Content + Creators

Live Streaming offers Branded Content a new way to reach customers... and actually connect.

HABANA Avenue’s Managing Director and Founder Steven J. Levy recently attended Advertising Week in New York, and to no surprise there was a clear emphasis on live streaming and the opportunities brands have where they can engage with consumers.

Unilever’s CMO and guest editor of Think With Google Keith Weed shared the same sentiment and expressed his takeaways on the subject as well:

“Looking at Gen Z, 95% of them use YouTube, and 50% say they can’t live without it. And 69% of Gen Z are on Instagram. The trick for us as marketers will be thinking about how this feeds into new forms of commerce.” Weed said, emphasizing that, “It might finally be the year of video.”

From a marketing standpoint, live streaming is a trend marketers and brands cannot pass up. Especially right now with this generation’s audiences being heavily engaged with digital mediums. But, it is more than just advertising on social platforms. Engaging an audience is far more important than subconsciously seeing an ad while you scroll on Facebook or Instagram.

Rise of Live Streaming – Redefining Real-Time Engagement by Peter Koeppel

Rise of Live Streaming – Redefining Real-Time Engagement by Peter Koeppel

What makes live streaming such an integral aspect of brand marketing?

Quick answer: With the engagement on video platforms being so high, this relatively new trend works extremely well with the evolving consumer preferences. With viewership being the payout, and with platforms that have upwards of hundreds of millions of active users, preferences cannot be overlooked. The numbers speak for themselves, and these social platforms are taking the industry by storm: 

Research by Peter Koeppel
Facebook Live:

  • Over 360 million users watch regularly
  • Videos are watched three times longer than any other video content
  • About 200 million regular users watch
  • Features real-time likes and comments

 YouTube Live:

  • One billion people use YouTube
  • Live streaming is only for verified channels
  • Option available for mobile live stream once you have 1,000 subscribers


  • Active daily users of 9.7 million people
  • The average user spends 106 minutes watching live streams each day

  • 6 million total users view content monthly
  • Average users spend three sessions per day in the app, or about 3.5 minutes a day

Leon Bridges puts a soulful twist on our National Anthem for ESPN's "The Undefeated"

Director of Photography Mark Eberle collaborated with fellow Texas native Leon Bridges for a soulful, powerful rendition of  "The Start Spangled Banner".  Shot in their hometown of Forth Worth, Eberle creates a moody, intimate look that is reminiscent of classic soul singers from the past. 

Of his first time singing the national anthem outside of school, the 26 year old soul artist said,

"I felt that the original version is a little bit too straightforward musically... I felt it was kind of dope to give a little 6/8, groovy feel to it. Something that felt comfortable for me to sing... Just giving it a bit of a soul feel felt good to me."

Bridges' piece is part of a new ESPN series "The National Anthem" featuring six different voices singing "The Star Spangled Banner" each with their own twist. 

Sources: ESPN, Rolling Stone

'Day of Days' Actors win big at the Women's International Film and Art Festival in Miami

Independent Film Making at Its Finest

Director of Photography Mark Eberle's recent project "Day of Days" starring only two characters was called an "Audience Favorite" by the Women's International Film and Art Festival President and Founder, Yvonne McCormack Lyons at the world premiere on November 4th in Miami. 

The film starred Tom Skerritt, Award winning acting veteran, and Peruvian actress Claudia Zevallos, and both left the festival as winners of the 'Best Actor' awards in each respective category. 

"Day of Day's" was inspired by a true story of a 91 year old recluse and Cuban refugee home-aid worker and touches upon the challenges of life; Acceptance, regret, love, loss, and the most difficult of human truths; life ends, and life goes on. 

We're proud to have Mark as part of the team. Congrats to the entire cast and crew of "Day of Days" on the win!

Click here to read more about the film and the festival! 

Fabien Dufils Directs Feature Film One Buck

If you are a fan of gritty crime dramas like True Detective or The Wire, then you just might love One Buck directed by HABANA Director, Fabien Dufils.

One Buck takes the audience on an odyssey through the heart of a forgotten town in Louisiana. It follows the tales of those whose destinies may seem simple enough, but are often suspiciously clouded by alternative motivations.

