James Kerwin is a gifted Writer, Editor, Director and Executive Producer who had an innovative idea back in 2004: To create a film production company in the spirit of the model traditionally used by Non-Profit Theatres. Even in Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the concept was particularly novel. And, just exactly like Los Angeles, the lofty and high-minded project was less than easy:
“We went to the IRS and told them what we wanted to do, and thus began a lengthy application and approval process necessary to establish a Film Production Company as a 501(c) (3), a Private Operating Foundation,” Mr. Kerwin explains. “There aren’t many people in the Film Industry who’ve done this before; I may have seen one or two over the years, but I think we may be the only people doing what we’re doing today,” he continues: “There were a lot of obstacles. A ton of paperwork involved, and you basically need to convince the IRS that you’re going to produce films that have some sort-of endemic, educational or artistic value to them.” That was 15-years ago, and it certainly worked.
Named after the abode of the Muses in Greek mythology, the Helicon Arts Cooperative is dedicated to the production of intelligent cinema, with a special emphasis on artistic merit. As their website states: “Helicon Arts Cooperative was founded to present unique, original, and entertaining productions to the community, exploring and advancing intellectual, psychological, philosophical, scientific, historical, and literary themes.”
Indeed, as evidenced by 2009’s Film Noir/Indie-Thriller “Yesterday Was A Lie” (given 4 and a-half stars by Film Threat Magazine, BEING ) and 2013’s Sci Fi Thriller “R.U.R Genesis” (an adaptation of the 1920 science fiction play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek), the production values are high. And the wiring, editing, direction and acting almost raises the Indie Film bar. They look, well...expensive.
“People think you can’t make money with a non-profit company, but it’s not true,” Kerwin explains. “We raise money from our donors, folks who want to support the arts through their charitable contributions. Then we pay our people and our contractors, cover our overhead costs, and make our film. We simply direct any excess profits back into the Mission Statement of the Cooperative. Our donors get the tax write-off, we get to Market our film and take it to festivals, and together we’re supporting Intelligent, Artistic Filmmaking here in Los Angeles.”
Mr. Kerwin was pleased to be able to announce good news with the upcoming Blu-Ray/Digital Re-Release of the critically acclaimed feature film “Yesterday Was A Lie,” next week by IndieFlix in New York, on the 10th Anniversary of its original release, and we asked him about it: “It’s a Noir film, though not shot in traditional black & white, about the nature of the human psyche, the nature of relationships, and it’s got some science sprinkled in-there too...about human consciousness. It’s kind of a heady, philosophical thriller-noir, if I can describe it that way.” Sounds compelling to this writer. (Looks like it’s streaming online at Amazon Prime, too!)
With Intelligent & Artistic filmmaking, charitable giving, and more projects in the works, Kerwin’s Helicon Arts Cooperative looks poised for great things to come.
By Patrick Pitre
Home Staging is the art of making a home appealing as a part of the process of selling a home as swiftly and profitably as possible. Staging techniques focus on improving a property's appeal by transforming it into a welcoming, attractive product to the highest number of potential buyers. After 9 years of helping clients meet with success in greater Los Angeles, Just The Right Touch founder Cheryle Brown-Williamson knows all of the ins and outs.
“This company was born out of a story for me. I had just purchased a home, and I was working closely with an Interior Designer whom I really appreciated, and I turned and said to her: ‘I want to do what you do!’, Brown-Williamson explains. “She educated me on the process and encouraged me to get certified, which I did. And after helping my first handful of clients, I learned about Home Staging, and realized this special niche in the real estate marketplace interested me more than simply decorating houses. Home Staging clients need their homes to sell, and I can bring-in design elements to make that happen very quickly.”
Indeed, that business aspect at the core of Home Staging differentiates it from interior design or other home improvement projects. For example, a home may be occupied by its owners while being on the market, in which case Cheryle’s job is to bring design elements, furniture or even small repairs and remodels, to compliment and work around what they already have. People often add paintings, accessories, lights, greenery, and carpet to “stage” the home, and give potential buyers a more attractive first impression of the property. In such instances, Cheryle may suggest rearranging or "temporarily replacing" furniture. “Properly executed staging is the art of leading the eye to attractive features while down-playing flaws,” she explains.
