The Benefits of Creating your own Film Production Company

by New York Guest Blogger: Carey Van Driest

These days, everyone is talking about ‘making your own work.’ It’s a valuable conversation to have, but I never thought I would be doing it under the auspices of a ’production company.’ Especially one that I owned.

My partner Ronan Jorah and I had had careers in the arts for years - me as an actor and Ronan as a director and post-production supervisor, but work had been project-specific, and mostly dictated by other people’s initiatives. Creating our production company, Mania Studio, Inc., combined our forces to set a trajectory for long-term success instead of the short-term scrambles we had been doing.

Mania Studio’s logo

Get clear about your goals

Filmmaking is hard work, so if we were going to put time and sweat and money into this, it needed to pay off. We wanted to make more than one film, so for us taking the creative leap meant a full-fledged studio where we could control the quality and choose our projects and who we work with. Creating a structure that was scaleable as Mania Studio grew was also imperative.

We chose Scratch as our first film and set a fundraising goal. A friend who runs large-scale kickstarter campaigns advised us that for a new company, developing personal connections that would carry over from project to project was the best use of our time. So we reached out to people we called our ‘angels’ instead of crowd-sourcing.

Ronan Jorah, directing Scratch on location at the Bendix Diner

Know your strengths and weaknesses
Once funding was in place, we could have attempted to push the film up a hill ourselves. But I’m not a cinematographer, and Ronan is at best a second-rate costume designer. Our energy was better spent focusing on what we did best and putting together a talented team of craftspeople who would be the foundation of the creative network we would continue to rely and call on.

Fast, good, and cheap. You can only pick two
No one wants to hear it, but it’s true. You can do something fast and good, but it won’t be cheap, or cheap and fast, but it won’t be good. Something always has to give, so pick your two carefully. We had some money, but not a lot, so for us taking our time putting the right pieces together and planning every detail was important. If we’d had a multi-million dollar budget, planning would still be important, but larger budget equals more boots on the ground, and an engine that can move faster. Even though there were many days and nights during pre-production when we wondered if we’d ever get to set, sharing Scratch with our cast and crew and seeing their proud reactions reminded us that we did it the right way.

Carey Van Driest on set as producer and “Elise” in Scratch

is what we intended it to be: a strong calling card for Mania Studio and an example of the kind of quality storytelling we can do as a small in-house operation. The response has been fantastic, and we’re gearing up for the online release in early Spring to get the word out about Scratch and Mania Studio. 

We have a second short film ready for production and several in development. I’m producing, writing and acting, and Ronan directs, writes, and supervises post-production. We continue to balance being both business and romantic partners and check in with each other as Mania Studio grows. Starting a production company isn’t for everyone, and sometimes we think “what are we doing?” But most of the time we look at what we’ve created together and it reminds us why we wanted to be artists and filmmakers in the first place. To make things. And this is the way we choose to make them.

Ronan Jorah as 'Scratch'

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