Harry, a worn-out cop mired down in his own deceit, has reached the point of no return as his morals flounder. Heading a police investigation about a disturbing missing persons case,  Harry shirks the rules by increasingly wide margins. Hopelessly lost, teetering on the brink of mental collapse, Harry attempts to save all that is poised for destruction.

One Buck was shot near Shreveport, Louisiana, and now has entered post-production.

Originally born and raised in France and now working from our New York location, Fabien has been nominated for and won several international film awards for the bewitching avant-garde style he infuses into his projects.

Want to know more and keep up with the latest news? Follow Fabien’s One Buck on Facebook, and stay tuned to HABANA’s Social Channels for more One Buck updates!

HABANA Welcomes Director Ben Starkman

We are excited to welcome Ben Starkman, talented film director and cinematographer, to the HABANA roster.

Though Starkman found his passion behind the lens of the camera at the young age of 17, his life in the advertising industry started on the other side of the camera. At age five, he was featured in a Stouffer’s commercial, and then landed a starring role in a Jello commercial with Bill Cosby — where he learned the hard way how difficult on-screen can be. “We shot six different scenes that day and I was so sick from take-after-take of eating a fresh bowl of pudding every time,” he laughed.

It All Began With Superman

A native New Yorker, Ben came across a camera crew filming the first Superman movie in his Brooklyn neighborhood in the late ’70s. That scene made quite an impression.

“Superman was hoisted up on a big cable with a fan blowing on him and I thought ‘Oh, that’s how they do that! Cool!’ I got to see the camera, lights, crew and everything. It was amazing.”

As a teenager, one of his most memorable experiences included working as Dennis Hopper’s assistant – and chauffeur – on the set of a six week-long production.

Diversity and Drive

While you may have seen several of Ben’s previous works of art representing companies like Chobani, Motorola and Sesame Street – we consider Starkman a man of many talents.

“I do so many different things,” he said. “One of my most recent productions required interviewing people along with the cinematography skills I already had. I enjoy working with people that I like. Otherwise, I’d be miserable. I like working with nice people. ”

Ben likes to be involved in his work all the way through post-production, and immerses himself in the editing process. He feels blessed to have worked with some of the best editors in the business.“You can never get that kind of an education in school,” he said.

Words from the wise?

“It’s a lot about who you collaborate with. I love collaborating with editors and agency creatives. Editors are the first people I go to before shooting. I have a lot of respect for their input and perspective.”

Community Involvement

Some of Ben’s fondest memories of working in the film industry include his involvement in the Sundance Film Festival. He worked on a film with his friend JJ Lask as a cinematographer that he recalls as, “an amazing experience.”  He enjoys using his talents to give back whenever he can.

“I’m always looking forward to the future and working on the next big thing,” he said. “Part of my involvement with the ALS Association of New York is to volunteer my time annually to create a film for them. They get better and better every year.”

It’s a horrible disease and a very emotional process for all parties involved, but Ben says it’s totally worth it. “I’m very happy to help and raise awareness,” he said. “The bucket challenge was everywhere. The Yankees get involved too.”

Ben is a director and DP, and began working with HABANA this year.

Meet David Gottlieb: Our newest creative

We’d like to introduce the newest member of the HABANA team. Welcome David Gottlieb; a.k.a. Silver!

A creative professional

David comes to us with a very impressive resume. He founded City Beach Films in 1989, which produced commercials, long-form content and media of all kinds. His strengths include close collaboration with his clients, creative ingenuity and rich experience in the three phases of production.

Getting started

David attended film school at Emerson College in Boston. His dad was a creative director in NYC – “a true Mad Man,” he says. David started producing in-house for Nabisco Brands and later worked with Backer & Spielvogel as one of the feature producers on the classic Miller Lite “Tastes Great, Less Filling” campaigns. During this time, he had the opportunity to meet numerous athletes and work with Bob Giraldi on large accounts like Campbell’s Soup, Helene Curtis and Red Lobster.

