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Venture could breathe new life into Auburn production facility

Focus Media goes public with its minute-long videos next week
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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The Playground production facility in North Auburn has a new focus – one that the owners are hoping will breathe new life into its operations. Focus Media is slated to go public next week, and it hopes to draw small business clientele as opposed to the Hollywood types that have frequented the warehouse at Auburn Airport’s industrial park during the past 18 years of its existence. “The market has shifted,” said Ryan Pereyra, a managing partner of Focus Media. “So they’re not doing Hollywood flicks like they used to, but the abilities are still there.” That side of the business has slowed in recent years, but ongoing production of a couple feature films continues and the studio hopes to attract those projects in the future, said David Justice, also a managing partner. Meanwhile Focus Media will be “tremendous” in sustaining the business at the production facility, providing an extra incentive not to rent the space to someone wanting to turn it into something entirely different, Justice said. “We are basically trying to bring the Playground back to life by involving Focus,” Pereyra said. “They were considering kind of a demolition of the whole facility and the whole warehouse and finding another client they would build for until we came up with this business plan.” Their new product is a one-minute marketing video that Focus Media hosts on its website, focusmediaco.com, and on YouTube with no up-front costs including free production with same-day turnaround. The first month of hosting is free, and every month after is $34.99. The client gets its own page on the company’s Web domain that features a profile, locator map, reviews and blogging capabilities. “One of the primary weaknesses that Ryan and (Focus Media Partner) Rick (Daniels) discovered is a void in the industry to handle the needs of smaller businesses and maybe budget-limited businesses that need to advance their marketing,” Justice said. “Focus Media was set up to provide that … but also to expand and handle greater needs as well.” Beverly Lewis, director of the Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office, said Focus Media is one example of a growing “surge” of companies taking advantage of the digital revolution. It’s coming at a time when accessibility and affordability for filmmakers is easier than ever – reducing the demand for large production facilities, Lewis said. “Going from operating within your house to getting a brick-and-mortar facility is a big and expensive enterprise,” she said. “I would not say there’s a lot of people who are looking to do that because it’s hard to make money in this game.” Justice and his wife, Eve, co-own the three buildings on 3 1/2 acres that is the Auburn Business Center where the production facilities are located. During the recession, one of its major tenants closed its doors and another downsized. “It didn’t break our back, but it was definitely a hit that we had to redesign and recover from,” Justice said. “The addition of Focus Media is going to give us a real boost.” Fresh Air Media was the original tenant that filled the building now housing Focus Media, which has eight employees. “They had a very viable, active business there until probably early 2010 and they began to scale back,” Justice said. “They got to the point where it was not viable for them to sustain the overhead of that 12,500 square foot facility so they retooled down.” Daltile occupied the other warehouse until 2009 when it was forced to shut its doors because retail sales slowed considerably amid the housing crisis, Justice said. He had been approached with five different offers from potential tenants to fill the warehouse containing the production facilities, he said. “People basically wanted to take a D9 Cat (bulldozer) in there and go back and rebuild inside, and I wasn’t anxious to do that,” Justice said. “It would’ve been a waste of such a tremendous asset.” Speaking of tremendous, its 2,050-foot green screen is one of the largest in Northern California and has been used to film a feature-length, independent 3-D movie called “Dark Truths,” Justice said. It’s just one example of the technical capabilities Focus Media has at its disposal. “As far as the actual stage itself goes, this is what basically you would find in L.A., Chicago or New York as far as the size and scope of what we do, because the key to any stage is size,” said Paul Zank, in house studio manager and director of photography. “We could put two cars on this green screen. “So we’ve got the size, but we’re still a little light on some of the backend equipment the lighting and the grip and things like that.” As the client base and revenues grow, plans are to build a white screen – a seamless backdrop often seen in car commercials – and a ceiling grid for hanging objects, Zank said, and make it full service. If they need additional equipment to meet their current needs they contract it from Sacramento, he said. As far as producing the one-minute video? Consider them “overbuilt,” Pereyra said. “They can have Godzilla breathing fire on the guy while he’s talking about his smoothies or icies,” he said, giving an extreme example of the capabilities. “I don’t want to have some guy talking about massages and all kinds of crazy stuff happening in the background, so we use it sparingly, but we have the ability to get really creative,” Pereyra said. “I want to take the creativity to the next level, but I have to crawl before we walk and then run.” Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews