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Gear Seven: Meet the Production Company Shifting the Limits of Tech and Creativity



Gear Seven’s founder Kirk Slawek and EP Ryan Atenhan tell LBB how their Nashville-based studio is changing the nature of content creation

Gear Seven: Meet the Production Company Shifting the Limits of Tech and Creativity

If you were seeking out a state-of-the-art production studio pushing the limits of tech and creativity, Nashville might not be the place you’d start looking. And yet, it’s precisely where your search would end. 

Gear Seven - alongside its sister companies Shift Dynamics and Arc Studios - is setting out to redefine production and test the limits of what’s possible in the creative world from the heart of the Tennessee capital. Whilst Gear Seven operates as a creative production studio, Shift Dynamics provides elite production service capabilities whilst Arc Studios exists to offer cutting-edge virtual production. A given project can tap into any combination of the three studios, adding up to a bespoke creative offering which, as its founders explain, is setting the company apart from the competition. 

“Shift Dynamics was created from our fascination with camera movement and what it does for the viewer”, explains founder and EP Kirk Slawek. “Arc Studios, meanwhile, was aligned with some existing technology and ground-breaking tech that was emerging during the pandemic. What’s fantastic is that, with Shift Dynamics and Arc Studios, we have the ability to arm other production teams to help their projects succeed and to ultimately bring these resources to Nashville and grow our community."

It all adds up to a unique, multi-disciplinary offering which is utterly distinct within the modern industry’s production landscape. To find out more about how the company works - and the creative work it’s model has brought to life - LBB’s Adam Bennett spoke to Kirk as well as EP Ryan Atenhan. 

Above: The artful music video for Emily Rowed’s Bloom was put together via Gear Seven’s production capabilities. 

Gears in Motion

“The nice thing about having those three brands is that we can help clients with production problem-solving with Shift Dynamics and Arc Studios, but we can also collect them all together when it’s a Gear Seven job”, explains Ryan. “If Gear Seven is working on a car commercial, for example, then we’re leaning into Shift Dynamics and their expertise to make that happen. On the other hand, if we’re working on a job remotely or something involving virtual production, Arc Studios can step up. It’s a really freeing creative approach."

It’s precisely that slick transition between creative and practical offerings which Kirk and Ryan believes will provide so much value for brands. “It means a client can call us and rest assured that we’re across the whole project, as opposed to needing to connect and liaise with all the various moving parts,” Ryan adds. 

Above: Gear Seven’s production network helped bring Defy The Odds to life, a short film recounting the true story of NASCAR driver Bill Lester - the first African American to compete professionally in the NASCAR sanctioned Grand-Am Series and the first African American to win a race.

Despite that, however, this is far from a ‘jack of all trades’ approach to the business. “Starting up Gear Seven ten years ago as a ‘one man band,’ I had to shoot, edit, direct, and be the DP of each project,” recalls Kirk. “But slowly, I was able to bring on other people as our  scope grew. Perhaps naively, I realised how much better our projects can be by bringing in people who are experts in their fields. Everytime we collaborated with a new director, producer, DP, editor, gaffer, you name it, our work invariably turned out better.”

As a result, the founder and EP now makes a virtue of tapping into as much expertise as possible across Gear Seven’s creative network. “We invariably lean on each other very heavily to bring our expertise to each part of our projects as they grow and scale”, Kirk continues. “We have always had a passion for innovation and learning, never content with where we’re at and always hungry for more. We believe that there is something we can learn on every project, honing our skills over the long term in every facet of production.” 

The result of this sprawling network of expertise and expansive production capabilities has been a slew of stellar creative work since Gear Seven was founded one decade ago. Yet there’s perhaps no project which best exemplifies the company’s unique offering quite like their work with Apple Music. 

Where We Started Radio

Above: Where We Started Radio is a series of interviews hosted by singer-songwriter Thomas Rhett in connection with his album of the same name. 

When the country star Thomas Rhett released his sixth album Where We Started earlier this year, he also created a podcast series breaking down the inspirations and themes behind his music. In order to promote the project, the streaming giant Apple Music enlisted the help of Gear Seven, along with its peerless production network. On this particular campaign, the company’s access to expertise in the virtual production space was essential. 

“Our project with Apple Music was a great collaboration between our brands and showcased the outcome of a lot of moving parts on all ends,” reflects Kirk. “It’s so powerful because we can move flawlessly through integrating many new technical challenges. Utilising virtual production through Arc Studios at this scale with a production company who has not worked in this space can be slow, time consuming, and a large learning curve - which can often lead to some unwelcome budget surprises. We can alleviate most, if not all, of these issues through our experience and our team.” 

It’s perhaps only natural, then, that a technically impressive and quintessentially modern campaign connected to one of country music’s biggest stars came out of Nashville through Gear Seven. 

Accordingly, the team are well aware of their environment’s creative reputation. “It’s actually a really robust city for production - I think a lot of people don’t realise how many resources we have here in town,” notes Ryan. “We also have access to a wide variety of location options here - including forests, mountainscapes, lakefronts and urban city environments. It’s a relaxed vibe and, with Tennessee being a right-to-work state, it’s great for providing flexibility for non-union productions.”

Above: Gear Seven’s work with Mitsubishi shows off the company’s automotive chops. 

For his part, Kirk strikes a note of agreement. “We love Nashville. The creative community and talent pool is untapped, full of super skilled teams and individuals that are on par with major markets”, he says. “We’ve seen a lot of growth in the types of productions that have chosen Nashville as a destination in the last few years, and certainly the growth the city has experienced has helped make that a reality.”

And so, as the production industry works through a period of change and innovation, the seamless and all-encompassing offering of Gear Seven might well have found its perfect moment. “Coming out of the pandemic, there’s been a shake-up in how people approach productions,” says Ryan. 

As a result of that shakeup, there’s an appetite to try new things which Gear Seven’s approach feels perfectly-placed to cater for. “I think we’re in a constant period of innovation and learning right now,” says Kirk. “I think it’s true to say that there is still a bit of a barrier to entry based on the unknown.”

Times, however, are changing. As Kirk notes, “new ideas and new technologies are becoming more commonplace all the time. So as those barriers get broken down, more people will be able to share in the benefits”. It’s a positive vision which, ultimately, rings true. After all, it’s underpinned Gear Seven’s success for the past ten years and counting." 

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Gear Seven, Thu, 16 Jun 2022 07:13:00 GMT