Soda City Chronicles

Emmys on Main Street

By Otis R. Taylor Jr.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

David Johnson stands in a Main Street window display stringing up Christmas lights on Monday morning. Members of his animation and motion graphics team at Mad Monkey join him.

“When you’re a small business, you wear a lot of hats,” says Johnson, a Mad Monkey co-founder. “You take out the garbage, you make the coffee.”

Small talk from a guy who has to maneuver around a display case holding three 15-inch tall statuettes.  The statuettes, depicting a winged woman holding an atom aloft, were awarded to Mad Monkey at the 34th annual Emmy Awards for Sports.

Mad Monkey, an interactive design company and production house, was recognized for its collaboration on “Brackets Everywhere,” a NCAA March Madness spot created in conjunction with Turner Sports’ Creative Services Sports Unit. The commercial — illustrating the widespread infiltration of bracketology — won Outstanding Production Design/Art Direction and Outstanding Sports Promotional Announcement–Institutional. Mad Monkey shared a third Emmy with Turner Sports for Outstanding Open/Tease for a production promoting the NBA All-Star Game.

“Everyone’s working really hard to get it in the shape that it needs to be in,” Johnson says, deflecting praise. “There’s really not a lot of room for ego. You really have to subjugate ego for the betterment of the team.”

He speaks from experience. Johnson won his first Emmy last year.

“I keep it on my bedside table, and I call it Emmy,” he jokes. “I put my wedding ring on it. My wife is jealous.”

The new Emmys are part of Mad Monkey’s overall new look. The company moved into its space at 1631 Main St.  — a former wig store — in June. Tim Gardner, who founded Mad Monkey in 2000 with his wife, Lorie, and Johnson, said they worked closely with the building’s owner to restore original elements of what is said to be the oldest building on Main Street.

Mad Monkey had been looking for new offices for three years and the building, erected in 1865, was something they could call their own.

“She wanted to have a space that was specifically for us,” Gardner says of Lorie. “We felt like we had to have a better space for our edit suite. She was really the machine behind this.”

The wig shop’s tile was ripped up so the original maple floors could be refinished. The ceiling is original, but the roof was replaced. The entire building was gutted and Gardner used a rubber hammer to determine places where the plaster walls were weak. Then, with a hammer drill, he carved out the plaster to expose the brick walls that give the space a neo-retro ambience. The plant-like office chandeliers, art pieces created by an electrician, let visitors know this is a very modern operation.

Sliding barn doors have been retrofitted to function as office doors. In his office, pieces of Gardner’s grandfather’s 1947 DeSoto, including the grill, have been reclaimed as wall decorations. Landscape designer Jenks Farmer made a garden in the backyard, repurposing a piece of the building’s old HVAC.

The edit suite, which is manned by local filmmaker Steve Daniels, includes a home theater-sized screen with leather couches and carpeted floors. It’s a place where clients can get cozy to watch what they paid for.

Mad Monkey’s client list includes locals like the South Carolina Education Lottery, but work for companies such as UPS, Boeing and Turner has increased the company’s national profile. Next week, Mad Monkey is going to West Virginia to shoot a mini-documentary on a woman who created a salsa that Whole Food carries.

She’s going to let cameras into her home. Soon you’ll be able to see Mad Monkey’s new one.

“We want to have a sort of coming out party and really let people see what we’ve done,” Gardner says.

SCC is a column about interesting people in and around Columbia.

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