The natural (normal) progression is that we finish high school, go off to college, finish college then get a job in our field and so on. Some would say that’s the way things are supposed to be done.
Ask Christopher Bookman or Dylan Walker that and they will generally agree with you, even though they did things quite differently. These two best friends since 2nd grade went off to SFA together. They both had some experience in theater and both had a strong desire to fulfill the creative urges lurking inside them. That resulted in Bookman doing something very risky, spending a sizable amount of his college loan money on a video camera.
After using their inexpensive handycam to make videos with their friends, they both got hooked on the process of creating videos. It was about that time that they took the leap to purchase a professional camera and discovered Tongal.com, a web site where advertisers seek out commercial video producers using a contest model.
Once the new camera arrived, the two friends set out to use it to make money, and that they did. They won first prize in the first two contests they entered, getting them off to a great start. From that point forward, they have scheduled all of their classes together and when they are not in school or studying, they are working on writing, filming and editing commercials for companies like Welch’s, SanDisk, Pringles, Oscar Mayer, LEGO and lots more national brands.
Most of the commercials are shot in the Mineola area. The guys are from this area and use primarily local people in their commercials.
“Well that all sounds good, but how can they make a living at this,” you might ask. According to their Tongal profile, in the past three years the duo has earned $108,426.25 as of the time of this publication, with each year growing exponentially over the previous year.
Bookman and Walker have developed a style and a method that is working for them. The style is comedy with a hip-hop flair and the method is that Walker writes the commercials and does most of the pre-production work, the two of them direct the shoots and Bookman does the editing and most of the post-production. Usually, by the time Bookman is working on wrapping up a project, Walker has started another one, keeping the work flow rolling.
The two are currently attending UNT and pursuing degrees in Radio, Film & Television. Admittedly, they hope to never need the degree, but they realize that their current run may not last forever and are preparing for a day when that “normal” scenario described at the beginning of this article may become reality.
Their company, SnapBrothers Productions, is currently in the top 5 earning companies on Tongal, with all of their competitors being Los Angeles based, large, production companies with huge amounts of resources. As it has for millions of people all over the world, the internet has opened many doors for these two and allowed them to use their creativity and ability to market themselves to compete evenly with other production companies with a lot more money and other resources than they have.
These days, SnapBrothers mostly competes on an invitation basis where they are assured of a pay day. They still do some “wild card” work where they produce commercials with their own money and resources with no promise of any payment. Even considering the wild card work they do, they still earn a cash prize in about 75% of the contests they enter.
When asked who their influence was, they both point to The Lonely Island, a group of Saturday Night Live performers who produce funny short films such as “On a Boat.” When asked who they need to thank, the two said the list is far too long, but one name came to mind. Carol Leos is a friend and community theater performer who lives in Lindale. These guys both say that she has been a huge help to them in many, many ways. Still, they would like to thank anyone who has ever helped them, worked with them, taught them or in any other way influenced them along the way.
Of course their success has come with a few moments that didn’t feel so great. They look back and laugh about their Chips-Ahoy commercial that they thought was the best work they would ever do. The commercial was not selected and received no award at all. The inverse could be said for other projects where, even though they gave it their best effort, they were not completely happy with the results, yet the commercial not only was awarded payment but highly praised by the advertiser. This is the nature of being an entrepreneur and the sole reason that one should never give up. Sometimes we just don’t know what will hit and what will not.
In a nutshell, these two young men, Bookman (24) and Walker (23), are on top of the world because they are loving what they do. They never dreamed that they would be able to make a living producing videos, much less getting national recognition while doing it.