Alumni Excelling with FlashBang Features

by Max Carter, '16

After graduation, many college students are faced with the challenge of applying their degree toward a career. Whitworth alumnus Darrien Mack, '13, and his friends at FlashBang Features are paving their own path to success. The team makes videos for weddings and multimedia packages for businesses. They also provide a number of other multimedia-related services.

Working with fellow Whitworth alumni Gilbert Sandoval Jr., '12, and James Hughes, '10, Mack and his team are striving to jump from a part-time business endeavor to a top-of-the-line media-production company. Since the company was launched in November 2013, the three Whitworth graduates have effectively implemented and executed what was once just an idea.

Getting Started

Using their unique abilities, the team at FlashBang Features has created a strong business model that works for them. However, some things are good for any new business to keep in mind, Mack said.

"The first step would just be to figure out exactly what you are going to do so that you have a mission and a purpose," Mack said. "To make it [the business idea] tangible, understand what you are doing in the first place, and why you even want to have a business."

While there are many different paths to success in the world of business, according to Mack, a couple of specific keys have worked for FlashBang.

"Define the role of each person if there's more than one," Mack said. "Choose the people you're going to work with wisely. And," he added, "plant seeds -- that's really the thing. All of us are quite relational, and the people that we know have developed a sense of trust after seeing the work that we've made."

The men at FlashBang certainly seem to embrace this philosophy as a whole unit. The team appears to have a strong grasp on what their goals are as a business, and because of that, they have executed their vision for the business effectively.

The Team

Each member of the team at FlashBang Features has a different focus and contribution to the company. The crew at FlashBang Features have applied their skills and experience gained at Whitworth to create a unique, successful business.

Mack is the creative director, taking care of the filming and most of the editing. Sandoval is the producer, managing the taxes and finances, and overseeing most other aspects of the company. Hughes is in charge of client strategies, creating interest in FlashBang's services and finding new business – although that's something each member of the team helps with.

Mack, who was a graphic-design major, said he has been able to apply many of the skills that he learned at Whitworth toward the success of FlashBang Features.

One of the classes he took was called "Time-Based Media," which "really taught me how to use video," Mack said. "But I would almost say a lot, if not all, of my art classes actually apply, since we don't do just video."

Sandoval applies his marketing degree from Whitworth every day as he goes through the many steps in making their business run smoothly and professionally, he said.

"Basically, if a prospect is on the fence about a project, I use my ways of communication to show him or her what the bigger picture would be," Sandoval said. "I create either a storyboard or a timeline; I use my marketing skills to sell them on [the project]."

Hughes, who majored in social science, uses the social and professional skills that he learned during his time at Whitworth to interact and connect with potential clients.

"I think Whitworth really prepared all of us for a clean professional look in life," Hughes said. "I can speak to people and have confidence in what I'm saying, and have evidence to back it up. I can actually give them concrete details on why I think a certain shot, or a certain sound, or a certain storyline will work better for them."

Each member of the team at FlashBang knows his specific role in the business and how important it is for each to do his job well.

The Good and the Bad

Although they are happy with their journey so far, the FlashBang Crew has faced their share of obstacles. Mack said that FlashBang could have benefited from starting up in the warmer months, as weddings make up much of their business.

Similarly, finding enough time has been another difficulty for the team, as FlashBang is a secondary endeavor for all three members. Sandoval and Hughes each work a full-time job, while Mack is involved in an internship.

Hughes said, "Finding that time to develop the business as fast as we want to develop it has been kind of hard."

Since FlashBang is not the only professional focus for the trio, they said they have been able to enjoy the process of starting a business much more. Despite the minor difficulties, the three friends said they are having a great time. They continue to build both the company and their friendships, while working together on new, creative ideas.

"When we all sit down and we think of the creative process for a certain project, that's the best part because possibilities are endless, especially when it comes to film," Sandoval said. "You could almost put anything in there and make it look real or make it look cool or make it fit to a particular project."

The Next Step

Their latest focus is a short film that will be released in next year's film festivals in Spokane and Seattle. This is an ambitious step for FlashBang, as it is slightly different from their usual work.

Sandoval would not say much about the upcoming film as it is still a work in progress, but he did shed some light on how it will be formatted and created. As a small local business, FlashBang finds it important to keep its project local. The film will be a professional operation with actors, sound crew, and other crew members from the Spokane area.

"A lot of it's still in development… It's just going to be a five- to eight-minute film and it's going to have a lot of imagery, kind of a psychological aspect to it," Sandoval said. "But it's something that's going to make you think, something that's a little deeper than what you normally see."

The film is an important project for FlashBang, and could certainly help the company get its name out there. According to Sandoval, the short film is "our first one, our baby," and needs to be a high quality product. Although the team has never done anything like this before, they are confident in their ability to produce a professional film.

The film has the potential to help FlashBang take their business to the next level, and with wedding season approaching fast, it will be part of an important summer for the trio. That being said, Mack, Sandoval and Hughes are already moving their business in a positive direction, and when asked if they have any regrets, Sandoval said "You know, I don't think that I would do anything different at this point."