Gastown has much to be grateful for. The city started here. We have its oldest and most well preserved historic buildings. It is never dull. There’s life everywhere. Our restaurants are quite fine, the boutiques and galleries; inimitable and the coffee is great.
Gastown is like a mighty old redwood tree that has seen it all come and go, has changed a little each day and still somehow, remains the same. Within its open branches are the community that make up this little place of innovation. And perched up high is Martin Fisher – Founder, CEO and artist extraordinaire at Pink Buffalo Films on Water Street. He can see the world around him from the top of that tree and often he’ll fly away for a spell or two. But he always comes back. Because home is where the heart is and this Gastown local has a big one.
Tell me a little about how you came into this business and eventually settled into Gastown.
I came into film production by accident. I was in the media sales world and decided to work for myself. I didn’t know what I was going to do but I remember the cover on Time magazine near the end of 2006 and it featured the Person of the Year as ‘You’. Time’s avant-garde dedication was a result of user-generated content. YouTube was a year and a half old and the idea of creating professional corporate and business material to be broadcast on YouTube appealed to me, so I established ODPN (On Demand Production Network). I have been in Gastown for 16 years and my business has been rooted in the neighbourhood for 8 years. Gastown is definitely my home. I have lived all around the city and in the Lower Mainland and I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else. I live three blocks away from the studio so my commute is pretty great!
Your company has two arms – both a corporate side with ODPN and Pink Buffalo Films which focuses on TV, Commercial, Film and Branded Content. Which side was first established and how did they grow and evolve?
ODPN started off with YouTube production for companies only and that grew into people asking us to do their TV commercials. Eventually we created Pink Buffalo Films to cater to more creative projects and then came the evolution into increased production of film, television and documentaries. Two years ago we started True Calling – an initiative to help people figure out what they might want to do with their life and job, particularly when one is in transition with changing from one career to new one. We thought: “ What if we created episodes where people who love what they do, talk about it, how they got there and how they live?”. True Calling is now distributed in over 50 countries.
ODPN (On Demand Public Network) was born out of the notion that visual storytelling can truly create change. How has that happened in the work that ODPN has done?
In the beginning, we would dedicate a portion of our time to work on charitable projects. We would work with a number of different organizations whether it was a children’s hospital, non-profit or an organization in the Downtown Eastside. We always felt it was paramount to give back to our community. We found that video content was having a huge positive impact for these organizations and creating great exposure for the good these groups are doing. It has always been very important to us to work towards creating effective social change.
On your website there is a quote by JFK which reads “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” Do you see yourself as a non-conformist?
I think freedom is an essential pillar on which our company is built. When looking at why we do this work and why we left the places where used to work, it came down to the things we didn’t like about the way big companies were being run. For us, control seemed to be a central theme with people trying to squeeze the most out of everybody. We felt that didn’t work for us. Freedom in the workplace seems to be important these days. To have real balance in life and work, to be able to travel when the urge arises and not to be confined into a cubicle. We started this based on the idea of freedom and have now grown with a team of 30 people full-time.
What are some the most memorable projects that you have worked on?
I have been 2 kilometers underground in a mine, perched 1000’s of feet up on the North Slope in Alaska and all over the world shooting so it’s hard to think of one in particular. There is a project coming up of which I am really looking forward to. It is a virtual reality project in Haida Gwaii taking place this summer.
What is “story” to you?
Story serves us as a way of evoking emotion. Whether it leads us down a happy positive path or raises awareness about an issue, the story needs to be rooted in truth and a connection to the human condition. If you walk away and say: “Well…that was…interesting” then who cares and most likely it wasn’t a very well told story. It must be emotive and tell the truth and then you have a good, real and memorable story.
What do you like about doing business here in the neighbourhood?
I like doing business in Gastown because it is an extremely creative place. As well as a producer, I am also an artist and I am very inspired when I’m here in the neighbourhood. When I’m in town for a few weeks, I get really excited to leave Gastown but after having been in another country for a while, I then start to miss Gastown like crazy. I can’t ever see myself leaving and moving somewhere else. It’s just a highly creative environment with so many interesting people, businesses along and exciting things to explore. I love it!
Anything exciting that you’re working on right now?
Yes indeed. We have 3 movies coming out, a doc, a ton of commercial projects, we’re expanding our office and hiring more people. We have so many exciting projects coming up I don’t really know where to start.