Life of a Cisco Video TME: My Run-in with Ridley Scott

September 29, 2015 - 66 Comments

THE MARTIANWorking on a movie set is not typically part of the job description for a Cisco technical marketing engineer. So, I was pleasantly surprised when, back in October, an invitation popped in my inbox to spend a couple of days in Budapest on the set of the latest Matt Damon movie. I was asked to help build some video conferencing systems, which were to be used in the movie, but I would’ve been happy to even get coffee for the movie’s world-renowned director, Ridley Scott.

The plot, as we can tell from the trailer, finds Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) stranded and alone on Mars, and presumed dead by NASA. He must figure out how to survive on the hostile planet and to signal Earth that he is alive. It’s only 140 million miles away, but that’s no problem for our video conferencing technology, I thought. Already, I had found a way to be an integral part of this story: Tobias Brodtkorb, video conferencing TME to the rescue.

My active imagination immediately started working on ways I could land a role. I could help Matt build a video conferencing system from scratch, or as a last resort, sneak my way into the background as an extra. As it turns out, neither scenario panned out, since they were not planning to start filming until a week after I had installed the Cisco systems. So, I did not see any celebrities, but I did take a picture of myself next to a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Matt Damon. But that’s not the end of my brush with fame.

Kristin Wiig’s character, Annie Montrose, has a call with the NASA jet propulsion lab using Cisco video conferencing.

I worked on several sets in Budapest. The first was a modern glass building with steel structures. This was going to act as NASA’s mission control on Earth. It was really impressive to see the amount of work required to prepare a film set. Here, I set up an MX300 room conferencing system and installed ten DX80 desktop video units. Off to the next location at Korda studios, which is in the countryside west of Budapest. It was almost surreal: a big, modern facility in the middle of nowhere. Outside, they had different themed back lots — medieval, New York, Renaissance and what looked like something from central Europe WW2. They looked completely real on one side, but only were empty shells with scaffolding and planks on the back.

Cisco DX80 desktop collaboration system in call with with Kristin Wiig’s character, Annie Montrose, at NASA HQ.

After nosing around a bit, it was time to be productive. We unpacked and installed the MX700 and MX800, Cisco’s large room video conferencing systems. At that point, a small group of people walked past. It seemed like a tour of the prop room for some VIPs. I heard the guide mention Cisco, gesturing in our direction. I was sure he was referring to the debonair TME who could assist Matt Damon in making contact with Earth. After the entourage left, one of the guys helping us asked, “Did you know who that was?” Clearly, I did not, and it was definitely not Matt Damon, but possibly even more impressive by Hollywood standards: It was Ridley Scott, himself. Here was my chance!

As I suspected, Mr. Scott (or should I say Ridley, now that we are friends) would immediately spot raw talent when he saw it, because he came back and sought me out. Well, I couldn’t convince him to give me a part in the movie, but I did give him a run-down of the MX800. He was really impressed with the video quality and that the unit was able to automatically track people based on their voice. I was especially proud of the products, myself; they were beautiful and fit in perfectly with the sleek, space-aged environment of the set.

So, that was another day in the life of a Cisco video TME, and one that I will remember for a long time. I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent Cisco and our products in such a special environment and setting. And Ridley, if you read this, please remember to call me when you’re planning the lead actor in Gladiator 2.

P.S. As it often happens in the movies, the MX systems got left on the cutting room floor, but keep an eye out for our DX80s when you go see the movie (opening in theaters October 2, 2015). There’s already a lot of Oscar buzz bantered about “The Martian.” Maybe the DX80s will get nominated for best prop or set dressing?

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  1. It was wonderful to see Cisco logo during the movie. My son and his friends thought “Wow”. thank you toner dolumu

  2. super cool story! and the movie just came to China, we invited customers and partners to enjoy the feast together!

  3. Great story Tobias and well told!

  4. Unfortunately we ran out of time maybe tomorrow Matt Damon….

  5. Good share… Thanks

  6. Tobias, thanks for sharing your experience. It’s always fun to spot Cisco products in the movies.. my wife is tired of me saying: ‘There’s a Cisco phone!’ 🙂

  7. OMG, I can’t believe I’ve touched a guy who has been in the same room as Ridley Didley Scott!!!

  8. Great stuff and a good fit in a movie for this tech rather than pure marketing

  9. It was wonderful to see Cisco logo during the movie. My son and his friends thought “Wow”. The diversity of the actors and their roles – refreshing!

  10. Such a cool story! 🙂

  11. What a great and funny story Tobias! 🙂

  12. This is an awesome story, Tobias. As a Cisco Contact Center Consulting Systems Engineer, this is just the sort of story I like to share with customers. Keep up the great work.

