Kremer/Johnson Doubles the Impact As a Creative Duo
The year is 2002. Frequenting the same bar, Neil Kremer and Cory Johnson struck up a conversation and soon realized they had a lot in common and have been friends ever since. In 2012, both of their individual businesses dissolved and they both bought cameras as hobbies. Having yet to work with a camera in any serious capacity, they learned by reading the manual and collaborating early on.
Not long after, an in-flight magazine saw some of their work on Facebook and asked Neil and Cory to shoot their cover. Successfully producing the entire thing without any previous experience, the duo realized they had something special and Kremer/Johnson was born.
With an origin story as serendipitous as that, their succeeding work never disappoints. As the only team on our roster, we wanted to share how they work together, and why sometimes, two heads are better than one.
It’s not every day that you meet someone at a bar and it ends up as a successful business, what do you credit to that success?
Failure simply was not an option when we decided to start the business. We really dove in head first, put our noses down to make sure we could make this work. We’re still doing that as our business grows. And since there are two of us, there are two sets of skills and like any strong partnership, we complement each other in our skill sets.
How do you split up responsibilities for a job?
Typically, Cory handles all of the upfront aspects. So creating our treatments, putting together estimates, all pre pro work. Sometimes he will even produce the shoot outright if we are not working with a designated producer. And then usually, Neil usually handles all of the post-production aspects.
On set, if video and stills are required, Neil handles the camera for stills and Cory will direct for video. When one of us is shooting, the other will be at the digital tech station and give suggestions as needed.
It wasn’t planned this way, just naturally shook out that we enjoy and were stronger at certain things that the other one wasn’t. We always say that opposites attract and make a better union because you will learn from one another. It’s evident in the way that we both uniquely approach projects.
What is your greatest strength as a duo?
We are really strong collaborators. As soon as a deck comes in or we get an opportunity presented to us, we get on the phone or meet at the studio to talk about ways it can work, ways it can go wrong, and the best way we think we can do it with the least amount of risk. We really look at the project from every angle so there aren’t as many surprises later on. Then we look at the budget and think, OK how can we realistically make this work without sacrificing creative integrity? There are not any thoughts of “no, this can’t be done”. We will exhaust all options to make it happen. We bring two sets of strengths to a project, but we do not charge two times the fee, which a lot of art directors would see as a strength.
What is something you always agree on?
The importance of color story. A strong color story is at the core of the most effective and evocative campaigns. Create an immediately recognizable visual and playing on a deeper psychological level, the color story guides and strengthen the emotional response to a campaign. We pay so much attention to this throughout our work and always bring it first and foremost into a campaign.
Neil, what would you say Cory’s greatest asset he brings to the team?
His organizational skills in the pre-production stage are unmatched. He’s like a master puzzle solver and will dive in and keep going until all the boxes are checked off.
Cory, same question. Neil’s greatest asset?
His attention to detail is something that always impresses me. He does not half-heartedly do something, he’s 110% in. I really appreciate that.
Your collection vision is one through Synergy, how does that show up in your work?
There is a sense of cohesion that is a thread from the start of a project to the end. We communicate the entire way and have a tight-knit community of stylists, assistants, digital techs etc. who know our style and are able to execute the way we want. No decision is made without connecting with one another and agreeing on a solution. That makes our productions efficient and creates work that realizes the client's creative goals.