VIDEO PRODUCTION COMPANY & FREELANCE FILM SPECIALIST
CLAi is a video production company in the San Francisco Bay Area who have been making innovative and effective movies since we were founded in London in 1984. We pride ourselves on consistently creating outstanding video productions – digital films and videos that motivate, entertain and drive viewers to action, whatever the complexity or budget… but every agency says this, and each claims to be the best film and video production company around. The truth is we are all more or less the same: a founding creative or two of varying skill and experience, some equipment of very different quality and capability, and a speed dial with the best or the cheapest guys available to build their production team.
CLAi are no different in this – we just choose the high end on quality and prefer to be transparent. We are “Chris Layhe” and “the Associates”, so when we put together the right team for a project the Associates we bring in are self-employed specialists with the highest skill levels who we have worked with for years. And yes, we do have a production studio full of state of the art 4k+ shooting, editing and color grading equipment.
But Chris leads a double life. In addition to his role as lead dog on CLAi projects he is a solo specialist – an editor, colorist, director of photography and cinematographer working behind the scenes with other companies in the film and video industry in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles. As a highly skilled gun-for-hire he works primarily on narrative and documentary feature films and shorts, as well as broadcast programs, music and arts videos, and higher end corporate productions.
So, what sets Chris and CLAi apart from the crowd? In part it’s commitment – being prepared to put every project and it’s success ahead of profit and personal ego, and do whatever it takes to make it work. In part it’s a passion for storytelling through images and sound that burns as strongly after decades in the business as it did when Chris first picked up a film camera at university. And, of course, it’s a dedication to achieving the highest levels of creativity and exceptional quality, backed up by oodles of experience!
SOME OF OUR WORK
These are a few of the film and video projects that Chris Layhe and CLAi have created or worked on…
And these are our little show reels: production, color grading and cinematography…
VIDEO OR FILM PRODUCTION?
Like all good creatives Chris Layhe has developed just a little bit of a split personality over his years in the industry. It’s most apparent in the work that he and CLAi take on, like a very wiggly line in the sand with Video Production for Corporate Entities on one side and Film Production for Entertainment and the Arts on the other.
THE VIDEO STORY
Video Production for Corporate Entities is a very big envelope, and includes everything from corporate PR documentaries and product/service background videos to advertising commercials and startup investor videos, and much more. You have to make a break somewhere, and so as far as this little piece is concerned “Corporate Entities” includes companies, groups of individuals, federal government and local government, not-for-profit organizations and any project which isn’t designed to be seen on a big screen.
Chris and CLAi work on these types of projects in one of two ways: we either produce and direct the entire project, putting together the right team and specification, and taking it all the way from concept to screen; or Chris comes in as a specialist just to design, direct, DP, edit or color grade the project as part of another production company’s team.
THE FILM STORY
Film Production for Entertainment and the Arts is just as large and complex an area – one which Chris tends to approach quite differently. Some of the projects we work on are pretty small, such as a music, theater or dance videos – and on these we tend to create, produce and direct the entire production ourselves, with a small team we put together under the CLAi umbrella (if this works for the client – it usually saves significantly on their budget and allows tighter control of the shoot and post).
Other projects are on a much larger scale, particularly narrative, social issue and documentary feature films and shorts, and these are almost always extremely demanding in terms of skill, equipment, knowledge and time. Because of this Chris usually works solo – as a traditional freelancer with the producer and director in just one or two roles. These are positions are normally director of photography (DP), cinematographer, editor or the colorist (often combining these last two very specialist roles and adding in sound finishing to be able to complete the mastering part of the project). Every now and then he will function as the DIT and post supervisor on a project, if that is a good fit.
SO WHAT MAKES US UNIQUE?
REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE, there is no substitute for it. Just like Chris, the little band of specialists we regularly work with are eclectic and accomplished. They come from the worlds of broadcast documentary, corporate video, commercials, indie film, music and the arts – on both sides of the camera and microphone.
We are bound by a common commitment to creativity, quality and accepting nothing short of excellence. Our two decades of experience allow us a depth of expertise that takes the risk out of the film and video production equation. Large or small, ultra-low budgets or mega-funded, we’ve pretty much seen and done it all before… and Chris is always happy to talk about any potential project and bring that experience onboard.
