Storytelling in motion

Journalism alum Brett Bittner transforms the stories of rural Midwestern life into thought-provoking documentary shorts at Passenger Productions

Since graduating from South Dakota State in 2009, Brett Bittner’s career has been a story in constant motion. He has scaled grain elevators to capture aerial camera shots for music videos for regional artists. He has visited Haiti three times as a freelance videographer and documentarian for foreign aid efforts. And, in his most ambitious move yet, Bittner recently signed on as a principal film director for Passenger Productions, a visionary video production company based out of Sioux Falls that, like Bittner, has a passion for adventure, creative growth and storytelling.

In the vein of This American Life, Passenger Productions uses an informal, documentary-style advertising approach to tell the stories of leading businesses, entrepreneurs and major nonprofit organizations—focusing on people and their passions rather than sales pitches.

From framing music video sets on a backdrop of mountains near the Pine Ridge Reservation to capturing breathtaking ambient nature scenes of the South Dakota countryside, Bittner’s obsessive attention to detail has played an integral role in bringing countless Passenger stories and ad spots to life.

“What makes Brett a key component to Passenger is his ability to take precise methodology and apply it to a creative vision very effectively,” said Joe Hubers, Passenger Productions owner/director. “Being a multi-disciplined filmmaker means Brett can efficiently guide a story to its maximum aesthetic and technical potential.”

The success of Passenger’s video storytelling is expanding rapidly, with the company recently attracting the attention of the Bush Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota, which contracted Passenger to produce a series of short-format video documentaries highlighting several Midwestern organizations that have made big impacts on rural communities.

“The Bush Foundation project was fantastic to work on because every organization was top-tier and their stories were incredible,” said Bittner. “I’ve learned so much while working at Passenger, but in our work, it’s always about what’s next.”

With Passenger’s first feature-length film in postproduction, and a number of projects for major regional nonprofits in the works, it is safe to say that “what’s next” for Bittner and Passenger Productions will be nothing short of an incredible story.

John Green

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