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‘It’s surreal’: Independent Chicago production company talks navigating first months of business

Photo courtesy for Julienne Chollette

When Brianna Yrene Ramirez was in high school, she took a film production class on a whim. Now, years later, she is spearheading her own production company.

Ramirez, who is a senior film and television major, created Behind the Rock Productions along with her two co-founders this past summer, signing the legal documentation they needed to be a business in Illinois just this past June.

She said she has felt a range of emotions since starting the company.

“It’s a little bit surreal,” Ramirez said. “It’s a bit overwhelming at times because we have such high expectations for ourselves to meet our goals and expectations.”

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Ramirez runs Behind the Rock Production with friends Alec Richard and Jack Hale. She said between the three of them, they have produced independent films, worked on music videos and worked behind the camera.

Currently, the company Ramirez said their slice of the profit depends on the project, but they typically take about 20% to 35% of the project revenue.

So far Behind the Rock only serves the Chicagoland area. Ramirez said she hopes to branch out after the company gets a stronger footing.

Hale, a former Columbia student and long-time filmmaker and cinema-lover, said his passion for the industry and the day-to-day of running a company has “married together interestingly.”

“It’s something that I have a passion for, as a creative and tying that to a paycheck, it does feel a bit of a sacrifice, but I feel that’s almost made the connection stronger in a kind of backwards sense, where now that I am also reliant on it to pay bills,” Hale said. “They’ve kind of married really interestingly, in the sense that it’s become more of my life now, where it’s ‘Okay, the training wheels are off; this is, this is real.’”

One of the biggest struggles in their first few months of operation is maintaining work-life balance, Ramirez and Hale agreed.

The trio have been friends long before launching their company, so setting aside concrete times for work and life has been a learning experience for Ramirez.

She said that there have been times when one of them would call the others late in the evening about a new idea they have and how it has led to them working to set boundaries on when they talk about work.

“When you work with your closest friends, sometimes, the only thing you can talk about is work,” Ramirez said. “We’ve tried to set a boundary of this when we’re clocked in. That we’ve kind of had to navigate.”

Since they launched about four months ago, Ramirez said funding Behind the Rock itself hasn’t been too much of an issue, as they already had most of the necessary production equipment before signing business papers. Ramirez said they save money by officing out of their apartments. To fund their clients projects, they rely on crowdfunding efforts.

Rachel Anagran, a Los Angeles-based colorist, works with the trio on various projects on a freelancing basis. She comes into the projects with Ramirez, Hale and Richard during post-production to tweak the film’s colors before it is finalized. Before being recruited by the company, she worked with Ramirez and Hale for other projects.

“Bri, Jack and Alec are all incredibly knowledgeable and very talented in their craft,” Anagran said. “Every time that I have worked with them on different productions, they take their work really seriously, they all know what they’re doing, and not only that, they’re incredibly good at what they do.”

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About the Contributor
Olivia Cohen
Olivia Cohen, Former Editor-in-Chief
ocohen@columbiachronicle.com   Olivia Cohen is a senior journalism major, minoring in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She primarily reports on Columbia's financial health, administration and unions, but has also written about personnel and department changes, COVID-19 policies and abortion. She joined the Chronicle in August 2021.   Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota