Though you may not recognize her name, you’ve probably seen Tess Mix’s work. Through her production company Le JIT Productions, Mix has become the unofficial videographer of the cocktail industry; she and her business partner, Julia Purcell, have filmed videos for Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards, Imbibe magazine, Speed Rack, Diageo and more. We caught up with her to talk about her circuitous path to booze, the responsibility of storytelling and more.
How did you end up doing what you’re doing?
I graduated from college in 2008, right when the economy tanked. I ended up getting a job with my mom’s company, working on high-end interior design. Through that, I had the opportunity to work with film and video, designing sets for televisions and movies. After a few years, I was feeling a little lost. I knew I wanted to move on to something that was mine. Around that time, my best friend from childhood, Julia, gave me a call. She was living in Portland, Oregon, working for a production company, and, like me, was unhappy with where she was. We decided to stop complaining. We quit our jobs and launched our own production company.
We had been doing a handful of small projects, and then I went with my twin sister, Ivy [Mix], bartender and owner of Leyenda and co-founder of Speed Rack, to the Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail. During the awards, I couldn’t help thinking how much they would benefit from some video clips. It got me thinking, and so Julia and I approached Simon Ford and the folks who run the awards about doing some content for the following year. They took a huge chance on us, and it swung the door wide open. More cocktail event coordinators began to approach us, as well as brands. Now we’re doing book trailers [for Death & Co and Julie Reiner].
What do you think has made your company stand out?
We stay super focused on video and creative content. People have come to us and asked us to organize events, and we’ve gotten really good at passing them along to the amazing events coordinators we know. We’d rather focus on being behind the camera, capturing it all.
Also, I think we approach the way we cover cocktail events differently than the average production company. We spend a lot of time doing research to make sure that the video we produce really speaks to the thing that we’re documenting. There’s so much video content out there now. It’s becoming such an important way for people to engage with things. So it’s important to do something beyond just a sequence of shots with some catchy music.
Why does this industry need video right now?
The huge boom that’s happened in the cocktail scene is amazing, and the growth is rapid. So there are lots of interesting angles. For the first time ever, these folks are on the same level as chefs. The James Beard Foundation is finally recognizing people in the cocktail world.
There are people who bartend as a temporary thing. They do it “just for now.” But more and more people are also taking it very seriously, choosing it as a career. That new energy is something that should be documented; it’s an exciting time.
In many of these interviews, the dominating theme is that the spirits industry has grown so much, and there are so many different ways to come at it. Would you consider yourself a member of the spirits industry?
That’s a great question. Yes, I would. Partially because I feel so connected and engrossed in this world. I got into it through Ivy, and these people have just welcomed us in, no questions asked. I feel honored that I’ve had the blanket thrown over my shoulders. I’m not a bartender, but I’ve been taken in—with or without the camera over my shoulders. I think that caring about the industry and feeling connected to it is necessary in order to document it well.
You mention that you feel a personal connection to many of the people you document. Is there a sense of responsibility that comes with your work?
Definitely. These are people’s livelihoods. So while we do a lot of videos that are fun and silly, I’m super cautious to make sure we’re not insulting anybody. I’d never want to do anything that would hurt someone’s reputation or disrespect his or her craft. I also feel a little bit of responsibility to represent the industry as a whole in a way that will help things continue to grow. I try to keep a perspective beyond the “insider bubble” a bit, to keep an understanding of what’s coming down the pipeline and help portray that.
Kaitlyn Goalen is a writer, editor and cook based in Brooklyn and Raleigh, N.C. She is the editor and co-founder of Short Stack Editions, a series of single-subject, digest-size cookbooks, and has contributed to a variety of national publications.