5 Business Lessons Learned While Working for my Dad

Happy Father’s Day and happy work-day to everyone.  Here is some of the business etiquette I learned from my father while working at The Staley Concern, a marketing firm in the central valley of California in 1995.

Ed Staley 1978 Ed Staley, Fisher Graphics, 1978

1. The client is first:  As a small business owner you are concerned with overhead, payroll and administration duties to name a few.  Your client has to know that you are just as concerned with the inner workings of their office as you are with yours.  This leaves your office work to the after-hours.  Monday through Friday is for your customers not for a small business owner.

2. Meeting face-to-face:  When my father needed something signed I or USPS could easily handle the task, but when his business needed to shine, impress or show the work, he was on his way over.  His clients ranged from Sacramento to Los Angeles.  It meant a lot of time in the car but now I was his co-pilot. Today, with Skype and cell phones (existed since the 1950′s), staying connected is easier but there is nothing like the shake of a hand and doing business face-to-face to truly understand your client’s needs.

3. No one can go it alone:  My father started his own business with a marketing degree and wanting more then to work for a large corporation.  He wanted to downsize and specialize but still needed graphic artists, production, market research and staff.  He went from being a cog to the engine itself.

His network was just as important as the work he created.  The central valley is a small network so he made sure to not undercut competition to be successful but to provide high-end professional work.  Over the years his competition would soon need his expertise and they would become clients because of good work not because of cut corners.

4. Good Customer Service is a rarity:  When picking up a out-of-house serviced computer I noticed the cover was bent and the screws didn’t line up. I mentioned this to the clerk so he took it into the back and proceed to pound it with a hammer in plain sight.  He was in his mid-thirties and when he brought it back to me, a 16 year old boy, I said “What are you doing? It’s a computer, not a car engine.”

“Well, it’s fixed now. Have a good day.”  I couldn’t believe the customer service he gave.  I told my dad when I got back to the office, I was fuming but he was glad I didn’t over react towards the sales clerk.  Later that day he wrote a letter explaining to the owner that he would pay for the horrible service he had received but he would never return to the store.

Months later I went back into the store for a small connector and didn’t have time to travel across town to their competition.  Above the work bench, behind the counter, was the letter my dad had written.  I guess the owner had posted it as a reminder to the people that work in the repair department to strive for better customer service. I remember my father’s advise back in the mid 90′s, “If you can combine customer service with the tech industry you would cut a path through the competition.”

5. It’s not always fun to be the boss:  Working long hours, going above and beyond and staying late is a requirement of all small business owners.  Reinventing yourself and keeping up to date on marketing practices, contracts and the latest social media trends can be exhausting so make sure it is something you love.

Eric Staley and Ed Staley 2013

Me and my father at my sister’s wedding in 2013.

Filming Without a Film Office

In 2012, after 4 years of raising funds, Sidecar Productions set out to shoot their first feature, Eternity: The Movie.  Unfortunately, earlier that year, funding had been cut to the San Diego Film Commission and the remaining staff was moved into the Tourism Authority Board.  Later that year the office officially folded and the four years of prepping to shoot in San Diego came to a head.

“We had no idea how crucial a central film office was to making a film until we tried to make Eternity without the San Diego Film Commission.” said Eternity’s producer Eric Staley.  

“A Film Commission facilitates all film productions in a given area. It helps communicate between the police, the city, event staff and mass transit.  It assists in coordinating locations and proper documentation for rights, permits and public safety.  Without a film commission you could have very large groups of people executing their projects with out concern for the surrounding area.  No paper trail to cease productions that damage parks waterways or city streets and no governing board over productions filming with unsafe practices or against union guidelines.” added the local producer.

Staley went on to point out an even bigger issue, “Without a local film office there is no liaison bringing in larger productions from outside San Diego.  This liaison helps productions work comfortably in our area bringing million-dollar budgets and hundreds of jobs to the city.”

Sidecar and their team spend a full year after filming to assemble footage, tracking down colorists, renting studio space to record the final soundtrack and finding professional post-houses to complete the film.  ”Most of this could have easily been accomplished with a film commission.” explained the film’s director, Ian Thorpe.

