Monthly Archives: January 2017

An Interview with David Hildreth and Silas Kyler


David Hildreth and Silas Kyler are the creators of Felled, a documentary film about urban lumberjacking. In conjunction with the movie, they created a book called The Art and Craft of Wood.

Could you tell us a bit about how Felled came to fruition?

David: Felled is the story of saving a dead neighborhood tree that was headed for the landfill and giving it new life and purpose. It’s about finding worth and beauty in something that everyone else sees as trash. Silas and I worked together on a bunch of different video projects over the years and talked about making a documentary together. After a big monsoon storm Silas told me that he thought he’d stumbled upon a good story for a short documentary. Silas and his friend James found a big tree that came down in the storm and started on a journey to turn the tree into lumber for furniture. I think Silas just had a good intuition for the topic and realized that he was meeting really interesting people along the way. It turns out that when a tree comes down in someone’s yard the wood generally just goes to the landfill. That’s a huge waste of resources that could otherwise become beautiful furniture or art. So we started shooting the process and after a while it was pretty clear that we could make a feature length piece about the whole issue. We happened upon a subculture of people who are fundamentally offended by that waste and were doing great work to turn trash into something more meaningful.

Is there a community of urban lumberjacks in Phoenix? How did you access this community?

Silas: Yes! Discovering that people were doing this work around the Valley was one of the main things that pulled David and I into this story initially. Starting out, I really wasn’t sure if recycling urban trees was a thing in Phoenix or not, but after doing some searching, mainly through Craigslist, I got in touch with a couple local sawyers. As it turns out, there are a bunch of mills in the valley that use local wood, all working pretty much autonomously. Through the course of producing this film I would say the community aspect has begun to grow, which is exciting. It seems like Facebook has really become a major word of mouth marketing medium for these businesses, and I’ve seen more and more of these businesses connect. More importantly, word is getting out about what they’re doing.

What has the experience of making the film been like? What goes into making a feature length film?

David: I was involved with a few other features before, but this is the first I have a hand in directing. It’s an enormous amount of work. We’ve essentially spent all of our free time for the last 2.5 years engaged in shooting, editing, or promoting the film in some way. We had a preview screening a month or so ago and someone asked how much time had been spent on the film. I answered that essentially every single evening and weekend since July ‘14 and the audience had a good laugh. Obviously that’s an exaggeration but some days I look back and it feels like that’s exactly how it’s been. Since we started production we’ve both changed jobs, we’ve both had a kid (my first, Silas’ third), and I don’t even know how many times I’ve gone into the office the next day on just a few hours of sleep. I think that’s just the reality of documentary filmmaking. It’ll be interesting to see what documentary filmmaking looks like in 10 years, but from what I see, the vast majority of documentaries will be a side hustle like Felled. The economics of filmmaking just work out that way. We’re incredibly lucky to have had a lot of help from friends and family.

How did the book become a part of this project?

David: We put out the first trailer for Felled last year and had some great success with it being shared all over Facebook. From that came a lot of interesting opportunities including a book deal with Quarto Publishing. It’s certainly not the first woodworking book on the market, but urban lumber brings an interesting twist on traditional woodworking. It’s exciting to take what we’ve learned about urban lumber and give people a step by step way of engaging with this wasted resource. We’d love for the book and the film to inspire people to look at the trees in their neighborhoods differently. Trees aren’t just a good way to clean the air and provide shade. When they die, they could be your next dinner table. Across the country we’re seeing people take this overlooked resource and turn it into something beautiful.

How did you go about writing it?

Silas: Starting out, the task of writing The Art and Craft of Wood was pretty intimidating to me. I had never planned to go write a book and I had never considered how to approach such a project. It felt like I was entering a big, unknown world. Thankfully, the book follows a pretty standard how-to format, so the structure was straight forward when we got down to it. David always accuses me of being a linear thinker, which is totally true. Being able to build the actual projects in the book and take a lot of photographs along the way gave us a nice linear workflow and foundation to build upon, which pleased my brain. Our editor, Jess, has been great through this whole process as well, and working through all of this stuff with her has been an incredible benefit.

