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Lee Buri Productions – So Long & Thanks For The Shoots

My first ever production company, Lee Buri Productions, will cease operations until further notice. Sadly, this company could not out run the pandemic.

History

Lee Buri Productions was a dream that started on the 31st of December 2019 between myself and my partner, Sandie Lee. The idea was to offer high quality production services while ensuring our staff and crew were treated fairly and compensated well. This was the vision we both shared.

So What Happened?

In January 2020, we had our first shoot with our first client. Everything went extremely well. In February 2020, our company was finally incorporated.

In March 2020, the pandemic hit and Malaysia went into full lockdown. We weren’t able to shoot, go out or do anything. During this time, I focused on marketing material for the company. I made our website, our portfolio as well as our showreel. I contacted everyone I knew and started promoting the company. Sadly, no one had any jobs lined up.

By July 2020, the lockdown began to lift and we started to have a normal life. It wasn’t until August 2020 that pitches started coming to me. From there, the ball started rolling – and it rolled quickly.

Lee Buri Productions Gained Momentum

We started getting a lot of jobs, especially from one client – MDEC. From there, we were able to shoot at least 8-12 days a month until December 2020. At the end of the year, the company had churned out over 30 web videos.

Life was great. We were getting paid. My crew was well compensated. The company was profitable. The only problem I foresaw was the fact that I did not have time to look for upcoming jobs in 2021.

And then, another lockdown

In January, Malaysia went through another lockdown. It should have been a short one, I thought – I hoped. Again, I tried to push the company and its portfolio around, but I couldn’t find any clients. Luckily, we had one more shoot scheduled right after lockdown.

Lee Buri New Direction?

When the lockdown lifted in March, we knew that we had to widen our portfolio. Even though we, as individuals, had vast experience, we could not call many of the videos ours. The plan was to use some of our profits to make some simple commercials to showcase our creative talents.

We began to do this. We came up with some ideas for a shoot, but to keep the budget down, we needed to train some of our younger and more inexperience team members on DIY video shoots.

At the same time, I had a feeling that another lockdown would occur and SOPs would be tightened once more. In the previous lockdown, studio shoots were allowed. So I had a plan – to start offering simple product-based commercials / videos. With these videos, we didn’t need a big team, we didn’t need talent. We just needed a studio, a backdrop and lights. All in all, we would be able to shoot while maintaining social distancing.

So We Did Product Shoots

We delayed the bigger commercial ideas due to budgetary and labour constraints – and we decided to focus on the smaller shoots. It was also good practice for the new members on the team.

We started small, apples and oranges.

I really thought we had something going with this. It was cheap, easy and really fun to do. So I decided to go full on!

Time to Invest!

All of this was done in my small 6ft x 10 ft room. It was tiny and over crowded. I believed that it was time to expand. My thought was that if another lockdown hits, then we could still use the studio space and make small videos like this.

So instead of spending money on our commercial portfolio, we invested in more equipment and rented a new office.

Side note – we’ve only received 2 projects this year. No matter how hard I pushed, I could not gain momentum. So to save cost on this new venture, I decided to renovate myself. But even with just myself doing all the work, we still spent almost RM20,000 on renovation and equipment.

With all the work that needed to be done in the new studio, I stopped shooting product videos during the month of May and focused solely on renovations.

I painted the walls and changed the flooring. I hired someone to install air-conditioners and an alarm system. We also changed plug points just to be safe.

We were all set to move in by the 3rd of June 2021.

And then, another lockdown.

We had to postpone the move, and until now, the studio is empty and fully renovated.

I’ve waited and waited for word on when we can move in. No new contracts have come in, and once more, no matter how much I push, I still have not been able to gain any ground. We aren’t allowed to shoot. There is a giant ‘wait and see’.

In the month of July, I did receive some leads for a couple of jobs. Sadly, I couldn’t commit because we just don’t know when they will be able to shoot. It could be August. It could be September, or even December. What can I do until then to feed my family?

Conclusion

We had a great 6 months last year. I was able to create a small savings account for rainy days. But as of the 31st of July, this savings account is now totally drained. The company has enough in the bank to pay rent for the year, but that’s really it.

And with that, I made a decision to close the company down and look for a full time job. After all, I still have mouths to feed and bills / loans to pay. Maybe one day when things are better, we can go back to shooting and I can try again.

Hoping for New Opportunities

During this time of self-reflection, I realised what I am missing – Global Experience.

I have been in Malaysia broadcast and productions, and I believe my view is very tainted. I am now seeking employment in a company that can help me gain that knowledge and experience from smart and talented individuals from around the world. Hopefully I can find a new mentor that can teach me a thing or two about how business / creativity works outside of Malaysia.

I can imagine myself learning from someone who’s had 30 years of experience in Japan or Europe or something. If I can find this mentor, I know that I can come back and make Lee Buri Productions bigger and better than anything it could have been.

So let’s hope I can find that.

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