Just The Right Touch takes care of staging homes for sellers, investors, real estate agents and real estate developers all over Los Angeles, including Long Beach, Orange County and even all the way out to Dana Point. “Especially for a charming, eclectic waterfront community like Dana Point, who wouldn’t be willing to make the drive. I love that area,” Cheryle explains with a warm smile. During our interview, Brown-Willamson discussed the extensive networking that supports her efforts to grow her impressive list of clientele, and how she attends a variety of networking events in all areas of real estate, all the while keeping a keen-eye on developers. “I would say that relationships with real estate developers are key to the thriving business at Just The Right Touch, as they often own multiple properties,” Cheryle continues. “But at Just The Right Touch, we take pride in being attentive and responsiveness to every player in the sale of a home, from Owner/Seller to big-time real estate investor, to licensed real estate agent.”
Another key to Brown-Willamson’s success is maintaining a healthy base of relationships with contractors and handymen, who she can pull-into projects where her consultation reveals the need for a small repair or remodel. “I’ve seen some houses where, upon walking through the front door, you just know that paint, curtains, carpet or light fixtures just… aren’t gonna be enough to help!” Cheryle says with a chuckle. A lot of times, this decision for her client is significantly impacted by financial considerations. “If a major repair is going to be pricey, and they don’t have the budget for it, well that’s when I roll-up my sleeves and put my Interior Design training and expertise to work.”
In producing the sale of a home quickly and profitably for her clients, Cheryle Brown-Williamson has “Just The Right Touch!”
By Flip Barnes
Like every other advanced city in the world, Los Angeles has begun to embrace the Sustainability Movement. In an era where ecological concerns lay at the forefront of our awareness, one of the biggest areas where we can improve energy efficiency and reduce deforestation is through the smart design/build systems and methodologies in the construction industry. Erla and Tryggvi founded mnmMOD in 2007, with the stated objective of changing the way that people build. It was as if they were preparing to be poised for the moment. Visionaries are that way.
“We wanted to encourage the utilization of steel and foam, and reduce the utilization of trees,” Erla explains. “Traditional wood framing is prone to termites and fire, requires more energy to heat and cool, and contributes to the continued deforestation of the planet.”
Their modular construction technology uses panels that are a blend of recycled steel and EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) insulation, making the system extremely energy-efficient, fully customizable, modifiable and affordable Green-alternative to traditional home-building techniques. In the distinctive dialect he shares with Erla (they both hail from Iceland) Tryggvi chimes-in on the challenge of introducing change to the traditional American construction industry: “In the beginning, there was a constant, ongoing educational process that we needed to support; with architects, engineering firms, developers and owners. After 12-years of this, we feel like there now exists a base-level of knowledge about who we are and what we do, in Los Angeles, and the world. We can feel the wind in our sails. We’re answering inquiries every day.”
When talking with Erla and Tryggvi, one clear and recurring theme is a “creative minimalism” that characterizes not just their panels and construction methodology...but also their work. “In Los Angeles, Designers, Builders and Owners want to work with a system that is straight-forward, cost-effective, ecologically-sound and with a long life,” Tryggvi explains. Complimenting the simplicity, efficiency (and energy efficiency) of this modular system is the fact that mnmMOD’s manufacturing process is environmentally-friendly. Their panels utilize “cradle to cradle” certified, extruded polystyrene and 30% of the steel used is recycled. As confidently humble as Erla and Tryggvi are, this writer wouldn’t fault them for boasting proudly about the fact that there is zero waste generated throughout the panel-fabrication process. Such a positive production process compounds the original earth-friendly benefit of countering the demand for wood as a primary building material in the first place. With the number of traditional construction firms in Greater Los Angeles - and the world - continuing to deal in practices that threaten to dramatically reduce our precious forests, and remembering as well that these forests are also habitats for many creatures, Erla, Tryggvi and mnmMOD are the best news we could have. With their design having been tried, tested and true on projects over the last 12-years, mnmMOD is poised to continue meeting the demands of green-building initiatives of Los Angeles...and the world!
By Patrick Pitre
One of the great things about working with local businesses is getting the opportunity to learn about the interesting stories of their origin. In the case of the American Small Business, a vital institution that is cherished by so many, it isn’t uncommon for such a story to be every bit as much of a personal tale of the Founder, how he or she arrived here, and even what they had to go through in order to win! Irene Vaksberg first became aware of her natural talent for hairdressing at the young age of 16, and at the age of just 18 she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of owning a salon. Now, 36-years later, Irene is still doing what she loves, where clients are still receiving her personal touch. Sounds like your standard, celebrated “started hot, and never looked back” type of business success story, right? Well, it’s much more compelling than that.
