By Amanda N. Wegner | Photography By Anna Urban
Matt and Megan McGuinness of Elkhorn are not just busy raising a family, they’re also growing a business together. The McGuinnesses own and operate Fine Idea Studio, an award- winning video production, drone photography/videography and social media marketing firm. Together, they help local businesses and organizations build their brands, working with such clients as the Walworth County Fair, Stebnitz Builders, A+ Powersports & Equipment and Paisano’s on Broadway. Along the way, they’ve won an award or two for their work, including three American Advertising Awards (Addies).
But the McGuinnesses aren’t resting on their laurels, as they continue to grow and expand their business and craft. The couple launched Fine Idea Studio three years ago, and in February, opened a physical studio space in downtown Elkhorn. And while Matt has usually been the man behind the camera, Megan is learning the craft as well. “It has grown and grown over the past few years, and now it’s getting as much as we want it to be,” says Megan. “We’re grateful for how the community and area have supported us.”
FORGING A PASSION
“It all goes back to the arts,” explains Megan of how she and Matt came together. “Matt was in a band with my brother — a local band in the Lake Geneva area — a long time ago. We knew each other many years as acquaintances and got together about 11 years ago.” They celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary earlier this year.
Matt, however, adds a fun fact to the story: This connection all started thanks to MySpace, an early social media platform. “I was already in a band that was looking for a lead singer,” says Matt. “I put an ad out on MySpace, and Megan’s brother answered it. It’s one thing we can thank MySpace for,” adds Matt with a chuckle.
Matt, who grew up in Williams Bay, spent most of his 20s working as a golf pro in Wisconsin and California, but even then, he was starting to dabble in his future career, serving as the “unofficial photographer” on the golf course. And before drone photography existed, he was dangling a camera out of plane windows to get aerial shots of the course.
After leaving the golf world in 2007, Matt ventured into the technology and creative services space. He parlayed that career shift into designing websites and eventually began learning video production. But it wasn’t until he started working at Kunes Automotive Group about six years ago that he became fully immersed in the field of video and got his start with the drone. “That’s where I became laser-focused on video,” says Matt. “It really became a passion… There is no other medium where you can establish a personal connection like video.”
In 2018, McGuinness spun that passion into what is now Fine Idea Studio, so named because it was, in fact, a fine idea.
“Honestly, we were going over ideas for names, and that one just popped,” says Megan. “As soon as we searched and found it was available, that’s when it was official.”
“It’s an old phrase,” says Matt. “But the key for naming a business is making sure it’s unique, that no one else has it.”
BALANCING WORK, MORE WORK, LEARNING AND PLAY
Both Matt and Megan have full-time careers in addition to running their business; Matt still works in video production for Kunes, and Megan works for the county health and human services department. They also have three children who keep them busy. “[Fine Idea Studio is] an evenings-and-weekends venture, but we love it,” says Megan, who moved around a bit as a child but spent most of her youth in Lake Geneva.
Initially, Megan focused more on the financial side of the business, handling billing, bookkeeping and taxes. But this year, she’s been more hands-on behind the camera.
“That is new for us and really exciting,” says Megan. “I’ve been on Camera Two for a few events and a wedding [recently] — I’m just really getting my feet wet with the camera, but it’s truly changed my excitement because it gives me a different perspective both into the process and into the business itself.”
Matt is excited to see Megan growing her skills behind the camera. “It’s amazing to see her just go out, use the fundamentals and get some great clips. It’s been very gratifying to watch her learn.” Megan has also been learning how to edit videos. “She helps tremendously with keeping up with the editing side,” adds Matt.
Both Matt and Megan are self-taught in the business. Matt has supplemented his experience with classes, and Megan is learning on the job. What Matt loves about videography is the creative process and seeing the end results. “Video can make businesses and organizations all come to life. I just love the whole process,” says Matt.
“It’s exhilarating to watch it happen, and you get excited to see a project come together,” adds Megan. “It’s really a pretty cool field to be in.”