JUST AHEAD OF THE CURVE, as creatives who suffer from a touch of tech geekiness, using the latest technologies well before they become mainstream is a given. Chris has always been an early adopter of software and technologies, but only when it will boost quality, increase flexibility, open up new possibilities for the projects he and CLAi work on, or simply give clients a better deal. Chris was a Bay Area leader in using 4k and 6k RED camera digital cinema systems as both a shooter and as one of the first post-production specialists to design and operate a viable camera to screen workflow… one of many technical firsts.
But expertise doesn’t stop with knowing the technology inside out, it demands a mastery of the disciplines needed to get the most out of the hardware and software, and best apply it to the story you are telling. We achieve this by practice, of course, and also taking on small “test” projects where we can have time to play without high expectations – and try to involve friends and family in making these so they get a chance to learn on the job too.
Chris also passes on his expertise through mentoring newer graduates, lecturing at colleges in the Bay area, and staging occasional workshops where industry professionals can get hands on with new equipment or techniques.
Chris has always passed on knowledge, as a mentor to several hundred assistants, staging hands-on workshops for other industry professionals and as a guest lecturer at Colleges across the Bay… helping to grow the next generation of filmmakers.
CREATIVITY is so critical to turning any idea into a wickedly good final program, but it’s not something that you can easily put into words without sounding totally full of yourself – and, of course, being an Englishman abroad Chris would rather die than talk about is personal accomplishments… it’s just not done!
That’s one of the reasons for putting quite a number of both film and video client testimonials into this web site, as well as including just a few of the awards that our peers have given in recognizing our work, and featuring a bunch of programs and films that we have produced as CLAi or that Chris has helped to create as a freelance specialist… that way you get to make your own informed decision!
Chris doesn’t actually accept that words like “COMPROMISE”, “GOOD ENOUGH”, “LATE” and “OVER BUDGET” exist. It’s not word blindness, just a belief that if it is worth doing something then it is worth doing it as well as humanly possible. Cutting corners is fine on a Ducati hitting a fast bend at 100mph but it’s never acceptable on a video or film, it’s why we believe excellence should never be a goal to work towards, it should be the reason to do the work. Of course, real life sometimes has other ideas, and then it’s acceptable to bend the rules a little and aim to make the best lemonade possible out of those lemons!
It’s a philosophy that wins lots of praise for the projects Chris and CLAi touch, from our peers and our clients’ clients – and that translates into films that win award after award, and corporate programs that get the job, sell the service and raise the funds. Which makes us all very happy!
Words like EXPERIENCE, EXCELLENCE, CREATIVITY and EXPERTISE all sound very cool and trendy, but they don’t account for what is perhaps the most important aspect in making any project a success… common sense. One of our favorite film quotes is “A man’s gotta know his limitations” from Dirty Harry, such a simple phrase that we all too often forget when it comes to production, budget and time.
It takes common sense, confidence and street smarts to realize that there is a problem on a project or a shoot, identify the cause and be able to come up with a solution on the spot and put it into action. Chris spends a lot of pre-production time – even on post-production projects – designing the right workflows that avoid potential disasters, save money and give the best quality before anyone gets too far in to change direction…
It’s part of the service he and CLAi provide to clients, and one of the reasons why we try to never say “No” to any request, even on the craziest phone call, is that we try to evolve an answer that will work. Sometimes that means passing the gig on to someone else, or making a budget work for a project by cutting our rates, or sticking to a quote or time promise whatever might happen. I guess it’s a Santa Cruz hippy thing, but Chris had a lot of help from a lot of people in achieving his goals and so giving back just makes sense…
A FEW OF OUR CLIENTS
You can contact Chris Layhe and CLAi in several ways, any day of the week:
Use this automated email form and please do give us as much detail as possible so Chris can get back to you asap and make some sort of sense!
Or take a chance on understanding his beautiful Manchester accent and call Chris and CLAi on 831-419-7590
Check out the “Contact CLAi” menu tab for more info…