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How Cinema Mercantile gets to the final cut faster

Mike Collins

November 30, 2015

Cinema Mercantile logoCinema Mercantile is a New York City-based video production company. Founder Mike Collins talks to us about creating cinematic portraits and how Hightail helps him get to the final cut faster than ever.

I’m a director and cinematographer based out of NYC
My producer Rich D’Elia and I run Cinema Mercantile, an award-winning documentary film collective. We craft bespoke motion pictures that tell stories about people and their passions – what we like to call the intersection of passion and commerce.

We spent five months shooting at a motorcycle café
While producing short films for a fashion and motorcycle lifestyle site called Whiskey Grade, a friend told us that we should look at a Brooklyn store called Jane Motorcycles. We became friends with those guys so when they decided to move their shop to a bigger space, they hired us to document the process. With most of our videos, we’ll go in with two camera operators and shoot in a day. For Jane Motorcycles, we started filming in January and didn’t stop until May.

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JANE Motorcycles 2.0 from Cinema Mercantile on Vimeo.

We shot several hard drives of footage for a five-minute piece
When we first started filming, we didn’t really know what we’d use. But as we went along, we started to winnow down the narrative. We always shoot the interviews at the very end. At that point we know the story and what footage we have, so we know what questions to ask. But even after the first cut, we went back and shot some additional footage so we could feature more parts of their story.

Sixty Second Cinema is a series of cinematic portraits
I’m really interested in people – like Ben McBrien, a former professional surfer who now makes high-end furniture for restaurants and stores like Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. He’s a very non-traditional guy who’ll never hold down a normal job. He’s someone who has found a way to do something he loves and make a life from it. These are the kind of stories that I like to tell. Sixty Second Cinema is a format that allows us to just go out and film them in a low-key style. Though I think they’ve turned out better than any of us ever expected.

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Sixty Second Cinema – Ben McBrien Farmhaus Modern from Cinema Mercantile on Vimeo.

Hightail helped compress our production timeline
We were working on a big project in Virginia and needed to get video files back to an editor in Brooklyn. Typically we would take footage off of the cameras, load it to a laptop and save it to hard drives. Then you’d have to pay to ship a drive and worry about it getting lost in the mail. So in Virginia, I posted a tweet asking if anyone knew a better solution and someone from Hightail replied recommending their service. Right then and there we uploaded the footage to Hightail and sent it to the editor who started cutting it that night. Our client was expecting a first cut of the video to take a couple of weeks but we delivered it that Friday. It was a completely different way of working for us.

Cinema Mercantile Spaces screenshot

We had no uniformity to our review process
When getting feedback from clients, we’d tried many options, like Dropbox, Vimeo and Wipster, but nothing really stuck. We first used Hightail’s Spaces feature on the Jane Motorcycles project. I had used Spaces to share the video and wasn’t expecting to hear anything right way but then all of a sudden – boom – there’s a comment in the Space. So I responded right away and 10 seconds later there’s another comment – we’re literally collaborating on the video in real time. I didn’t expect it to work like that but intuitively the client knew what to do. Typically that feedback would have been given over the phone a couple of days later. Instead we had comments that we could pass straight to the editor for the next cut.

Cinema Mercantile Spaces screenshot

Spaces feels very professional
You don’t want your client to have to watch a low-res version of their video. The compression with Spaces is really good and videos look fantastic even on a big iMac screen. I like that I can customize a Space with a still from the video so my client immediately feels like it’s theirs. I also like how versioning works because you can see how a piece got from here to there with each new version.

Mike Collins on set

We need cost-effective tools that can scale
We are able to offer our clients a high-end product at a competitive market rate because we have hardly any overheads. We don’t even have an office and work from anywhere like the ACE Hotel lobby or co-working spaces in whichever city we’re shooting. Digital content creation is changing and so should the way we work. It’s the same for video collaboration. Why would we pay hundreds of dollars a month for some of the other services when Hightail costs so much less and works significantly better?

To learn more about Cinema Mercantile, visit, watch videos on Vimeo or follow Mike on Twitter

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  1. SigE

    3 years ago

    Enjoyed the piece on Jane’s Motorcycle. Had that plan in mid 80’s and someone stole my idea from my big mouth. It failed. Janes did it right. Love the look,well put together. Lots of contrast!

  2. Gare Cline

    3 years ago

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