Off the Beaten Path

R&B recording artist Allen Stone (center) enjoys a preview of a video recorded by Offbeat Films. Surrounding him are Zags Jess Clement (left of Stone), Danny Chastain (top right), Taylor Pedroza (’13, middle right) and Thomas Ackels (bottom right). Actors included Matt Vergara (’15, inset) and Connor Brenes (’13). Photos by Rajah Bose.
December 07, 2022
Mina Robinson ('23) | Gonzaga Magazine

“Zags help Zags” transcends Gonzaga’s campus with alumni Thomas Ackels and Danny Chastain, who have built a company that reflects this Gonzaga motto. The two 2015 graduates started Offbeat Films, a Seattle-based production agency that aspires to “tell people’s stories in an authentic way,” Ackels says.

Growing up, Ackels and his brother nurtured a passion for storytelling. Their family watched movies together, and in their free time, the brothers created documentaries and music videos. For Ackels, pursuing this interest as a career never crossed his mind.

Ackels came to Gonzaga with an undeclared major, pondering the possibility of a music degree. His first class was a 9 a.m. music theory class, where Ackels met Chastain and others who became friends and future colleagues at Offbeat Films. Ackels and Chastain also took a GUTV class together with Professor Dan Garrity. Ackels says it was hands-on and taught him new skills. It brought back that same passion for storytelling that he had once before.

During their junior year, Ackels and Chastain started dreaming of having a production company together. “It kind of grew through junior year and that summer,” Ackels says. After graduating, they worked and volunteered in the production field for about two years, and in 2017, decided they were experienced enough to start producing videos on their own and to pursue their dream.

Asked why they chose to base their company in Seattle, Ackels responded: “One of the big kickers was the Gonzaga connections; we knew in Seattle we had our friends. We knew in Seattle people knew what Gonzaga was and that would bring us a reputation.”

Seattle ended up being a good choice, especially early on when they were trying to figure out how to get business. The Offbeat team’s first job came through an old roommate who was interning at a public relations company and asked if they wanted to bid on a video project.

The Gonzaga connection has helped them in other ways. Many former classmates are contract workers or freelancers. Other Zag alumni are actors or editors for their videos. Jess Clement (’15), who was in the GUTV class with Ackels and Chastain, was part of the Offbeat staff before shifting her focus to other opportunities.

Offbeat Films exemplifies the power of the Gonzaga community and how it continues to flourish after graduation.

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