by October 15, 2012 at 10:00 am 2,580 0

"The Duke"

The Duke & The Duck, Alex Herder and Dave Ellington. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Nick Barron. Follow him on Twitter @nbarron; email him at nick[AT]

Here’s a story about Duke and Duck. It’s a true story, but that doesn’t mean it’s not part fairytale.

Duck and Duke meet as students at the University of Illinois. After graduating, Duck, aka Alex Herder, moves to DC, and Duke, aka Dave Ellington, to Springfield, Illinois.

Alex wants to pay his bills while doing work that aligns with his values. Dave, an environmental science graduate, starts learning how to make animated videos.

“I knew I wanted to do something artistic, and I wanted to use my hands,” Dave said. “Animation was the more fun approach to art, I thought, so I decided to just do that.”

Dave starts taking some video animation classes at a community college, where one of his videos wins Best in Show in a contest.

It’s 2008, and Alex starts drumming up clients who need animated videos, which Dave works on part time. Six months later Dave moves to DC, shifting to doing video animation full time for clients, and The Duke & the Duck Video Productions is born.

And that name?

“We wanted a name that evoked the importance of story telling,” Alex said.

Dave, whose last name is Ellington, was dubbed Duke, as in Duke Ellington, and Duck was chosen for Alex based off an old pet name his wife, Melissa, called him.

“Our thing is telling stories digitally,” Alex said. “Taking complex ideas or stories and making them easily relatable, easily understandable, easily digestible, usually for an online audience.”

Their work today is higher-end videos, about 60 seconds to 3 minutes in length, and, because this is DC, largely for public policy clients.

Times are changing for The Duke & the Duck Video Productions, though, as they’re looking to serve more consumer-facing brands and organizations.

While public policy videos can impact people, they’re often not viewed by people outside the target audience.

“As artists, you want people to see your work,” Alex said.

Plus, to execute on their vision for the company, the co-founders need to grow their business.

“Our mission with the company is really to create a playground for artists,” Alex said. “A place for artists to create really cool looking things, and get paid.”

That requires more predictable revenue streams.

Right now, The Duke & the Duck Video Productions hires two or three contractors for most of its projects, but it can’t afford to bring them on full time.

“It really sucks that we can’t provide stability for the people we work with,” Alex said.

And so Dave and Alex are looking to hire a business development person who can help them expand.

Doing what you love to do while supporting your values? That’s a 21st Century fairytale if ever there was one.

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