By Richard Breen, Senior Editor
Georgia Entertainment News recently spoke with Terence McDade, managing partner with BigCity Leasing. The business is a full-service provider of specialty and transportation-related products to the motion picture and television industry (“anything that powers the set and anything that’s automotive based” is how McDade describes it). BigCity grew out conversations between business partner Cedric Slater and McDade, who went from driving trucks for productions to launching a business in 2015. This conversation has been edited for length.
Georgia Entertainment News: What does BigCity Leasing provide?
Terence McDade: I’d like to think we provide the opportunity to form relationships through our service offerings. Our core offering would be straight trucks from three to 10 tons, semi-tractors, vans for location departments and craft services, sound and camera trailers, and studio-class generators to power the productions. Without belittling what it takes to source and procure this sort of equipment, you can get these things from anywhere. So in my mind, we’d like to think we make it a little easier through our understanding of what a particular production is going to need.
GEN: What are your vehicles used for?
TM: Ideally, we can and have provided vehicles to support every aspect of a production. We are not as large as some of our competitors but we are growing and oftentimes if we don’t have it, we’ll be happy to figure out a way to get it if the client wants to do business.
GEN: Is it all behind the scenes, or do you provide vehicles that get filmed?
TM: Most of our equipment supports the productions behind the scenes. We have had an occasion or two where a truck was rented to be used by the buyer for the set dec department and I actually saw it on TV as a picture car. However, we’ll soon be making a test run into the picture-car side of the business. We’ll make some determinations to see if it makes sense for us.
GEN: What kinds of productions do you mostly work on?
TM: All kinds. We have provided equipment to movies and sitcoms like “Forever My Girl,” “After,” “Thor,” “Kevin Saves the World,” “Devious Maids,” “Ambitions,” “The Quad,” “The Haves and the Have Nots,” “Almost Christmas” and others.
GEN: What about commercials?
TM: We’d like to get more involved in commercials. A lot of that work is still filmed in California, but we’ve got a nice body of work that happens here as well. It’s a little difficult to get into because they don’t usually need a lot of transportation-related equipment and they do a lot of inside work where the building is already powered and equipped. Music videos would be another opportunity, but that work can be very specialized as well.
GEN: How many projects do you work on each year?
TM: We work on or rent to as many projects as we are able to successfully source equipment to. We’ve done roughly seven productions this year.
GEN: How did you get started?
TM: It was a little rough. The first production I actually worked on was a Wayans Brothers production: “Second Generation Wayans.” My friend and business partner Cedric Slater had been annoying me about quitting my job and coming over to the industry, so I finally gave in. I went down to Teamsters Local 728, paid my initiation fee and a day or so later showed up to work. I think I wound up working three or four days and I didn’t work again.
GEN: That’s rough.
TM: I waited maybe six months before I finally said forget this and went back to work with my old employer. It was maybe another five months or so before Cedric called asking me to give it another shot and I basically shot him the middle finger.
GEN: But he didn’t give up on you.
TM: He persisted another four months or so before I gave in. It took about another five months before I started paying attention to things –what’s involved with each production and how things come together. Being in transportation, I had a bird’s eye view, if not hands-on involvement, in each and every piece of equipment and the subsequent departments that would be using each truck. One day, I grabbed Cedric and asked him, “Why aren’t we doing this? We already had a couple of trucks from our courier business, so why couldn’t we also rent trucks to the productions?” He said, “Why do you think I pushed for you to be over here? I knew you’d figure out how we can capitalize on some sort of opportunity.” And with that, off we went.
GEN: What have you learned from all those ups and downs?
TM: I’ve learned that you’ve got to push through obstacles. You’ve got to be resilient amidst the chaos. And I learned a long time ago that I can’t be fair or honest to others if I’m not the same with myself.
GEN: Do you apply any of the knowledge you picked up in the IT industry to this business?
TM: I spent roughly 16-17 years in IT before making the switch to transportation. I planned to be a computer systems engineer. But funny enough, I was always playing Sims or Railroad Tycoon or any other computer game that had a transportation theme to it.
GEN: Your brain was telling you something.
TM: I probably should have been a transportation engineer or a city planner in hindsight. I think if I took anything away from the IT industry it’s that there is always somebody that knows more than you do, and there is always something new to learn. Also, that change, evolution, is inevitable no matter how long we push against it.
GEN: How much has the entertainment industry grown in Georgia?
TM: When I look around from when I started, which was pretty close to the true birth or realization that we had an entertainment industry here, I am amazed at the infrastructure that is in place now versus then and how many, many more opportunities still exist. I think many of us are concerned that the present administration (Gov. Brian Kemp) fails to realize the true impact the industry has in the state and just how many Georgians are working as a result of it. Georgia’s had some great wins as it relates to industry and businesses moving to the state, but the administration needs to understand that the folks moving here are looking for quality of life as well – the concerts, the plays, the theatre, the movies. This industry provides a huge piece of the puzzle in the quality of life equation in addition to being a huge engine of commerce.
GEN: What’s your favorite part of this business?
TM: That’s hard to say. I’ve never been a star-struck kind of person. But seeing all the people working, knowing that they are able to make a living – feed their families or themselves. I never used to watch the credits after a movie or TV show. Now I find myself looking to see if I know the folks in the different departments that have worked on a production. Watching to see if they have thanked the vendors that provided support for the different projects.
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