Crafted to inspire: Film company thinks outside the frame

Betty Dillard

From maneuvering Colorado ice crags to diving with whale sharks in Mexico, or from rocking the water with wakeboarders to filming open heart surgeries, the partners at Ultralite Films go to the ends of the earth to tell their clients’ stories. Ultralite Films, a film production company specializing in creating cinematic and marketable videos for businesses and organizations, entered the Fort Worth market last year. The team, consisting of Bud Force, Joey Arcisz, Erich Schlegel and Blake Knight, already is racking up awards for its creative multimedia marketing pieces. Their goal, they say, is not to produce just simple videos, but to create high-quality Web videos and feature-length films using the latest audio/visual technologies and equipment that will inspire, educate and entertain others. “We’re trying not to be the regular production company. There are a lot of video production companies in Dallas-Fort Worth and they use the traditional production method. We’re crafting high-end cinematic films for businesses and organizations,” said Force, Ultralite Films’ director/principal.

“We’re the production company that goes anywhere, from outdoor action – filming underwater or up on a mountain following ice climbers – to indoors for a video that captures a company’s brand or message. Our purpose is to tell visual stories. We’re making mini movies for businesses,” he said. Force, 34, has enjoyed a career as an advertising photographer, working with such clients as National Geographic Adventure. Originally from Fort Worth, Force had planned to be a professional rodeo cowboy. When he got injured rodeoing, he enrolled at Texas A&M University and earned a journalism degree. He came up with the idea of starting a video production company a couple of years ago. “I started dabbling in video. In the last few years there’s been a paradigm shift in the photography market from using DSLR cameras to shoot stills to shooting videos,” he said. Force said the DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera became a game changer in 2008. The camera can shoot photographic film and record high-definition video. Force is quick to add that his firm uses various types of today’s faster and lighter cameras and that the partners try to stay updated on all advanced technologies. “These new technologies and techniques have changed up everything again,” Force said. “I saw the potential in new technology. As the traditional photo market slowed down, the video market opened up. It allows for more creativity and the ability to do more for the customer. We’re at the forefront of new digital media video.” Force had followed Arcisz for several years and contacted him to join the company. Arcisz, 28, a former professional wakeboarder who like Force was injured in his sport, graduated from the Art Institute of Dallas. He’s spent years producing videos in the adventure sports and commercial advertising market and recently contributed to the JFK Unspoken Speech Project, a Dallas community-driven tribute to President John F. Kennedy.

“We all feed off of each other,’’ Arcisz said. “We’re a group of creative people who have a lot in common. We’re all very passionate about what we do.” Schlegel agrees. “It’s a real team effort,” he said. “It shows in the projects we’ve done together. We’re good at storytelling and that makes us unique. The interviews we do are equally important to the videos we’re showing.” Schlegel, say Force and Arcisz, is really the dangerous member of the Ultralite team. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, and fluent in Spanish, Schlegel lived throughout Latin America before moving to Texas in 1973. He graduated from Southern Methodist University with a business degree, with an emphasis in international business. As a photojournalist, his career has taken him around the globe – more than once. He’s covered 11 Olympic Games – he’ll be in Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics next year – four Super Bowls, the annual Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial as well as conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Albania, Zaire and Sri Lanka. He was part of the team at The Dallas Morning News that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Hurricane Katrina. Based in Austin, Schlegel recently documented the fastest solo kayak expedition down the Amazon River. “He’s 50 but he’s young at heart, for sure,” Force said. Force and Schlegel met last year at a book signing at A&M for Force’s book, Urban Search And Rescue, which follows Texas Task Force 1 on its major deployments. “We became fast friends immediately,” Force said. The two made a film called I Am Ice Climber, about Stanley Vrba, a native of the Czech Republic who now lives in Colorado. Schlegel says the new technology and equipment drew him to partner in the company. “It’s telling the story in real time as it happens opposed to a frame frozen in time,” he said. “That really appealed to me to learn more but I was hesitant. I’m from the old school of journalism. This is a new way of thinking and I’ve learned it’s exactly what I need to be doing.”

- FWBP Digital Partners -

The partners consider themselves to be a new breed of “light and fast” production companies, hence the name Ultralite. The company is currently working with local clients including Plaza Medical Center of Fort Worth, Dyno-Rock Indoor Climbing Gym in Arlington and Hydrous Wake Parks, as well as clients from across the country. In a few weeks, the team will travel to West Texas, Colorado and New Mexico to shoot a video for Chicago-based Grand Trunk Goods, which specializes in travel accessories. The company’s business model is based on what Force calls a “variable footprint,” customizing productions from small to large depending on clients’ budgets and needs. “We stand out because we’re customizing productions rather than having base prices. It keeps projects budget friendly,” Force said. “We’re creating marketable multimedia pieces of exceptional quality while doing it at a fraction of the cost of any competitor.”