Soon after, David took a position in Tampa with Ensslin and Hall Advertising as Director of Broadcast Production. They later sold to Earle Palmer Brown and David went off on his own, starting City Beach Films. “With David Gottlieb’s vast experience and capabilities, we at HABANA Avenue are better equipped to engage the content heavy media landscape.” says HABANA's President and Founder Steven J. Levy.

Other interests

David loves to surf, snow ski and cooks a mean meatball. He’s also currently taking guitar lessons.

We’re very fortunate to have David as part of the HABANA team and look forward to his continued success.

Vox Pops' Powerful Storytelling For Healthcare Brands

Habana is proud to partner with storytelling & directing team Vox Pop, creating cinematic brand stories for the Healthcare industry.  

As documentary filmmakers, Vox Pop specializes in capturing the authentic moments that engage and inspire an audience.

With deep roots in documentary film and television, the artists at Vox Pop are nimble, fast-moving and highly budget conscious.

The award-winning team brings healthcare storytelling to life in a bold, cinematic fashion. They humanize health care brands through compelling narratives, both scripted and unscripted. They use high-impact visuals and powerful moments to make an emotional connection. Sometimes they make you laugh, sometimes they make you cry, but they always pull you to the edge of your seat.

A Reel Honor

President and Founder Steven J. Levy was recently contacted by WireDrive, a content management and reel distribution software company. Any one that has worked with Habana over the last few years will know how heavily we rely on this product. From reviewing footage to sending reels to potential clients, WireDrive has been an invaluable tool for the entire Habana team.

That’s why we were thrilled when the WireDrive Team asked if they could feature a Habana reel on their new Customer Showcase.

Sharing the page with so many talented and vetted production companies was quite an honor. We would like to thank the WireDrive team for thinking of us and for producing such a wonderful product. We look forward to many more years working with each other.

Chronicling filmmakers as the ultimate creators

Filmmakers, by the millions, are some of the most creative people in the entertainment business. Steven J. Levy, Habana President and Founder, explained how creativity and storytelling are pivotal components in this industry – and what keeps the filmmakers hooked.

There’s an insatiable desire to tell a story.

Each client has their own story to tell. There’s opportunity on a daily basis to help clients share their life while engaging viewers through film and imagery. No two projects will be the same – and that’s the thrill of it.

As creators in the film industry, Habana is here to help. Film and photography are the only tools we have to preserve memories, and it’s a filmmakers’ job to make sure those memories are remembered and portrayed in the best way possible.

I have a desire to tell stories. And I’m never quite satisfied. Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime, we need to keep them alive.
— Martin Scorsese

The challenge, the risk, and the thrill of discovery.

Each project is different and takes an ample amount of time to craft a plan that works best for each one. “People like the diversity of our capabilities and what we’ve done. They like the fact that we have a real understanding of marketing, music, promotional work, commercials and features,” said Steven.

"We’re the guys people can come to because we’re flexible enough to work with many different types of content and brands. The great thing about being a creative agency and working with clients is the constant overflow of great ideas all coming together. There’s a great deal of satisfaction upon project completion and knowing we’ve created something magical."

Of course, details and logistics are always subject to change and it keeps us on our toes. No one can expect everything to work out perfectly every time, but at Habana, we’re confident in our knowledge and staff to be able to handle any minor setback with precision and ease.

Small team collaborations get the conversation started.

In our offices, there are teams of people working hard around the clock to ensure proper planning and execution of all endeavors. From engaging first-time clients with kickoff meetings to the final wrap, the wheels are always turning. Brainstorming and thinking aloud are such essential parts of this profession and there’s a lot of passion that forms a constant flow of ideas that eventually turn into projects.

James Cameron couldn’t have said it any better: “When a small group of people form a tightly-knit team…in that bond, you realize that the most important thing is the respect…that you’ve done a task that you can’t explain to someone else. Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own. Imagination is a force that can actually manifest a reality.”

The belief in creating a visual soundtrack to peoples’ lives.

Many people don’t consider the effect that music has on film. For those who are able to hear music, these sound waves can make a huge difference when watching a film. When you pick a song to go along with a scene, credit roll or special moment – you’re adding so much more meaning to that experience.