There were early challenges, such as raising a daughter as a single mother while starting her business. There were twists and turns - and even collisions - such as the automobile accident that left her in chronic pain, with sympathetic nerve damage, anxiety and depression. And there was triumph over adversity, because just like so many great success stories, it is in the face of such a serious challenge that a person like Irene chooses not buckle...and this resolve ends-up separating her from her competition. “Hair has always been my passion, and I love what I do. Hair is who we are, and how we feel about ourselves,” says Irene. “But when I found myself in pain, and doubt, and with the need of rebuilding my business after the accident, I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it.”
It was at this point that a friend of hers introduced her to wearable neuro-technology (affiliate link) and products engineered to create homeostasis in the brain, which not only relieved her pain and empowered her to rebuild her business, but it gave her the idea to make this transformative technology a part of her business. That’s correct, you can Vaksberg Salon to demo the products for yourself. “So now, I have two passions,” Irene continues. “Beauty, and Neurotechnology!”
So you see, she’s not just accomplished, warm, genuine, and hands-on with her Clients. Irene Vaksberg is also quite funny. However, a closer look inside her little quip above reveals the most interesting part of the Vaksberg Salon Story, her story, and, yes, this story: The challenges inherent to being a young, single mother building a business for yourself and your child (“and grandchildren,” she made certain to add) are one thing. But the trial brought into one’s life by a serious, nearly catastrophic accident, combined with the tribulations of an elongated recovery (before she found the neuro-technology products, she trembled, visibly), are another altogether.
Such experiences have ever-been touted as the fertile soil that grows tremendous character, and tremendous gratitude.
Sharing time with Irene Vaksberg is an exercise in seeing - with crystal clarity - just exactly how grateful she is; to still be here; to have a healthy body and business; for the friends and family who were there when she needed them; for her business partners; for her faith, which was tested by this life; and most of all, for her Customers and Clients. One is left believing that the reason the people keep coming back to Vaksberg Salon in Mid-City, is because they leave with a sense of Gratitude within themselves. We certainly did.
By Patrick Pitre
One of the great things about working with local businesses in Greater Los Angeles, is having the opportunity to learn about the compelling stories of their origin. In the case of the American Small Business, a vital institution that is cherished by so many, it isn’t uncommon for such a story to be every bit as much of a personal tale of the founder, how he or she arrived here, and even what they had to go through in order to become the success they are today. For Jeff Haas, Founder & President of Haas Entertainment, the story is about passion; one that began with a love for hi-fidelity audio as a teenager: Jeff set-up shop in his mother’s garage in Ladera Heights, California, installing high-end car stereo systems. The year was 1978, and years of success would follow. Yet even the multiplying business activities and responsibilities associated with the growth of an already thriving company, were no distraction from the changes Jeff was observing in the global electronics marketplace. Like the wise entrepreneurs of his time, and before, Jeff looked at his core competencies as a company, and identified keen alignments with a Home Theater marketplace poised for booming growth.
“I started-out because of my love of cars and audio,” he says with a nostalgic warmth. “Over the years, expanding into new areas of business has been a simple matter of staying connected and educated on industry trends,” he continues. “So, Car Stereos grew into Audio/Visual Systems for friends that owned restaurants, and then to integrated, high-end Theater Systems to upscale homes.” Indeed, Haas Entertainment counts among their loyal customers an elite, Hollywood clientele, The types of folks who require signed non-disclosure agreements prior to an installation. “With such an audience, you can imagine how we responsively expanded into Light & Shading Technologies, and even Automation within the Smart Home space,” Mr. Haas continues. “Heck, Automation is becoming even bigger than Home Theater these days,” he concludes.
Sales Executive Chris Quilisch-Rock provides additional insight into how Haas Entertainment’s close relationships with their clientele lead to the addition of new technology-offerings: “Some of my favorite clients are the celebrities,” he states. “I mean, we go into their homes, and they’ll have an armed security force and what have-you, and we’ll set-up surveillance cameras that tie-into Artificial Intelligence to provide data analytics, and even facial recognition software of who visits.” That isn’t to say that Jeff, Chris and the team ever lose sight of the original passion, that put them on the map: Audio. Chris continues: “We have a hip-hop artist client who’s extremely successful and popular. We’re doing his home audio system, and he loves what we’re doing, and how the system performs, and the way it sounds…and this is a guy whose business is professional entertainment!”
