- Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017
If you loved them individually, they’ll be better together. That’s the thinking behind the new Chicago and L.A.-based production company Tessa Films, which is being launched by veteran executive producers Lisa Masseur and Reid Brody.
Masseur has been a fixture on the Chicago production scene for years, most recently as the Executive Producer at ONE at Optimus, the production division of the post production company Optimus. Prior to that she was EP at Radar Studios, a hybrid production and post studio that also offered visual effects, and before that an EP at Ebel Productions. A native of upstate New York, she moved to Chicago in 1992 and began working initially in features and TV before segueing into commercial production.
Brody is a visionary entrepreneur known for building several successful post production brands, most notably Filmworkers Club. Under his leadership that company grew from a single office in Chicago to three offices nationwide. Brody has also been an investor and co-founder of several companies working in the digital media and production spheres, and is known for his astute read of market conditions and his ability to recognize and nurture talent.
Tessa Films opens with a directorial roster that includes Sam Macon, Tim Mason and Duncan Wolfe, all of whom were previously with Masseur at ONE. Also on the Tessa roster is Uptime, a stop-motion collective led by Macon.
At Tessa, Masseur will focus on the live action side of the company, while Brody will head up post production. And while the two have never worked together in this fashion, they’ve known each other for almost 20 years. Masseur was a frequent client at Filmworkers over the years, where the two got to know and respect each other.
For Masseur, the decision to launch Tessa felt like the right move for the times, when clients are looking for increased efficiency and the prospect of packaging production with post, when appropriate, has growing appeal. For Brody, it represented an opportunity to get back in the game after his post-Filmworkers non-compete had expired.
“I was looking to re-engage in a way that makes sense in terms of the current state of the business,” Brody notes, “and am honored to be working with Lisa as we apply our skills to the new models of production and post production. We have a lot of solutions to offer clients. My career has primarily been in the post production areas of color, VFX and motion graphics, so I’m thrilled to be playing in this new arena with Lisa, working closely with a crop of talented young filmmakers.”
Adds Masseur, “The business continues to evolve, and I wanted to create a company that would continue to produce stand-out work while adjusting to the new pressures and business realities of today. It’s no secret clients are longing for more and more content on increasingly limited budgets, but the directors I work with continue to put their hearts and souls into everything they shoot. Being nimbler as a company will allow us to put more money on the screen, where it belongs.
When it comes to combing production with post, Brody points out that Tessa has “a national network of editors and post production offerings located in key cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas.” Masseur adds, “We’re approaching post like you’d approach production, assembling the best team to meet the needs of each job. I honestly think our method for packaging jobs will be a much better solution, both for our directors and our clients.”
The directors on the Tessa Films roster have worked with Masseur for years, and see her as both a champion of their work and a problem-solver when it comes to providing clients with the highest quality results for each job. “Under Lisa and Reid, I see Tessa as a true creative home for filmmakers, agency creatives, and clients,” says Macon. “Our mantra will be all about collaboration and making excellent work.”
A versatile filmmaker whose work runs the gamut from comedy to documentary, real people and music videos, Macon brings an art director’s background to his work, regardless of genre. His reel includes the heartwarming “Pay with Lovin’” campaign for McDonald’s, as well as lighthearted spots for Johnsonville and stylized visual spots for Fifth Third Bank. His documentary feature film, “Sign Painters,” is a lighthearted study in the eccentricities of artists who craft hand-painted signs for a living.
Mason is an actor, writer and director with deep roots in Chicago’s storied improv community. A veteran of Chicago's Second City Mainstage, his brand of grounded, relatable comedy has often been featured in commercials, onstage and online. Indeed, he met Masseur originally through his work in front of the camera, not behind. His short film about voiceover actors, “No Other Way To Say It,” was produced with Masseur’s help and has played in over 20 film festivals worldwide in 2017, winning the Jury Award for Best Narrative Short at the Slamdance Film Festival, among other honors.
Wolfe is a young filmmaker with whom Masseur began working a few years back. A former White House intern, he spent a year working on commercial projects before being tapped by the Obama administration as a Digital Content Strategist, tasked with documenting the 44th president’s final year in office. A specialist at capturing genuine moments of emotion and honestly, his advertising projects include commercials and short films for clients such as Toyota, Amazon, Humana, Lincoln Motor Company and Invesco.
Uptime is a collective of filmmakers led by Macon that works in the stop-motion genre. Their work for brands like Skil, McDonald’s and Brach’s is colorful, fast-paced and highly visual.
Masseur says the decision to name the company Tessa Films – versus Tessa Content or Tessa Media – was deliberate: “In spite of all the changes that have taken place in our industry, we still view creating work for brands as an art form. We make short films – that’s how we look at it. Our directors put as much passion and energy into their work for brands as they do their entertainment and personal projects.”
The choice of the name Tessa itself is telling, Brody adds: “We thought of many identities for the company, and the idea of having a strong woman’s name came to the forefront. And the fact that it’s ‘asset’ spelled in reverse sealed the deal for us. We hope to become your top creative solution and an asset to your team.”