To find Patrick Pierson, you walk up a wooden staircase behind an old brick apartment building in northeast Minneapolis. A fat cat named Arkam, christened in honor of the insane asylum in Batman comics, is sprawled on a cushy couch.
In between the high ceilings and wooden floors of his otherwise Spartan abode, there’s a big glass desk where the dining room table should be. Pierson’s grayish-blue eyes leap between a large flat-screen TV mounted on the wall and two computer screens glowing atop the desk. The floor below the desk is littered with a dozen hard drives and image storage units.
This is where Pierson, one of the hottest freelance film directors in the Twin Cities advertising world, spends 70 hours a week alone — editing video ads, tweaking film projects and layering in music for spots aimed at selling everything from Red Wing Shoes to Purina pet chow.
It’s also where the Costa Rican government is funneling $300,000 to promote its beaches, coffee, frogs, cowboys and hummingbirds.
It all started when Pierson spent some vacation time last year in the Central American nation, shooting plenty of video — something he’s done since he was a teenager.
Born in Minneapolis, he spent a chunk of his childhood living in England. His mother is from Liverpool and they returned to Minnesota when he was 16. Pierson studied theater and dabbled in college classes that struck his curiosity, from University of Minnesota to Minneapolis Community Technical College to Anoka Ramsey Community College.
“I went where my brain could flutter and I didn’t end up with a degree, because it was all rather random.”
He posted a short video of his Costa Rican trip, set to music on vimeo.com — a sharing site — and the images quickly rattled off some 140,000 hits. “It was like a firecracker out of nowhere.”
Comments attached from Costa Ricans said, in essence, “they wanted the world to see their country through Patrick’s eyes,” said Mark Setterholm, president of Drive Thru Productions in Minneapolis. He connected Pierson with an Atlanta-based ad agency, 22squared, which held a contract with the Costa Rican travel bureau.
Next thing Pierson knew, he was assembling a nine-person crew with fancy cameras, some for super slow-motion, one for underwater action and another for aerial shots controlled by a hand-held remote control.
They spent four weeks last fall in Costa Rica, taking three-hour boat rides to shoot indigenous people in colorful masks, exotic frogs, coffee harvesting and palatial architecture. He went home with 25 terabytes (translation: plenty) of video and edited and culled it down to one-minute spots in his Minneapolis apartment.
“It was serendipitous how a bunch of gringos from Minnesota wound up on this project,” he said. “I was hellbent on capturing the culture and the people.”
The results will soon be launched in a massive campaign, including pre-movie screenings in theaters. To see the spots, go to idbs.us/737.
“Patrick is a great storyteller,” said Setterholm. “He has an unusual talent for making people accessible.”