“With a film commission comes a large network experienced in creating and finishing films.  When we wrote Eternity we had our network of grips, directors of photography, colorists, and composers but sadly, without a county-wide film commission, these professionals have started to leave the area,” said the director.

Against all odds Eternity: The Movie opened in theaters across the U.S. and Canada in 9 cites in October of 2014.  ”It was a great experience filming in San Diego” said writer Joey Abi-Loutfi.  ”Great weather, beautiful people, and no traffic” boasted the LA native.  ”To have this playground only 70 miles from some of the largest blockbusters and to not utilize it would be a shame.”

Jon Gries answeres his phone on the set of Eternity: The Movie

Actor Jon Gries, of Napoleon Dynamite, answers his phone in his penthouse office. (Department of Transportation old building

Eric Staley and Francine Filsinger on Fox 5 News in San Diego

Sidecar Productions wins Feature of the Year in San Diego

San Diego, Ca – On March 7th, Eternity: The Movie picked up its second nomination and first award, Best Feature Film, at the San Diego Film Awards. Principal photography was completed in 2012 in San Diego County and released in theaters late October of 2014. Eternity: The Movie is the comedic story about the rise and fall of an R & B duo in the mid 1980s. “The film is similar to the look and sound of Hall and Oates and contains more heartbreak than a Richard Marx album,” noted the Encinitas based producer Eric Staley. Eternity also received accolades for its lead, Barrett Crake, its supporting actor, Myko Olivier, costume and makeup, production design, and editing. “It’s nice to be recognized for all of the hard work hundreds of people put in on the film,” acknowledged Director Ian Thorpe.

(From left to right) Director Ian Thorpe, Actor Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite), writer Joey Abi-Loutfi and Producer Eric Staley on the set of Eternity at the Department of Transportation building in Old Town San Diego.

(From left to right) Director Ian Thorpe, Actor Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite), writer Joey Abi-Loutfi and Producer Eric Staley on the set of Eternity.

Produced by San Diego’s Sidecar Productions, Eternity was produced in a multitude of San Diego communities, including Hillcrest (The Merrow on University), La Jolla, University Heights, Old Town, Point Loma, Downtown San Diego, Rancho Sante Fe, Santee, Encinitas (Lou’s Records), and Escondito. Staley, Thorpe, and writer Joey Abi-Loutfi were on hand to receive the award thanking family, friends, and the support of the San Diego film community. “We are truly blessed and have so many people to thank. No one can make a film alone. San Diego came out in support of creating this film and it is such an honor to receive this award.” Beamed Abi-loutfi.

Currently, Abi-Loutfi is writing a feature in hopes of working with actors Crake and Olivier again. Producer Eric Staley is assembling his first pilot episode, a drama to be filmed in San Diego revolving around the United States involvement in the Afghanistan War. Sidecar Productions continues to creates videos and web development for local corporations and looks forward to its next feature.

Sidecar Productions demo reel.

Maxboost and Ambrosia power – Case Study SCP

Ambrosia Video

In June of 2014 Sidecar Productions was hired to create two unique videos to create brand awareness for a tech start up in the San Francisco area.  Knowing that the client wished to add value to the project we created a script that was energetic, funny and modern.  Time constraints also added to the project’s needs with the product set to launch in less then two weeks.

Maxboost’s Brand Consultant, Marketing Director, and Sidecar’s Senior Project Manager, Eric Staley got together over Skype and hammered out two 45 second scripts that loosely would translate to two, one-minute videos for online distribution.  Bryan Decker, Sidecar’s Production Designer, hired Maddie Moon clothing to recreate the look and feel of a high-end fashion show while the show’s producer, Eric, reserved the locations, received and scheduled castings, and hired the 10+ person crew.

The crew consisted of a Director, a Director of Photography, an Assistant Camera Man, the Production Designer and an Art Assistant, a Lighting Technician, a Boom Operator/Audio Monitor, a Fashion P/A to help with wardrobe, a Hair stylist and a Makeup Artist.  Also, many on the Sidecar team helped with the production including a Graphic Artist and an Assistant Editor while in post production.  Having these resources helped us stay on time and on budget.

The result is a humorous video that has different levels of marketing, humor, and dialogue creating an environment that viewers want to watch over and over.  Please enjoy “Maxboost Power” and “Fashionable Slimcases” by Sidecar Productions.

Ambrosia and Maxboost videos by Sidecar Productions

uNu – Ultrapack: Content for The San Francisco Tech Startup


In May of 2014, uNu (a San Francisco based company) hired Sidecar Productions to create, write, and produce a 30 second low-budget commercial to be aired at a Live 105 Bay Area concert event.  The commercial had to be written, filmed, and edited within two weeks of signing the agreement. Screen replacements needed to be added when the product arrived and it was not camera-ready but our in-house staff was able to solve the problem with After Effects and Mocha.  Within a week we had our script and began the pre-production process.  Actors, equipment, locations, crew, and catering had to be quickly assembled with a delivery date only a week away.

Production designer, Bryan Decker, was able to use a majority of the furniture found at the location.  By adding plants, a slider and some great soft lighting by DP Donnie Eastman, the shoot was dynamic and colorful. Here is the result:

After completing the 30 second commercial spot, the client asked us to create a 60 second overview.  This video was created to inform customers about the UltraPak when they visited the product’s website.  Sidecar wrote, directed and produced the following 60 second and 30 second spots.

The 30 second cut from the 60 second overview.


Please contact Eric Staley at Sidecar Productions to learn how we can help your product reach market.


(858) 384-9937


How Much Does a Video Cost? Part II – Crew

How Much Does a Video Cost

I was on set last week and didn’t get a change to blog.  However, In our last installment we talked about camera package and how different levels of production have different levels of camera requirements.  In this article, I will discuss the people that are necessary to have a productive and professional production.

It’s that home-improvement time of year and you want to paint your house.  There are tools that make it easier, ladders to make you taller, and sprayers that get it done faster…but nothing is better then having someone like the Epcon home building franchise do it, but labor costs money.  Or, if you have children, get that brush in their hand so you and your wife can lay back in your hammocks.

Child Paint

“It’s not easy painting green.”

When hiring a crew you need professionals and people are taught to value themselves hourly.  Typically, people don’t think of their “daily price-tag”.  However that is exactly the way video crews work, either on a 10 or 12 hour day and generally freelance. (Freelance Work will be covered later this year.)

Getting back to painting your house, how much would you pay someone to paint your house hourly?  10/hr? 20/hr?  If you are going with a professional company, not the help found on the Home Depot street corner, you are in the area of 30 – 50 per hour of labor.  The same as a mechanic, the same as a plumber, the same as a camera operator on a 10 hour day.

Knowing how much people cost can help you decide who is necessary and who is expendable.  The Director of Photography is your lighting foreman and he will be setting lights, building camera, working with the director to compose the shot, and making sure the image is properly recorded onto the media.  If he has no help he will have to work slower, and less footage will be recorded.  There lies the budgeting balance.

Waste Time

“When are we getting to my close up?”

As the producer it is your job to know what will help the speed of production and what the budget calls for.  If you have too few people the timetable will suffer, too many and the cost quickly elevates.

Using our last example from “How Much Does a Video Cost?” we know we have a DSLR camera package.  To save on time we will have two people assist the Director of Photography (one to set up lights and one to build the camera), one person recording the sound, a make up artist to make the client beautiful, and a production assistant (PA) to be available to run errands, pick up lunch, or lend a hand wherever needed.  This is a minimum of 6 people not including the creative team.

Depending on the script,  you may need an Art Director to gather props, visual effects, create posters and paint walls.  A head of wardrobe may be needed to decide what suit the talent should wear, pin back any loose fitting clothing, and oversee any rented costumes or jewelry.

As you can see, it takes a team, a well orchestrated team to ensure every moment on set isn’t being wasted.  In some cases the help outside the Home Depot takes more to manage then hiring a professional.  In the next installment of “How Much Does a Video Cost?” I will be talking about creative, and how little modifications to the script can add project value without increasing budget, and in some cases ‘simple gags’ can cost more then the client is willing to spend.