The Evolution of Video Production with Casey Casseday, Top Chef & Cooking Panda

“From doing morning news when I had to run 300 yards of cable, and fine tune a microwave dish to get the signal,” said Casey Casseday, Documentarian, Filmmaker, and Digital Content Director for Top Chef & Cooking Panda. “To now, where I’m directing on Facetime from my apartment…I’ve really seen the gamut.”

Over the course of his fascinating 20 year career in news, reality TV, prank shows, documentaries, and much more, Casey has witnessed the drastic evolution of video production first-hand. Throughout this evolution, however, his strategy and approach to bring out vulnerability and allow for creative freedom has stayed true and driven his success.

With behind-the-scenes stories that you can’t get anywhere else, including a prank with Michelle Obama, segments that landed on the Today Show, and directing Top Chef digital content using iPhones, Casey joins us for a captivating conversation on #Storyteller.


On the difference between large-scale productions and remote work now:

 [06:39] I used to direct 20 cameras when I was in hidden camera working on Scare Tactics and Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, and now I’m just doing 3 iPhones in a kitchen. But for me, the simplicity of it all doesn’t take away from the vulnerability that these chefs, these stars of the stand and stir are giving up. There’s importance in everything they say and do, and you want it to be understandable to the audience…The trick is to make it both complex and unique yet simple for the scroller looking for the right recipe to catch their eye.


On what companies are looking for these days and tactics to bring that out: 

[11:26] All they want is something that seems natural. So as a documentarian, I think that’s why I’ve been successful at it. Because that’s always my goal is to allow the subject of the documentary to be as vulnerable as possible, yet make them look smart, and then cut it to make it concise and understandable…But even the companies that used to give big notes based on their brand, just want something real now.


On shows or segments that resonated most with the audience:

[16:31] Every time we’d do one [Prank It Forward], we would end up on the Today Show, and Queen Latifah brought the maid out and gave her boss a trip to Mexico. So just watching the snowball of philanthropy when that video affected people, I really thought that was something that would resonate.


On a time when a prank show didn’t go as planned:

[18:33] We did a prank for a veteran in conjunction with Extra and Mario Lopez, Universal, and FLOTUS; Michelle Obama was part of it. And the video-reveal on this prank with Michelle Obama was her popping up on a screen and saying “Hi John”…and he thought he was in trouble! Here’s this Army guy who was looking for a job, and we had done all this stuff to get him a job, get him a new motorcycle, and do this big surprise by Michelle Obama, and we thought the reaction would be like “Wow”, but he was like “what did I do?”. So the reaction wasn’t perfect, but Mario Lopez hyped him up and it ended up being a great piece. But you can’t really gauge the reaction until you get it.


The story behind Sushi Size Me, Nominated for Best Mobile Short by Indie Short Fest:

[22:53] I’ve always taken my own advice on shooting my own stuff. When I moved here with all my (Washington State University) Cougar buddies, before YouTube, we were making sketches and sending CD-ROM Christmas presents to people so they could watch them on their computer. But Sushi Size Me was the first time I was like let’s just shoot the whole thing on iPhone. I’m not going to buy an audio kit, I’m just going to buy a $5 selfie stick at Walmart and we’re going to do this.


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