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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Effects Firm Gains Ground As Location Shoots Wane

Not everyone in show business is bemoaning the loss of on-location shooting days in Los Angeles.

Zoic Studios, a Culver City visual effects firm, has drawn big business by creating virtual sets for TV series and commercials, which provide a cost-competitive alternative.

The firm has worked on series this year including ABC’s fantasy drama “Once Upon a Time,” which scored 8.9 million viewers for its Dec. 11 episode. The show, based on fairy tales including “Snow White” and “Rumpelstiltskin,” called for castles and forests that would have involved costly travel and physical set constructions to re-create. Instead, ABC chose to use virtual scenery.

“The kinds of economic pressures that are driving people to shoot in Vancouver and driving people to shoot more on stages – that’s helped us,” said Andrew Orloff, who co-founded the firm in 2002.

The effects house uses green screens and a proprietary technology that allows the cast and crew members to see the set during shoots roughly as it would appear to viewers after effects are applied. That means actors can tailor performances to the virtual landscapes, and crew members can adjust lighting and frame shots appropriately.

Zoic did not discuss its fees, which are assessed per day and vary with the effects used. However, executives said revenue from episodic TV has increased more than 30 percent this year.

Liquid Startup

Beverly Hills startup FastPay Inc. is on the fast track to growth as it continues to sign up Internet publishing and advertising startups looking for liquidity.

FastPay has software that advances up to 80 percent of payments due to online publishing and ad services companies immediately, instead of those companies waiting months for their receivables, often the case in advertising and publishing.

When the receivables finally arrive at FastPay, the company pays the remainder of what is due clients and takes a transactional fee. It all amounts to an online twist on traditional factoring arrangements.

Jed Simon, FastPay’s chief executive and a former executive at DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., said the company is providing vital liquidity to online startups.

“There’s a cash crunch for all the players. Advertising technology is esoteric and (banks) haven’t developed an internal understanding of how these businesses work,” Simon said.

He added that about half of FastPay’s referrals come from venture capital firms, while word of mouth among clients has helped the company bring in the rest of about 50 clients. The company has backing from Victor Coleman, chief executive of Brentwood-based real estate investment trust Hudson Pacific Properties Inc., along with hedge fund manager Jon Glaser.

As of October, FastPay had advanced about $25 million of payments.

Staff reporter Jonathan Polakoff can be reached at jpolakoff@labusinessjournal.com or (323)549-5225, ext. 226.

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