By Ben Sanchez
As the season changes, the leaves flutter in the wind across downtown Stockton. The air surrounding us shifts as we move in a different direction this month. The last episode with our influencer, Renee Icasiano, comes to an end on the vlog. My original pitch of 7 episodes for a vlog with an influencer was successful only to a point. Renee was only going to be a part of 4 episodes before we moved in a different direction with our final 3 episodes.
Hopefully, all of you have enjoyed what we put together over the summer. There was a lot of great talent involved creating this project. We did some fine tuning to our introduction and the flow of episodes synced up to create new content for downtown. I picked music that would be copyright friendly (Thanks Otis McDonald!), but also encompass the vibe of what we were looking for with the vlog. In each episode, not only did we highlight small businesses in downtown, we got to meet new people building something great in our city. Before we say goodbye, I want to give you some ‘behind the scenes’ and share a brief story with you about Renee.
Renee was always my first choice as an influencer because she lived in Stockton, built a great rapport in the community, and continues to be a positive influence with her brand. She checked a lot of the boxes I was looking for not because of her experience in Stockton, but her familiarity in front of the camera as a performer.
Renee and I initially met back in 2009 at University of the Pacific in Communication. Our mutual, late friend, Angela Karim, made the introduction, but we never did cross paths again until 2017. Renee moved on and served in the Army for 4 years right after we met in 2009.
Around 2017, I assisted my artist friend at a local event in downtown Stockton. The event promoted local artists, musicians, and small businesses. One of the performers on stage was Renee. I saw this woman in heels wearing an elegant outfit step onto the stage at Channel Brew Company to perform music. I recognized her voice during the introduction and to my surprise, she started performing hip hop.
After her performance, she purchased some art from my friend and I went to reintroduce myself. Since then, we reconnected and worked on several projects together throughout the Stockton area.
With an elegance and professionalism that is unmatched in the 209, she required little direction from me on how to approach the vlog. She understood the vision of where we wanted to take each episode. I valued her creative input when we reviewed content, and we often had great synergy on the places we wanted to visit throughout our 4 episodes together.
I brought along a great group of people on this journey. Each of them contributed to what you see on YouTube. This was not a project developed solely by one person. There were roadblocks and challenges we met along the way, but we slowly overcame them in each episode.
Not only do we bid adieu to Renee, but we also say sayonara to Jason Millner.
Jason was the ‘man behind the cam.’ My professor told me once in my studies that certain individuals have the eye for camera work.
You can’t teach it. You either have it or you don’t.
I can definitely tell you after working with a few skilled videographers that Jason has ‘the eye’ for it.
The shift in marketing this past Spring left Jason wondering what type of work the department would produce moving forward.
I still laugh when we had our initial conversation about pitching the vlog, developing reels, and fine tuning the Doorways to Downtown episodes. He told me he thought he would have to ‘carry the new guy’ over the summer.
With only five months of working together, I can say it was an honor to work with Jason on this project. I am not the only one that can say that either.
Several people downtown who got to know Jason and work with him can see the skill and passion he brings to each video project. Many business owners recognized his talent and hired him to help their business. Jason knew the vision of what we were trying to achieve with the vlog and loved helping small business thrive in downtown Stockton.
While he prepares for his next journey, I am excited to see where the camera will take him. He has incredible potential to hone his craft and continue visual storytelling.
For episode 4, I can say it was full of surprises and experiences that happened last minute. Each episode had unexpected turns and natural conversations.
I never scripted anything (Napkin notes).
I never scheduled half of those people to appear in our episodes.
When Renee asked one of the workers at the Waterfront about a new business opening in September, we had no idea the owner was available to chat with us about the business.
We got curious.
We told the waitress about how great our food tasted at Yasoo Yani, 10 minutes later the owner drops by our table to explain the method of making baklava.
I always pitch “Be curious” to students when I do guest speaking for colleges in Stockton and Sacramento. Out of the ten fundamentals of public relations, curiosity is always my number 1. It opens up dialogue with people. If we didn’t ask those questions or inquire about something specific, how would we know? How would we hear their story? Storytelling is a key component in any form of content you create with a brand. It unfolds naturally in the vlog. I hope we were able to capture that and convey it to you in our content.
As the director/producer, I have to coordinate schedules and dates for the places we visit. What happens along the way is magic. Who could we meet? What can we experience in that episode?
I do a lot of improvisation. I might give a general idea of where to shoot it or what to look for, but everything just happens when it needs to. I have ideas for bits, but when we all get together some unexpected event unfolds for us. We brought along friends who felt comfortable with us. I think that is important. How can we get the best story out of you if you feel uncomfortable? We ran into a lot of people who just wanted to talk with us. I bet with all the b-roll, we probably could give you more than 7 episodes! For everyone who popped up in the first 4 episodes, thank you! This project would not be where it is now without some of you agreeing to be on camera.
With that said, I also want to thank Jason and Renee. Both were a huge part in why the vlog was successful! I hope you can take these vlog experiences with you and tell people about it. Share it with those people who don’t know about Stockton and continue to create positive content in future projects.