Local Company Looking To Brand Berlin As Arts Hub

Local Company Looking To Brand Berlin As Arts Hub

BERLIN — Is Berlin on the precipice of an art and entertainment boom? Austin Widdowson, owner of Re:Fresh Media, believes that it is and can imagine a future where streets are alive with art and every bartender, lifeguard and mechanic has the opportunity to be an artist.
Widdowson hopes to be part of that evolution, which is why he founded Re:Fresh in May. Operating under a “multi-media” umbrella, Re:Fresh runs the gambit as far as services including film, commercials, business spotlights, music and sports videos, among many others. Whether working with a client on a passion project or developing advertising, Widdowson said that exploring every artistic angle is important to him and his team, which is why he returned to Berlin after years of traveling and working in other fields, including running a restaurant.
“I don’t want to live in a cookie-cutter suburb. I don’t want to live in a place that’s sterile,” he said. “I want to live in a place that is blooming.”
Living in both Worcester and Wicomico counties and attending school in Berlin as a child, Widdowson is familiar with the area and impressed with the way the town has changed over the last decade.
“It’s not a tourist town. It’s really going to be known as an arts community that has branded itself that way,” he said.
Widdowson looks to be part of that branding process through Re:Fresh and as a member of the recently re-energized Arts and Entertainment Council. The council met with town leadership at the end of the summer with a host of project ideas, including free movies on Main Street. A big patron of all forms of art, Widdowson said that movies speak to him especially because they are able to merge audio and visual with a narrative.
It’s something that he puts a strong emphasis on with Re:Fresh.
“You can really tell three stories at once and that’s why I love film. It allows us to really put out the right message and really kind of get someone’s story,” said Widdowson. “And that’s what we are: storytellers. The camera is just our pen.”
Taking a “less clients, more personal attention” approach, Widdowson confirmed that his team has been successful over the last five months. With four full-time employees and three interns that could become permanent, Widdowson is able to tackle every client’s priorities with a think tank of creative people.
“Every single one of our clients gets this really unique attention which allows us to bring the creative to the next level and actually give attention to every intimate detail,” he said.
While Re:Fresh has seen local support, Widdowson acknowledged that a large amount of his business comes from national or international projects. But being able to operate a business in a small town like Berlin and still make ripples at an international level confirms how the multi-media field has grown in recent years.
With social media keeping everyone connected and content available online instantly at the push of a button, Widdowson said the industry is branching out in new and exciting directions and allowing businesses greater flexibility in where they put down roots.
“The workflow from Berlin is the same it would be if I was across town in L.A. We’re still creating art, putting it into a digital format and transferring it to someone else,” said Widdowson.
Though passion projects like music videos play a big role for Re:Fresh, advertising and business features are the company’s “bread and butter,” according to Widdowson. In much the same way that art is changing, advertising is going in new directions as well, he continued.
“Right now, the shift in the market is that content is now controlled by the people,” Widdowson said.
What this means is that with YouTube, Netflix and dozens of similar sites, people don’t have to sit through as many or any commercials as the price for the things they want to view, read or experience. This isn’t a bad thing for advertisers, added Widdowson. But now businesses need to find ways to make their ads attractive.
Re:Fresh searches for creative ways to showcase businesses, events and places with videos that people will want to watch and even share over social media. It’s a lot easier to track the success of such campaigns, noted Widdowson, since every like, share or view is proof that someone’s interest has been engaged.
Widdowson believes it’s time to bring that style of promotion to Berlin. An emphasis on arts and entertainment is a good way to promote a year-round Berlin, he continued, and coupled with smart marketing, should see the town prosper. The town is a healthy place to nurture expression and ideas, said Widdowson. He has seen many residents juggle day jobs with passions like music, writing, painting and film making and is confident that Berlin is on the road to earning a reputation as a town where art truly is alive.
“I want people to go down the street and immediately associate this place with art,” Widdowson said.