When mobile music finally came out, there was a soundtrack to your life. Whatever was in your ears – that’s what empowered you. We are very fortunate to be in a position to create the content and soundtrack to peoples’ lives. “I really love the music aspect of filming,” said Steven. “There’s something really special about it.”

There’s time for work … and time for play.

There’s an advantage to working on a variety of different projects. Filmmakers get to meet lots of new people on a regular basis doing what they love. At Habana, our directors have been able to experience some really incredible things in this business and sometimes forget that we’re actually working. We’ve had the pleasure of working with celebrities and it’s easy to get lost in the moment.

When it’s time to buckle down and get to work, it’s not hard for us – we love it! There’s a thrill in finding the perfect location, assembling all necessary parts and executing the project.

The ability to share work on an infinite number of devices.

The good thing about all the technology releases and devices means there’s no limit how we can share our work. Of course, films are best viewed on larger screens, but then again – we’d rather a person see our work on a mobile device than not at all. Whether you’re viewing our films on a large desktop screen or small iPhone on a plane, we’re all grateful for the opportunity that grants anyone access to our work at any given moment.

The use of social media has grown exponentially in the past decade, allowing people to research, discover and share their finds instantaneously with friends. In today’s day and age, it’s hard to find time to sit down with friends and family anymore – so we’re thankful that technology gives people the chance to watch most things on-demand.

There are many jobs to be fulfilled.

At times, this can be overwhelming. Filmmakers tasked with creating, writing, filming – and all the logistics in between. We’re agents for our next project. We’re directors, cinematographers, photographers … the list goes on. Each project is a chance to learn something new and we never stop learning.

We’re very fortunate to work with a talented team of individuals who all bring something new and fresh to the table (and the set!).

The world is a stage.

We can work anywhere. Well, almost – permits and no-fly-zones aside, our office is wherever we need it to be. It gets challenging having projects all over the U.S. but that’s what makes it fun. With offices in California, New York and Florida – we are extremely flexible and love traveling.

Let’s start telling your story.


Welcome Directors Vox Pop to Habana

We like to think of our team as a little family here at HABANA. And with that, there is no better reason to celebrate than when that family gets a little bit bigger.

We would like to welcome Vox Pop to our family. This team of three is an acclaimed Los-Angeles based directing powerhouse with award winning documentary and commercial work that has appeared on HBO, MTV, PBS, IFC and the Discovery channel. 

From Healthcare to Banking, to Sports, to Education, they excel in applying unscripted storytelling techniques to energize and promote national brands.

Their reel includes work with the likes of Red Bull, Runner’s World, Athlete’s Performance, Boeing, Christie’s, Proxibid, Pandora, USC, UCI and more. Together, they have filmed in over a dozen countries, and been internationally recognized from Sundance to Seoul.

Best in class creative is our top priority at HABANA Avenue, and access to it can be the difference between something great and something that knocks a sock off (or two).

Welcome Vox Pop team!

Barilla Road Trip Comes to Tampa

Barilla Pasta is producing a brand new episodic that focuses on pasta recipes from different cities throughout the United States. The idea behind "Barilla Pasta Road Trip" is to showcase local chefs and recipes that utilize locally grown ingredients in 20 different cities around the United States.

Imagine an Idahoan (we had to look that up) walking the audience through a recipe that included delicious Barilla Penne pasta smothered in a sauce that featured good-ole-down-home Idaho potatoes. An interesting and creative endeavor to be sure, and HABANA was excited to be asked to join the fun.

When it comes to Florida, we are known world-wide for two things: beaches and oranges.

When it was time for Barilla Pasta to choose a location that encapsulates the Florida spirit, they were wise to chose beautiful Tampa Bay. Having a production company with roots in Tampa Bay was a must, ensuring that Chef Jeffrey Saad truly got to the heart of the city. They enlisted HABANA to handle the production and collection of Tampa Bay content. Who better to really capture the city, than some passionate content creators that were raised just minutes away?

We loved seeing Barilla work with our local flavors to create a uniquely Floridian pasta recipe. 