  13. great job.. I wait for the next article

  14. Ha Ha Ha wow. I also wanna Try.

  15. On the way to school my son asked ” Mom if there was a zombie apocalypse how would we get food”? I said “first of all I hope there isn’t a zombie apocalypse.” Seconded one of the things we have is seeds. I mean you just carved two pumpkins. He interjected “MOM! It will take 90 days to grow anything that guy in that movie could have starved!” What would you till you can get the plants to grow ?” Well their were three men on a raft and every day they offered a body part so they wouldn’t starve. “MOM”!!!!! And that’s how we ended zombie talk ! It was a great movie we have all renewed our interest in science mostly around clean food production. Solar energy and windmills have been a big interest as my husband is a master electrician. The resent lead exposure in Flint MI brings up water safety concerns. This seams like a crime, But TV is not that concerned. To imagine living on another Planet seams doable when we see it in a film. But I just kept thinking more duck tape.

  16. Great story Tobias, my wife loved it, as she had just read the novel this past week. She now has even more fondness for our DX80 too! My daughter just wants to know why Matt Damon keeps seeking roles where people have to go and find him?

  17. Amazing story and an excellent job!

  18. Great write-up…but I’m really let down that Ridley was so short-sighted as to not cast you on the spot… 😉

  19. Great job Tobias ! Excellent !!

  20. As being a supervising propmaker working next door the room you were first installing and testing this device I was really impressed. Great job!
    Greetings from Budapest

    • Thank you Gergely! It was really interesting to see how you were working with all the props. Impressive facilities and cool stuff you put together! I enjoyed the movie.

  21. Very cool! Love seeing Cisco products on the big (and little) screen! Can this article be shared outside of Cisco?

  22. Awesome work Tobias! Hopefully, you will get another call once the filming for Blade Runner 2 starts filming?! 🙂

  23. Great story! Thanks for sharing.

  24. Thanks for sharing Tobias – this interesting real story of the next blockbuster star.

  25. Congratulations, Tobias! Saw the Cisco tech in the movie. Really got me in the feels. *chest swelling with corporate pride*

  26. Excellent story and awesome experience! Thanks for the insight.

  27. Brilliant Tobias! you rock! Meeting Ridley Scott!wow! Great story

  28. This is super cool! Just like seeing Cisco Telepresence, and Cisco IP phones TV show 24 a couple years, it’s exciting to see Cisco logo on a cool movie like this! Cisco is now officially “cool”, and “futuristic.” Thanks for this wonderful story Tobias.

  29. Great Cisco story – thanks for sharing your interesting experience. Like seeing the Cisco logo’s included in the movie!

  30. When I saw the DX80s on screen, I literally screamed “look our product” did not care about the few stares I got :-).
    #wearecisco #CiscoCollab

  31. Loved the story telling style! And proud of our Cisco products!

  32. What a great story! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  33. Super cool…super fun! #WeAreCisco

  34. Felt very proud of our team and Cisco to be part of the movie..!! Hopefully next movie, they show Cisco gears at MARS..!! 🙂

  35. Great Stuff… Proud to be a part of Cisco.

  36. I really liked seeing Cisco in the Martian. It was fun when my friends pointed it out to me when they noticed it. Very well done indeed.

  37. Great Story, Thanks for sharing

  38. Was proud when my friend pointed out CISCO brand on the screen while watching Martian. Good going CISCO. Rock ON..

  39. What an awesome story – thanks so much for sharing as it really started my day off in the best way: positive and excited about our products!

  40. Once in a lifetime experience! Great to hear. Proud to work for Cisco!

  41. Interesting story. Well narrated, Mr. Brodtkorb.
    So proud to be working for Cisco.

  42. Great experience!! Thanks for sharing

  43. That’s cool!

  44. Interesting One!

  45. Thoroughly enjoyed the movie last weekend, as did my sons, who both pointed out “Cisco” when your brilliant prop work surfaced on screen. Well done you.

  46. Great and Interesting Story. Thanks.

  47. What an interesting read! The DX80s looked gorgeous on screen by the way, definitely award material!

  48. Awesome stuff! Cisco humanized technology makes it real….

  49. Hi Tobias – I love your sense of humor and it’s a real shame Ridley didn’t give you a part in his movie. The bright side is that you weren’t left on the cutting room floor like our MX systems. For what it’s worth it felt wonderful going to see a great movie and seeing our Cisco logo and products being used, especially since this is set in the not too distant future. It was also good to see the global collaboration between the U.S. and China Space Agencies that was part of the story.

  50. Awesome. Thank you for sharing!

  51. This was an awesome experience while watching the movie.. great stuff!

  52. Great story! thanks

  53. What a progress for Ridley Scott to move from Aliens to Cisco’s humanised technology 😉

  54. I thought. Already, I had found a way to be an integral part of this story: Tobias Brodtkorb, video conferencing TME to the rescue

  55. So proud of Cisco and all your work. And the movie was pretty darn good too!!

  56. Nicely done, make me feel proud of my Cisco TME heritage.

  57. Stardust on the MX700 / MX800 / DX80!

  58. Awesome Tobias! Great story

  59. Great work!
    Looking forward to more posts Tobias 🙂

  60. HA! Nicely done Tobias! 😉

  61. You are definitely our local movie star, Tobias! Good story 🙂

  62. Great story Tobias. No wonder these solutions fit perfectly with Holywood, they bear Red Dot Award :).