This article first appeared in SOCALshowbiz.com.OCS: Why did you create Twin Oaks Communications?
John W. Coleman: I wanted to bring my three businesses, corporate communications, TV program production and my personal services, together to be able to offer clients a broader range of services under one roof. It made more sense for my clients to have everything under one roof because they often employed me for more than one aspect of what I offer..
OCS: What is Twin Oaks' operating philosophy?
John W. Coleman: A few principles guide us. First, we listen. Carefully. It's not uncommon for a client to not have clearly identified the core of the problem they want solved. Even if they have, listening and good dialogue help us establish appropriate solutions quickly. There really ought to be courses and some kind of award for effective listening. It's that important. We also bring creative flexibility to every project. There's often more than one way to solve a problem and we want to make sure our clients get one that is not only effective but appropriate for who they are. Finally, we operate with the attitude that every job we do is the most important job we will ever do.
OCS: With your extensive background in broadcast television, I would guess the TV program side of your business came first. What caused you to expand?
John W. Coleman: The other two were natural outgrowths of my experience in television, which is quite broad. I've always made myself available on a freelance basis. Beyond my services as a producer, director and writer I found people needed my knowledge of content development, planning, marketing, distribution, etc. My media consulting led me into interactive television which has led to more consulting.
OCS: And your business communications services, is that video services?
John W. Coleman: It is mostly, yes, but not exclusively. Years ago I did a weekly TV series called Performance Plus aimed at automotive enthusiasts. It was one of the first, if not the first, magazine shows that built stories around sponsor's products or services. They were all soft-sell informational features just like the paper automotive magazines which car enthusiasts have poured-over for ages. Besides being ground-breaking, the series was very successful and ran for seven years. Happily, our sponsors needed even more: videos for trade shows, in-store marketing, internal communications, public relations, corporate history, TV and radio spots, etc. I had done commercials and corporate films prior to that but Performance Plus was the impetus that turned it into a regular business for me. Since then our corporate media services have expanded and adapted to marketing trends, and the internet. We create corporate events, produce company newsletters, provide online content and more. Of course, it all depends on the client's needs and goals.
OCS: What are some of your bigger productions?
John W. Coleman: Well, on the corporate communications side, we helped produce an employee meeting for a large international manufacturer not too long ago. They had booked a tent to hold the 1200 local employees but wanted to reach their folks in offices around the world. We provided the creative direction and facilities to capture it, stream live on to the Internet and archive it for future use. Besides bringing in a complete crew, remote truck with 4 cameras and coordinating lighting and sound for the physical event (as well as the TV Production), we helped create the whole look and feel. Without getting into the content which the executives were going to present, we formatted the staging and presentations into a cohesive program. We added music, entertainment and produced a number of videos which played on two large screens. We even got into creating corporate-pride gift premiums for the employees. You might say we turned a lecture into a pep rally. On the television side, I've produced and/or directed over a thousand hours of programming of every kind, including live events, entertainment and sports which tend to be large productions and often unique. One example I'm proud of is the Monterey Historic Automobile Races which aired on Speed Channel. We had a 15 year run producing TV coverage of that annual event at the 2.2+ mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Over the years we generated a variety of programs from it: long-form documentaries; 60 minute event coverage; numerous 30 minute individual races; even seven hours of live-via satellite over a two-day period. Capturing not only the hundreds of cars racing on a 2 mile track, but the pageantry and the people takes a lot of everything: technology including literally miles of camera cable, technicians, talent, and production staff! On average, 17 cameras were deployed. We would approach it like a small army going on bivouac. But all the logistics and technology had to serve the story. The story of that event is one of competition, living history and dedication to preserving historic race cars, many of them museum quality. When you can keep a gig for 15 years you know you've done a good job.
OCS: How small a project will you take on?
John W. Coleman: There is no project too small or too big. I've worked with many small companies who don't have media experience, don't have an outside agency or other support and are not really sure of the best solution—they only know their goal. Those are some the companies that benefit most from my extensive background. Sometimes small projects can provide a big solution. But it all begins with listening to the client. Carefully.
OCS: What are you working on now?
John W. Coleman: Twin Oaks continues to serve corporate clients on a regular schedule and of course we are always looking to assist any business that needs effective communication media of any sort. I also have two television series in various stages of development. One is a documentary, the other an informational series. Unfortunately I can't get into details at this time. But something exciting which I can talk about is creation of a new website for the automotive performance enthusiast. We're building it around the original episodes of Performance Plus. Some partners and I have owned the rights to the Performance Plus shows for many years. We determined now is the right time to take them off the shelf. The shows ran from 1983 to 89 and featured many of the big names in racing and automotive technology of the era. Interestingly enough most of the tech and all of the vehicles are still relevant. Of course, there is also a large nostalgia factor at play as well. But we're taking an interactive community approach so it's a resource for anyone who likes cars, performance and racing—then or now. Someone recently said that looking at the old episodes of Performance Plus is like watching Yankee Workshop for the automotive set. The Performance Plus website is being built as we speak and will go into beta this spring. We'll let you know when it's ready to unveil to the public so OCShowbiz can help spread the word.
OCS: We'll be happy to do that! One last question. Your resume includes experience teaching college level TV, radio, film and new media courses. Any advice for someone wanting to break into the business?
John W. Coleman: I've been an adjunct professor, that's academic-speak for part timer, at colleges in New York and California as well as a guest lecturer on and off for more than 25 years. In that time a great deal has changed in all the media industries, not the least of which is that it's now pretty much one industry, or darn close to it. But my advice hasn't changed. It sounds so generic but, like human nature and most lasting truths, it's timeless. First, do what you love. Second, never quit—don't ever give up on your dreams. Third, plan on being an expert at something, striving to be among the best. And finally, collaborate, make friends, network and pay it forward.