Samantha Gordon

It was never meant to last this long. It was a wild-eyed idea, dreamed up by a team of videographers, animators and producers who wanted to shout from the rooftops about all the great work they were doing. And that dream sparked what has become one of our proudest, and sometimes strangest, traditions: FESTACLE.

Every quarter, the Video team dedicates its entire team budget not to catering team outings or funding lunch meetings like most departments do (which is totally fine!), but hosting a party for the rest of the company. Luring Braftonians from other teams with the smell of hot pizza and the sound of beer cans cracking open just when the work day is drawing to a close, the Video team welcomes everyone with open arms to a night filled with laughs, cheesy decorations, karaoke (sometimes) and most importantly, a reel featuring each team member’s favorite video project of the quarter.

Sure, but what the heck is a Festacle?!

OK, listen. We know the name sounds a bit like something else, but we promise that’s not where it comes from. Actually, Creative Director (and Festacle founder) Perry Leenhouts came up with the name that makes everyone giggle just a little by merging two ideas he wanted the event to embody.


See? I told you it wasn’t so bad. And cut Perry some slack. He’s Dutch, so English is not technically his first language (even though I’m pretty sure they learn the language from a young age over there). Besides, the name itself has become a big part of the charm of these events, and it really is true to what you get if you attend Festacle.

“Festacle doesn’t only mean a showcase of the best work the Video team produced the last few months, but also to celebrate our hard work as a company,” Perry explained. “There are so many departments involved, from Sales to Account Management, from Finance to Social, Editorial, etc. So in my view it’s a celebration of successful collaboration, where everyone’s dedicated to deliver great results.”

History in the making: Festacle No. 1

In late March 2014, posters appeared around our Boston and Chicago offices touting a “festacle” that no one knew anything about. It promised drinks and hors d’oeuvres as well as a showcase of video and animation, so on April 4, people wrapped up their work and filtered into the loft and break room of our offices seeking free drinks, snacks and an answer to this mystery event.

The first Festacle poster to ever grace our walls.

We were greeted by an excited crew of Video folks, a mini fridge stuffed to the gills with Schlitz beer and an array of crunchy munchies, so we stayed, we drank, we mingled. And we were rewarded with a reel of projects our own Video team had created for our clients.

This was the very first time most of us had even seen our client videos in action, and we were floored.

“I didn’t realize Brafton did all this. This is really cool,” one of my coworkers mentioned between grimacing sips of Schlitz (no offense, Perry, but it’s just not very good beer).

At the end of the event, Perry grabbed a microphone, got us to quiet down and gave a short speech that went something like this*:

“Its pretty amazing that this many people can show up for a 20- to 30-minute video of corporate promos and product demos and interviews for other people’s companies, but in truth it’s really about supporting each other and the fact that these pieces of work took a team, and that we support that team and celebrate everything we do at Brafton.”

Since then, we’ve held 10 Festacle celebrations, each one as delightful and memorable as the last.

*This quote has been paraphrased from memory, but it captures the general idea pretty dang well.

Give em the belt!

After Perry’s speech, he pulled out a very obviously knock-off championship wrestling belt and presented it to its first-ever recipient: Tim Griffin, a storied member of the Brafton family. He was chosen for his dedication to the team in his role as a Video Producer. Tim, who was also once a writer and an editorial manager for Brafton, and who moved into the Brafterlife last year, still always finds his way back for Festacle. He might be one of the few who’s attended every single one. Impressive, Tim.

Animator Reuben Gordon (no relation) accepts the belt in Chicago at Festacle X.

The Festacle Belts are passed to the top team member of the quarter in both Boston and Chicago at each Festacle, along with a typically cutting, sometimes sappy, speech about why the winner was chosen.

That ‘campy’ tradition grew and developed a fun off-shoot: themed parties!

Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day are easy enough targets when it comes to jazzing up these events with elementary school-esque decorations, but the team has had some pretty inventive ideas beyond the expected, including a ‘summer camp’ night complete with canoe photo booths and camp counselor costumes and full-tilt karaoke jams that last well into the night.

Time-honored traditions a’plenty

The Festacle Belts are just one of many traditions borne of this event. Take Schlitz beer

The tall boys that filled our mini-fridge in the loft of our old Boston office were not just an unfortunate accident. Perry and his team chose this arguable bottom-shelf brew both for its low price (which meant lots more beer) and for its amazing vintage commercials. These commercials became a staple of the video reels for all two years, providing comedic breaks between employee-made videos. I think the only reason they retired the pseudo-sponsorship was that they ran out of commercials** like this one:

**This is purely speculative. There could be other, totally legitimate reasons they’ve since moved on. Like better beer.

Beyond whimsical nods to old, arguably terrible drinks, the Video team makes each reel special with an outtake/blooper sequence at the end (whatever it takes to get people to stay through the whole reel, right guys?). Sometimes we’ll be treated to our video producers making fools of themselves climbing on sets and other times we’ll see actors botching their lines over and over.

But the most memorable was when Perry relocated to Chicago from Boston last year. The team put together a goodbye/welcome video that had the audience rolling with laughter. And I promised myself I wouldn’t do it, but it must be done. They got everyone on the team Star Trek shirts in blue and yellow, saving the iconic captain’s red for the man himself, who doesn’t at all resemble a single cast member from any of the shows or movies, I swear.

They waited YEARS to make this joke.

More than a chance to party

The quarterly Video celebration is a great excuse to trade work for a beer, screen time for face time, and real dinner for junk food. But it’s become so much more than that for so many of us.

“As someone who joined Video last summer, each Festacle has been an opportunity to get to know the people I’m working with outside of work hours (but still inside the office),” said Connor McGann, the Animation Producer in Boston (and a former Content Writer). “Luckily there was a Festacle right after I started in Video. It’s basically the ultimate 101 course on what we do.”

Not only does the Video team get to unwind and spend some quality time together, but they get a chance to get to know people in other departments. That can be pretty tricky to navigate, especially for producers and videographers always traveling to on-location shoots and for animators like Cullen Barnett who work remotely and don’t get many other opportunities to put faces to names.

“It’s a good opportunity to come into the office for a team event,” Cullen told me. “Also, it’s a good time to interact with people not in the department.”

That same interaction is why Gina Tempesta, Video Producer and occasional voice actor, thinks Festacle holds real value for Brafton as a business.

“I love it when you can see a look of surprise in the audience – Content Marketing Strategists and Sales in particular – when they see how far we have pushed ourselves and they see something really different and unexpected,” Gina explained. “I think that gets their wheels turning about creative ideas they can offer clients.”

A collection of Festacle posters hangs proudly above the Boston Video team.

Not only has Festacle helped bring some much needed cross-departmental transparency to Brafton, but it’s inspiring other departments. Both the Editorial and Graphics departments are in the dream-weaving stages of developing their own celebrations, and I’m personally keeping my fingers crossed for a Social Media Mean Tweets-style dramatic reading.

What it boils down to is that Festacle is one of the truly fun events we look forward to every few months, not just for the free drinks and snacks, but to actually get to see the best work our talented videographers, animators and producers worked to bring to life for our clients.

Want to learn more about Video Marketing at Brafton?

The history of Festacle (poster edition):