Local filmmaker Brandon Loper has big plans while working out of Forge

Local filmmaker Brandon Loper has big plans while working out of Forge

We are reposting this article from Bham Now- check out the original article here!




You might know who directs your favorite TV shows, but you may not know the mind behind the commercials! Enter Brandon Loper, a local filmmaker and commercial director working out of Forge in Birmingham.



Born and raised in Alabama, Loper graduated from the University of North Alabama in 2005 with a degree in entertainment media production. He lived in San Francisco, California for almost eleven years before moving back to Birmingham with his wife and two kids.


For a creative like Loper, Forge is the perfect spot to manage his projects. From directing his own films to working with big-name advertisers, Loper does it all from his spot overlooking Downtown Birmingham. We hopped up to the 2nd floor of the Pizitz to find out what Loper has planned for the future.



How do you define your work?


I’m a commercial director as my day job, so I partner with advertising agencies, production companies and directly to brands to execute a concept or flesh out an idea. A lot of times, I get a script and they’ll say, “Hey, we’d like you to put your spin on this. What can you bring to the table?” I’ve been lucky enough to do that for brands like Nike, Google, Twitter, Comcast, Starbucks… a lot of brands that have a lot of national recognition.





The heart of it is storytelling, which is why I’m pushing more towards narrative filmmaking. I just finished my first short narrative film that I submitted to Sidewalk. I also submitted the documentary I did for Nike last year, “Still KD,” on Kevin Durant and his run-up to winning the championship.


Where did you get your start?



When I moved to San Francisco, I got an internship in a large advertising agency called Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. I had a boss there, James Horner, who started a young director’s program. This was pivotal in my career because I’d always wanted to direct, but I viewed myself as the guy editing, shooting, writing, and making everything.





I got my first gig outside of the Goodby world directing with producer Dalia Burde exclusively for five years, and her production company produced my feature documentary, “A Film About Coffee.”



When I moved here, I went nonexclusive in an effort to work more with people here in Birmingham. It’s been fun to travel and see the world, but I really want to be home at night.



How long have you been working out of Forge?



Since January. I toured it in August of last year, before it even opened. If I’m in town and not hanging out with my family at home, I’m usually here. It’s great being downtown.





What does a typical day look like for you?



I’ll get here after I take my kids to school, have my second or third cup of coffee, and then go settle into my spot. When I’m not co-working, it’s a headphones-on situation.



Depending on what I’m working on, I’ll take advantage of the phone booth, or one of the conference rooms that you can use for phone calls. I don’t take my phone calls in the middle because usually, I can’t really talk about what I’m working on, so I’ll go there to chat.





How is networking with others at Forge?



Kim Lee, the founder and CEO of Forge, is a major networker. A few weeks ago, we were having coffee in the kitchen, and I was telling her about everything going on. She says, “You’ve got to meet this person! You need to work together.” Later, we were meeting about me directing her TV pilot. There are a lot of cool connections. Working at Forge has been great because we can just pop into a meeting room and whiteboard it out.




What are you up to now?



I’m launching an online film workshop called On Set Prep, and I’m working with someone here at Forge who is helping me do the marketing and sales funnels. I’m really excited about that because I enjoy teaching and being a part of education. My course, On Set Prep, is a boot camp for people to learn to be a production assistant. We’re going to be launching it this month. I’m also looking to partner with local high schools and the Film Birmingham coalition. I’m very excited about what’s happening in the film community in Birmingham.



Loper is just one of the very creative people working at Forge.

Contractors vs. Employees: Getting It Wrong Will Cost You

Contractors vs. Employees: Getting It Wrong Will Cost You

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t know the differences between contractors and employees. This decision is so important when hiring someone to join your small business so Josh Andrews of Gatehouse Law came to Forge to teach us more on this subject!




  • They are independent workers, they dictate when and how they work
  • Contractors often use their own equipment
  • Typically this is a worker that could run a small business performing the work they do for you for multiple companies




Here’s the IRS Test you may need look over:


  • Behavioral control
    • This is what you tell the contractor about how, when, where or with whom to work
    • It’s also how exactly you train the worker
  • Financial control
    • Reimbursement policy
    • Work investment
    • Are worker’s services available to others who need it?
    • How is the worker paid?
    • Can the worker make a profit or loss on the work?
  • Type of Relationship
    • What does your written agreement say about the intended relationship between you and the worker
    • Does the employee receive benefits from you as the employer?
    • The permanence of the worker in the business
    • Is the worker’s services a key aspect of the company’s regular business?



Who is a contractor?

