Powderhouse Productions explodes on to the scene

By Aaron Crear

Somerville News
August 21, 2009

Unbeknownst to many residents, one of the most successful television production companies in the country was started, has grown and still remains in the city of Somerville. Powderhouse Productions, whose headquarters is located on Elm Street, is behind some of the most popular shows on TV.

Just of few of the programs on their roster include Mega Engineering aired on Discovery Channel, DOGS 101 aired on Animal Planet, The Works on History Channel and Kids by the Dozen aired on TLC. The company derives its name from a Revolutionary War gunpowder storehouse that is located less than a mile from the corporate offices.

These highly successful series recently earned the company 8 Telly awards, which are annually given out to honor outstanding local, regional, and national cable TV commercials and programs, the finest video and film productions, and online film and video. Powderhouse picked up hardware for three projects, DOGS101, The Works and its online video channel, SHOETUBE.TV.

The company was co-founded in 1994 by award winning filmmaker Tug Yourgrau and veteran producer Joel Olicker. Olicker, a Somerville resident at the time decided that he wanted to live and work in the same place. “At that time we were just beginning to see the transformation in Davis Square,” said Olicker. A decade and a half later, the company still remains in the heart of the city. “We love Somerville”, Olicker added.

Over the last 15 years the company has grown from a small production company producing one show at a time, to now producing multiple series continuously. Their reputation for quality productions has helped with expansion and acquiring deals with major networks. It is common practice within the television industry to watch programming across all networks to search for the next hit show.

Powderhouse got its first big break with the show Engineering the Impossible. The single episode production portraying large scale futuristic technological developments eventually lead to the series Mega Engineering on Discovery Channel.

Olicker was quick to credit the Massachusetts Film Tax Credit with their growth and success. The credit entitles companies who shoot at least half of their movie or spend at least half of their production budget in the Commonwealth-are eligible for a tax credit equal to 25 cents for every new dollar of spending they bring to Massachusetts. Since its inception in 2006 “We have tripled our revenue and productions and doubled the size of our staff”, said Olicker.

The company currently has over 110 employees all located in Somerville. With the tremendous success and growth that Powderhouse is having it may eventually require having satellite offices in New York and Los Angeles. Olicker, however remains steadfast in his plans to keep the company local.

Being based in Boston also provides benefits to the specific type of programming that Powderhouse specializes in. With some of the leading scientific institutions in the world based in the Boston it is a hotbed for experts in the scientific areas explored in the award winning productions. Members of area hospitals, universities and companies are routine contributors to the shows.

Powderhouse’s new series Superfetch will debut in October on Animal Planet. The Saturday night series stars Youtube sensation Zak George, an unconventional dog trainer, who coaches dog owners to bond with their pets by attempting hilariously ambitious tricks. Much of the reality shows’ filming took place in and around Somerville.

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