By Alex Ben Block
The Hollywood Reporter, May 30, 2013
When Cleveland O’Neal III became the first African American to produce a CBS School Break special in 1995, it took a building full of equipment that cost of millions of dollars.
In May, O’Neal’s privately held company Connection III Entertainment Corp. — producer of syndicated shows Made In Hollywood, Made In Hollywood — Teen Edition and Live Life And Win! — is moving into 5,000 square feet of office space on L.A.’s Miracle Mile, where it can do the same things at a fraction of the historic cost and for significantly less than in the past.
Until now, Connection III had 2,500-square-foot offices separate from studio and post-production facilities, which were rented. Now it has a six-year lease on offices with a complete digital studio that includes a green screen covering two and a half walls ceiling to floor, three cameras, a control room, full audio, an overhead lighting grid, production suites and post-production bays.
The cost? About $500,000 for the equipment, plus $1.5 million for the design, the cost of the move (a new space in the same building where they’ve spent the past eight years), construction and furnishings, for a total expense of about $2 million.
“We did a lot of it hands-on,” O’Neal told The Hollywood Reporter. “Of course we had an architect and design consultant, but my staff — many of whom didn’t know what a lighting fixture was before — had to get involved from soup to nuts.”
“It’s sort of how I built the company,” adds O’Neal. “It’s taken a little longer, but we feel hands-on is better.”
Research for the new space included a trip to the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas in early May, where O’Neal and associates went from booth to booth.
The result? Lower operating costs than in past years; and also met “green” requirements for less power usage. In addition to environmental concerns, the office building has limited circuits and power supply.
“It’s a full-fledged studio on a par with our competitors with billion-dollar parents,” says O’Neal. “The beauty of green screen today is, if done correctly, it can be truly indistinguishable from a practical set.”