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Entertaining Advertising: How Stept Studios Is Building a Bolder Creative Future


Nick Martini, Meredith Rodriguez, and Connor Scofield tell LBB’s Adam Bennett why Stept’s uniquely comprehensive approach is part of an exciting vision for the industry’s future

Entertaining Advertising: How Stept Studios Is Building a Bolder Creative Future

In the world of creativity, the journey can be as important as the destination. And Stept Studios, the creative production company with an unapologetic focus on storytelling, is a case in point. When Nick Martini embarked on a career as a professional skier, he didn’t expect to end up running a globally-recognised production studio creating flagship work for some of the most iconic brands imaginable. But life, as is so often the case, simply worked out that way. 

None of which is to suggest that Stept’s success has come about by chance. It was precisely that aforementioned commitment to storytelling, first honed on the ski slopes through epic sports documentaries, that built a studio now working with the likes of Smirnoff, Google, Oakley, and Nike amongst others. 

Above: Stept’s kinetically-edited work for Therabody is just one example of their partnerships where they have delivered an award-winning spot from ideation to delivery.  

“In addition to our commercial work, we collaborate with many brands for documentaries, series, or product-focused work”, says Nick. “We’ve obviously come a long way, but that knack for storytelling which underpins the best sports documentaries is something we tried to hone through our work in skiing, and it’s present in our work today”. 

Meredith Rodriguez, Stept’s Head of Development, strikes a note of agreement. “We’ve developed that approach a lot - even going so far as to launch our own entertainment division specifically for longer-form work”, she comments. “Everyone at Stept harbors a passion for filmmaking, and we’ve built a company that provides the infrastructure needed to create incredible content which makes us proud”. 

On that point, Stept truly walks the walk. Since first launching, the studio has added an array of services - including post-production, editing, and creative ideation - which can now take a project from idea to screen without ever leaving the Stept ecosystem. 

“The idea was to create an ecosystem that helps us dream up ideas when needed, and keep our fingerprint on them all the way through production, post, and delivery”, explains Connor Scofield, the studio’s head of their post-production arm Lockt Editorial. “We’ve even launched a partner company, Vault Rentals, which provides camera rentals, soundstage production, and pretty much all the physical infrastructure you might need for any production in Los Angeles. Again, it just ensures we have all the elements we need right at our fingertips”. 

Above: ‘Come On In’ was a series of films produced for Smirnoff by Stept Studios which took full advantage of the production company’s comprehensive creative capabilities. 

“Come On In is a great example of these cogs working together in the branded entertainment space”, says Nick. “The initial idea was dreamt up by our entertainment team as a proactive pitch. Instead of a more traditional spot we ideated a series of cinematic documentaries that highlighted their product, celebrating togetherness and people coming together around different passions. It eventually found a home with Smirnoff who built it out into this incredible series we’re all so proud of”. 

But, whilst Stept’s multi-disciplinary model was developed organically and to serve the interests of its filmmakers, Nick believes that in 2022 it has truly found its moment. 

Bring On The Entertainment Revolution

In truth, Stept’s diverse capabilities go hand-in-hand with their core approach to storytelling and entertainment. The company's tagline "we create advertising that feels like entertainment" appears to be more true than ever. They have found a groove as more brands look to entertainment as the next frontier. Stept has documentary storytelling in its roots and they are tapping into that to develop original IP and story concepts for brands to support in a variety of ways from branded films, to supporting filmmakers tell stories that need to be out in the world. “We love to collaborate and not only through the production process but in early story development and ideation as well. We try to seek out characters and stories that speak to the idea of ‘human capacity’ - projects that explore ideas about everything that we as humans can do, be, believe and achieve and how those are executed, whether it's a collection of short films or a feature documentary”. Stept pairs its entertainment development team with the production and post teams to produce from start to finish.

The benefits extend beyond the practical. “Historically, what you might call an ‘end-to-end’ model was seen as the more cost-effective way of getting things done, but it wasn’t necessarily where you’d find the most quality work”, he says. “What we’re doing is trying to reframe that, and show how - in our experience - the most creatively enriching work comes when everyone is working in tandem in the way our model allows,” says Connor.

Above: Stept’s post-production skills were put to work in this mouthwatering spot for the hard kombucha brand JuneShine. 

Whilst Stept’s staff are clearly proud of their model, however, they’re also careful to underline how it’s less of a statement on the state of the industry, and more a manifestation of their own filmmaking sensibilities. 

“I recently read Andrew Essex’s The End of Advertising which made some fascinating points about the kind of content people respond to”, says Nick. “But, for us, it’s less about that and more about the way we’ve evolved as filmmakers. I think it’s quite common for our generation to have a hand at various points in the production pipeline, and that’s only going to intensify for the tech-savvy generation coming up behind us. And we put the focus on entertainment because it’s what we love - if audiences love it too, all the better”. 

By any objective measure, it’s an approach that is paying dividends for Stept. In a sign of how far the studio’s star is rising, the acclaimed directing duo Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin have recently signed onto their roster. “I’m super excited to be working with Jimmy and Chai - to be able to work with them shows just how far we’ve come, creatively”, comments Nick. 

Ultimately, Stept’s success is a testament to the power of a strong philosophy and ability to differentiate. “There’s probably a thousand production companies in LA”, says Meredith. “We’ve thought long and hard about how we can offer something different which is both valuable and true to who we are. This is the result, and it’s incredibly exciting for all of us”. 

After all, no matter how many production companies spring up in LA, there’ll only be one Stept Studios. And, with a refreshing and passionate approach to their craft which seems perfectly placed for the challenges of 2022, that isn’t about to change. 


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Genres: People

Stept Studios, Tue, 27 Sep 2022 08:11:00 GMT