Valencia Grad’s Start-Up Wins National Award for Filmmaking

In the big, bad world of advertising, sometimes the little guys win.

And win big.

That was the case early this month when a small Orlando digital marketing agency — founded by a Valencia graduate and a Rollins College grad — won a national Addy award. That’s the advertising world’s equivalent of an Oscar.

The duo — Valencia grad Jon Strong and his business partner, Dustin Watkins — are the heart and brains behind a small, local start-up called Strong Films. At a ceremony held in Phoenix, the pair won the American Advertising Federation’s 2013 National Gold Addy Award for Digital Advertising. The 3-minute film, “Chloe’s Wedding Day,” is about a little girl diagnosed with a brain tumor. The partners produced the film for Orlando Health’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

Strong, now 29,  and Watkins, 27,  met shortly after high school. Strong, a Lake Howell High School graduate, graduated from Valencia and then transferred to the University of Central Florida, where he earned his bachelor of fine arts in film in 2011.  Watkins, meanwhile, graduated in 2010 from Rollins College with a degree in organizational communication and psychology.

Strong founded the company in 2010 as a sole proprietorship, but their partnership began in 2011 — and they’ve been making short films (which they call “brand films”) for companies since.

In addition to winning a gold and silver Addys at the national level, Strong Films has made a splash in the Central Florida advertising market too. In February, Strong and Watkins’ film, “The Tin Man,” about an infant’s open-heart surgery, won “Best of Show” at the Orlando Addy competition. They also won two gold Addys in the Digital Advertising category, one for “Chloe’s Wedding Day” and one for “The Tin Man.”  Both were created for Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

The agency also won two gold Addys in the AAF’s district competition in April, a Best in Show at the Attic Film Festival (an independent Christian film festival held in Austin, Tex.); and a silver and bronze Telly award (awarded to best film and video productions around the country). In 2012, Strong Films was also one of only 10 companies to be “shortlisted” in the “branded content” category of the 2013 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Watch their award-winning video, “Chloe’s Wedding Day,” by clicking here.

(And one more Valencia note: Chris Tharp, who graduated from Valencia’s film technology program,  was the cinematographer for “Chloe’s Wedding Day.”)