For this month’s In Focus Interview, we are proud to feature creative production studio, Stept Studios. A strong name of influence within the advertising community, Stept creates unique campaigns, commercials, and branded content for agencies, platforms, and brands with unmatched entertainment value. If their past work or list of previous clients leaves any room for doubt to their potential, it is quickly and easily mangled by an impressive roster of award-winning directors, including the double cinematographer+director threat Dana Romanoff, known for leading stunning campaigns for Google, Budweiser, and Best Buy (to name a few), as well as the Gold Telly Award Winner, Jess Colquhoun, famously credited with the fantastic visuals of the Times Up Foundation PSA in 2020, among others! As their website claims, Stept Studios prides itself on being the home the next generation of storytellers, working across commercial and documentary genres and we couldn’t agree more.
Among the list of stirring directors at Stept Studios, is CEO and Founder, Nick Martini.
Nick fell in love with filmmaking while skiing professionally in remote corners of the globe. After a series of injuries, he quickly ended up behind the camera and found his true calling; Directing. Bringing the vision and fearlessness further into film production, he opened Stept Studios alongside his brother Alex Martini and best friend Cam Riley who were also professional skiers with the mission to tell stories that explore what it means to be human, to inspire, and to influence. In 2022, Nick, Alex and Cam have expanded on Stept’s offerings of creative and production to include post production arm, Lockt Editorial and a development department. Vault Rentals, their cinema gear rental company has also expanded to include a facility and studio.
We caught up with Nick to discuss Stept’s massive and unexpected growth over the last year, how their creative ambitions are driving their craft forward into a post-pandemic industry, and what new technologies they are utilizing to advance their work to the next level.
Check our our In Focus Interview with Nick on Stept Studios below!
What does the creative process look like at Stept Studios? Does it differ from project to project? If so, how?
Creative is at the heart of everything we do at Stept. Stept Studios consists of three divisions; Creative, Production, and Post. Our work with brand partners begins with developing the creative and then overseeing the project through final delivery. Our projects with ad agencies typically land with creative concepts in place and we manage production and/or post. Our post division, Lockt Editorial, services Stept’s projects, but also works with countless other production companies to provide support across editorial, visual effects, and sound.
You’ve experienced such a tremendous amount of growth over the past year. Can you tell me a bit about what that growth looks like? Has scaling up changed your strategy for business?
It’s been a wild ride for the past few years. The company that was originally based in the founders’ apartment, has now grown to a family of almost 80 full time staff in LA and Jackson. We’ve evolved our approach as we have scaled adding new capabilities and creative talent – we’re always looking for new ways to meet the needs of our clients. And despite our recent growth, we’ve been fortunate to keep the same culture and obsession with the craft. It’s still as strong as it was when we got started, it’s a big priority. The new resources at Stept have also allowed us to work with more types of partners, and more types of content. We used to partner primarily with agencies and brands, but now we also work with publishers, movie studios, streamers, and other production companies. We also continue to explore new formats outside of commercials – anything from 15s social ads, to 90 minute feature films.
What does Stept believe are the most important qualities to have on a creative team? Has this changed as you’ve scaled?
We like our creative team and directors to think big, and to not be afraid to push the vision as far as it can go. We have a highly collaborative team across Stept that can take that creative vision and just as creatively work together to figure out how to execute it with our production and post capabilities. We know it’s a really crowded space out there, so we want our work to stand out, and show how we can execute creatively as well.
Has your work structure had to change given the volatility of the industry due to coronavirus? (Has your process had to change due to covid-19 restrictions?)
The first couple months were difficult for everyone, including Stept. We were very proactive in being solution-oriented with our partners, and we came up with new ways to get them the marketing assets they needed. In the early days, we focused a lot on repurposing existing assets, creating new content digitally with CGI and animation, and exploring the limits of remote and virtual production. We were able to rebound quite fast, and ended up growing our team and revenue over 100% during the pandemic.
What are the creative goals for Stept Studios in 2022?
We want to continue working with our directors to tell stories that are impactful to the audience – regardless of where and how the stories live. In addition to our commercial work, longer form entertainment projects will be a big priority for us. It’s been great to see the interest in the work we are doing so far.
We are also really excited to embrace new technologies to create visual work that feels fresh and new. With the advent of XR stages, UnReal Engine, camera tech and even the metaverse, we are now able to build across worlds, environments and augmented practical spaces. It’s a really exciting time for the industry and Stept Studios.
What are you looking forward to this year? Project wise, industry wise, etc.
We see lots of opportunities in the next year to build on our creative vision and continue to look at new technologies that expand our capabilities. On the commercial side, we are really excited to see many of our directors break into top-tier opportunities and expand Stept’s work with an even deeper roster of agencies in the US and internationally. Our new Entertainment Division will be a top priority for us in 2022 and beyond. We have a passion for and are deeply rooted in authentic storytelling and we want to find ways with brand partners, media companies and platforms to bring those to life.
What does winning a Telly Award mean to your team?
The Telly Awards have always been special to the Stept team, and we have been participating for years in the show. There is nothing quite like that feeling when the physical awards arrive at the office and we get to share that and celebrate with the team that brought those projects to life. It’s a real honor.
If you could give advice to creatives today, what would it be?
So many people will tell you there is a “right” way to do it, because that’s how all successful people in the industry have always done it. Do your best to not listen to that voice – it’s alright to make up your own approach and follow your gut. The world needs more disruptors who bring something new to the table.