Richard Baldovin. Not only does he have a name good enough to fight James Bond (or a ripoff), he’s a person who’s a professional geek.
I met this gentleman when I did a giveaway of Convention Career Connection at Nerdcaliber. Richard (www.richardbaldovin.com) runs Trifocal Productions (www.trifocalproductions.com), a media company that does work with fandom, cons, and more. His goal is to be THE production company for fans, otaku, alternate cultures, and more. And he’s well on his way to making it happen. I figured he’d make a good interview to inspire you all, and to encourage you to promote his business (hint, hint)
1. So Richard, tell us about Trifocal productions and what you do.
TriFocal is the solution to the problem, the problem that so many people in the alternative culture have. When people have a good, creative idea that needs to be filmed (web-show, live performance, even just a viral video idea) they essentially have no one to turn to. Sure they could do it themselves or attempt to find a mainstream production company, but both of these options have the con of being expensive, either from hiring the company of buying the equipment. Plus you may not have the knowledge to use the equipment or may not feel comfortable bringing your idea to the company. When people contact my company they know that I’ve dealt with weird and unusual subjects, the demo reel has zombies in it for pete’s sake!
Also I work with my potential clients to match with their budget; the plus side of working with people in the alternative culture is that they can pay with things other than money. Maybe I’ll do work for someone who does voice-acting work and instead of cash, they lend their talents to another project of mine or maybe they just help me advertise my company.
2) How did you get this started?
When I was in high school, like most hard-working students, I would doodle (badly) in my notebook during class. One day I felt like drawing triangles within triangles, then I wrote “TriFocal” around the edges on some whim and that became the logo and name for the company, though I didn’t know it at the time. During lunch that day, I was thinking about that doodle and mentioned to my friend that it would be a cool name for a production company, which he replied that it was stupid-sounding name. Thus, mainly because of spite, I pledged to eventually create a production company with that very name. (Take that Brian!)
3) Does Trifocal pay all your bills, and if so – how did you manage that?
Ha Ha, God no. It doesn’t even come close, though the company has only been formed for a year. More importantly, I never intended for the company to be a full-time endeavor, essentially the purpose of it was to become a serious hobby. What I never wanted to be and what I sort of feared becoming was the “starving artist” model, where I end up barely supporting myself through the company because I decided to devote myself completely to it. You see that a lot with webcomic artists who are celebrities at conventions and have thousands of fans, but still barely get by financially. I’m not saying that that kind of life style is bad, in fact, I respect them for making that kind of commitment, it simply wasn’t for me.
I imagine that the most likely way TriFocal will fully support me in the future by either becoming involved in higher-profile projects that have a large enough following and budget, such as a web-series or I will find a large number of low-profile projects, such as a number of conventions and individual clients, or more likely a mixture of the two.
4) What are the challenges of running this business?
There’s the obvious one of money. Starting up a new business always requires a large amount of capital for equipment, advertising, etc… But specifically to this type of business is finding people willing to trust you with their idea and who are willing or able to pay you. Plus, with the amount of video equipment needed for video production, start-up capital gets a bit more challenging and usually you end up buying equipment only when you have a client that needs it. The DIY culture is especially helpful in these circumstances because of all of the options that a person has when trying to get a new piece of equipment.
5) Is working with geek/alternate cultures an advantage, disadvantage, or both?
Both, the alternate culture allows for a much larger range of ideas and creative potential with a project because of all the out-of-the-box thinking that tends to occur within it. This means that the projects that I’m presented with are much more varied and interesting, as well as allowing to propose projects to others that would seem silly or impossible in the mainstream. As I mentioned in another question, it’s much more difficult in the alternative culture to work around the types of budgets that are prevalent in it, specifically much smaller budgets. Even large conventions have a limited budget and usually very little of that is set aside for any type of media production, so it’s always a bit of a struggle sometime to convince people that the video project is worth the money.
6) How do you see the internet impacting people starting their own businesses?
It’s crucial to a starting business for two main reasons, information gathering and advertising. Without the information that I gained from the web my company would have never started. Getting information on what procedures to register my business, what documents are needed, how to fill them out, what records to maintain, all of this info and more was directly from the web. The issue with advertising today is that people, especially ones in alternative styles of business, can’t rely on traditional forms of advertising. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and websites are exactly what business need because of they direct people who are actually interested in your product to you.
7) How would you advise people interested in starting their own geek/fan/atlernaculture business get started
The best way to explain the thought process is a quote from, “Robots”, “See a need, Fill a need”. That’s how so many people and organizations get started, I know of at least three conventions that were started because there wasn’t one nearby. It’s the same idea with my business; there is a need for a video production company that can help people in the alternative culture and I aim to fill it.
That and come off as professional as possible, that doesn’t mean you have to be boring. But when people come to you with their project, you need to be the answer to their prayers with a professional that shows them that you know exactly what to do to make their project work perfectly, like a general in the army.
8) Anything else to say?
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” – A League of their Own.
OK people I hope that was educational. Now learn from Richard – oh, and hire him, because he’s cool!