Digital marketing agency Cast Iron LA directs a love letter to its quarantined city

Former RPA execs enlist friends and family to virtually assemble a message of resilience.

The founders of digital marketing agency, Cast Iron LA, have created a video love letter to their city, now stilled by coronavirus.

"We Are LA" was pulled together in three days by J Barbush and Luis Ramirez, leveraging the help of creative friends and family. 

Barbush’s son, Alex, created the acoustic-guitar music track on a Mac with a Blue mic. Photographer Erik Olsen, a work associate, provided a Dropbox-full of drone footage. 

The voice over was delivered by Jamie Hill, a professional announcer who has worked for Burger King, GoPro and Volkswagen, and just happens to be Barbush’s neighbor.

The video was designed to bring some beauty and a sense of unity to the residents of the City of Angels, who are under quarantine like so many others around the world.  

"I knew that it was going to get worse before it got better," said Barbush, describing the mindset leading up to the project. 

"I saw on TV the mayor was talking," he continued. "He softened ‘shelter in place’ with ‘safer at home’, so I kind of knew this was going to be going on for a while. This not going out (means) we as a community need to come together for it to work. So this is reminding everyone why the city is doing what it can for its ultimate survival."

Imagery unfolds of quiet beaches, canyons, palm-lined streets and empty freeways that Olsen shot early mornings before the quarantine. A solitary egret stands in the Los Angeles River, capturing a moment of nature reclaiming urbanity. 

The homage begins by describing residents' love for their city before acknowledging it has endured tough times before.

"We have hunkered down before then risen up" goes the voiceover, listing some of the dreadful events that timestamp life in LA, "injustice, riots, earthquakes, floods and fires."  

Barbush’s copy pivots to the strengths of the residents and their unifying beliefs—"for us love is love, now is now, and labels are for the organic food we eat." It closes with a statement of resilience: "This is our city, even if you can’t see us in it. We are there stronger than ever because dreams built this place"

For Barbush and Ramirez, resilience is a trait they relied on when they launched Cast Iron LA last summer. First, Ramirez, then Barbush, had been let go after years of developing digital and social-media practices at RPA. 

Both had crossed the age 50 mark, so Cast Iron, which is made of reclaimed metal that has been literally cast away, emerged as the perfect name to embody their spirit and agency outlook.

"You take your reputation with you," said Barbush. "We think sales and being a good corporate partner are something that can go hand-in-hand." 

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free