizations will promote the CD as part of a grassroots marketing effort. When asked how his faith impacts his work, Carriere – who has worked for several Christian publishing houses – doesn’t believe that the distinction should be made between secular and sacred art.

“The project in Zimbabwe is motivated by faith, but it is also full of action,” he says. “What’s happening in Zimbabwe is also a story about human struggle and perseverance and hope, and to attach a label to it would diminish it. Historically, labeling art has accumulated a terrible reputation of keeping people out, rather than inviting everyone in, and that’s dangerous and tragic.” 

Carriere’s passion helped Creo land another client: LifeStraw, a personal water purification tool. Developed to help travelers and the more than one billion people that live without access to safe drinking water, this small product aims to prevent disease and save lives in developing nations. In his travels to Ecuador and Zimbabwe, Carriere has personally seen the effects of a lack of safe drinking water, which led him to call the makers of LifeStraw after hearing about the product from his roommate. 

“I had a passion for the project and was honest, and didn’t give them the traditional marketing pitch, Carriere says. “It’s easy when you truly believe in a product.”

Other recent Creo Productions projects include a video for a man in California who trains and teaches ex-felons to become entrepreneurs, a collaboration with a local marketing firm on a series of videos to highlight local restaurants, and a new product launch for a local publishing company.

“We’re all about finding good fits. We like to work with people who are willing to think differently about telling stories,” Carriere says.

The guys behind Creo Productions see big potential of for modern media and emerging distribution methods. And they are rethinking the traditional ways of communicating messages.

“The changes in the industry – such as everything moving online – shouldn’t be viewed as a threat,” Carriere says. “The old ways are being challenged, and there are a lot of opportunities.”

“As author Madeleine L’Engle wrote, ‘art should communicate with as many people as possible,’” Carriere says. “And that’s what we’re out to do, by helping people tell great stories in innovative ways.”
Kelly Quintanilla is a freelance writer born, raised and living in West Michigan. She is also the marketing director at Ada-based CUSO Development Company. She last wrote for Rapid Growth about new DeVos Children's Hospital doc Madeline Chadehumbe.  

Photos:

Creo Productions include co-founders Andrew Tingley and Aaron Carriere, as well as sound engineer Matt Korn

Aaron Carriere

Andrew Tingley

Creo Productions is located on a revitalized corner of Division Avenue and Weston Street in Heartside

Matt Korn

Photographs by Brian Kelly - All Rights Reserved
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