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Hollywood Camera Shop Fights Runaway Production With Large Discounts

Two weeks ago, Film Works supporter Bojan Stanivukovic sent us the following  message on our Facebook page:

I’m a rental manager at T-Stop, Inc., a film equipment rental house in Hollywood.

First of all, I’d like to thank you for your passionate effort to promote filming in our city. You’ve done a wonderful job educating film professionals about the impact that runaway productions have had on our local economy.

On behalf of our rental house, I’d like to inform you that we currently offer discounts on our film gear (up to 40% off) to production companies that have chosen to film their feature movies in the Los Angeles area. Like many others, we’d like to see more features shot in our town rather than in Louisiana or Georgia. So, please spread the word!

Not only did we want to help Bojan andT-Stop spread the word about the discount, we also decided we’d pay their Hollywood shop a visit and write a profile about their company for our blog.  Earlier this week, we had the chance to do just that, sitting down with Bojan and Thomas Hencz, T-Stop’s President.

T-Stop is an example of how Los Angeles is a magnet for film entrepreneurs. Bojan and Thomas, who both hold film degrees, have a great deal of filmmaking experience between them.  Thomas was born into a filmmaking family in Sweden, and T-Stop’s Hollywood location is an extension of his family business, which also has locations in Sweden and Finland.  T-Stop’s Hollywood location employs a staff of four full-time workers (including Thomas and Bojan) and two part-time employees.  Thomas opened T-Stop in Hollywood in 2004.  In the early days, most of  its business came from renting equipment for still photo shoots.

In 2007, however, the arrival of the revolutionary Red One camera “changed the game”, according to Thomas.  “One of the goals Red set for themselves,” said Bojan, “was to democratize the field, by offering a high-definition digital camera to the masses at a fraction of the price of the traditional film cameras” used in the business.

As Red sales took off, competing products like Arri’s Alexa camera and SONY’s F3 were introduced to market.  The goal of democratizing filmmaking, in Bojan’s opinion, has been achieved.   The cheaper and more advanced digital cameras, led in sales by Red, have flooded the market and most television production and many low-budget features now use digital cameras.  “This caused the price of traditional film cameras, which are still used in a large number of major feature films, to plummet in price as they were forced to compete,” said Thomas.

T-stop currently has 6 Arri Alexa camera sets and 6 Red Epic camera sets available for rent, in addition to a host of other models from various manufacturers, like SONY.  T-Stop is also the largest world source for Easyrig units.  Known as the “camerman’s backsaver,” Easyrig units allow camera operators to transfer the weight of the camera from their shoulder to their hips.

Since digital cameras have flooded the market, turning many cinematographers into “owner/operators”, Thomas and Bojan said T-Stop and other local camera rental houses have been forced to compete.  Not only is T-Stop able to match the rental price offered by such owner/operators, they are also able to offer complete support services and can offer the extra equipment, like lenses.  And since just a single lens can cost as much one of the new digital cameras, “many own a camera, but few own a full set of lenses,” said Thomas.

Runaway production has a hand in setting pricing, too.  Even though both Thomas and Bojan are immigrants to the United States (Bojan is originally from Serbia), they could not be more Californian when it comes to their concern about the outflow of film productions from our region.

According to Thomas, runaway production is being driven by generous film incentives that offset film production costs.  To a lesser extent, Bojan notes, productions are passing on California in an effort to find cheaper labor.

But you get what you pay for.  “I used to work on many productions that went to Eastern Europe,” Thomas confided to Film Works.  “While the labor was very cheap in the beginning, it quickly got more expensive as the skill and experience of the local crews increased.”

Eventually, Thomas added, “The incentives have to end.  It is simply not sustainable for a place like Louisiana to cover a third of every budget with 30 percent subsidy.”

Until that day comes, Film Works salutes local businesses like T-Stop and their generous discount program.  Realistically, Thomas and Bojan know their offer won’t stop a major film from leaving California, but it could give small to medium-sized productions a compelling reason to stay.

“If nothing else,” added Bojan, “[the discount] sends a message that others might follow.”

We hope it does.