Anything that has been deemed worthy of being published, especially in a physical book carries a certain authority, which is something that blows my mind about this project. Being a self-trained woodworker, I never held myself as some sort of expert on the topic. As I dug into the technical instructions in the book, it made me question every procedure I would describe, which led to a lot of extra research to make sure I wasn’t committing some kind of craftsmanship malpractice.

Have you had any unexpected things happen throughout the course of this project?

David: We are blown away and very grateful for the way Felled has been received. The people we tell about the project are excited and want to know more. Most people have never thought about what happens to the tree in their yard when it dies and everyone can recognize that sending that tree to the landfill is a waste. It’s refreshing to be able to make a positive film and maybe along the way inspire people to build some furniture and art that they can pass down through their families for generations to come.

You’ve been working on this project for quite a while. How did it influence you?

Silas: I’ve never worked this long on a single creative project before and I think it’s really unique how spending several years of my life on Felled has changed the way I see the trees in my city. Before I started this project I had never heard of the term “urban forestry,” but now I find myself going to urban forestry conferences and talking to urban foresters with ease. This process has taught me that, in many ways, modern society sees urban and suburban areas as the place where we consume resources, leaving the extraction of resources, or production of goods to those places outside our cities, or even our country. As cities have grown and people have spread further and further, it is apparent that a consumer relationship with our world isn’t very sustainable, and seeing what’s around us, as part of a wholistic system, is really important. This can start with something as simple as a tree, and understanding that it is part of something larger. I guess I’m just describing sustainability, but learning how to use a fallen tree, and discovering it’s place in a larger system just made that concept a lot more tangible to me.

From Mental Illness to Marketing: the Psychology of Nostalgia


What is Nostalgia?

Nostalgia was first defined by Johannes Hoffer, a Swiss doctor who described the condition as “a neurological disease of essentially demonic cause.” He noticed symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and even fever in Swiss mercenaries who were longing for their native land. He coined the term using the roots nostos, a Greek word for returning home, and algos, pain or longing. Literally, nostalgia was a condition of homesickness.

The negative implications of nostalgia continued into modern psychology. It was a condition likened to depression and melancholy. Only recently have psychologists acknowledged the benefits of nostalgia and demerited its understanding as an illness.

Nostalgia in the Now

Modern psychologists have determined that nostalgia is not a mental illness. In fact, it’s universal part of the human experience, regardless of age or culture. Continually, frequent dips into these recesses of our minds are associated with higher self-esteem and a greater sense of belonging. According to The New York Times, “most people report experiencing nostalgia at least once a week, and nearly half experience it three or four times a week.”

In many recent studies, “participants who were induced to feel nostalgic expressed more optimism of the future. This optimism is related to two other factors. First, nostalgia makes people feel more socially connected to others. This social connection boosts people’s positive feelings about themselves. That increase in self-esteem then increases feelings of optimism.”

Imagine remembering a song you listened to as a kid. You look it up on YouTube, find the music video, and share it with a friend. They remember the video and the lyrics, and they’re as excited about it as you are. Now you both identify with each other in a way you didn’t before. Nostalgia is about community and belonging: it confirms that we were, and are, a part of something. We are inherently connected.

According to John Tierney of The New York Times:

“A quick way to induce nostalgia is through music, which has become a favorite tool of researchers. In an experiment in the Netherlands, Ad J. J. M. Vingerhoets of Tilburg University and colleagues found that listening to songs made people feel not only nostalgic but also warmer physically.

That warm glow was investigated in southern China by Xinyue Zhou of Sun Yat-Sen University. By tracking students over the course of a month, she and colleagues found that feelings of nostalgia were more common on cold days. The researchers also found that people in a cool room (68 degrees Fahrenheit) were more likely to nostalgize than people in warmer rooms.”

