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A word with Drew and Rhea Allen of Peppershock Media

Peppershock croppedDrew and Rhea Allen started their advertising and film production company, Peppershock Media, in 2003 when the two were newly minted graduates who had returned to Idaho after a stint in Seattle.

Peppershock – a name loosely modeled on Rhea Allen’s maiden name, Peppersack – provides a host of media and marketing services to companies in Idaho and beyond, such as video production, web design, social media management, photography, and graphic design. Much of this work takes place at the company’s building in Nampa. Peppershock has 10 employees and two to three interns at any time.

Peppershock is almost finished with its first feature film, about the Idaho wine industry. While the film is still in its final editing stages, the work in progress has been screened in Boise.

Idaho Business Review spent some time talking with Rhea Allen, the president and CEO and an innovative marketing consultant, and Drew Allen, the co-owner and creative director, about the ins and outs of the film production business. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you come to create Peppershock?

Rhea Allen: We both grew up around here and met while working at Channel 12. I got an undergraduate degree at Boise State University, in mass communication and business management and was working on my master’s in marketing and entrepreneurship. Drew and I moved to Seattle together and we got a lot of big city experience in Seattle. I worked at Northwest Cable News, and moved to the Fox affiliate there. Drew was going to the Art Institute of Seattle learning video production. He worked for a number of top agencies in Seattle.

We decided that if we wanted to have a successful business we wanted to move back to where we knew people and not be in an industry of 25 –year –plus veterans. We would have been a little fish breaking into that market. In 2003, we did a market analysis, and there were only a handful of competitors in Idaho. We did a lot of pro bono work to let people know we were here, show off our capabilities, and start getting our name out there.

Nowadays, how much of your work involves filmmaking?

Rhea Allen: Most of our time is spent doing the marketing and advertising and commercial video production and commercial design. But a portion of our time is saved for passion projects, 10 or 15 percent. The corporate work definitely pays the bills.

Where does the Idaho wine documentary fit into this?

Rhea Allen: One of the goals we set two years ago was to start an entertainment division of Peppershock and create a feature-length documentary or just feature-length film. Now we’ve produced our own documentary about Idaho wine. I wanted to learn more about what it means to enjoy wine. Being an entrepreneur is in my blood, and I have an agricultural background, and the wine industry is really growing. They’ve gone from 20 to over 50 wineries.  I wanted to tell the story of what it takes to go into grapes and creating wine, and then what it means to enjoy it, and let people understand the hard work and the passion.

Drew Allen: It took a year of planning and talking to people and getting the interest, and visiting wineries to get ideas. Then it took a little over a year to shoot it all. The story tells the whole season. Plus we traveled all over the state. And we’ve been editing for about six months. So we’re going to take a break after this from extracurricular projects.

We asked for contributions, and people pitched in 25 bucks, 50 bucks, someone gave us $1,000, just because they want to support the industry. We’re going to enter it in film festivals, and film festivals often will have cash prizes for films that win. And then we’re hoping to retail it with DVDs and Blu-Ray. We are selling them on our site, and we’ve been talking with Costco about possibly getting some distribution through them.

How did you get Oracle as a client? Who else do you work for?

Drew Allen: It was through a relationship, with one person who used to work at Micron. We had done work with Micron through him, and then he moved to Boston to work for Oracle and recommended us.

Rhea Allen: We also do a lot of work for state agencies like the Idaho Department of Education. We’ve done work for Clickbank, for the restaurant Dish, and for Three Horse Ranch. We’re the agency of record for Idaho Stampede Basketball. We’re going to do work for Chandler’s Steakhouse.

The times are changing fast in video. Nowadays, most people can shoot video on their phones. How does this change the work you do?

Drew Allen: The iPhone has changed things a little bit, but not much. Yes, the technology is much more available and affordable, but the technique and the creative thoughts and all of that can’t be bought, I guess. We still have value in having the techniques and the professionalism.

We encourage people to use video content, and they can’t always pay us to do it, so it’s great if they can send little messages to their clients and shoot it themselves with an iPhone. We have given some of our clients tips on shooting video, like use a tripod or set it up on a desk so it’s not shaky, make sure you’re close enough to the phone so the audio is good. That kind of thing has a place. But where we’re doing more corporate sales video and commercials and training and that kind of stuff, I don’t recommend doing those on a cellphone.

What other changes are affecting your business?

Rhea Allen: There are a lot of digital delivery systems that enable people to track how many times something has been viewed and what the results are. We have so many tools to show if our efforts are working or not, and if people are being entertained or educated. The analysis tools have really created more refinement. If something’s not working, you can make it better.

What’s next?

Rhea Allen: We did a movie shoot with Harrison Ford in McCall, a documentary where he was a backcountry pilot. We brought in helicopter pilots from two different places, we hired people here, we had a hotel stay, we had crew, we rented cargo vans. It was an economic boost to that little area. For us it was amazing to be able to work with someone like him, and I’d love to see more opportunities like that happen.

Drew Allen: We are growing; we just hired another business development person. There’s definitely still more work to be had here, but we’re actually looking to expand a little beyond the valley and the state. We have clients around Idaho because of the state agencies we work with. And because of our Oracle relationship we’ve figured out ways to work remotely easily. We figure we can work for anybody anywhere. We’ve done a little prospecting in the Spokane area, Seattle, and Montana. We’re just kind of reaching out to businesses that we think we would like to work for that look like fun companies, that understand the importance of marketing.


About Anne Wallace Allen

Anne Wallace Allen is the editor of the Idaho Business Review.