By Brad Fullmer
Salt Lake City-based Metcom Studios, formerly Metropolis Integrated Media, has undergone a significant transformation since moving into its new state-of-the-art $4.5 million facility in January 2011.
Located at 352 S. 500 E., the 16,000 square foot building features myriad unique design elements, from curved walls and hallways to modern light fixtures, exposed ceilings and high-tech video and audio rooms.
“It’s just an incredible building for us,” said company president Brent Marshall, 62, a long-time local radio-production veteran who founded Metropolis along with partner John-David Brewer, 43, executive vice president of creative, in 1998 at 445 S. 300 E. in Salt Lake. “I don’t know of another post-production facility of this size between Denver and L.A.; not many are being built brand new or are this nice. We put a lot of time, effort and money into making sure we got exactly what we wanted.”
The building is nearly double the size of Metcom’s previous 9,500 square foot location and has four audio control booths, three video edit bays, two recording studios and a 1,600 square foot film/sound stage. Other ancillary rooms include a spacious kitchen and break area, offices, and a stylish conference room with a modern-retro light fixture highlighted with old power pole glass insulators.
Sensitive sound attenuation requirements prompted the need for double walls with special acoustic and isolation materials – including mass-loaded vinyl – between certain rooms. Each room has a unique name: audio control rooms are named for gasses (radon, argon, krypton, xenon); video edit bays are named for metals (mercury, cobalt, tungsten); and recording studios are named for parts of the atom (electron, neutron).
The move to the new facility wasn’t something Marshall and Brewer intended to happen – it was necessitated when Salt Lake City unveiled plans for a new Public Safety Complex in the very spot where Metropolis was located, just east of the Salt Lake Public Library. City officials could have exercised a legal “eminent domain” statute, but didn’t have to since Marshall was able to negotiate an equitable agreement to sell the property to the city, a deal he said was “extremely fair” for both parties. Marshall and Brewer realized it was a golden opportunity to reinvent their firm with a new building, logo, additional services and overall brand.
“It was a pretty gutsy move,” said Marshall, the sole owner of the building. “We really didn’t [have a choice], but went way beyond the ordinary to create a truly unique studio. I have a lot of faith and vision that there is business out there – you just have to find it. You have to get outside of your own market sometimes and find different opportunities and that’s what we’re doing.”
The project was funded from money from the sale of the firm’s old building to the city, a business loan from Wells Fargo Bank and a sizable amount of money from Marshall’s own pocket. In addition, the firm invested more than $300,000 into new equipment and décor items, including computers, microphones, audio-mixing consoles, software and furniture.
So far, the results have been extraordinary. Metcom has picked up some large national corporate clients and expects revenues to grow by more than 10 percent this year, to approximately $4 million. Marshall and Brewer envision continued annual growth of at least 10 percent.
“We had an opportunity to rebrand ourselves and separate ourselves from what Metropolis used to be,” said Brewer, who ran Franklin Covey’s video production department for seven years before hooking up with Marshall in the late ‘90s. “We want to be more of a leader in media development from a communications or agency-like perspective. I wouldn’t say we’re trying to be an ad agency, but as ad agencies are doing more of what we do, we’re doing more of what they do. Our clients come to us with not just a video or audio project, but an entire communication problem they need solved.”
“There was a time we produced a lot of audio and video work in the advertising field; we have essentially flip-flopped,” Marshall added. “Now, 85 percent of our work is corporate and a lower percentage is advertising work. Our market has changed, too. There were several other post-production companies in Salt Lake that were servicing large media advertising companies, but most are gone. There are certainly other production companies that edit video and do audio recording, but there is nothing like Metcom.”
“Our most profitable projects are those we produce ourselves from script to finish, but every little piece goes into the pie, so it’s all good for us,” he added.
“It’s a signature company for the Utah film and video industry,” said Marshall Moore, director of the Utah Film Commission. “Losing Metcom would have been a big deal to the film and TV community in the state because the services they provide are unique to the area. This new facility will open doors to new relationships based on the opportunities that exist there. I toured the facility a couple months ago and was impressed with the layout, design, and quality of equipment they have. What they offer to the state and the city of Salt Lake keeps us competitive in this market.”
Metcom is a full-service production firm that offers an array of audio and video production services – corporate bio videos, infomercials, TV and radio commercials, integrated voice response (IVR), telephony voice-over, and music recording, among others. Metcom also leases space to outside firms like Voices Online Now (of which Marshall is part-owner) and Too Many Legs Animation Studios.
Metcom has 12 full-time and six part-time employees – four of whom have been hired since January – including directors, editors, engineers, producers, writers and artists. The firm has done work for corporate clients such as Chevron, Disney, General Electric Imaging and Microsoft’s Tellme Networks. Metcom has done promotional product videos recently for large MLM clients like Tahitian Noni in Provo, Melaleuca in Idaho Falls and Forever Living Products (FLP) in Scottsdale.
“Larger clients are more difficult to get but when you land them it’s a good thing,” said Marshall. “We’re looking for clients that have bigger budgets and more media needs.”
Brewer recently returned from an assignment for FLP, a whirlwind, 32-day global jaunt that took him and a cameraman to nine different countries, including Great Britain, France, Hungary, Nigeria, Mexico and Japan. Metcom is wrapping up production on 13 different 2.5- to 4.5-minute videos that chronicle the lives of various FLP distributors.
The trip included being escorted by guards with AK-47 rifles in Nigeria to being pulled over by a corrupt cop in Mexico City who was going to impound their vehicle for what Brewer said was allegedly an incorrect turn. They ended up giving the cop a 2,000-peso “bribe” (about $200) in return for their freedom.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said of the cross-continent venture.
FLP director of marketing Paul Muehlmann said he had worked with Marshall and Brewer in the past, but looked long and hard at several larger studios before choosing Metcom.
“We wanted to put a face on Forever, not just this massive $3 billion MLM; there was a particular look I was going after and they delivered,” said Muehlmann, a project he estimated cost in excess of a quarter million dollars. “Half the people we did videos on didn’t even speak English, so they’ve dealt with a lot. There are other studios bigger than Metcom, but their combination of price and what they’re capable of…most studios would not have been able to do this much volume in a short period of time.”
Metcom Studios was designed by Salt Lake-based HKG Architects; Duane Marsala Construction Inc. of South Jordan was the general contractor.