As the saying goes: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. They also cry along the way, oftentimes to friends and family.
“There were a lot of tears,” says Kenya Cagle, president and CEO of Caglevision Inc., a Brooklyn, New York-based independent motion picture production company. “We had our lights turned off and all that kind of stuff, but we were able to rebound.”
Caglevisionâ€™s rough times came courtesy of its first big client going out of business, reneging on a $5 million deal.
But Cagleâ€”a former off-Broadway child actorâ€”managed to keep his company afloat with the financial backing and loyalty of friends, employees, and business colleagues. With Cagleâ€™s credibility, character, and contacts on the line, he did not disappoint: Caglevisionâ€™s revenues for 2006 topped $430,000 and are expected to surpass $560,000 by the end of 2007.
Caglevisionâ€™s films, which focus on the challenges faced by various races, especially African Americans and Latinos, include Rich from Within, Father Dad, and The Undercover Man, among others. Cagleâ€™s movies play at film festivals and local theaters, but they are primarily shot for small screen release and distribution.
Cagle, 50, started Caglevision in January 2001 with $30,000. Just months later, Caglevision snagged a $5 million deal for The Undercover Man from Angel Film Group, an independent film distributor. Cagle and his two full-time employeesâ€™ elation was fleeting: The landlord heard about the contract and raised the monthly rent from $500 to $5,000. But by the end of the year, Angel Film had closed its doors, delaying the filmâ€™s release.
“We were depending on that deal,” recalls Cagle, who admits clients were few at that time.
To help alleviate the financial strain, employees agreed to go unpaid until things improved. Cagle says that 2003 was the companyâ€™s toughest year. The company relocated to another studio space but remained in a cash crunch.
“I had to borrow to live,” says Cagle, who took out a loan from a friend in the business. “By the end of 2003, I owed $58,000. Fortunately, he helped us out and helped us get clients.”
Caglevisionâ€™s 2005 film Goodnite Charlie did well in the independent market, earning $240,000 in direct video sales. The movie, which cost about $100,000 to produce, also received the Best Fiction Film prize at a short-film festival in Spain.
Today, Cagle and his two full-time employees are trying to establish Caglevisionâ€™s presence on the West Coast. The company secured a $2 million deal last year with Simply Me, a Granada Hills, California-based independent media distributor, to produce 10 feature films over the next five years as well as a deal with Simply Me TV worth $560,000 to produce a television version of one of Caglevisionâ€™s feature films.
Cagle has since repaid the money borrowed to keep his company up and running. That financial backing was just part of the reason his company survived, he says. “The people you know have to be willing to step up and vouch for you [also].”
Caglevision Inc.; 1638 Fulton St., Room 415, Brooklyn, NY 11216; 631-764-6466; www.caglevision.com