Technology has always been a part of what Entertainment Partners does.The company was originally founded under the moniker Information Services Corp., as an online processing service center, with entertainment clients not even a part of the original plan.Its first system was the MINI, an integrated hardware and software system, of which three were delivered to production locations in Las Vegas, Newfoundland and LA.Account manager Charlie Ezelle, who’s been with the company for 29 years, says he assisted productions as far back as the NBC series Little House on the Prairie with hardware and software that processed the payroll.Senior VP marketing Joe Giarrusso says the entire payroll for E.T. was done on a device with a 10 MB hard drive, which at the time was huge, but now “won’t even start up your computer.”The systems migrated to personal computers as they became more common. The first such version was called Micro-DISC, introduced in 1984, and Vista Accounting brought the system to Windows-based PCs in 1990.A major milestone was the acquisition from Creative Planet in 2002 of the Movie Magic software suite, which included popular scheduling and budgeting programs as well as the Virtual Production Office. “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 CEO and president Mark Goldstein.EP continues to offer the Movie Magic software alongside its own software, all developed in-house, and now including EP Scheduling, EP Budgeting, EP Vista, EP Petty Cash Card, EP Paymaster and the EP Virtual Production Office. There also are tutorial DVDs.The VPO’s ability to securely store all production documents online has tremendous potential in particular. Giarrusso says the concept has been enthusiastically embraced because not having to print out all the documents associated with a production is a tremendous savings in both time and money.EP long ago stopped making the hardware, but remains committed to customer service, offering constant support via the web and phone to its clients out of its Burbank headquarters.The company continues to constantly update and improve its projects. Goldstein says there are new products being developed, though nothing is ready to be announced.Giarrusso says there are many challenges in updating software, not the least of which is maintaining continuity of features for experienced users while incorporating the latest technology. “If we did not take advantage of the new technology … then we’d be really, really not helping at all our clients,” he says.Software also is key to the company’s outreach efforts. The company has set up scholarships at eight universities and donated software technology for computer labs at more than 100 universities.”There’s been large investment in the academic world in building future film producers and employees, directors and we want to participate in helping continue to funnel talent into the industry and our products have enabled us to support that,” Goldstein says.
Written by Tom McLean