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Alum Produces Epic Game Trailers for Metal Gear Solid V Launch

By: Georgia Schumacher Filed under: Gaming & Technology

October 14, 2015

An empty, dry landscape appears and then fades to black, only to be replaced by an abandoned town with that same desolate feeling. A helicopter flies by, low. It’s the end of era--or so the screen says. So begins the Gamescom trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain--one of the many promotional pieces for the game on which alumni Jon Menefee served as creative director.

“This is the last Metal Gear game by creator Hideo Kojima, so it's a really big deal in our industry,” says Jon, a 2004 AS in Video Production graduate of The Art Institute of California—Los Angeles, a campus of Argosy University. “To do a trailer for something that big, this 3-minute epic trailer for a game like that, and to see the massive fan reaction when it came out, to see trailer reaction videos where the fans dissect and react to every single shot in the trailer, that’s really cool.”

Jon has been working in advertising since 2003 when he started as a video editor and began focusing almost exclusively on games in early 2005. During his career, he has created videos promoting over 140 brands and worked on various installments for franchises such as Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Tomb Raider, and Call of Duty. He’s currently Head of Games and Creative Director at Vibe Creative, and, for the last two years, he has been working on the launch campaign for Metal Gear Solid V, including Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and more recently, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

“For Metal Gear Solid V, I was directly in charge of the creative for the western marketing campaign—leading teams, conceptualizing ideas, and molding it all, from start to finish. As the direct client contact, I also pitched our creative to the client,” he explains, adding that he even did some editing himself for the Metal Gear TV commercials.

Looking back at his education from The Art Institutes, Jon believes that the experience was about more than just developing the technical skills that contribute to his current success. “It also gave me the creative freedom to explore whatever I wanted,” he says. “Projects never felt like homework, they felt like fun.”

More than the classes, it’s teachers that Jon really remembers. “When I think back on school, I think about those teachers. I think about my directing teacher, I think about my first videography teacher, people like that. They are very, very important and they are very passionate, they care, and they genuinely put in the time.”

That passion and commitment is something Jon now exemplifies as a Creative Director. “I'm working from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep,” he says. “It's the thing you have to do to make it in the position I have.”

For example, when working on Metal Gear Solid, the time difference between California and Japan sometimes meant gathering the US team at 10:30pm to pitch ideas over the phone to the team in Japan, where it was 2:30pm.

“Those meetings were actually pretty fun. I would pitch a couple lines at a time in English and then someone on the other end would translate in Japanese,” he recalls. “When I walk people through a script, I do character voices and make explosion sound effects. It was a really unique experience to do that and then hear somebody imitating these characters voices in Japanese, especially with the sound effects.”

While working on this project, Jon also had the opportunity to visit Japan to shoot a video for Metal Gear Online and attend the Tokyo Game Show. “I have wanted to go to Japan for the whole 11 years that I have been working in games.” he says, “It was very cool to go to a place where so many video games have come from.”

Of course, leading such a high-profile project meant working under close scrutiny from one of the biggest game developers in the industry. “They have a very, very high standard for their games and everything related to their games,” he says. “We had to rise to challenge.”

Under Jon’s leadership, the team did just that, and within its first five days, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain sold 3 million physical copies. In the face of any challenge, Jon believes success is all about having passion.

“The person who wants it the most, who pushes themselves and works the hardest, that is the person who is going to get it,” he says. “If you don't have the passion, you aren't going to make it.”



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