The Damas Diwali Campaign

HABANA Director Fabien Dufils recently completed this beautiful piece for Damas Jewelry, a Dubai-based jeweler. Imagining a restyled Diwali celebration, the spot brings a modern feel to a centuries old tradition. The piece stars Nargis Fakhri, a rising model, actress & Bollywood starlet, and was shot two hours outside of Mumbai, India.

The production blends beautiful, traditional music, and the vivid imagery and style always apparent in Fabien’s work. With the spotlight on the jewelry, Fabien was able to craft the atmosphere into a ballet performed by shafts of light. The temple was alive with a feeling of nostalgia, but was made contemporary by Fabien’s vision for lensing.

With the client thrilled and the entire Damas campaign underway, we are happy to have Fabien back in New York and working on his next thrilling project.

Below is the final product:

“There are few challenges as exciting as re-styling an age-old occasion. And there are few brands better suited to doing so than Damas. In 2013, the premium Dubai-based jeweler has decided to add mystique and glamour to Diwali with a campaign titled Be The Brightest Light. Doing away with the usual clichés of Rangolis and firecrackers, Damas instead created a mythical world in which a cast of characters – each a fascinating attraction on their own – turn around and become captivated by a woman wearing Damas jewelry.

The film was helmed by New York based fashion director Fabien Dufils and stars rising Bollywood sensation Nargis Fakhri. Shot in Mumbai, the TV spot is supported by print, outdoor and radio. Altogether, the campaign elevates the image of 18k gold with the promise that on this festival of lights, the woman who wears Damas eclipses everyone else.”

Fallon, M. (Dec. 2013) “Brightest Light” TVC for Diwali by Damas. JWT, 2013. Behance

LA to Kiev and Back

Los Angeles, USA, 2003

Mark Eberle, an up and coming director of photography, is hunched over an archaic twenty-inch CRT monitor studying test footage for an upcoming commercial shoot to be filmed in two days in northern New Jersey.

“The light just isn’t ever going to be right here.” He whispers quietly to himself.

As he contemplates the ramifications of changing the location last minute, his desk phone rings and he answers with an unintended harshness he would immediately regret.

On the other end is an unfamiliar voice. The caller spoke with a thick accent that Mark guessed was from somewhere in Eastern Europe. He receives his confirmation when the caller tells him that he is from a recruiting agency located in the city of Kiev, Ukraine.

For a plethora of reasons the need for commercial work in the Ukraine had been steadily growing over the last several years. The need had become so great that local agents had been forced to look outside of their home country for talented directors and directors of photography. Seeing as the US has no shortage of talent, the agents set their sites on Tinsel Town. Mark found himself on a long list of potential Directors of Photography targeted by the European talent agencies.

With an appetite for adventure and the potential to earn extra money while visiting a beautiful country, Mark accepted the invitation to shoot his first project, a commercial for a local brewery in Kiev.

Once in Kiev, Mark set his skills to work producing an amazing 30s spot and his name started becoming more and more familiar among the local talent. Introduction lead to introduction and soon the work was pouring in. After shooting around half-a-dozen spots, Mark decided it was time to head home to focus on new artistic endeavors.

Mark Eberle on set in Kiev

Mark Eberle on set in Kiev

Kiev, Ukraine, 2013

Lybomir Levitski, a young and upcoming director is gaining popularity with his unique style of story telling. Being on the cutting edge of this art form means that a director needs to be willing to step outside of their comfort zone to make progress in the art. Seeing his chance to make waves in the industry, and noticing an increased desire for “American Style” direction, Lybomir sets out to film his next picture in just such a way.

Reaching out to his contacts in the industry, Lybomir keeps coming across the name Mark Eberle, a US Director of Photography that had done a great deal of work ten years ago, but had mysteriously been absent from the industry in more recent years. Combing through Mark’s decade old work was enough to convince the young director that he had found his DP for his first Western style project.

Lybomir picked up the phone and started dialing the +01 US area code. It was 8pm, but Mark would just be getting to the office.

“Hello this is Mark.” A cheerful voice echoed over the line.

Again, an Eastern European accent greeted Mark through the receiver. Again, the voice was unfamiliar.

“Hello, my name is Lybomir Levitski, and I’m interested in bringing you back to the Ukraine to change the film industry here.”

