All the store's a stage
Steinhafels films TV commercials in-house

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Sept. 19, 2015

  The set for a TV commercial is readied on Monday. The Steinhafels video crew built a living room set, complete with lighting to simulate sunlight streaming in the windows.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

CITY OF PEWAUKEE - Beyond the showroom of furniture arrangements and the clearance room filled with a mismatch of home decorating items is a studio tucked behind a wall created for Steinhafels' in-house video crew to  create television advertisements and training videos.

On Monday, Video Production Manager Ira Klusendorf and Video Producer Mike Geraci were busy directing the creation of a living room set in which to film the Steinhafels' 81st anniversary commercial. Studio assistants Luis Dominguez Pablo affixed temporary woodwork along the top of the living room walls while Austin Neumann worked on the sound system.

While many people may recognize the signature Steinhafels ads, few probably know that the commercials are filmed in the company's City of Pewaukee headquarters by its staff.

When Marketing Director Dirk Stallmann started at Steinhafels almost nine years ago, he said, the family-owned furniture company was working with an ad agency for its video production. And while that company did a great job helping to create brand recognition for Steinhafels, Stallmann said it made sense to use staff who "live and breathe the company every day" to make the commercials.

  The Steinhafels crew prepares the set for a new commercial.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Each year, Steinhafels creates hundreds of TV spots and videos, Stallmann said.

"A lot goes into that, but the bottom line is we are a department of about 12 people. We are very lean and I like to keep it that way," Stallmann said.

By having its own staff film the videos, Stallmann said, the company was able to save money, but more importantly, Steinhafels would have control.

"The fun part is to continue to expand the types of things we do to make this company better," he said.

Three years ago, Steinhafels brought full video capability in-house, Stallmann said. Upstairs in the City of Pewaukee store there is a larger studio where on Monday a living room was created, as well as a white space for filming a mattress commercial. Downstairs is a smaller studio with an audio recording studio attached and a video editing area.

  A camera displays the set as the crew sets up the lighting and furniture the day before shooting a commercial in the Steinhafels studio. For shooting, the camera will be replaced with a rented RED camera for professional quality HD video.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Soon, the video production department will have a larger studio space in which to work once an expansion of the warehouse space is completed. The current studio spaces are not very efficient, Stallmann said, explaining equipment and lighting need to be ported back and forth.

"We are anxious to get ahold of our new space and the efficiencies that we'll gain," he said.

Geraci and Klusendorf agreed it's nice to have control over filming the commercials because the crew can react faster if any need for change arises.

"We're all invested. When working with an outside group, they can't be as invested as the employees can be," Geraci said.

The footage shot will be divided up into multiple TV spots. Actors are hired to appear in the commercials and people may be hired to be extra grips or for other supporting roles.

Stallmann said he is not aware of many companies that have the same level of filming capabilities Steinhafels has, although some do still photography and printing in-house. But even then, much of the production is geared toward internal communications.

  The set creates the illusion of an idyllic living room.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

When not filming commercials that are broadcasted across the region, Steinhafels' video production crew makes videos to educate employees at the company's different locations. Videos are also created for display in the showroom, to educate both the buyers and employees on the features of pieces of furniture.

Photographer Sarah Utech takes still photos of everything to be used on the company's website and other promotional materials. She also helped decorate the set Monday and was helping to set up the lighting.

Overall, Geraci said the crew is given creative license with the video filming.

"It's an incredible reward to watch it fall into place," Stallmann said. "We keep improving the more we keep doing."