Robert Farina’s Cimarron Group has cut feature film trailers for years now he’s looking to diversify his client base by leveraging that creativity
By DANNY KING
Telling a story in two hours is hard enough boiling down a feature film to two minutes can be excruciating.
So in the run-up to the Academy Awards, Robert Farina is taking some satisfaction in seeing another of the films he helped promote stand a chance of walking away with one or more Oscars.
For 23 years, from the less-than-memorable “Abba: The Movie” up through 1999’s “American Beauty” and the current “The Lord of the Rings,” Farina and his Cimarron Group have been cutting trailers, or coming attractions, for feature films.
Farina, a former Warner Bros. executive, has leveraged a few well-placed contacts (its president, Roland Mesa, is a former marketing vice president at Fox) and a reputation for meeting the whims of capricious film producers to build a business that last year generated $25 million in revenues.
Roughly half that came from writing, editing and producing movie previews, which range from 90-second “teaser trailers” to 2 1/2-minute full-length previews.
The company has grown from a two-man operation to a 130-person business with 14 full-time editors and a new, tech-heavy Hollywood headquarters. It also faces competition from upstarts like Ant Farm, which has grown to an 80-employee firm in four years of operation and Kaleidoscope Films, founded in the mid-’70s.
Now one of the half-dozen largest preview producers, Cimarron can handle up to 20 projects at a time.
“They have the ability to turn on a dime if I change my concept of what I want to do,” said Dreamworks SKG creative advertising head David Sameth, who used Cimarron for the “American Beauty” campaign.
“Anyone can set up an edit bay these days,” said Sameth, referring to the proliferation of smaller production houses and cheaper technology. “But it’s not the same as having people doing really good work.”
Once specializing in action and thriller-type previews, Cimarron, also has improved its breadth, according to Peter Adee, president of marketing for Universal Pictures. “They’ve made themselves a go-to company,” said Adee. “Whatever project its is, whatever genre it is, they can handle it. They’re not just a one note shop.”
Still, Farina has made it a point to diversify the line of services beyond trailers, first by merging with music packaging specialists Bacon O’Brien Design in 1989, then by expanding into in-store advertising displays and packaging design for home videos and DVDs. Those efforts make up 10 percent of the business.
“What we try to do to service our clients better than anybody else is provide all the marketing services that mirror those companies’ (needs),” said Farina.
Having started his career in the finance department at the New York offices of Warner Bros. in 1969, Farina began working on audio-visual advertising materials for the studio after moving to Los Angeles in 1971. In the process, he helped produce trailers for “The Exorcist” and “Superman.”
After working on a number of projects with Chris Arnold, then an executive at Kaleidoscope, Farina and Arnold launched Cimarron Productions (Arnold was a fan of Edna Ferber’s 1930 novel of the Wild West) by producing the trailer for the little-known Michael Caine vehicle “Ashanti.”
“We worked so well together for a number of years that I said, ‘Let’s just take a chance,'” said Farina. “‘We do it for other people, we should be able to do this for ourselves.'”
Farina, who bought out his partners two years ago and is now sole owner, is further diversifying Cimarron by going into marketing campaigns for non-entertainment products, or what he terms “traditional advertising.” Starting with the production of a brochure for Lexus in 1997, Cimarron has since produced print campaigns for luxury cars, as well as Universal CityWalk and the Desert Inn. Creating non-film advertising materials generates revenue of $4 million.
“The disciplines that you learn in the entertainment business the speed in which things have to be done, the flexibility to handle the changes that producers and directors ask for gives us a real edge when we’re competing with traditional advertising companies,” said Farina.
PROFILE: Cimarron Group
Year Founded: 1979
Core Business: Entertainment marketing, including movie trailers, television advertising and home video packaging
Revenue in 2000: $22.5 million
Revenue in 2001: $25 million
Employees in 2000: 130
Employees in 2001: 130
Goal: To grow revenues at a rate of 10 percent a year
Driving Force: Entertainment companies needing a wide range of marketing-related services