  • Lawyers
  • Accountants
  • Designers
  • Other businesses
  • Sales staff (sometimes!)



As the employer, you have a lot more control over employees rather than contractors.



When making this decision, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do you need?
  • What do you want?
  • How does it look?



We have to understand both options to make the right decision for your specific business! We’ve just hit the highlights for you but if you want to view the full Lunch & Learn, check it out here! Check Forge’s Facebook calendar for future educational events.


Your Big Idea: Forge Pitch Night!

Your Big Idea: Forge Pitch Night!

Thank you to everyone who joined us at Forge for our first ever pitch night! We love hearing about the exciting businesses that are growing out of the Magic City! Your Big Idea was a huge success and we are excited to start planning the next one. If you weren’t able to join us, here’s a recap of the event!




Our 3 Panelists: Buddy Palmer, Lakey Boyd and Jacqueline Jones


First, happy hour of course! Drinks and snacks provided by our sponsor, ServisFirst Bank! Then we heard 4 minute pitches from 4 different presenters. We allowed for a quick Q&A with the crowd and our 3 panelists gave feedback on each presentation.


Donnie Garvich with Two Ravens


The Two Ravens team is based out of Forge! They are a technical innovation firm that provides R&D and Product Development services. Two Ravens works with partners to solve their most complex problems. By combining decades of technical experience with an empathetic, research-based approach, they aim to improve lives by creating not just great products, but engaging experiences.



Kala Northrup with Match Chocolate


Match Chocolate is a small batch bean-to-bar chocolate maker right here in Birmingham! They take cocoa beans and thoughtfully craft chocolate with a sense of place, highlighting the natural flavors of different parts of the world. With just cocoa beans and cane sugar Kala makes single origin chocolate bars, truffles and pastry provisions. The name Match Chocolate comes from the pairings created that showcase the differences found within just two ingredients ethically sourced, separated by geography and matched in flavor.



Erin Holtz with Refueled


Refueled is an all inclusive fitness app partnering with the best health and wellness businesses to provide members with their very own customizable fitness, health, and wellness plans. The Refueled technology offers packages to relax, to recover, and to refresh because we feel as though it is important to refuel your body in each of these ways. You can choose the fitness package that best fits your needs. Each week you will pick your classes that will fit into your schedule. Then simply walk in the studio, check in or purchase your service!



Stanley Stevenson of Stevenson Design


Stevenson Design works to improve home and business environments through thorough, thoughtful design. With a Bachelors degree in Interior Design, Stanley began working as a draftsman and 3D modeler. He moved into space planning and logistics management. With a decade of experience in managing people and processes, Stanley is available to help small businesses with anything from interior design to web design and digital strategy.



Thank you to ServisFirst Bank for sponsoring the first Your Big Idea event! We loved hosting and meeting new professionals in Birmingham. We’re already looking forward to the next event with another group of entrepreneurs!

Social Media: A Plan Before the Posts

Social Media: A Plan Before the Posts

Social Media posting… We all know we need to be doing it.  And so we post.

But is your posting effective?

Is anyone seeing your posts?

Is the audience you are reaching the audience that can actually be converted to customers?

There is so much more to posting on social media than just shooting a picture on your phone and then putting it on instagram with a catchy caption.  That is, if you want social media to be a vehicle to grow your business (HINT HINT: as business owners this should be your goal!)

Jacqueline Jones of One Degree MMM shared with Forge the Must Do’s for creating a plan before you post anything on social media.

1.  Who

Build a Customer Avatar!!

You must know everything you can know about about your customer.   Everything…

Age.  Gender.  Family Life.  Where they live.  What they do for a living.  When they drive to work.  What they listen to while driving.  How much they spend…

Gather as much data as you can.  Then use that data to inform all decision making.

Do not assume that you are your target customer!  Marketing can often break down when that happens.  Look at your data, see who is buying your product or using your service.  See who is spending the most with you and how often.  This information is going to guide every decision you make for your social media and marketing strategy.

It is possible that you will have a few different avatars.  Know them each and market to them each.

2.  What

What is the goal you are trying to achieve with your marketing efforts.  Pick a goal and then stick with it for a quarter so you can see realistic results.  Now there is always the case where you determine a goal and realize quickly you need to change directions.  But generally speaking, it is best practice to choose a goal, build your strategy and then give your efforts time to perform.  When you do this, you get more QUALIFIED DATA about who your customer really is!

