2015 CEA Winner In Film: Filmwerks International

By Jenny Callison, posted May 8, 2015
Michael Satrazemis, CEO | Year Founded: 1999 | No. of Employees: 58 (Photo by Chris Brehmer)
Filmwerks International may deal in massive generators, complex lighting systems and sophisticated structures for outdoor events, political campaigns and sports broadcasting, but it’s basically in the relationship-building business, according to the company’s CEO Mike Satrazemis.

Those relationships, carefully nurtured, have brought the Rocky Point-based company steady growth and – more recently – two strategic acquisitions.

Satrazemis, who began furnishing power and lighting for live sports broadcasts when ESPN started televising NASCAR races, has seen demand increase from sports broadcasters over the past few years, as the company proved its ability to deliver services and work well with clients. Then, in 2013 Filmwerks acquired a live broadcast provider that brought with it two major accounts: NBC Sports, with its extensive golf programming, and WWE wrestling.

“We are instrumental in providing power to 95 percent of golf broadcasts,” Satrazemis said. “Also, we just signed a contract with ESPN for the U.S. Open. We’re leaving in a couple of weeks for San Francisco to scout for the Super Bowl coming up [in 2016], where we’ll provide structures and power.”

The second acquisition, completed at the end of 2013, was a structure business, said general manager Chad Corbin. That purchase gave Filmwerks access to that company’s clients – notably Fox Sports. It also meant that Filmwerks, which had always rented broadcast booths and outdoor stages when it needed them, is now building them.

“That’s becoming a significant growth area. It ties in well with power and lights for TV products,” Satrazemis said, adding that Filmwerks’ revenues have doubled in the past two years, and its workforce has kept pace, growing from about 30 to 58 in less than four years.

It’s somewhat ironic that a company called Filmwerks does very little actual film and television work these days, but that’s a good thing, the CEO said. The event-related contracts, executed well in advance of the gig, provide a real measure of stability.

“Now we know what we’re going to be doing in five years. Otherwise we couldn’t sustain and build the company,” Satrazemis said. “We’ve added significant staff to support the growth we know is still to come. And we’ve added 35,000 square feet of space – some here on site, quite a bit that we’re leasing down the road and a small depot in Texas.”

The company also has small operations in Los Angeles and Nashville.

Further company acquisitions aren’t out of the question, and Filmwerks has gotten offers. Customers are pushing the company to expand, Corbin said, but Filmwerks wants to control growth so as to maintain personal ties and quality of service.

Satrazemis agreed. “We’re in the people business. Our equipment is just used to trade and barter so we can eat,” he said.

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