What’s Cooking at Thornberg & Forester? Produce!
Manhattan-Based Design and Production Company Gets in the Content Kitchen with Cooking Channel
FIve-year-old Manhattan creative studio Thornberg & Forester is best known for its design and graphics work, but later this year the company plans to launch a full-on entertainment division. T&F's ambitions in live-action production became apparent with the appearance of Produce!, a new series of short videos all about different types of produce — garlic, kale, broccoli, squash, and more — created for the Cooking Channel. T&F pitched a delicious treatment, based on an idea from Cooking Channel executive producer Chris Vivion, and got the greenlight to produce 10 three-minute episodes. The results are fast-moving and engaging. They get their kick from T&F's zesty imagery, tangy typefaces, and engaging, enticing, and sometimes absurd approach to cooking concepts.
Here's a promo T&F created to showcase its work on the series.
Thornberg & Forester shot the program at Cooking Channel sibling Food Network's facilities in New York City, which gave them access to a food-oriented behind-the-scenes infrastructure. "We shot it over two days, with over 140 set-ups," recalls series director Justin Meredith, creative director and a co-founder of T&F. "We worked with a culinary expert and producer [Krista Ruane], and she coordinated the flow between the Food Network kitchen and the shoot. It was like, 'I need a duck with a pomegranate reduction,' and all of a sudden she would have it. It ran so smoothly. And she helped us verify and sort out so many facts that let our weird ideas work."
T&F shot the episodes mainly using Sony F3 cameras equipped with Angenieux lenses, though the overhead camera was a Canon 5D Mark II. The show was cut on Final Cut Pro, and graphics and design work was handled in T&F's usual toolbox — a little bit of Maxon Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects, and a whole lot of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
T&F's ability to meld creative imagery with a storytelling approach to the different types of produce featured appealed to the Cooking Channel. "They thought the produce guide would be kind of cool, but they didn't know how to make it exciting," Meredith says. "That's where we came in. Our history in the graphic and design world expands our palette. A production company might say, 'We'll do a live-action show with graphics,' but the graphics may be an afterthought. For us, the graphics are in our DNA."
Meredith says the key to successful execution of the program was a lot of organization and "front-end thinking." The first order of business was to devise certain formulas that dictated how the show would work. With that safely in place, more opportunities emerges to move in different creative directions. "We had to have a system," Meredith explains. "There were 10 episodes, so we had to create between 10 and 15 minutes of animation and design. We built an illustration library and toolkit for the type and color palette and base animations, then expanded them and customized them per situation. We mapped out the type system and built a visual style that we sent to Cooking Channel, but the process was very organic and the feedback was very positive.
"We thought, 'Let's see how far we can push this. The only thing they can say is no.'"
With Produce! under its belt, T&F is looking to create a more formalized production entity later this year. "We're starting an entertainment division that will leverage all the content we've done in the past," Meredith says. "Our work with the Cooking Channel proves we can do an episodic show. People think of us first as a graphics company, which is awesome. But we're serious about pushing into the content space."
T&F Executive Producer
Head of Production