Nostalgia is a bittersweet emotion. Our memories are not always positive, but the act of nostalgia makes life feel more meaningful and gives us a sense of purpose. People who feel nostalgia more often tend to have a more optimistic outlook on life, higher self-esteem, and are literally less cold.

Nostalgia Marketing

We’re all familiar with nostalgia marketing, even if we don’t use that terminology ourselves. Essentially, advertisers and marketers now realize the power of nostalgia. They take advantage of all the feel-goods we get from remembering childhood. Now, many ad campaigns from major brands feature music, television, and other pop culture media from our childhoods. This marketing tactic fosters that sense of inclusion between us and the product they are selling.


Spotify released an ad campaign featuring Never Ending Story, ending with a link to listen to their “Never Ending ’80s” playlist.


After Netflix released “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross to their streaming service, Adobe released an ad campaign titled “The Joy of Sketching.” The ad features the Adobe Photoshop Sketch application on the iPad Pro, but with the same aesthetic, music, and vocabulary of the original Bob Ross show.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go is the most recent, notable success in nostalgia marketing. The reboot of Pokemon blew up in the summer of 2016 and has generated approximately $35 million in revenue since. Though it may seem like a game for kids, it is targeting a particular audience: people who were young in the 90’s. The app is not designed for kids because you need a mobile phone with a data plan and the ability to travel around your city. It is an app designed for people nostalgic for the 1998 Gameboy hit and subsequent card games, tv shows, etc.

In fact, Niantic developed a similar game, Ingress, before Pokemon Go. By similar, we mean it’s the exact same game minus the Pokemon. It didn’t do very well. Nostalgia for the old Pokemon games was the most significant feature in the Niantic’s success.

nostalgia birthday playlist

The Birthday Playlist

A few weeks ago, one of our developers showed us his idea for a simple site. Type in your birthday and it generates a playlist of the Number 1 songs from the Billboard Top 100 list for every year since you were born. He worked out some of the code, and before too long, we were all standing around Vince’s desk looking up our birthday playlists.

Here are some notable highlights:

Ultimately, it’s a simple idea, nothing complicated, but it got all of us out of our chairs. It got us talking about what the first CD we bought at Sam Goody was. This birthday playlist pulled us all into the nostalgia.

While we’re riding this wave of optimism, we wanted to present the idea that music is community and a catalyst of nostalgia. That by sharing it, we create a sense of belonging. So, here’s our Birthday Playlist project. We hope it does your self-esteem as much good as it did ours.   

Hero’s Beacon Cold Brew

Hero's Beacon Cold Brew

As a token of our appreciation leading into the New Year, we created Hero’s Beacon: a unique cold brew iced coffee from Monomyth Studio. This limited, promotional cold brew is available to our friends and clients, or random wanderers who happen to journey into our office.

The cold brew is steeped for 24 hours in cold water, producing an iced coffee that is more caffeinated, less acidic, and better tasting. Leah Newsom, our content developer/words person, has a background in making cold brew coffee, not only experimenting on her own, but also as the creator of local favorite Royal Coffee Bar’s original bottled cold brew recipe.

Hero's Beacon Cold Brew

Hero’s Beacon uses beans from one of our favorite roasters, Brandywine Coffee Roasters out of Delaware. The beans are an Ethiopian Shakiso, naturally processed, with tasting notes of raspberry, cola, and tangerine.

We named the cold brew Hero’s Beacon, as a reference to the Monomyth “Hero’s Journey” story. We wanted to convey not only our love for coffee, but how every hero needs a guiding light. Sometimes that light can be an ally, a mentor, or a wise word. Other times, it’s just good coffee.

Hero's Beacon Cold Brew

We created a custom bottle design with an interchangeable promotional tag, right now featuring a New Years message for our clients and friends. The back of the bottle introduces some iconography from our brand update (coming later in the spring). Each bottle was hand-dipped in  gold wax to create a seal, to be torn off by the string of the tag.

So, clients and friends, keep your eyes out for us. We might be strolling through your doors with something delicious.