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  • Writer's pictureCraig Van Horne

Scorched Ice Digital after Twenty Years

I founded Scorched Ice Digital in 2000, and registered the operating trade name in 2001. I came up with the name after finding the name of another company that I thought was innovative and interesting. It was a contradictory assembly of two words that had nothing to do with one another. That company was called Burnt Sand.

I couldn’t simply appropriate the name of another company that I liked, so I imagined alternate words that had a similar contextual meaning to each of, Burnt and Sand. So, in search of a name that combined two words in a way that was an unlikely occurrence, I made lists of words I liked, and created a word cloud of combinations on a sheet of paper.

The list, which I had typed and printed out in a word cloud of combinations, had approximately ten words in a multitude of combinations. The first was simple, as a synonym for Burnt is Scorched, I liked that word immensely. The word Ice came about because I had been an avid mountaineer, loved mountain biking as well as rock and ice climbing, spending what felt like a lot of time in my youth in the mountains so Ice seemed as good an option as any other.

I recall carrying that sheet of paper around with me in my pocket for around six weeks, asking people I met which combination they liked the most. Scorched Ice, as it turned out, wasn't in the top three choices in my list for the most liked company name as I recall. Nearing a decision, it was while enjoying a beer, at a restaurant come nightclub in Mount Royal Village in Calgary, a little over twenty years ago that I decided I didn’t like what most others had favored out of that list of possibilities as much as I did the name, Scorched Ice.

And so Scorched Ice Digital Video Studios it was. I liked the way the name sounded, and that it was an impossibility, ice cannot be burnt or scorched, applying energy to ice simply causes the elements to change state and it becomes something else, from rigid immovability to something more fluid and dynamic. I imagined that the implied metaphor was an apt one for a creative business.

I’ve struggled over the years as to whether or not the investment in a name is worthwhile, or if who I am, the way I approach work and the relationships I develop are the brand. If I’m honest, it is a pendulum that swings back and forth in perpetuity, I doubt it will ever be fully resolved. What I do know is that the name Scorched Ice and myself as an individual have so much history now, so much growth, so many memories that I feel a little melancholy considering the best way to market what I do, is it the individual or the company? Or are we one and the same, inextricably linked by time.

The world today is markedly different than when I founded Scorched Ice, the size and scope of business in the film and video industry has changed massively. Smaller boutiques can produce content that only the big names could twenty years ago. A smaller number of people can fill out more roles and execute creative in a way that was hard to imagine then. I feel that perhaps now, simply by sticking with this for twenty years, the delineation between individual and corporate brand for a small business isn’t so important, or as much of a hindrance or albatross as it once was.

The desire to appear as a larger entity or operation was once the norm, and still frequently perpetrated by some in the business. But being a large company or appearing to be a large company doesn’t say anything about its sustainability or the quality of work it produces. Not to mention how it treats the people doing the actual work and, in some cases whether people are being exploited, in a not dissimilar way to being asked to produce creative for ‘exposure’. I’m more comfortable now than I was before with the idea that a boutique, creative small business, that focuses on the experience of the customer, one that seeks to meet their needs and solve their problems, and build relationships is more valuable than false comfort through the perception of scale to mean less risk in contracting a creative company.

I understand that a company cannot offer any assurances that are not backed by the commitment of the people behind it. A guarantee to make something right is worthless unless someone cares enough to put the time, energy, and resources into correcting a mistake. A large part of creative businesses is goodwill. A trust that contractors will be paid, or that a commitment to a client will be followed through on. And I don’t believe goodwill can be stronger than when it comes from an individual who ties that goodwill to their character.

One of the measures of goodwill I believe I have, is that I know because of the relationships I have with others in the business, if something were to happen to me, my commitments would be seen to. That the jobs would be finished and the outcomes would be transparent to those looking in from the outside. Just as because of those relationships, many others I choose to work with and am also proud to call friends, should any misfortune befall them. I know that I’d be the first offering assistance to get the job done so their commitments were followed through on.

It seems to me that the future and sustainability of boutique creative businesses will largely depend on whether or not people place others at the forefront of how they choose to operate. Not dissimilar to how farming communities rally together to get a crop off the field when a neighbor falls ill or is injured. The quality of our relationships will make or break the possibility of a sustainable creative career.

History is littered with companies that looked too big to fail, and the number of companies in the film and video industry that are no longer around is a tome too large to reproduce. So I’ll take comfort in knowing that my brand, that of myself and Scorched Ice Digital is secure, because I’m in control of both. And by working with other good people who excel in their own craft and supporting others who share this perspective orientation with me I believe another twenty years is not only fully attainable, but also bright and markedly more prosperous than the first twenty. For a simple reason, I now completely understand that my job is problem solving. If there weren’t a problem to solve, creatives wouldn’t have anything to do that could be monetized.

Approaching 2022 means that the first half of what is a realistic period of time to work in this business means I’m embarking on the second half of my working life in the video and film production industry. Which would take me to the age of sixty five, at which point it will have been forty years since I imagined the name Scorched Ice. And I hope not the end of that journey but perhaps a transition to doing what I enjoy in a different way. Theodore Roosevelt said, “We all must either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out.” And that would be my choice as well, I choose to wear out.

So, what’s behind the name? I am. And access to my network of creative problem solvers. Together the limits on what we can accomplish are incredible.

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