He had Mark’s attention.

Lybomir launched into a passionate description of his plan to bring a new and fresh direction style to his country’s rapidly growing feature film industry. He explained he was building a mostly American team of artists to collaborate with his Ukrainian team to produce a full-length feature film. He also went into detail about how unorthodox the American style of filming was to the Ukraine, and how much of a “game-changer” this project would be in his country.

Having been focused on commercial work for the last decade, Mark was eager to be part of a full feature and before he knew it was again on a plane heading east. The chance to be part of a team that was making major history, was too good to pass up.

Los Angeles, USA, Present Day

The film is only three weeks away from launching in 90 theaters all over the Ukraine. The expectation from the awaiting public has been palpable in the city of Kiev and the excitement has begun to spread halfway across the globe.

Mark, a self-proclaimed “laid-back guy” is fielding daily phone and Skype calls from half a world away. Calls and interview requests from top news shows, akin to the US’s Good Morning America, and radio talk shows have been inundating the DP’s inbox and voicemail. It turns out, Mark has become quite a celebrity in the Ukraine’s own version of Hollywood.

Becoming a Ukrainian sensation has been a welcome turn of events for Mark. He couldn’t be happier for his friend and colleague Lybomir Levitski. Lybomir has been enjoying his own fame in his homeland, and has become a national hero for his effort to bring western culture to his country.

He finishes a Skype interview and downsizes the window reveling his latest project. The red carpet event will be in three weeks, but for now, it’s back to creating magic for another client, in another part of the world.

Mark skips through frame by frame scrutinizing the lighting and shadows as they move across the landscape.

“The light just isn’t ever going to be right here.” He whispers quietly to himself.

Mark Eberle filming in Kiev

Mark Eberle filming in Kiev

Detroit Muscle has a new contender

Equus, a young Michigan based auto-builder introduces the new Bass 770. This modern take on classic muscle brings the history of Detroit into a new era.

Needed a Sleek and Sexy Portrayal

With the need to produce an exciting and sexy promotional video, Equus contacted French director, and HABANA Featured Director, Fabien Dufils.

Fabien’s unique ability to merge beautiful imagery with virtual any product was what initially prompted the introduction between he and HABANA's President and Founder, Steven J. Levy. The uniqueness of the Bass 770’s blending of old world design and modern technology lends itself well to Fabien’s style of direction. The 770 is aimed at the luxury market with a sticker price just under $300k, and the artistic feel of Fabien’s work was the perfect fit.

Shot at an abandoned airport and utilizing stunt drivers and a full effects team, the shoot was difficult to capture, but an entertaining challenge for the team. Fabien’s stylized vision was brought to life through the hard work of countless behind the scenes technicians and producers.


A Shot at Relief

After a successful shoot for the breakout band Macklemore, we are proud to have again worked in the great city of Boston. Biogen Idec trusted our teams to shoot, direct and edit a seven-minute content piece, that was presented on Fenway Park’s Jumbotron during the Boston Red Sox’s opening week.

We could not have been more thrilled to help with the release of their latest blockbuster drug, TECFIDERA™. Our team was honored to craft this pro-mercial piece for such an important cause. The new drug, TECFIDERA™ (dimethyl fumarate), is a new oral therapy recently approved in the United States for the treatment of relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis, including relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), which is the most common form of the disease.

Geoffrey C. Porges, a biotechnology analyst at Sanford Bernstein, said in a note on Monday that he expected global sales to reach $1.7 billion by 2015 and $2.6 billion by 2017.

Gillette Light it Up Hologram

Spotlight in Boston

Gillette illuminated Boston with a 60-foot Video Map hologram installation featuring athletes Ryan Lochte and Tyson Gay, in a spectacle that happened over the Boston Harbor. The project, a collaboration between the Gillette agency team of Proximity, BBDO, Ketchum and Klip Collective, is part of the brand’s global “Get Started” campaign. Built with multiple 35K projectors, the action was displayed on “screens” made up of water vapor sprayed into the air above the harbor.

The event was teased previously through a series of smaller projections on well-known Boston buildings, which featured glimpses of Lochte and Gay.