By Brett Yates
The Downtown Rutland Partnership (DRP) has hired BENT Media, a video production company based in Franklin County, to create a series of advertisements that will promote shopping, dining, art, and entertainment in the city’s historic center.
By its own description, the DRP, a nonprofit, serves to “manage, market and maintain the Downtown Rutland Special Benefits District,” where property and business owners pay a tax that funds its activities. According to DRP Executive Director Nikki Hindman, BENT Media “reached out to us with a really wonderful, well thought-out proposal, so we decided to give them a chance.”
“We’re hoping to get something that we can distribute to a broad audience, across the state and possibly nationally, that captures the energy, color, and possibilities of the downtown Rutland experience in a creative way,” Hindman said.
Filming will take place in the coming weeks, both during normal business hours and at Friday Night Live, September’s outdoor concert series on Center Street. The campaign will consist “at minimum” of “a couple of 30-second ads, possibly a one-minute ad if it makes sense, plus short five-second bursts and maybe some still material,” noted Ben Chiappinelli, who co-founded BENT Media early last year.
“What we’re really trying to do here is make sure that, when we finish with this downtown Rutland project, they’ve got the appropriate arsenal to attack social media with, or even if they decide to buy some airtime on TV, they’ll be the appropriate length and quality,” he explained.
Potential visitors to Rutland will likely begin to see the ads in “late September or early October,” according to Tom Benton, the other half of BENT Media. But he can’t say what, exactly, they’ll see.
“We go in with some themes in mind, but we may come out with different soundbites or different action,” he described. “This is very different than filming a commercial that someone’s written a script for, and then set up a shot for, and then redone the shot five or six times with an actor. This is a much more organic, spontaneous process.”
The commercials will aim to capture, in Benton’s words, “not just Rutland businesses but Rutland culture. We want it to feel like it you are having a conversation with someone who’s just come back from the best trip, and they want to tell you about it, but what if they could tell you about it in images, in moments?”
For Chiappinelli, the key is finding “things that romanticize, to some extent, the experience, but at the same time not being afraid to offset that with — I don’t want to say the dirt — but not over-polishing everything. ‘Authenticity’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot with these sorts of edits, and I think it’s appropriate because the audience today is savvy enough to know when you’re selling them something that doesn’t look real.”
A native of Springfield, Benton spoke of a personal connection to Rutland: his mother grew up in Fair Haven and later worked in Rutland City. “I think Rutland, when I was growing up, was a community that had been built on an older, early-to-mid-20th-century industrial version of Vermont that was fading and, like so many Vermont towns, including my hometown, they were really struggling to redefine themselves as the economy was shifting,” he observed.
“There’s a creative, colorful funkiness to Rutland that’s always been there, but that certainly wasn’t its image in the ‘50s when it was branded as the Marble City,” he went on. “I think that the biggest change that I’ve seen is pride. They’re proud of who they are; they’re proud of where they’re going and where they can go, and there’s just a fun, diverse color that I think came out less when I was a kid.”
Benton and Chiappinelli met while working in the office of the St. Albans Messenger and its sister newspapers. Before long, they’d struck out on their own, creating a firm that intends “to serve areas like Franklin County — or, to some extent, Rutland County — that maybe can’t quite afford the price point of a Chittenden County company,” as Chiapinelli put it.
So far, customers have included the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation and the Franklin County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s a lot of variety and a wide, wide breadth of what people can produce in video now,” Chiapinelli said. “The days of having to be in either Los Angeles or New York City to be involved in video production — the days of needing to put down tens of thousands of dollars in equipment — are over.”