UT freshman makes commercials for Austin businesses

Charles Liu

Radio-television-film student John Hanby owns a professional film production company that produces high-quality commercials for businesses around Austin — and he’s only a freshman.

Hanby’s company, Fractal Visuals, shoots commercials for businesses as small as low-budget startups to multimillion dollar companies, such as Southwest Foodservice Excellence. He started Fractal Visuals during his junior year of high school after helping create an advertisement for the security company where his dad works.

Hanby’s parents supported his endeavor from the start, buying him his first professional-level camera. After Hanby started producing ads for more clients, he used his profits to purchase better camera equipment and contract freelance film professionals to help him with his projects.

“The fact that I’m [running the company] on my own now is exciting,” Hanby said. “But my parents gave me all the encouragement in the world. I owe it all to them.”

Although Fractal Visuals’s ads boast good production values, Hanby tailored the company to support small and medium businesses that can’t afford to pay high prices for ads.

“[Other companies] charge so much money,” Hanby said. “A full-scale production for three minutes of video costs $50,000. Small to medium businesses get hurt by that. I try to help them in a way.”

Hanby discovered his love for making films when he was 8 after making a documentary for a school project. The video was about Tukong Moosul, a Korean style of martial arts that he practices. As he got older, Hanby continued to make videos for personal projects, school announcements and events before creating Fractal Visuals.

Beyond his corporate work, Hanby produces short films that tackle dark subjects and themes. One of his shorts, “Beautiful,” which tells the story about a soldier and his lover torn apart by World War II, screened at South By Southwest in 2014. For these personal projects, Hanby often teams up with his friends and spends hours shooting with them on weekends.

“My friends are all fantastic,” Hanby said. “Everybody that helped found a role they were good at.”

Hanby’s friend Michael Castoro, a finance freshman at the University of Houston, was the cameraman for his shorts. Castoro said Hanby always pushed for excellence from his crewmembers and strove to make his films as good as possible.

“Everything [we’ve] done we’ve tried to make the best we could,” Castoro said. “We didn’t give up until [a video was] perfect.”

Hanby’s martial arts instructor, Ali Brown, has starred in a few of his videos. In one short, he and Hanby face off in a choreographed fight sequence that demonstrates their martial arts prowess.

Brown, who has known Hanby since he was 4, said he has enjoyed watching him grow into a bright, young filmmaker.

“[Hanby] is really good at being collaborative,” Brown said. “I’ve helped [with stunts] on films such as ‘Sin City.’ [Hanby] keeps things on schedule in a way that you don’t find on movie sets.”

Hanby said he hopes he will work on Hollywood film sets as a director in the future. His goal is to create movies that emotionally impact audiences in the way films such as “The Terminator” affected him.

“I had nightmares for a week after [seeing ‘The Terminator’],” Hanby said. “Having that emotional response was the coolest thing. I want to share that experience through my work.”