Movie-making takes personal turn

By Jennifer Powell
Boston Herald
August 30, 2009

When Al Ward starts talking to your loved ones, you just might hear stories you didn’t expect.

He has spent his career documenting important, well-known subjects turning their stories into captivating video. Now, the owner of Award Productions Inc. has launched a new business venture, turning the camera on less-known but still important subjects.

Reel Profiles, an offshoot of the video production company, will make personal documentaries for individuals or companies. Ward and team bring more than just professional equipment to the job. They know how to get people talking.

It’s an opportunity to preserve a legacy, said Stephen Gladstone, who hired the company to make a documentary about his grandfather, a World War II veteran who started a real estate business that’s still in the family.

“We wanted to be able to pass on information about our grandparents and to let (future generations) know where they came from and what they were all about,” Gladstone said.

Reel Profiles certainly faces competition as other companies have already moved into the space. But Ward believes there will be enough demand largely because of the Internet. It’s easier now for people to hunt down their roots and there’s an abundance of sites to encourage videos.

Ward developed the idea for Reel Profiles as he made a documentary about his own grandmother, Alice Baddour, who died last year at age 92. She had amazing stories about raising four children while moving around the country and running a couple of diners. Ward said he’s excited that his children who didn’t get to meet her will be able to see her telling those stories herself.

“The concept of Reel Profiles is to preserve something forever,” he said. “This is a way to give personal heroes the attention they deserve.”

The biggest challenge for Ward has been building what will essentially be a retail business with a much different focus than Award Productions, which is more of a business-to-business entity. It’s even harder since it’s the first time he’s intentionally started a business.

Award Productions more or less grew out of a job hunt. Ward kept taking on freelance assignments until he realized he had a full-fledged business on his hands.

This time around, everything is being done more thoughtfully and purposefully. For one thing, there’s advertising. That’s something Ward hasn’t needed since most of his business comes through referrals.

The pricing structure also had to be adjusted. The basic package, just getting footage in the can, is $5,000. The final price will depend on such things as the length of the film and how much editing is involved.

That may not sound cheap, but it is less expensive than a commercial documentary. “We wanted to make it as cost efficient as we can to allow the service to go to as many people as possible,” Ward said.

There has been significant planning around the pacing of the outreach.
“We don’t want to get into a position we can’t provide what were offering,” Ward said.

Just in case there is a stronger response than expected, however, the company will be ready with an expansive freelance staff that can be called in for backup.

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