Locals win some milk money

Milk may just be the drink of choice this Memorial Day for Gian Camardella and Brian Kuenn, two local guys who can best be described as video junkies.

Earlier this month, a video dreamt up and produced by the two 20-somethings won top honors in a national video contest.

"Milk Man," a cop's spoof version of a milk man's typical day on the job, beat out almost 200 entries to win the top prize of $10,000, based on artistic merit and effectiveness, plus priceless recognition in the social media advertising world for the two aspiring videographers. The contest, run by the "got milk?" campaign, which started in 1993 by California milk processors and licensed to national dairy boards, and Zooppa, the global social network for creative talent, challenged indie artists and social media types to create engaging and light-hearted content that still got across the message that "It's just not breakfast without milk."

In the one-minute video, Camardella, or Officer Daire, is the first responder to a domestic emergency - one which involves a mom, a kid and, of course, some milk. Kuenn is the behind-the-scenes cameraman, keeping up with the milk man who is "just doing my job."

The video was shot in New London, using Camardella's inlaws' house. His older sister, Elena French, of Ledyard, was the mom, and the eldest son of his pastor, Javan Cooper of Waterford, was the child.

Each of the scenes took several takes. An earlier idea, which involved more actors, got nixed when weather complicated production.

"I was completely shocked when we won," says Kuenn. "We had little to no budget, and it was obvious that some of the others entries did."

"It's potentially huge," Camardella says of the exposure that can come with this accolade. The video, which can be watched on Zooppa's website (http://zooppa.com/ads/its-just-not-breakfast-without-milk/videos/milk-man) is expected to be posted as advertising on news portals, plus FaceBook, YouTube and other social media sites.

This isn't the first collaboration between Camardella, who grew up in Norwich and lives in New London, and Kuenn, who grew up in Montville and recently moved to Norwich. The two started out together in New London's 72-hour film festival in 2009; that time Kuenn played the main actor and Camardella ran the camera. Both admit it's an expensive hobby or avocation, one that requires serious equipment for shooting and editing.

Camardella graduated from Mitchell College in 2008 with a degree in criminal justice, but his heart has always been in film.

"I've been making little short movies and such since I was a kid. I would gather up the neighborhood kids and film commercials and random things. As I grew older and technology got better I started editing and making more story-like short films," he says, crediting Kuenn for finding this online contest.

Kuenn, who also works on the Best Buy Geek Squad and is studying business at Eastern Connecticut State University, uses the name of "NewBreed Films" for his productions. Camardella, whose first name is pronounced like "John," uses the production name "gianthemanfilm," which he selected because it can be either "Gian the man," or "Giant he-man." His new wife, Kaitlin, a graphic designer, is helping him with the logo for his production company.

What's next? Camardella says he's got some action-packed short films in the works, provided he can afford the props. Kuenn says he's going to pay more attention to commercial contests such as this one. We'll probably see them at the next New London film festival, too.

Suzanne Thompson lives in Old Lyme. Catch her weekly radio show, "CT Outdoors," on WLIS 1420/Old Saybrook and WMRD 1150/Middletown or online at www.wliswmrd.net, Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. She can be reached at suzanne.s.thompson@sbcglobal.net.

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