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AMERICAN CITY BUSINESS JOURNALS – Beginners to Big Shots: Scott Galloway’s Susie Films

Susie Films founder Scott Galloway has a genetic predisposition to reaching others through the power of story. His love of storytelling was born from growing up the son, grandson and great-grandson of ministers.

He pursued filmmaking to hone his skills of inspiring others with words and evocative imagery, and ultimately formed his own Charlotte, N.C., production company in 2006, naming it after his mother.

Through Susie Films, Galloway has produced hundreds of television programs for networks that include ABC, History Channel, A&E, Court TV, ESPN, Food Network, HGTV, DIY Network, and the Travel Channel.

Cable and network television productions make up 40 percent of Susie’s revenue, while independent feature films and documentaries account for 10 percent of earnings. Branded entertainment/short-form video narratives for a variety of corporate and institutional clients generate about half the sales for this company.

Susie’s credits include national airings on PBS, several critically acclaimed independent feature films, and an impressive corporate client list. Travelers Insurance, the U.S. Department of Defense and Johnson & Wales University number among Susie’s clients.

Susie Films has a dedicated staff of four in its Charlotte headquarters, where pre- and post-production is handled, as well as film editing, coloration and administration. Up to 40 additional contractors may be involved in a particular production, including on-screen talent, grips, gaffers, production assistants, camera personnel, sound personnel and site coordinators.

How a history major at the University of Tennessee ended up with his own successful production firm is a great story in itself.

Power of persistence

Galloway recalls getting hooked on filmmaking at an early age.

“I was about 5 years old, and I was fascinated with my father’s Super-8 camera,” Galloway said. “He gave into my repeated pleas and let me use it to make my first film, an action-hero short with my 2-year-old sister as the damsel in distress who gets saved by me in a Superman-like getup.”

Throughout high school Galloway dabbled with theatrical productions and short films. In college, storytelling was never far from his thoughts, and upon graduation, he immediately sought to connect with producers of his favorite comedy and late-night shows.

“I moved back home and was living in my parents’ basement after graduation,” said Galloway. “They encouraged me to focus on a career that would allow me to do something that I loved. There is definitely a lesson in that. For months, I sent out letters and scripts to Hollywood producers of shows that I enjoyed, like Murphy Brown and Arsenio Hall, hoping to land a job as a writer. My ‘agent,’ a college roommate, called David Letterman’s head writer on my behalf for 72 straight days. I was nothing if not persistent.”

After nearly six months of chasing his dream, Galloway connected with a small production company that would ultimately be bought out by media conglomerate The E.W. Scripps Co. Galloway spent nine years learning the production ropes, starting as a writer and working his way up through various production roles. Ultimately he established relationships with networks that would become clients and the vast array of independent production personnel that would support him as he built his own business.

Establishing his own business

He came to Charlotte in 1999, where he established his first production company, partnering with a colleague.

“We did great work, and I continued to learn the business,” Galloway said. “After several years, I realized that I’d simply recreated the environment that I’d grown up in. I hadn’t developed the creative, more cinematic pursuits I’d wanted to. I didn’t have the complete flexibility to go in new directions and new markets I saw being opened.”

In 2006, he broke off amicably with his partner and created Susie Films.

“Eight years later, the business is allowing me to fully realize my childhood dreams,” he said.

Galloway is particularly excited about a concept called 100 Words On, where a short video narrative is accompanied by an onscreen counter that with every word spoken works down from 100 to zero. The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte recently employed this concept in marketing the experience they offer to children.

“Viewers immediately buy in, because they are only investing the time it takes for 100 words to be spoken,” Galloway said. “The counter also holds viewer’s attention. It’s a compelling way to engage an audience.”

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