D-MAK Productions, a digital marketing agency specializing in video production phoenix-Joe Forte
What’s up everyone! My name is Joe Forte, and I am one of the founders at D-MAK Productions, a digital marketing agency specializing in video production phoenix. Our clients include many well-known multi-national companies such as Texas Instruments, Chipotle, Apple, and HP.
D-MAK Productions was started in 2011 when one of my good friends, Danny McManus, decided he wanted to create a video production company. As a young child growing up in Long Island, NY, Danny was always drawn to filming and editing videos. From his dad’s VHS, to renting his school’s equipment, to finally getting his own Hi-8 camera to film his friends skateboarding, any reason he could film was fun to him. He attended college at Arizona State University and received a degree in broadcast journalism and film. He knew the broadcast news direction wasn’t for him after a short stint in news production, so he decided to branch out and form a video production company of his own. He started with a small investment in a DSLR camera, and some cheap lights and he was off to try and make a name for himself. He first filmed all the things he found interesting for free or practically free. Once he had a well-rounded demo-reel of cool clips from music videos, extreme sports, and basic corporate videos, he was able to start seeing income from new productions. The financial aspect didn’t really take off until 2013 when I came aboard and started handling the sales and marketing and optimizing/rebuilding our website. Since I have done just about every type of job in sales and marketing, it made sense for us to join forces and him focusing on the content creation and me focusing on selling it.
As soon as we decided to go into business, the first thing we did was reach out to all the established video production companies in the Phoenix Arizona market. We asked each owner out to lunch as we wanted to pick their brains and see if starting a video agency was a viable business opportunity. Most everyone accepted our invitation and some of those early lunches have been bearing fruit ever since, as many of them are our current mentors to this day.
We mainly focus on creating commercial, corporate, branded, and digital content. The main thing that sets us apart from our contemporary’s is our large network of talented individuals that we get involved in our productions. We pride ourselves on creating each production from scratch and getting the best of the best for each different area of the production. From directors and cinematographers to photographers and animators, we know who the A team is that is available, and we ensure that we get them involved where needed.
As with any startup it’s never going to be sunshine and roses all the way. The biggest struggle we’ve had has been when there aren’t projects in the pipeline, and we need to find things to do with our free time. I feel like that’s when we get the most original with creating marketing material for the company or discovering new opportunities to generate revenue. It’s just a matter of showing up to the office every day with the attitude of trying to push it to the next level that will get you through those tough times.
We are where we are today by being very smart with our business resources. We could’ve spent a fortune when we first got involved in the production business, getting loans from banks, renting a large film studio, and buying the most expensive production equipment. We certainly didn’t do that. We started off small and paid for everything up front in cash.
One thing that we’d like the world to know about our company is that we live and die by our core values. They are as follows: Respect – Be in service of. Creativity – Everyone has it, we cultivate it. Synchronicity – The details make it art. Integrity – We are our words and our work. Freedom – Make things that matter to you.
I believe that our biggest competitive advantage is our exceptional customer service. This starts as soon as our first interaction. Immediately when potential customer emails us, I make it a priority to call them by phone as soon as possible. With the world turning increasingly digital, most try to establish a connection via email.
That’s not the D-MAK way though. I want to provide a human touch in each interaction, so I can establish a great repour they really know who they’re working with. I’ve had clients mention our responsiveness as to why they continue to work with us.
Another thing that separates us from our competitors is our relentless pursuit of online reviews after finishing a production. Most of our business leads come from the Internet, and because everyone looks to online reviews before making a purchase, a high-ticket purchase like video production services benefits from countless number of 5-star reviews.
It’s exciting that we continue grow and accept productions that we believe we can execute at an extremely high level and that have good margins. When we first started our production company, we would take any project just to keep busy, as it didn’t matter the size of the project or what we were working. We found that as we grew, by being picky in what projects we were took on and turning down projects when the budget wasn’t sufficient to make an exceptional product that we could be proud of, we were more likely to work on those higher-quality jobs by not being bogged down with low quality, low budget, and high-stress work. It’s funny too, that when you work with clients with high budgets, they value you much more than the client with low budgets and high expectations.
The one thing I’d like to comment about that has kept us at an advantage is saving a percentage of our profits from each project and keeping them in our savings account. When we first got established in the production business, we would get approved for a project and then squander our newfound fortune. Whether that was to invest in new equipment or waste one way or another.
We found that once we put away a set percentage of our profits to savings, we still seemed to have the cash we needed to purchase everything we were buying before, just that now, we were also putting away a nice chunk of change for the slower times in the business. This helped enormously in the Spring of 2020 when all our scheduled projects were canceled, and we still had expenses that needed to be paid.
The one person who I would say had the biggest influence in our lives is business philosopher Jim Rohn. Jim was an American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker. His content is so straightforward and easy to digest, but the impact is immense. We started saving a percentage of our profits in our business and personal lives after listening to one of his speeches. That one thing has changed the game for us, and we believe it will change the game for all of you reading this right now if you put it into practice and develop the habit moving forward.
My biggest advice for other business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs is to not overextend yourself at first. There’s nothing to be ashamed of to live within the means of where you are at in the building of your company and to scale up from there. In the video production space, we very easily could have spent all our money on the latest and greatest equipment, got a glamourous studio space, and put that all on the credit cards. But we took the path of delayed satisfaction.
We had a Canon 60D DSLR camera and a Macbook Pro when we started our company and built it from there. As projects came in, we would make tactical investments as needed. If there was a piece of equipment we needed for a particular project, we would just rent it. And when we discovered that we needed it more than once and it made sense to purchase it, we would. If you can build your company from a spare room in your residence, then do that. It’s not necessarily to overextend yourself when you’re first starting out.
Some of our best mentors came from the local production studios that we’ve had the opportunity of collaborating within the Phoenix area. They showed us the ropes when we started our business and gave us a helping hand with the direction of the company. Ken Liljegren, John Friesen of Spectrum Video and Film come to mind, James Rinkenberger of Video Media Productions, Tom Fergus was also a great videography teacher to my business partner Danny in ASU’s school of broadcast journalism.
Where can we go to learn more?
About Joe Forte
Joe Forte is Co-Founder and Producer at D-MAK Productions, a professional film and video production company based in Phoenix, AZ specializing in producing corporate, commercial, branded and digital media content.