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HomeNewsEntertainment Partners 30th Anniversary: Lede story

Entertainment Partners 30th Anniversary: Lede story

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For many people who work in the film biz, Entertainment Partners means one thing: Payday!But there’s more to than just paychecks to this company. For one, EP is a remarkably stable company, offering its clients a high level of integrity and customer service. It has offices in New York, and Orlando, with affiliates in Toronto, Vancouver, London and Tokyo, product resellers around the globe and it processes billions of dollars in payroll a year.EP and its sister company Central Casting are home to nearly 500 employees, most of whom speak of the company with words few people ever use to describe their workplace: Family. Home. This is a company where the average tenure is 14-plus years and in its 30 years in business has never had layoffs.”Probably the one reason that we all have stayed is really the integrity of the company,” says Linda Howard, VP of payroll operations and a veteran of almost 23 years. “That to me is bigger and more powerful than any salary anybody has thrown at me.”At the core of the business is production payroll. Joe Giarrusso, senior VP of marketing, says the company processes payroll on about 70 percent of television productions and 60 percent of feature films. The company also is the largest processor of residual payments, handles music payroll and has created an entire line of software for the budgeting, scheduling and management of productions big and small.”I believe that our company is recognized with a lot of integrity and that we’re consistently trying to help people do their jobs,” says CEO and president Mark Goldstein.That makes EP one of the more trusted industry brands, and maintaining that integrity is a top priority. “To us the brand really represents a promise we make to our clients,” says Ron Cogan, VP of marketing. “Taking our name to heart, we really view ourselves as partners with our clients, helping come up with solutions for them.”And it’s clear their clients are hugely appreciative of their efforts, judging by the estimated 2,000 people who attended EP’s annual client party last month at the Petersen Automotive Museum.While EP itself is extraordinarily stable, the financial landscape it operates in is constantly changing. One reason the company has been so successful is its ability to detect and adapt to those changes quickly.”We have so much daily interaction with our clients that we get tremendous feedback about what’s working for them and what could be improved,” Goldstein says. “And at the same time we have the ability to track feedback historically and it allows us to look for trends and new offerings that people are looking for.”Relationships are key to the company’s work, as is keeping tabs on the many ways in which the industry has changed over the years. “Creativity has now been merged with the financial responsibility,” says Giarrusso.Today, the boom in tax incentives promises to be the next major challenge for the company as clients have to figure out where and how to claim credits that have sparked production booms everywhere from Louisiana, New Mexico and South Carolina to Connecticut. “Now everyone is going to Connecticut; it’s a 30 percent credit,” says Giarrusso.EP is equally attentive to clients both large and small, Giarrusso says. “People think Entertainment Partners is primarily a studio-based company and it’s by far not. We have so many independents—large independents, like Endemol or Bunim-Murray, to small independents that are one-time shots, they just make one movie,” he says. “I have people that are doing nothing but independents in sales.” Entertainment Partners began as Independent Information Services, founded by brothers Bob and Richard Draney and Jack Peterson. In 1980, the company morphed into Draney Information Services Corp., or DISC, and released both the industry-standard Cost Report and its first computer systems, for which it designed both the hardware and the software.The company continued to grow through the 1980s, adding studio clients and adapting its system to personal computers. It acquired Central Casting, which supplies extras to productions, and transformed into Entertainment Partners in a 1991 merger. Richard Draney sold his share to the other owners in 1985. When Bob Draney and Peterson retired in 2003, they decided to convert the company to a 100% employee stock ownership plan rather than sell it to a new owner.The company has successfully brought that attitude to its other ventures, such as Central Casting, the leading provider of background actors in the business. “It allows us to have some great relationships with individuals in production that we would normally not have on the payroll side, like assistant directors,” says Goldstein.The company also has been aggressive on the software front, acquiring the Movie Magic line of scheduling and budgeting software from Creative Planet in 2002. “The goal for that was to complement our existing payroll services and accounting systems so we can truly be a back office support function for production,” says Goldstein. The company has continued the Movie Magic line in addition to its own, high-end budgeting and scheduling software and the Virtual Production Office.EP’s future will follow the path of the industry it serves. Goldstein says tax incentives and the influx of independent productions are having the greatest impact on the company. But more broadly, any area of growth in the entertainment industry creates opportunities for EP.”As ­more and more ancillary uses for product emerges, the more contracts are negotiated for talent on a number of fronts. First, in additional payroll, then there’ll be additional residuals required to pay people and additional tax requirements,” Cogan says. “Any aspect of the production community that is growing directly impacts our business.”Unlike most people and companies, EP has preferred to keep a low profile. Few articles have been written about the company, and few people outside the business know anything about the niche it fills in the most-prolific industry in the world.”I think that’s just the culture of who our people are,” says Goldstein. “We hire people that care more about delivering service to our clients, with the knowledge that if we do that right then success comes from that.”

Written by Tom McLean

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