Garnering rave reviews and attaining the highest levels of trust from customers who might spend, say $100,000 on a Home Theater System isn’t easy, however. So how do they do it?
The answer to that question, is possibly the most compelling and impressive thing about Haas Entertainment: Through a genuinely progressive company culture that promotes high levels of collaboration, transparency, and visibility among all members of the team; so that all are intimately familiar with customer and project requirements. “Every talented person here needs to be able to understand what everyone else is doing, and why, at the very least,” Mr. Quilisch-Rock says, in closing. “That’s why you don’t see a formal title on my business card. None of us really have them, because we all have to be able to guarantee the highest levels of service and responsiveness to our clients, at all times. And we do this through a shared passion for expertise, and a shared commitment to our culture.”
Expertise. Collaboration. Commitment. Passion. Refreshing business values in our day and age. With any luck, it will one-day this writer who’s inviting them to my home. No NDA will be necessary, Jeff & Chris!
By Patrick Pitre
Swift Chip: Optimizing Managed IT Services, Cybersecurity, Technology & Computers to help Los Angeles Companies Grow Their Profits
“Anyone talking to Business Owners these days knows how prevalent Data Security is in the discussions they’re having.” Michael Paul, Chief Operations Officer of Swift Chip wastes no time in getting started. “‘How do I protect my Data - and our Client Data - in today’s environment?’ is the question they’re asking us,” Mr. Paul continues. “Our team has the answers.”
Cyber Security is just one emerging business area for this Culver City-based Technology Consulting & Services company...but it’s the newest, and it has already become critical to their clients. “One of my partners is a ‘Certified Ethical Hacker’ who brings great expertise in assessing vulnerabilities within the customer technology ecosphere...which is something we already manage for over 400 companies in Los Angeles and Ventura counties right now,” Mr. Paul adds. “We see nothing but more continued, steady growth of client needs in this area over the next 5-10 years, and we are proud to be in a position to be responsive to that call. “Cyber-Security is a natural and powerful extension of the core technology deliverables Swift Chip has developed and deployed for over 10-years now.”
Those core deliverables have been: Managed IT Services, Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) Services, Telecom Services, Computer Services and Cloud Services. “Our tagline - ‘We take the SH out of IT’ - is still supremely relevant,” Mr. Paul says with a chuckle. Swift Chip’s clientele includes Law Firms, Wealth Management Firms, Entertainment Companies, and even Technology Companies (many of whom outsource all of their daily and weekly IT requirements) to Mr. Paul and his Team. “We’ve got over 50-years of combined experience consulting and advising on all of our customers technology needs; from Customer Record Management (CRM) Software Selection & Implementation, to Website Design and Search Engine Optimization (SEO); from Cloud Based Data Storage & Management Solutions; to Computers, Servers and Hardware...and more,” he continues. “Take for example, the case of local companies who tell us that their aging technology infrastructure is a reliability-concern, or that they’re planning to move to a new office location in the near future. Some of them may want to take this opportunity to start-over from scratch.”
And when your Managed IT Services & Technology Consulting company has successfully provided service and solutions to more than 1,000 companies in Los Angeles and Ventura counties over the last decade, you’ve got the knowledge-base and proficiencies to commence high, mid-level and even lower level technology consulting engagements to solve almost every imaginable tech problem.
Closing this discussion with the same authority and pace with which it began...may not have been Michael Paul’s intent at the onset of this interview...but it’s exactly what happened in the company of this writer when he delivered the gist of Swift Chip’s value to the LA technology marketplace. “We approach our clients focused on one central mission: To help them leverage their existing technology investments, while adding new technologies where necessary, so that their optimized environment will be a multiplier of the things they’re doing well today. The things that are challenges or vulnerabilities reveal themselves through our engagement.
And if we are allowed to help , they’ll grow their business...and their profits.”
