It’s “that” time of the year

By “that” time of the year, I mean the season when the same 50 songs play on the radio, and it’s suddenly ok to eat your own weight in sugar.

I haven’t told  many people this, but I actually have a favorite Christmas song. It’s weird, I wasn’t trying to find one. It just…happened. And it’s pretty much the silliest, dumbest one. I thought it might fun this year to find my twelve favorite covers of this song and present them on the twelve days up to Christmas.**

What’s the song? It’s the Mariah Carey classic “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Day 12: Oslo fagottkor

This one is just fun. It’s kinda got an 80’s vibe and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It helps that it has good staging and a great performance. I recommend checking out the rest of the channel–everything they do is pretty fun.

Day 11: Note & Pin

There’s a million children musicians on Youtube, but very few that focus on the instrumentation of pop songs. There’s lots of singers and showboaters, and this video was refreshingly well done and simple. Kudos on them for using a ukulele!

Day 10: Out of the Blue

This is another all-male group (and not the last). The performances are very fun and don’t take the song too seriously.  Out of the Blue is made up of students from Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University–according to their Youtube bio.

Day 09: Michael Bublé

I’m not sure why I ranked this one so high. I’m not a huge Michael Bublé fan. This is a competent version, but there’s nothing overly special about it. 

Day 08: BOM&HI

This is the kind of sad, overly dramatic music video I would make for this song. Every time.

Day 07: Vince and Valiants

There are not enough country covers of this song. Country music is always wonderful when it gets the right mixture of cheeze and American nostalgia wrapped into the same package. This version is like Dynasty meets the B52s.

Day 06: Anthony Vincent (20 covers)

OMG! This guy is the best. If he did an end-to-end cover with all these styles, then it would be gold.

Day 05: Mariah Carey

It was going to be part of this list. This isn’t a “cover” but still pretty amazing.

Day 04: Jimmy Fallon, Mariah Carey & The Roots

In fact, this cover is way cuter and charming.

Day 03: Whitney Duncan

The BEST country cover and there’s no video. This is a national travesty.

Day 02: Olivia Olson

It’s the voice of Marceline singing my favorite Xmas song. OMG, can’t deal.

Day 01: My Chemical Romance

Don’t judge. Just don’t. If you got to the end of the list, you don’t judge.

**Look, I know the twelve days starts on December 25, but you definitely won’t want to listen to these on January 1st.

***The fact that is that it’s January 12th, and I apologize. They were posted on social media during the holidays. Enjoy my favorite holiday song in your post-holiday haze.

We’re Moving! (Again…)

Big surprise of the week: we’re moving!

If you’re run into me in the last week (or are a close friend), you’ve probably heard that I’m moving the office. While it seemed like a sudden decision, it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for the last year.


Don’t worry! I’m still here! It’s just boring stuff like printers and lighting kits that are in boxes. Some of our stuff also went into storage while we figure out the new space.

Are We Still Available?

Great! I made sure the move happened at a time when we didn’t have too many in-house productions happening. If you need us to film, animate, script, design, or plan a production–drop a line to Mel at

Why Now?

Well, it’s only getting hotter. Moving during the heat of the summer is not the best idea if you want to keep folks from fainting. I also needed to pull the trigger on the move before the 48HFP and my own productions really ramped up.


About 5-8 wonderful friends helped me box up and move about a dozen car loads worth of stuff.


Want to visit the me in the new space? Well, it’s not quite ready for visitors. Probably the end of July/early August. In the meantime, I’m still available for coffee and a chat anytime.


For now, I’ll just say downtown Providence. The location is AWESOME and will really allow They’re Using Tools! to offer some more cool amenities.

I kinda wish I had saved our old vinyl door sticker. It looks like a cool piece of modern art.




Another Wednesday, Another Presentation

Last week, I presented about being the producer for the Providence 48 Hour Film Project. This week, I was asked to put together a presentation for 1 Million Cups. I re-tooled some of the ideas, some of the art, and made a new presentation (it’s actually more new than not).

There is a live component where I set up a clip from Muppets Take Manhatten. I wanted to experiment with mixing pre-made with live elements. I had the video paused so I could explain why I choose this video clip at greater length without relying on on-screen text or voice over. It also gives the audience a break from reading and re-engages their focus.

Contact us


• Upbeat Samba by JohnStuart is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

• Colorful Spots SUPER EXTENDED – Nicolai Heidlas – Happy Ukulele Backing Track by Nicolai Heidlas Music is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

• Sunny Afternoon – Upbeat Ukulele Background Music by Nicolai Heidlas Music is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


30 Short Films About They’re Using Tools!

It’s story time!

Last year, I went to WistiaFest and I had an idea. I wanted to make it clearer how and why we’re a different kind of video company.

It had three components: 1) A streamlined logo, 2) Only six videos on the website at anytime, and 3) A revamp of the website. I had one more thing I wanted to implement, but…I’m being honest–it seemed like too much work and I shelved it.

Then I went to WistiaFest (again)

At this year’s WistiaFest I realized the only thing that mattered was that last idea. When I say “my company is ‘They’re Using Tools'”, the question is always “what tools do you use?” It’s a hard question to respond quickly.

