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Can-Do Attitude Opens Channels

Production company is always on the lookout for ways to make cable projects happen even without much of a budget.

November 15, 2000|KAREN E. KLEIN

It's easy for a company to say "no" to a project, especially when the owners realize that saying "yes" will mean hard work. But David Brookwell and Sean McNamara have adopted a can-do philosophy with their television and film production company, which caters to cable channels producing family-oriented programming. Drawing on a wealth of creativity and ingenuity, their company has established a track record of projects that were considered impossible to bring in on time and on budget. Brookwell was interviewed by freelance writer Karen E. Klein.

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Around here, we always look at the glass as half-full, instead of half-empty. We're excited to get the work, so we'll figure out a way to make a project happen even when there's not much money budgeted for it. The cable channels we work for have maybe one-fifth the budget that the networks do for shows. What our clients like is that we take the money they have and make it look like 10 times that.

We never say that anything is impossible to produce within a given budget. You can produce at whatever budget you have to work with, if you devise a system to create the product that enhances the look and makes it more impressive than originally thought possible.

We are always finding new ways to do things, either by using new technology or new talent. We barter with individuals who want to rise to the occasion. In exchange, we validate their efforts with screen credit and opportunities for advancement.

For instance, we'll find assistant production designers who are ready to make their break, so they'll work for us at a lower rate. We'll help them out by putting them in charge of the job. We use a lot of first-timers, but we're sure that they're good at what they've done. We've become good at spotting new talent, which adds to the freshness of the shows we're working on.

We often shoot a project in fewer days than anticipated, which cuts down on cost. Or we scour the Los Angeles area for lower-budget technology to create high-end graphics that look very cool, but are cheap.

When we know we can't afford to complete a job at full-price, we will strike deals with the entertainment labor unions. We negotiate with them on price and in turn we promise to keep jobs here in Los Angeles. We like to stay and work here, where our lives are, and we know that they do too.

Our first show, "The Secret World of Alex Mack" for Nickelodeon, was conceived to be shot in Orlando, Fla., on multi-camera tape. We said we could do it here on film with a single camera and still get by on their budget of $300,000, which was very difficult. They didn't think we could accomplish it.

But we found technicians who could create special effects on a budget. Then we found some Claymation artists who created a cool little Claymation opening for the show with a digital video camera. It was a new way of doing it, but it worked.

That show set the mold for a lot of shows that followed on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. And it gave us credibility, so people began to believe that we could do what we said we could.

Establishing a track record is the most important thing in our business. Every time we build product, it shows someone else that we can do what we say we can. Nobody believes you until you do it in this business, so you take baby steps along the way.

We started out with what amounted to an equipment closet for our first office. When you opened the door, it hit the desk. But we needed an address on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood and that's all we could afford. Our first job was for $10,000, but we made that 10 grand look like 50 grand. Then we got another job for $12,000, then we did one for $40,000, which seemed like so much! Now we're up to the six-figure range per episode.

We've produced two feature films and 21 episodes of "Even Stevens" for the Disney Channel in the past 11 months. We believe that when clients ask us to do the impossible, our first response should be to analyze the proposition and find a way to deliver, even if taking the contract means serious financial compromises personally.

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AT A GLANCE

Company: Brookwell McNamara Entertainment Inc.

Owners: David Brookwell and Sean McNamara

Nature of business: Television and film production

Location: 5433 Beethoven St., Los Angeles, CA 90066

Founded: 1995

E-mail: bmeemail@aol.com

Web site: http://www.bme-online.com

Employees: 12

Annual revenue: $21 million

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