Visit Swiftchip online:
One of the great things about working with local businesses is getting the opportunity to learn about the interesting stories of their origin. In the case of the American Small Business, a vital institution that is cherished by so many, it isn’t uncommon for such a story to be every bit as much of a profile of the owner and/or founder who is making their-own way to be the most competitive in the marketplace. In the case of this profile, Malene Blaedel’s expertise in the Marketing specialty of Content Strategy & Copywriting is paralleled only by her passion for people, and for genuinely connecting with them.
“What we do at Blaedel Studios, is help Brands tell their story and deliver their message; to the right people, at the right time. We utilize Marketing strategies to connect the dots between what you want to say and what your audience wants to hear.” A younger company, Blaedel Studios is already in high demand, and they have plans to be growing in staff in order to keep up with the needs of her growing clientele. Possibly the most compelling and impressive thing to note here, is Malene’s assertion that her European heritage (she’s Scandanavian) is one of the primary contributing factors. “In Scandinavia, there’s a very strong sense of order, and people stay in their roles,” Malene explains. “They’ll wait for the light to turn green, even if there’s nobody around! I think there’s an honest, diligent professionalism that I bring to Los Angeles - and the Marketing/Advertising world - which is a byproduct of my upbringing.”
As very few of us (who would read a piece like this) are rookies in the Advertising Agency or Digital Marketing space, we know that the only way Brand Owners and Managers are going to engage, consult and collaborate with on such a high level is if they believe-in the relationship they are creating. Sustained relationships are the key to Malene’s business strategy. Los Angeles is a city teeming with activity in this space, and this writer has heard claims of market-saturation more than once (which makes Blaedel Studios early-yet-sustained success on behalf of their Clients and their Brands, truly amazing), so there’s a barrier-to-entry to be dealt-with here. Smart business people understand that gaining traction from zero in highly collaborative relationships with their clients... is much less than optimal for business. ”I like to get to know my clients, and learn what they’re all about,” she states. “And I have also found that it’s a special bonus for me to work for people that I like!”
But building and retaining lasting clients takes more than even Malene’s dedication to her engagements. It takes something special. So what’s her secret recipe for success?
“I’m all about personality,” Malene says, smiling. “I think that Brands need to be brave and show their personality, without being afraid of not pleasing everyone.” In today’s nearly hypersensitive culture, such an attitude of support and brand-validation...sounds like a tonic.
This writer and interviewer can see why, at Blaedel Studios, the recipe is the right one.
They say that no publicity is bad publicity and in today’s marketplace of businesses attempting to get attention by any means necessary, we are seeing more and more companies willing to cross the line between marketing and bad taste in order to get a rise out of anyone who bears witness to their tactics. The most recent company to follow suit with this approach is apparently Twitter, raising concerns from both residents and city council members in Los Angeles and San Francisco alike in their recent move.
The Banksy style approach, used to spray paint their advertisements across various buildings, infrastructure and other such locations, have skirted the line from marketing into pure vandalism. With quotes taken from their platform, carefully re-created on public property and made to look as though they’ve been integrated in that location for a period of time, the idea itself needed to be called into question long before it was ever put into place. This not only sends an incorrect message when it comes to advertising but also as acceptable behavior for the billions of members who take part on their platform.
The biggest concern that this raises when looking at it from an outside perspective is the disparity in punishment that large-scale corporations such as Twitter face versus those of everyday citizens. Being slapped with a fine of a few thousand dollars can be detrimental to normal individuals who carry out the act of graffiti, yet when these approaches are carried out by large businesses, it’s barely beyond pocket change. This imbalance in approach makes it seem as though the only risk that these companies face is potential negative press, which is only served as a benefit over the last few years.
We are continually seeing companies of all types take bigger and larger risks in their advertising approaches, sometimes depending on a negative reaction in order to boost viewership and interaction between the companies and those who may not be engaged in their product. The level of punishment that companies face is relatively low, leading to a lack of true consequences for their actions. Ultimately, it’s an almost fruitless effort to even try and implement a deterrent in order to keep any type of fear in place when it comes to stepping over the boundaries of the legality in favor of visibility.
This not only affects individuals across the San Francisco and Los Angeles area when it comes to having their buildings defaced or having a criminal action carried out with no worry of consequence but also demonstrates a lack of care for our surroundings, by so brazenly defacing property for simple Internet points. We should make more of an effort to ensure that these guerrilla tactics are not only unsuccessful but also serve as a detriment to the companies who choose to bring this type of approach to their advertising, regardless of the impact it makes on individuals or the cities themselves.