As margin compression continues to impact the unscripted industry in the U.S., financial pressures have made producers realize the strength of community — the creation of the Non-Fiction Producers Association (now NPACT) in 2015 is a case in point. Now, through efforts to buoy the unscripted industry while also improving the bottom lines of prodcos big and small, producers are increasingly thinking outside the box — or, in this case, inside a couple of very big ones.
Queens MediaWorks (QMW), a non-fiction production, media and business hub intended to serve the New York-based unscripted production industry, was first announced in 2017. Producers Bruce David Klein (pictured, left), president and executive producer at Atlas Media Corp, and Brent Montgomery, CEO of Wheelhouse Entertainment, were joined as founding partners by investor Richard Seet (pictured, right) and his business partner, soccer star and entrepreneur David Villa.
With support from New York State Assemblyman Francisco Moya, the team unveiled plans for a complex that would entail more than 150,000 square feet of office and production space, at 30-50% lower costs per square foot than the equivalent space in Manhattan.
Fast forward to 2019, and the project is well underway, if a little different than first conceived. After announcing the initiative, gauging industry interest and interviewing a range of developers, according to Seet, “There was enormous interest in being able to potentially set up a campus for the non-fiction production industry in New York.” As a result, the team, working with leading real estate firm JLL, is now set to acquire two buildings in Long Island City, with an aggregate footprint of approximately 450,000 square feet. With assorted as-of-right incentives available to prospective companies looking for space, rents could come in at 50% of the going rate in Manhattan.
Klein cites Long Island City’s proximity to Manhattan — “You’re talking about a five to seven minute train ride from Grand Central,” he says — and the “insanely cheap” rents as the key factors for zeroing in on Long Island City. The current vision is for QMW to house more than 50 industry businesses — big and small and across a variety of sectors, from production space to post facilities and specialty service suppliers — across its two-building campus.
One building is already built and “in move-in condition,” says Seet. Plans are to have that ready for business for the first quarter of 2020, and for the second building to be up and running by December of that year. Currently, a dozen prodcos are being outfitted for office space, and architects are working with three companies that are interested in having studio space within the buildings.
As more producers look for cost-effective ways to operate their businesses, pool resources and work smarter, more projects such as Queens MediaWorks may emerge. For example, Sky Studios has recently announced its own production hub, The Hive, set for New York and Knoxville, Tennessee.
Klein says that bringing together prodcos with service providers and post facilities is an especially attractive move given the current climate. Klein adds that Seet is also working on “very interesting incentive plans for the companies that are part of it, to own a piece of the building and essentially be part of any increase in value over the years in the real estate.”
This story first appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Realscreen Magazine, which is out now. Not a subscriber? Click here for more information.