3.  How

How are you going to get in touch with your customer?  How are you going to get your information to your perfect customer.  If you just put out a blanket post (on any platform), you will not be able to reach the people that you really want to reach.  Each post must be intentional.  Your tone and voice must reflect who you want to reach and why you want to reach them.  Speaking of tone… always communicate on your posts the way that you would communicate in person.

4.  Where

Which platform should you use?  The best way to answer this question is to figure out which platforms your customers are on.  And then kill it on those platforms!  Don’t try to be everywhere, you simply cannot do.  Or at least you cannot do it well.


As you are planning out your Social Media strategy, here are a few things that you should CHOOSE NOT to do:

  1.  Choose Not To get caught up in frequency suggestions.  Do not be lured in to believe you must follow all the advice out there.  The best thing to do is be consistent.  Consistency for you could mean once a week, once a day or five times a day.  Determine the capacity that you have to create and post meaningful, strategic posts and then stick to it!  When you are building your community on social platforms, this community is built on relationships.  Relationships are trusted through consistency.
  2. Choose Not To create blanket content.  Create content that speaks to your Avatar!
  3. Choose Not To be everywhere.  Your customers are not everywhere, you should not be everywhere either.
  4. Choose Not To be fake.  Do not try to be who you think people want you to be.  They want you!  Be you!
  5. Choose Not to be afraid to ask for help or guidance.  As a business owner you cannot do it all.  There is no shame in getting someone to help you with your Social Media Planning and Posting.


We are thankful for the work that Jacqueline is doing to help Small Business Owners grow!  If you would like to contact Jacqueline to get more information or learn how she can help grow your business, you can email Jacqueline at info@onedegreemmm.com.

If you are interested in diving deeper into your business, Jacqueline is hosting Boiling Point: A Group Marketing Strategy Session, at Forge on March 11.  Use the code APLAN to receive a $30 discount!



Protecting Your Trademark (Even If You Haven’t Registered Them)

Protecting Your Trademark (Even If You Haven’t Registered Them)

Josh Andrew with Gatehouse Law returned to Forge with a topic that is near and dear to all Entrepreneurs and Small Business owners – or at least it should be!  What do you need to know about your business’s trademark?  You have legally registered your business, isn’t that enough?  Let’s dig a little deeper…

Step 1: Understanding Trademarks

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is a word, phrase or graphic symbol used to show the source of goods or products… or service!

Think of the most notable trademarks: Nike Swoosh, McDonald’s Golden Arches, UPS Brown Box (example of a service)

So, what is the difference between a Trademark and  copyright?  If you hired a designer to create your logo and they have a copyright for that image, do they own the trademark?

The short answer is no!  The copyright protects the artwork or words.  The trademark protects the business.  So even if your logo has a copyright that you do not own, the trademark is yours!

Step 2: Protecting Trademarks

1.  Your Trademark Cannot be “Merely Descriptive”

A merely descriptive mark is one that immediately conveys knowledge of a quality, feature, function or characteristic of an applicant’s goods or services.  For example if a dry cleaners named their business “The Dry Cleaners,” they could not lay claim to that name being Trademarked.  Anyone could use the same name because it is merely descriptive of the business that it represents.

2.  Your Trademark Must have Distinction

It must be:

  • Fanciful
  • Arbitrary
  • Suggestive

All three of these qualities can be legally protected.

3.  Protecting Trademarks before you launch.  This step is particularly important for those building a business, and not yet in operation.  There are three ways to protect your business before you launch.

  • Non-disclosure Act.  Any time you enter into conversation with someone about your business, have them sign a non-disclosure act regarding the business knowledge shared during the meeting.
  • File “Intent to Use.”  This is a more costly option and only lasts six months.  If you are not in business at the end of six months, but still want to protect the business, there must be another filing.
  • Action.  Do something with your mark.  Setting up a website that collects email addresses is the simplest way to begin acting as a business before you are ready to launch.

Enforcing Trademarks

While ultimately your business needs to have the trademark legally protected, there are a few things that can protect the trademark while the business is growing.

1. Common Law Mark: Trademarks are protected in the immediate area that the business is operating.  However this does not prevent your trademark in another part of the country from being used legally.

2.  Business Name Registration

3.  Notice – By using the trademark, your business trademark is protected (only in the area of operation)

4.  Cease and Desist letters.  It may seem like an extreme option.  But it is the responsibility of the owner to protect the trademark immediately, otherwise the trademark is ineffective.


Thank you Gatehouse Law for teaching us all things Trademarks!  We are thankful for firms like Gatehouse Law who serve entrepreneurs and Small Business owners teaching us the things we really need to be thinking about while building our business!