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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, February 4, 2013, 6:55 am

Jessen is a real smash with 32Ten

By Loralee Stevens, Special to the Business Journal

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    SAN RAFAEL — You’ve probably seen the TV spot where an angry ex-wife takes a sledgehammer to a red Mustang. The producer of funny commercials for the auto body industry has moved into 32Ten Studios, the former Kerner Optical space, adding artfully destroyed cars to the special effects concocted there.

    Santa Rosa actress Heather Mathieson wields the sledgehammer in this Jessen Productions “prefab” television commercial.

    See other Jessen Productions advertisements.

    Jessen Productions (415-391-5030, jessen.com) arrived recently from San Francisco and set up an office in the production facility that investors are developing into a hub for Marin movie makers. Most are former Industrial Light & Magic engineers and technicians who stayed behind when George Lucas moved his operations to the Presidio in San Francisco.

    San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips and Chuck Jessen of Jessen Productions

    San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips (left) and Chuck Jessen of Jessen Productions at 32Ten Studios

    Charles Jessen is a former advertising executive who turned to film making because “it’s a lot more fun.”

    His clips of fine cars getting trashed in various creative ways have gathered a following of auto body shops across the nation. Prefab Ads — so called because the same spots can be sold to many different shops — supports Mr. Jessen’s more serious film projects.

    “It’s an artistic challenge to tell a good, funny story in 30 seconds,” he said, admitting that he has a penchant for banging up expensive cars.

    As do we all, it turns out. Prefab Ads has won multiple awards for its mostly humorous tales of auto woe, including a hungry bear with good tools, a hailstorm dropping stones the size of basketballs and a wrong turn into a weapons testing site.

    Heather Mathieson in the sledgehammer ad

    Jessen Productions has a growing viral presence on the web as well as cable television, with a popular YouTube site and links from the sites of satisfied automotive customers.

    “We didn’t make the spots with the web in mind, but they do lend themselves to that medium,” said Mr. Jessen. The continual downloading of the clips give his clients an extra exposure bonus.

    One of the latest prefab ads, an unfunny but compelling public service announcement warning about texting and driving, is sure to grab the attention of parents of teen drivers.

    It was filmed behind 32Ten studios and in front of the facility’s green screen. The studio’s other tenants added some skillful digital compositing and editing, said Mr. Jessen.

    “Without the involvement of 32TenStudios, this crash-concept would have been too cost-prohibitive,” he added.

    Opened in early 2012 by partners Tim Partridge and Greg Maloney, the facility is already home to — or used by — RipplFX, maker of apps for films and books; commercial production companies GB-films and Belljar Media; CAMd, a digital creature company; Invision, an editing company; and technology company AVC Labs.

    Also based at the studio is artist Catherine Craig, who is developing her first feature.

    “Chuck Jessen is a perfect fit with 32Ten,” said Mr. Partridge. “Not only is he an active producer who makes full use of the facility but, like us, he is committed to the Bay Area film community and Marin particularly, seeking ways to promote and utilize the incredible talent that exists here.”

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