Get to know Dan a bit better with our quick Q&A interview.
Hi, I’m Dan, and I’m the founder and creative director of Slow Clap.
What’s your role? What made you gravitate towards this craft?
I wear a lot of hats. Which I think is a theme of my career. I like to consider myself a “generalist” (as opposed to a “specialist”) and I also always tell the team that they too should think of themselves as generalists (albeit, with one or two specialties where they hold deep knowledge).
I suppose my formal roles are Executive Producer and Creative Director. I love overseeing the creative process, and guiding a group of creative folks to create something amazing. But I also love the logistics and budgetary side of things. In our field, these problem-solving tasks are sometimes just as creative as the “creative” side of things!
What’s your prior experience? What made you interested in founding Slow Clap as a company?
My “craft” background is in editing and post-production. Which I think is a good foundational skill set to have in video, in terms of storytelling and understanding what’s possible. But what editing doesn’t teach you is how to effectively communicate and collaborate with a diverse group of stakeholders and partners to bring a vision to life. I guess what led me out of editing and into the world of production was the constant thought in my head of “why didn’t they get this shot?” and “what on earth were they thinking?” And can I tell you, after a decade in production, I feel a lot more humble about it. Nothing ever goes as planned on set, and it’s always easier in hindsight. Which… again… is part of the fun of production! If you can’t handle uncertainty, don’t bother applying.
Jumping into production was one thing. Founding a company was a whole nother thing. Slow Clap started as a side project with my friend Katy Montgomery. We made a few short films and passion projects. Then I decided to leave my job and try to do Slow Clap as a real business thing.
At my old company, which was also a boutique production company like Slow Clap, we made lots of videos for tech companies, also like Slow Clap. But the work we made tended to be a bit more geared towards lucrative projects. Which, don’t get me wrong, is great, and smart business. But I wanted more out of my job. I wanted to feel like the work I was producing was making an impact, and I wanted the opportunity to tell stories that otherwise might not be told. So with Slow Clap, we’ve made it a priority since day one to always work with nonprofit clients at below-market rates (and, depending on our calendars, often well below market rates). You can see many of the videos we’ve made for Asian Law Caucus, SFILEN, the San Francisco Foundation, Artsy, and more to see some of our cause-based projects.
To me, the amazing part about getting to tell these stories is not just being able to contribute to social justice causes, or telling amazing, creative stories. It’s getting to see my team in action, working on these videos, and being so proud of these projects after we complete them. That is what Slow Clap is all about, coming together around a joint cause. And, yeah, also, making some lucrative tech videos to make sure we stay afloat!
Favorite Film? What am I watching?
I’m not really one for favorites. I tend to think something is good, bad, or really good.
Recently, I’ve seen examples of all three. Good: Black Bird. Bad: Everything’s Trash. Really Good: Luce. Oh, and actually recently I watched something really bad: You People. Lauren London needs to quit acting. Jonah Hill needs to reassess what the hell he’s doing with his life.
My hobbies for the last eight years have mostly just been my business… Before that, I wrote a lot. I even have a book of poetry published, as well as some poems and short stories in various journals.
These days, I’ve been getting back into tennis, which is great!
But mostly, I just enjoy hanging out with my wife, Rahel, and two dogs, Salty and Peppa.
Lastly, favorite project you’ve worked on?
I’ve been part of pretty much every Slow Clap project for the past eight years, and there’s too many to pick just one.
I will point to a few that I think best summarizes and achieves what I think we do best at Slow Clap, which is to tell authentic stories for brands and causes in a way that entertains and elicits an emotional response.
GitHub Future Builders – Optikey: This was part of a multi-video series about “Future Builders” we produced for GitHub. It documents some of the folks who are “building the future” using GitHub. I think these videos really were the culmination of a lot of hard work we did over the first four years of the company. I like to think of them as “the first time we actually got paid to do what we love to do.” These videos are similar to many of the stories we got to tell for our nonprofit clients, but we got to do it with a healthy budget and nice production values.
Built in Slack: Another great intersection of cause-based work with a client’s agenda at the center of the story. We got to document several nonprofit grassroots movements that were using Slack to make an impact during the pandemic. I love telling these stories about changemakers.
Adobe – Jessica Chou Spotlight: I’ve always loved telling stories about artists. We’ve done this for many years pro bono. But this video is probably the first time we were hired by a brand to tell an artist’s story. Another example of the powerful documentary-style storytelling Slow Clap excels at.