He had them at Kung Fu Panda.
As Hollywood advertising specialist Jeremy Sauter walked the MAPS Media Institute after-school program students through a career primer for communications and marketing, the message was clear enough.
You had better be ready to be dedicated, he told them last week, if you want to excel in the amazingly competitive world of Hollywood movies and fast-paced advertising, or any creative field.
And you should be ready to be good. And tough. And smart. And ready to listen to your critics. And be independent-minded. And be able to work collaboratively.
"If you're making a website, and it's boring, nobody's coming back," said Sauter, the one-time University of Montana journalism student who dove headlong into the world of advertising and now works with Paramount Pictures to market A-list films. "You've got to bring your A-game all the time. It's a very competitive world."
Sauter shared some of the recent trailers he's been working on, including Jack Black's second go-around as the cartoon ninja bear.
In a 90-minute chat with the students, Sauter, a Missoula-based marketing consultant with Paramount who spends only brief stints in Hollywood each month, showed three recent trailers: "Kung Fu Panda 2," "The Fighter," and "True Grit."
Sauter's other recent credits include "Shrek 4 - The Final Chapter," "The Last Airbender," "Iron Man 2," and "Jackass 3D."
The process to make a trailer that resonates and will make people want to see a film involves a lot of people putting their ideas on the table and working to figure out what that film has going for it that will stick in an ad that is often, at most, 90 seconds long.
With the MAPS students in their final week before Christmas break and hearing the talk about the potential for some students to land paying jobs on the commercial spots turned out by MAPS, the discussion often centered on how to conquer the job market.
MAPS Founder Peter Rosten had one thought, pointing to former MAPS student Garrison Wood, who was editing text frames and graphics for a paying MAPS client while he listened to the talk.
"There's Garrison - the reason he got hired is that over the last year, we saw what he can do," Rosten said, riffing on Sauter's point that the motivated will simply get out and do what they love doing and do it enough to figure out how to do it well.
Sauter advised them to work on their craft every day, to hone their portfolios every day.
"There are more people involved in the field of communications today than ever before in the history of man," Sauter said.
But the upside is that every company needs people to help them market their ideas across that ever-expanding array of media platforms. That means they are hiring people who can put together cool videos and other creative content.
Don't forget the importance of writing, he added.
"The people I know who succeed in this business are all writers," Sauter said. "In this world where people have a 30-second attention span, you have to be able to write the perfect sentence."
The key to perform well in advertising is diving into solid research and, above all, listening to the client, Sauter said.
"If you go in that first day and you say, ‘I've heard of your organization, and here's my idea,' - fail, epic fail," Sauter said.
As he was preparing to head out the door, Sauter remembered that a Hamilton High School 10th-grader named Craig Weese had asked him if he would have a look at a piece of work.
So he diverted into the MAPS computer lab, donned a pair of headphones and went for a ride with Weese's mountain biking video.
"That's a really nice shot," Sauter said, nodding his head.
After they finished watching the short piece, Sauter made good on his promise to always be constructive in his critiques, urging Weese to push harder to make the story of a mountain biker who isn't afraid to push the envelope, hit home with his audience.
The story is there, Sauter said. "I understand it, but I don't feel it. It's not visceral."
As Sauter and Weese shook hands, it was understood that the video was still a work in progress, and that Sauter's suggestions were just that.
"Thanks for looking at it," Weese said.
On his way out, Sauter confessed that Weese had him at the asking: "Would you mind looking at my video?"
Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.