When Hedley showed up to film a music video around the backyard pool of a residence in the Bathurst and St. Clair area, the homeowners kept out of the way, though their curious faces could be seen peering out the window at the shenanigans going on below.
There were lights, camera, supermodels and, needless to say, action, but at the end of the day, when the film crew packed up and loaded their equipment, there was barely any evidence that the home had been the site of a killer video. Oh, and there was a cheque for the homeowners that made the experience that much sweeter.
Though there certainly is excitement to be found at a music video shoot, or for a commercial for that matter, it’s the more tangible money in your pocket that Alex Kolodkin is counting on to make his venture a success.
Kolodkin, 24, is founder of Set Scouter, a start-up company whose name tells it all: it’s in the business of matching sets with filmmakers. The sets can be, as was the case in midtown Toronto, someone’s home, a condo, a commercial office space, and occasionally a farm, but most often they’re residential locations. The sets are venues for music videos, commercials, TV pilots and low-budget or student films.
Kolodkin’s company is certainly not the only game in town, but he feels he’s carving out a niche by catering to small to medium-sized clients and by offering a solution at a fraction of the cost offered by more established players.
He’s got the Internet to thank for that. In his business plan, the shidduch (the match) is made online between client and provider, matching supply and demand. These days, demand is far outstripping supply.
People with properties available to rent can list them on the Set Scouter website, along with a photo; businesses can browse the site to see if there’s anything that matches their needs.
Fees range from a few hundred dollars to $5,000 per day, making it affordable for Kolodkin’s target market.
“Right now, a filmmaker can browse and request locations for free, homeowners can list their location in less than 10 minutes, and they can set price, availability and send in their own photos. We’re the Airbnb of the film industry,” he said, referring to the online service that matches travellers with people’s homes in their vacation destination.
“We’re making it easier to match filmmakers with the location owner.”
The filmmaker can speak directly with the homeowner and send someone to check out the property in person. But all financial transactions go through Set Scouter.
The company charges the film companies a five per cent service fee, while homeowners receive 85 per cent of their asking price. Set Scouter, which is based out of the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University, gets 15 per cent from the homeowner to go along with the five per cent from the filmmaker.
“We only get paid when the transaction is complete,” Kolodkin said.
Big budget film companies have been scouting locations for eons, but hiring people to do the legwork can cost $650 a day. For smaller companies, indies, TV commercial-makers, Set Scouter offers a reasonable alternative.
Kolodkin, who graduated from Ryerson University with a master of arts in media production, happened upon the idea for his business almost by accident. It seemed the film industry was advancing in so many ways, except when it came to locating sets. In that, it was stuck in the past, cold-calling people and inquiring about availability.
The larger companies had access to expensive catalogues of potential venues, but the smaller players had to rely on legwork or even posting requests on Facebook. Kolodkin came up with the idea for a less costly and more efficient way of finding sets.
Even before, he had found in a variety of jobs in the industry that “my skill set was understanding the business side of TV production and helping producers get their stories funded and greenlit [approved].”
“I said, I’ll put one year of tuition into it and treat this as a learning opportunity.”
That amounted to some $15,000 of his own money. He incorporated Set Scouter in October 2012 in partnership with Lidia Bit-Yunan, a friend from school, and hired developers to create the website. They launched the service in August 2013.
With the business still in its early stages, it has yet to turn a profit and Kolodkin has gone beyond the one year he was giving himself to see if it would work.
He has signed up an impressive board of advisers of knowledgeable people in the film world, but he relies greatly on his mom, Ella Kolodkina, for advice.
The Kolodkins, who emigrated from Ukraine when Alex was one year old, had always told their son he needed to get a job. But when he discussed the one-year time frame with his mom, she said, “‘You’re continuing to do this,’” Alex recounted. “‘Look at the traction you’re getting,’ and she said, ‘Continue on.’ She’s giving me her continuing support to execute on what my goals are.”
“She immigrated from [the Soviet Union] when I was one. She came to Canada with almost nothing in her pocket and she instilled in me that anything is possible.”
The Hedley video marked a good start to the business. The video maker went home happy, the homeowners earned what amounted to “found money” and despite the rather explicit goings-on, nothing was damaged.
And the name of the music video being shot that day couldn’t be more appropriate, as far as Kolodkin is concerned. It’s for a song called Anything, and features a chorus that belts out the message, “I can do anything.”