An eye for video
Producer makes beautiful videos for clients large and small
Elizabeth Bland, The Business Journal Serving the Greater Triad Area
Found at http://triad.bizjournals.com/triad/stories/2004/04/26/smallb1.html
From the April 23, 2004 print edition
Hollywood and the Triad don't have much in common. But, with the number of Winston-Salem and Greensboro production companies doubled in the last five years, competition in the region is starting to resemble its western counterpart.
As president and CEO of Wide Eye Productions Inc. in Winston-Salem, Robert Van Camp has firsthand knowledge about just how stiff that competition is.
"You don't just jump out there," he says, "because someone will steal your ideas right away."
As an Emmy award-winning producer, Van Camp has come up with his share of good ideas. Nationally recognized for his movie-making "eye," his programs tend to appeal to both national audiences and industry professionals.
For example, his Great Scenic Railways documentaries, featuring railroads from across the country, and programs on the Outer Banks and Blue Ridge Parkway, are shown on public television stations on a regular basis.
"He creates beautiful images," says Scott Davis, the executive producer of external productions at UNC-TV. "He has a way of creating a composition that really conveys the emotion or the beauty in a scene. He's able to really compose it like an artist."
Cable networks such as HBO, A&E and Animal Planet and major news outlets have taken notice. He's produced broadcast shows for these stations, including a biography of Randolph County's own NASCAR driver Richard Petty.
And while more than 50 percent of his business is in creating independent documentaries for national networks, Van Camp remains a realistic businessman. The high-profile broadcast alone won't pay all his bills. So he has carved out a niche for himself in the corporate promotional video market with Triad companies.
By maintaining a stable of both local and national clients, Van Camp has diversified his base of business so that no one setback will shut him down. He even edits a weekly church program.
"I did a lot of work for Wachovia before the merger (with First Union in 2001), and I haven't worked with them in two years," he says. "But I don't rely on just a local or regional work base."
A former television producer and photojournalist for WFMY News 2, the local CBS affiliate based in Greensboro, Van Camp started his own production company in 1993.
"I didn't see a future working for other people anymore," he says. "I thought if I didn't get out early enough, I would never get out."
So Van Camp started free-lancing two days a week and offering his services to local corporations. He produced internal training and promotional videos.
His newsroom background allowed him to shoot, edit and produce the entire project -- all for a third of what clients were paying for similar videos from larger companies.
"I was able to fill a void in the market," he says. "I don't have to outsource (parts of the production) like other people do, so it kept things to bottom dollar."
Keeping costs low is particularly important to Van Camp's nonprofit clients, including the YMCA and Goodwill Industries in Winston-Salem.
"He provides more than we could ever pay," Bob Kale, YMCA's executive director, says. "I think there must be two Robs out there because every time I talk to him about something, he acts as if we're the only thing he's been thinking about. But I know he's got 14 other deadlines due that day. He treats everybody the same."
Van Camp says he creates high-end productions whether clients have budgets of $5,000 or $50,000.
With this type of approach to business, Van Camp gradually generated and saved enough money to buy his own equipment and move the company out of his house and to its current location on Martin Street.
With seven Emmy awards and 27 nominations to his name, Van Camp has created a successful and profitable company. He has three projects in production and four in the works.
He travels the country promoting videos for public television fund drives. Last month he was in Grand Rapids, Mich., promoting Great Scenic Railway Journeys, one of his most popular and successful shows.
"Rob has an excellent sense of what makes an interesting story to the viewers," Carrie Corbin, Grand Rapid's WGVU TV's program manager, says. "That comes across very well in his work."
Making it work
He says 2003 has been the most profitable year his business has ever had, despite the economic downturn.
"My philosophy has always been don't overextend," Van Camp says. "I'm very conservative when it comes to risk-taking and having a lot of debt out there. I have no debt. When I buy it, I buy it outright."
That can be a challenge when television and editing equipment runs in the $100,000 range. But upgrading equipment keeps Van Camp ahead of the competition, an invaluable distinction, he says. For example, until recently, he was the only high definition television producer in the Triad.
Because he produces shows for the likes of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, it's imperative that his equipment is on par with his New York and California colleagues.
"I am able to offer cutting-edge technology," he says. "We have the technology and talent and can offer it to local clients at a reasonable rate. They don't have to pay for the big New York firm to come into town."
But technology is only one part of the equation. Van Camp's eye for emotion is what many clients say bring them back.
"The videography is amazing," says Jaymie Moore, director of marketing at Goodwill of Northwest North Carolina. "Those videos he does for public television are aesthetically unbelievable. We don't have railroads and waterfalls for him to show off, but he was able to get to the heart of what we're trying to get across."
© 2004 American City Business Journals Inc.