All of his life Chris Gernon, Founder/CEO of Fugitives, has been a fixer, creative and innovator. Developing visual content for some of the world’s most influential brands, Chris and his Fugitives team have been sharpening their marketing skills on social change projects on a global scale. Fugitives is considered the “we-can-fix-it” marketing agency that fills in the gaps when companies need help.
Chris is a storyteller and marketer using every medium possible as a canvas to create branded content by developing visual content for some of the world’s most influential brands. However, his passion lies in helping others by using his marketing skills to affect social change throughout the world.
One of Fugitives Creative projects, Francis, is a virtual reality short documentary that sheds light on a global problem of treating mental health, which premiered during Sundance earlier this year. It tells the story of a Ghanaian man and his journey into isolation after being locked in a hut for 2 years. The viewer is guided through Francis’s story by his first-hand account of his experience. The film shows that Francis, like so many who suffer from mental illness around the world, are valuable members of society who can lead full, productive lives if they receive mental health treatment. The goal of the film is to help move mental health out of the shadows.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Why is video marketing essential for any brand’s success?
Chris Gernon: People respond to a visual image more than to text. Video gives texture and flavor to what that brand is all about. Every visual image is the clear representation of that brand. One image can tell 1,000 words. That’s the power of really good visual marketing. Video and visual marketing is inevitably representational of a brand and its tone. Every element of a video: color, rhythm, texture, pacing, plays a part in the telling of a brand story and relates to the bigger picture of the over arching brand. Every detail and every aspect has to be correct for the right impression, both the written tonality and visual tonality. There is nothing haphazard about a brand marketing video. Everything has to have a purposeful choice behind it. Those choices have to be strong in order to be distinguishable.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What sparked the idea to tell the story of Francis?
Chris Gernon: This project came to us because we’re troubleshooters and problem solvers. It was our first VR project but the team knew we were the guys for the job. Our mentality is, “Let’s dive in and figure it out and do it.” I feel very fortunate in life, and I think it is our social responsibility to help others who are less fortunate, so I felt compelled to be a part of telling his story for that reason as well.
Beverly Hills Magazine: How is Virtual Reality revolutionizing filmmaking?
Chris Gernon: VR is an empathetic platform for storytelling. It has the ability to put the viewer in a place and time and have a visceral response to the world around them. It’s one of many mediums by which to tell a story. It’s certainly a useful tool in itself, but others, like augmented reality are just as powerful, as well as new technologies that are yet to be discovered or utilized to their fullest capabilities.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What did you discover about the creative process through this project?
Chris Gernon: For us as filmmakers, first we started to look into all the elements of VR and then use them to get the viewer to feel and immerse themselves into his real experience. Every element became a tool used in the telling of his story. The colors, the lighting, the settings; all of these visual components are necessary to create what we needed to create. It’s an intensive creative process, where you cannot skip steps. You have to let the creation become an organic process in order to get the best result. As we journeyed to discover VR, we learned so much and realized the importance of every detail that ultimately resulted in a more powerful finished product for viewers to experience and be emotionally moved by.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What do you want people to take from the film and the story of Francis?
Chris Gernon: The biggest take away from Francis’ story is that mental illness is a very real problem that many human beings are faced with. This film does one thing really well, it gets the conversation started. It doesn’t give a solution, but brings the problem the light. This is just one story of many.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What advice would you give to other aspiring filmmakers?
Chris Gernon: The greatest advice is the same advice that was given to me, that shaped my entire career. “Know what you do, and do that that one thing really, really well.” For me, my expertise is troubleshooting and problem-solving. It becomes your passion. I will lay awake at night thinking about a project. I excited by these things. Your determination for anything is always connected to the love you have for it, and I love what I do!
Beverly Hills Magazine: Have you discovered a personal purpose in what you do?
Chris Gernon: There was a time in my life where I didn’t have the resources but I needed emotional support. So a generous man gave me an opportunity to heal myself through a process, and it changed my life for the better. Now, I want to be able to help others who do not have access to the resources or the support they need in order to be set on a better path; the path of recovery, the path to healing. Now I am in a position to do so, and that is purpose enough for me to do whatever I can to help.
When we typical think of virtual reality, we often think about video games, however, Chris Gernon takes a new approach by raising awareness issues that may otherwise go unnoticed. Chris has decided to use VR not just for entertainment purposes, but for social good. His passion lies in helping others by using his marketing skills to affect social change throughout the world.
Photography by John Russo