The Newly Tooled Tool

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From Left: Grant Skinner, Jason Rohrer and Dustin Callif
From Left: Grant Skinner, Jason Rohrer and Dustin Callif
Production company Tool has been around for nearly a decade and a half, in that time earning notice for top notch live action comedy/dialogue work, and more recently for expert visual artistry through its partnership with France-based Paranoid. Paranoid has since broken out on its own, but Tool has continued to move in new directions to stay relevant —this time, integrating an impressive set of digital talents into its everyday business model.

The shop has announced the signing of two noted pros from the digital world to its creative roster: programmer and game developer Jason Rohrer and Flash expert Grant Skinner. Some of you might recall Rohrer from this year's Creativity 50. He's the brains behind the much-lauded indie game Passage, which earned him attention everywhere from the WSJ to Esquire, where he appeared among the mag's Best and Brightest. He also worked with EA Games and Steven Spielberg on the diretor's "LMNO" gaming project. Skinner has earned much respect in the digital community running his own Flash development company gskinner.com, working for clients like Sony, HP and AOL; and for his experimental work on incomplet.org, where you'll find his inventive and entertaining applications that allow viewers to use their webcams to literally play with fire or get caught in a snowstorm.

"What we're intent on doing is creating the production company model of the future," says Tool EP Brian Latt. "We're creating live action content, but with the intent of being media agnostic." Rohrer and Skinner are only one part of that picture. In January, Tool brought on as head of digital content Dustin Callif, former managing director/owner of Spacedog Media, a digital marketing agency that was bought out by Mendelsohn Zien and Hakuhodo. Callif's role has been to work alongside EPs Latt and Jennifer Siegel to fully integrate digital into the company's offerings and to leverage his digital expertise alongside the directors' talents.

Callif recently helped to launch the company's first major digital production project with director Sam Jones, a compelling interactive video for Cold War Kids' "I've Seen Enough." Unlike a lot of so-called interactive content that ultimately turns out to be just films on the web, the video demands real participation from viewers to reap full entertainment value—it features interchangeable versions of each band member performing the song with a variety of instruments and when mixed up, provide for repeated unique experiences of the tune. "Most people, when they say digital, they're saying virals or longform content," says Callif. "There's definitely a place for all that, but coming from that interactive advertising background, I looked at that as kind of a missed opportunity. It's an interactive medium, why are we not leveraging that and integrating live action and interactivity? We've got this active, engaged audience ready to click and do things on their iPhones—all these wonderful opportunities."

Even prior to the signing of Rohrer and Skinner, the Tool roster had already started to reflect its new direction with the addition of live action talents already proven in the interactive space: Anders Hallberg, the Swedish director behind sites like Ikea's award-winning Dream Kitchens; and Jason Zada, the former ECD at S.F. digital agency EVB, who helped to spearhead notable web efforts like Office Max's Elf Yourself and the Adidas Basketball is Brotherhood site.
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