Basic answer: I take awesomely creative people and turn them into a crew that makes videos better, faster and funner than everyone else.

There’s SO MUCH we’ve done, and it’s hard to show it all. In a nutshell, I love exploring the what a brand can be. But all I have is what we’ve done before, and none of that is what we’re going to do for you. What we do for you will be completely different, completely unique, and a hell of a lot of fun.

What was that idea from last year?

Instead of showing less, show more. Show it all. I don’t believe in wasting time, so I’ve made it really easy for you to get an idea of what we’ve done. Just give me 15 seconds and you can find out what it looks like when we do what we do best. Over the course of the year, I’ll be posting these thirty micro-videos that highlight the whole scope of what we have achieved.

Here’s 15 Second Demos (or a 7 1/2 minute demo in 15 pieces)

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100% Yes

Video isn’t like any other art form. A typical production includes writing, acting, wood working, engineering, graphic design, drawing, and photography. It’s pretty easy to make a guess that video is not a fast medium.

Year 2011. E.D.S. I still worked out of my house at this point.

A typical “artist” could make something meaningful in a couple hours. A sketch, watercolor, or painting can all take less than a day and still depict a complex message. For video? In a day you can make a vine or a video podcast. But a nuanced narrative piece is a much harder. I’ve done a lot of art school (high school and college), there were tons of exercises and lessons that challenged you to produce spontaneously. Anyone that’s been in a drawing class will know the 30s/1/5/10 minute pose structure.

Year 2010. Unicorpse.

Year 2010. Unicorpse. This was my favorite location we ever used, we took over a whole house.

Originally, I was going to go into furniture design. Every time I say this, it surprises someone. I really like planning and plotting. My favorite thing is sitting down, listing all the elements of a project, and then executing them piece by piece. I switched to video/animation because my wood shop technician in high school lost four fingers, and I realized I didn’t want a job that had that possibility.

I founded They’re Using Tools! from my 48 Hour Film Project team, and then participated in over fourteen timed video contests in eight years. The energy and excitment was infectious, and I wanted to infuse all my work with that feeling. It captured the excitement and inventiveness of other mediums, while also letting me share a complex process with a variety of people.

Year 2007 (the first!). Failure in F Minor. It's very difficult to hurt yourself with a camera.

Year 2007 (our first). Failure in F Minor. It’s very difficult to hurt yourself with a camera.

Because I’m a nerd for numbers, I now run the 48HFP for all of Providence. That means I went from sharing this experience with 60 teams and over 800 filmmakers. It’s wonderful, and I’m so excited by how many great filmmakers I get to meet.

Problem: I don’t get to do it. I don’t get to take part in the adrenaline-fueled rush of making a film in 48 hours. I get to sit on the sideline and be the “mom” or cheerleader. 48HFP HQ rules say I can’t compete for three years–in any city–after being a city producer. It’s great experience, but it’s not the experience I initially fell in love with.

One day, I was sitting around with friends and I pondered “Can I just do a film in 48 hours? Like, would you guys be down with that?” No formal contest. No prizes. No theater screening. Just us and a loose set of rules and a weekend. From there, I emailed seventeen past teammates and asked if they’d like to make a film in 48 hours for no money, no prizes, and with no script.

The answer: 100% yes.

There’s one that can’t show up because they’re going to college. AND THEY’RE SAD THEY CAN’T DO THIS INSTEAD. I have a couple “there might be a conflict that weekend, but I really want to do this.” In less than a week everyone has responded positively.

Not just positively, but I’ve been offered actors, editors, writers, and all sorts of awesome things. Someone suggested we still pull a prop/line/character like the traditional 48HFP to make it the same. Someone else suggested we use Cards Against Humanity to find our elements (with some editing of the deck). Also, yes. Let’s do it all. This is so great.


Year 2010. Unicorpse. We rarely are able to take a group photo since there’s so much running around.

I’ll try to blog the experience of putting together my own rule-less decathlon. The “go” weekend is August 7-9th. At the end of the weekend, we’ll watch the final film and I’ll throw it up online for everyone else to enjoy. Wish me luck!

Stay tuned!


1 Video, 1 Week

What can you do in a week? How about fours days? What about 40 minutes?

This week, we made a promo video for the [sold out!] Providence Lady Project Summit. We filmed in under an hour on Sunday afternoon. Then cut, colored, added graphics, and mastered the video in under a week. A few things made this successful video possible: good planning, people that were experts in their field (Sierra is an excellent copywriter, amongst other things), and having a clear purpose.

It actually would have taken even less time, but I decided to try out a new color correcting technique I learned from IndieWhip.

Check out the raw, rushed color correction, and the more fine tuned versions in both an animated GIF and individually. As you can see, we shot it pretty cleanly to begin with. There’s a little bit of vignetting that was easily cleaned. The new techniques we tried centered on denoising the footage.






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Infographic Process

Here’s a look at the construction of an infographic for NanoSteel. We started with a list of facts they wanted to include, together were turned those facts into a story with themes–in this case, how a car is similar to a home. From there we pared down the text to something that was workable for the space of an infographic. We started with the sketch with text, and finalized it in Adobe Illustrator with vectors.

This process took about three months from start to finish, but the actual graphics only took about 10 hours.