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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023

TURNAROUND—From Dot-Gone To Re-Start

PIVOTAL POST Core Business: Post-production services for film industry Year Founded: 2001 Employees (DES) in 2000: 120 Employees (Pivotal) in 2001: 30 Goal: To be the top provider of cutting edge post-production services Driving Force: People doing business with people A North Hollywood post-production house, hammered by the dot-com fallout, has resurrected itself with the same talent, a leaner operation and a new name The temp at the reception desk of Pivotal Post in North Hollywood recently summed up just how fast and furious things have evolved at the post-production company. “Three days ago we were DES, now we’re Pivotal Post,” she said, replacing the handset on a sleek, black telephone. As DES, co-founder Patrick Ready and director of sales and marketing Jeff Buchignani were at the bleeding edge of post-production history: the first house to deliver film dailies in CD-Rom and DVD formats. Since the business was founded in 1993, Ready had managed to build up a solid list of clients including DreamWorks SKG, Universal Pictures and Columbia TriStar Pictures. At its peak, DES had 120 employees and more than 300 film credits, including “Gladiator,” “Hannibal” and “Titanic.” After Buchignani came along in 1995, they ventured into broadband film distribution and editing services. “We saw comparable companies to ours making a billion dollars in broadband and so we said, ‘We’re here in Hollywood, let’s do it here,'” said Buchignani. “Then the market crashed. And that left us with a huge amount of debt.” Plenty of DES employees were laid off as a result of the dot-com blood bath. Now the company is out of the broadband business and the equipment associated with it is up for sale. “It was an interesting time,” said Buchignani. “But we both had a sound understanding that we would land on our feet.” With a capital infusion from Avalon Asset Management of North Sioux City, S.D., Ready, Buchignani and their new partner, Jeff Majkrzak of Avalon, were able to buy out another partner no longer involved with Digital Editing Solutions Inc. That’s when Pivotal Post was born. So, with a new name, a Rolodex stuffed with established clients and a plan to shift the focus back to its core product, Pivotal Post was in business. Majkrzak said his firm respected and admired the DES story, but knew the company needed to go through some sort of “dot-gone” recovery process in order to keep its foothold in the industry. “We understood what went on in the tech market here in the last two years, and DES was just such a healthy organization,” he said. “We got very attracted to the idea of getting the capital together to help take the company back to its roots.” Falling back on a confidentiality agreement between other former DES executives and their attorneys, Ready said he could not disclose revenue figures for the old company. And he declined to offer any revenue projections for Pivotal. Pivotal’s primary focus again is on post-production services for the film industry. TV projects, said Ready, are not out of the question, but they’ll have to wait while the company regains its footing. Upcoming projects include “Planet of the Apes,” “Oceans 11,” “Vanilla Sky” and “Rush Hour 2.” The transition, say both Ready and Buchignani, from dot-gone disaster to a start-up sequel was essentially seamless because of the contacts already established through DES. “Pivotal is really a start-up that has immediate clients and business,” said Ready. “And our message to our established clients and to the film community now is we are on very solid footing and are refocusing on our core product. It’s completely a getting-back-to-the-basics objective.” Marty Cohen is in charge of post-production services for DreamWorks. He said the studio intends to continue to contract with Pivotal for Avid equipment servicing, rental and film editing services. “They are a company that is very reputable,” said Cohen. “They come through, they produce quality work and I don’t feel like I’ve gotten beaten up by costs. Unfortunately for DES, the broadband industry took a dive and they just got caught in the middle of it.” Delivery of edited film in CD-Rom and DVD-Rom formats as opposed to videotape makes it possible for film executives to see the results of a day’s shoot on their laptop or desktop, whether they are sitting behind a desk in Studio City or on an overnight flight to Hong Kong. “We essentially pioneered the DVD dailies process,” said Ready of DES. “The only other people currently who have as much recognizable market share in the post-production industry are the studios themselves.” Pivotal will typically work on as many as 15 productions at a time. Film is sent in daily, usually five days a week, and staff members work under tight deadlines to get dailies back in the hands of the studios by the next morning. Adventurous as it may sound, Pivotal is already laying the groundwork for expansion into new facilities in the rapidly growing film markets in New York, Canada and London. “We are definitely on solid ground,” said Ready. “Avalon came forward and they love the business model. It was a match made in heaven. We now have the capital to grow the company.”

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