LOVING WHAT THEY DO
The McGuinnesses make their “nights- and-weekends” business work thanks to a roster of loyal regular clients. For businesses, video marketing has become increasingly important over the past several years, driving online engagement, conversions and sales. Adding video to a marketing strategy can help a company build the trust and credibility that is so crucial for consumers. On top of this, the algorithms guiding social media platforms and search engines like Google tend to favor video, weighting sites with video content higher than sites without, ensuring that those sites and posts receive more attention. As a consumer, this means that if you search for, say, “farmer’s markets,” the farmer’s market websites with video will more likely appear toward the top of your search. Using this knowledge to their benefit and adding video content to their sites can help businesses and organizations stand out in a crowded online market. And while video marketing was once reserved for those with large advertising budgets, it’s becoming increasingly accessible for organizations of all sizes.
For example, the McGuinnesses say that for one of their clients, A+ Powersports & Equipment, they film for two to three hours on the weekend once a month, and then produce four videos from this footage, which the company rolls out on their social channels and their website each week of the month. With another client, Stebnitz Builders, the McGuinnesses pair the company’s existing content with new content from two monthly shoots to create new videos. What the couple loves about video is the impact it can make. “People love watching videos,” adds Matt. “You don’t have to be on cable or TV. You can do online advertising … on a modest budget. Without spending a ton of dollars, videos can get you more engagement than still photos or graphics.”
For Matt and Megan, their weekends are generally filled filming local events, including festivals like Rib Fest, the Walworth County Fair or Delavan’s Scarecrow Fest, which they filmed in mid-September. They also film some weddings. In total, Fine Idea Studio films about 200 ads and events each year. “It’s a nice balance to keep busy, keep profitable and build our brand,” says Matt. “We’re as busy as we want to be and can still have free time.”
“Somehow, it’s strangely orchestrated, and we find balance,” says Megan. “There are times we’re overwhelmed, but it just seems to happen, and we find time to get everything done.”
Matt and Megan’s new studio in downtown Elkhorn presents an opportunity to meet with clients and expand their operation. They have a full video and photography studio there, including green screens to create composite photographs. (Composite photography is the practice of combining different images to create a new image.) Matt and Megan use the technology for niche portraiture — photographing children in costume, then dropping the costumed kiddo into a relevant scene, for example. “We might, for instance, photograph a kid in a Spider-Man costume in front of the green screen and then drop them into a Spider-Man scene with skyscrapers,” explains Matt.
Matt is also an FAA-licensed drone operator, which allows him to capture aerial video and photography, day or night.
While their decision to open a dedicated studio might hint at the McGuinnesses’ desire to take Fine Idea Studio full- time, Matt loves his job at Kunes, and the couple says they are happy with how their business has developed. “We spent the first two years buying gear, and now we’re in a good spot with that — it’s astounding what it takes to get started in this business,” says Matt. “But we’re happy where we’re at, so we’re going to keep enjoying it and watch it grow.”
“We’re in a good spot overall and loving what we do, so we’re just going to go where the wind takes us,” adds Megan.
Matt and Megan reflect on some of their most unforgettable projects to date.
A Little Time Alone,” a public service announcement video devel- oped as a collaboration between Fine Idea Studio and the Wal- worth County Fair, features the quiet fairgrounds amid the coro- navirus pandemic. The video was created to encourage Walworth County and Wisconsin residents to stay strong and to remind viewers that their time together would be better appreciated after time apart. Larry Gaffey, general manager of the Walworth County Fair, developed the concept and script for the video, and Fine Idea Studio helped bring Gaffey’s vision to life.
The video received over 140,000 organic views on Facebook and was awarded 1st Place Outstanding Video in 2020 by the International Association of Fairs and Expos. “It was off the charts and was prob- ably the biggest thing we’ve done,” says Matt. “But it was also a piece with impact.“
Farther afield, some scenic drone shots Matt captured of downtown Milwaukee in 2020 have been used to lead off Milwaukee Brewers games on the local broadcast. “It was a beautiful, sunny day in Milwaukee last spring, when I captured those drone clips,” he says. “It’s been pretty cool to see them interspersed in the intro to the games.”