Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mmm, that's a good cup of Nite Owl Coffee

If you have been following the launch of Watchmen – from the advertising campaigns and posters, to The New Frontiersman and more, heck just read the in-depth look by Chris Thilk on all their movie marketing madness – the one thing that really was interesting to me was the coffee tie-in to the movie.

If you’ve read the graphic novel – and, well, the people who saw it opening weekend likely have read it – you will remember the scene where Dan serves Sally a cup of coffee after they rescued people from the burning building. I think the line was that he was still civilized.

And, when you first saw the coffee online – I don’t remember where I saw the link – but I do remember thinking it was another part of the film’s viral campaign, and that it wasn’t real.

But, well, the coffee IS real. The company – Organic Coffee Company – is real. How it all came into reality, well, that’s sorta unreal but still real.

Clay Enos – a photographer in his day job – is a founding member of OCC, which he views more as more of a coffee cartel than a company. Enos started the company a few months back, after assignment in Oaxaca, Mexico and being inspired by the people who make specialty coffee and their dedication and dependence on the farmers.

So, simply, he decided to become an importer and develop organic, relationship coffee with the belief that if you want good coffee, you don’t ignore the growers, but have a deep relationship with them that is based on trust and value.

And, being a photographer, he uses his own photographs to give the company and its coffees their own distinctive identity. And, since he started this out as a labor of love to honor world coffee, the majority of the profits are donated. When I spoke to Clay, he noted that the company is something that helps him express other principles, and a nice outlet for his photographs.

Talking to Enos, it's evident that he loves coffee and the idea of helping out others. His view of OCC is that it is a cooperative spirit, and that there be a sharing of the wealth. And, well, that coffee is a lovely social elixir – coffee is a lovely way to engage people. It’s the coffee way of life.

So, how did this all tie-in to Watchmen?

Well, Enos went to Ithaca College with Debbie Snyder – the wife of the director, and one of the producers of the movie. And, the photographer part of his life, well, Enos did all the photo shoots in the movie, behind the scenes, the one-sheets and the movie posters (all as work for hire).

As he noted, this was an overwhelming venture, was his first feature film. It was curious, excited, and as a portrait artist, you can’t do any better than a movie with five decades of costumes, hair, makeup – it was just ripe for portraits.

One thing to do behind-the-scenes, etc – but the portraiture work is totally different, an art book of portraits. With any luck, it will hold up past the movie tie-ins, as an example of great portraiture.

As he was doing the photographs, he thought of ways to tie-in coffee (as he notes, coffee is on his brain now). As he read the graphic novel, he noted that when they save the folks from the tenement fire, they then have coffee. Wouldn’t it be fun, to make that real? To do a Nite Owl coffee? And, well, Enos was in the position where he could make it happen and raise money for charity, and satisfy the fans - really, to let people have some of the best coffee they will ever have.

Thus far, the sales have been interesting because people are having trouble believing it’s real – it’s high-quality coffee that is not just for fans. Enos doesn’t care if it’s Nite Owl or one of the other coffees, it’s about the quality and how coffee is part of life.

Each coffee tells its own story, you’re drinking a place and people’s lives. It's fodder for conversation, and you can tell a story with the people. An equivalent of wine stories.

The Nite Owl and OCC coffees are about creativity, and having some fun. It's to inspire people to do the same, instead of looking down – the artistic mode, make better photographs instead of dismissing the idea that they couldn’t do well.

As for the coffee? Well, I got my can delivered - and it's some of the best smelling coffee I've ever smelled. It's rich, heady and you can tell it's going to be one helluva cup of coffee. So, as a fan boy, it's exciting. As a coffee lover, it should be great.