University alumni come back to town to film commercial

News Editor and News Editor

When alumni John Kaplan and Mike Blasko interned at LifeFormations while earning their undergraduate degree at the University, little did they know a creation of their own would be seen nationally.

Kaplan and Blasko both majored in Visual Communication Technology at the University and decided to start their own business called Weigl Works, where they create animated characters and themed attractions for amusement parks.

Because of the quality and features their products give their clients, American Express credit card corporation showed interest in using their products in a commercial in Bowling Green this past June.

The two named their business after their manufacturing partner, Manfred Weigl.

“We added the word ‘works’ at the end because we do a lot of quirky and fun things, so it completed the name,” Kaplan said.

Blasko co-oped at LifeFormations, a local manufacturing company, twice and then at Rockwell Software in Cleveland. He ended up working for LifeFormations after graduation for five years before he and Kaplan started Weigl Works.

“The best memory at the University would have to be my co-op opportunities because it helped me apply classroom work with real work experience,” Blasko said. “[LifeFormations] definitely helped shaped my career.”

Kaplan and Blasko didn’t only gain experience at the internship, but sought it in different organizations on campus as well.

Blasko took four or five theater classes where he was able to help with the production of shows as credit and worked at BG24 News with audio and tech directing.

Kaplan participated in video editing while interning at LifeFormations.

Kaplan and Blasko didn’t do it alone, their professors monitored them along the way.

“Gene Poor was a huge mentor for both of us,” Blasko said. “They helped us a lot with critical thinking and it’s awesome that we still maintain these relationships we’ve built with them over the years and now they are our top customer.”

Gene Poor, instructor in the Marketing Department, owner of LifeFormations and creator of the University’s VCT Program said the two came into their major with natural born skills.

“They were brilliant before I even touched them,” Poor said.

It was great for Poor to be able to work with them because it allowed him to become one of their customers, he said.

Micromanaging his interns and employees was something Poor tried to stay away from, Kaplan said.

“He gave you an idea and let you run with it,” he said. “He fully trusted the students he hand picked to work for him and encouraged you to do the best with your skills.”

‪Blasko and Kaplan kept calling each other to ask for advice on certain projects they were working on separately when they decided it was time to work together.

“Our skills both complimented each other, so it only made sense to partner together,” he said. “It was an overwhelming two to three years when we were trying to [jump-start] our business.”

In 2011, their business took a leap of faith and they pitched their product to Chuck E. Cheese.

“We figured, hey, we have everything you guys do in one easy control panel that is up to date,” Blasko said.

It was first time in 25 years Chuck E. Cheese updated its animatronic systems, which Blasko said “really helped establish our product.”

Their electronics were placed in 800 to 1,000 other Chuck E. Cheese’s.

“This was really a big transition for us because later on we landed clients with Disney and Universal studios,” Blasko said.

Since the two travel all around the nation, they were new users of an American Express program called ReceiptMatch, which links images of receipts to online statements. This was one main reason why American Express was so interested in featuring them in its commercial.

“I use American Express a lot, so this made sense,” Blasko said.

Since Weigl Works does not have an official building, Blasko and Kaplan had to figure out where would be best to shoot the video and decided LifeFormations was the best fit.

“A lot of what we make are specific electronics and LifeFormations has been a great customer for us,” Blasko said. “We also have another main customer in Bowling Green and [since] we are both graduates of the University, it felt right.”

Shooting a commercial was very new and exciting for the two, but required long hours in front of a camera.

“It was very exciting and fun, but it was also very interesting because we stood in front of the camera for a good 24 hours for different shots, which became quite tiring,” he said. “It was well worth it, though.”

The commercial is aired on television and on radio through multiple networks.

“It has helped our business a substantial amount, which we are grateful for,” Blasko said.

While the commercial was a memorable experience for the two, they are blessed with or without it.

“No two days are the same,” Kaplan said. “Its nice to see the blue print on paper come to life that touches everyone in a different way.”