The cue less taken

Producer Michele Carnes Ellis escaped to Ashland from Los Angeles before acquiring what she describes as the dour, stressed-out expression worn by many Hollywood producers.

An eight-year Ashland resident with her husband and children, Carnes Ellis has stayed busy working on film and commercial projects since moving here.

In December 2011, she launched her own production company with a stable of talented directors, animators, writers, photographers and special-effects wizards stretching from Portland to Ashland to San Francisco.

Carnes Ellis named her company Mmmmm Society to reflect the fun, upbeat atmosphere she tries to maintain on film and commercial shoots.

She and her husband decided to make the leap from Los Angeles to Ashland after realizing that Los Angeles was no longer the center of the universe when it comes to films and commercials.

People in the filmmaking industry lead a largely nomadic life, setting up in cities, states and countries that offer the best tax credits, she said. "We decided to get out of L.A. We had three little kids, and we had found Ashland on the Internet," Carnes Ellis said.

With just a short drive to Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, she can fly to different locations. But Carnes Ellis also likes to use Southern Oregon for filming.

She produced a commercial for a moveable truck bed liner that features a local pumpkin patch, construction sites and background shots of Grizzly Peak.

Portland is another favorite haunt.

In April, Mmmmm Society debuted a campaign ad for Portland mayoral candidate Eileen Brady that was a spoof of "Portlandia," a popular Independent Film Channel television series that pokes fun at Portland foibles.

In one "Portlandia" episode, the stars ridicule the ubiquitous trend of putting bird images on products.

Working with members of Oregon's film and TV industry, Mmmmm Society crafted a 30-second "Put a Job On It" campaign ad for Brady's job-creation platform.

While other Brady campaign ads garnered about 5,000 views each on sites such as YouTube, the "Put a Job On it" video went viral and netted more than 39,000 views.

Carnes Ellis said she loves working on commercials because the time commitment is shorter. Counting the development and financing stage, people often invest years working on feature films.

During her years of working as a producer for others and for her own company, Carnes Ellis has been responsible for everything from getting financing for a project to distribution.

Reflecting her diverse skills, Mmmmm Society and its stable of talent can come up with ideas, write scenes and dialogue, create the commercial or film, edit and deliver the finished product.

"We can take it from concept to completion," Carnes Ellis said.

The animation and special-effects team at Ashland-based is part of Mmmmm Society's talent pool of seven individuals and companies.

The team created special effects for a feature-length documentary about clean energy alternatives called "THRIVE: What On Earth Will It Take?"

Globe-trotting photographer and filmmaker Michael Washington is another Mmmmm Society member.

Among his other work, he created a video series for Converse featuring athletes and innovators from around the world — including a Cambodian marathon runner who must navigate through hidden land mines, and an Australian inventor who creates whimsical, bubble-producing vehicles to delight children and adults.

This June, Mmmmm Society added Portland director James Westby to its roster. He has created independent films as well as commercials for Adidas and the University of Oregon.

"I love bringing together the best, most talented, right people for a project," Carnes Ellis said. "To me, that's the best part of it."

To learn more about Mmmmm Society and view videos of its members' work, visit

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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