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The Bigger Picture

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of our customer stories.

It took six days, 16 customers, and a slew of creatives to capture the spirit of ESL—through an ambitious video/photo shoot that was fulfilling for all involved because of the personal stories highlighted and mutual passion shared for the community and belonging to something bigger. But there was so much more—from concepting to organizing to executing—that went into the finished work that we are happy to share with everyone.

Here’s a glimpse from the other side:

Authenticity is genuine and moving, so it was key to feature actual ESL customers from Greater Rochester (not actors) and own stories to illustrate what it means to belong to something bigger when banking or working with ESL. What better way to convey the commitment ESL has to the community and the impact it makes than to see and hear directly from those who know and have experienced it firsthand?


“We are thrilled to showcase our customers and their stories,” said Celeste Kier, Executive Vice President/Director, Marketing & Customer Experience.

“Their unique experiences highlight the diversity of our Greater Rochester region and our shared relationship exemplifies what it means to belong to something bigger when banking with ESL.”

Before the cameras caught the action, a few months of planning were needed to select ESL customers and employees that reflect the whole region and our entire customer base. A casting call was conducted across Greater Rochester for people to tell their stories of financial/personal growth and how banking or working at ESL influenced that. Through an extensive review process of more than 200 entries, the candidates were narrowed down to 16 that we are spotlighting, and the production schedule and details were finalized.


The local connection didn’t stop there.

To share the story of Greater Rochester progressing together, ESL was committed to using artists with local ties, including:

Brighton-born video director Jake Kovnat
“As a Rochester native, I was thrilled to come back to work on such an inspiring project. It was a unique privilege to film in my hometown, exploring it with fresh eyes and celebrating all that ESL has done to help uplift people at every stage of their financial journey.”

Rochester poet and creative consultant Gianni White
“The opportunity to work on this project was incredible from a DEI&B (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging) perspective. My role was imperative, I BELONGED!”

Roc-based photographer Adam Eaton
“I thank ESL for the opportunity to combine my love of photography and my love of the Rochester community. As a Black Artist it can be challenging to find opportunities that will have such a major impact on so many diverse people and ESL has given me that chance to showcase my art and to grow even more deeply connected to our local community.”

Resident behind-the-scenes videographer/editor Thai Hoang
“Contributing to this campaign, it made me feel good to see the diversity of people who came together to bring it to life.”

The support of establishments within our community also helped to make our video shoot at these specific locations possible:

Now that the production is a wrap, you can see the overarching 30-second ESL TV commercial currently airing, along with three 30-second and 15-second individual customer-focused commercials in the coming months. The other ESL customers are featured in materials displayed in the [current branch count] branch locations and online, along with a photo gallery of their portraits and inspiring stories.

Pride for this work—and our unified efforts to influence positive change that helps the community thrive and prosper—grows as we continue forward. Our goal is for people to see the worth of our collective strength in Greater Rochester, to make deeper connections, and to identify fresh opportunities to nurture greater financial well-being in our own lives and for others around us.