GPN: "Productions need immediate solutions"
For some years now, Harry Tracosas and his European representative Julia Weichinger are running GPN, a global production network servicing the film, TV and commercials industry in no fewer than 64 countries. KFTV takes a look at what it is that makes their formula so successful.
“What is a production company's greatest worry when it comes to planning a commercial?” I ask APA’s (Advertising Producers Association) chief executive Steve Davies. “The stress is getting the job done” he replies, “the whole production must run like clockwork and the location needs to work”. When it comes to overseas location “the critical thing is to have a service company, a local production company which is competent and trustworthy”.
Harry Tracosas of Global Production Network (GPN) would agree with this: “productions need immediate solutions. I’ve seen too many productions needlessly lose valuable time and go over budget after being let down by a service provider or not being able to find the right provider,” he says. Acting upon the conviction that “there has to be a better way to service production companies”, Harry put together a worldwide network of vetted services and proudly set up GPN.
The company has been growing steadily since its 2002 beginning and currently supports productions in 64 countries with partners in France, Portugal, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, UAE, Kenya, the UK and Hong Kong, among others, facilitating films, TV productions and commercials for household names such as the Marriott Hotel, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, VISA, PlayStation, Ford, Samsung, Coca-Cola and United Airlines.
From banks to airlines, IKEA to Pepsi, Yahoo to the American broadcaster PBS; the list of commercials GPN has helped produce over the years reads like a who’s who of modern global consumer culture. I ask Harry Tracosas and his European representative Julia Weichinger if this huge ethnic and cultural diversity of clients and collaborators requires a great deal of diplomacy.
“Different cultures have different ways of doing things” replies Tracosas, “you have to be positive and well mannered, the bottom line is they all want a smooth-running production that stays within the budget and is delivered on time. They want to be able to call us and say ‘I am planning a shoot in Chile’, or anywhere in the world, and for us to suggest reliable local services. From the obvious locations to off-the-beaten track locations and finding talent of certain ethnicity to catering - or even hiring parachutes, whatever a production calls for we aim to help with.”
GPN’s operation is similar in many ways to that of film commissions but unlike these local agencies, this vast network spans continents and works on a truly global scale. “If a producer tells me he/she is shooting in different countries. I can arrange for a person to wait for them in each country to service anything from food to talent so they can get on with shooting,” says Tracosas.
The advantages of a global perspective combined with a local reach are clear, “GPN provide a network of service production companies which will deliver; for a production company going to a new location, that is very useful. The group is careful in its vetting process and in attaching the GPN badge to production service companies.”.
Tracosas’ resourcefulness is legendary. The well-travelled professional has often put his extensive ‘on the ground’ knowhow to ingenious use. Take for example a job for an alcoholic drinks manufacturer GPN has helped; the production called for the look of Ireland with 18th century trains and wardrobe but the budget was limited. “We suggested Romania for a landscape that looks like Ireland and I remembered from a previous job a local ‘train fanatic’ who I knew could build a train from scratch, so we managed to create a period piece on a budget.”
In another case, a documentary was filming teenagers travelling around Europe, as soon as GPN saw the outline of the script they went beyond suggesting the best locations and routes and also came up with interesting diversions, which made a tremendous contribution to the film.
GPN holds an extensive talent and locations database but their most valuable knowledge is “between our ears”. In an increasingly Google-reliant world, this unique and personal approach is often what sets you apart from the competition. “It is important,” agrees APA’s Davies, “there are location libraries where you can view photos of locations but that real knowledge, such as what you can do there, what the local expertise is etc. is not something you can look up on the internet.”
Set up to work on anything from documentaries to commercials and features, the team can tap into GPN’s vast pool of local resources at any stage of the production but “can make a tremendous difference at storyboard stage when we can recommend at least five affordable locations. We analyse storyboards for locations, ethnicity, talent, production cost, creative needs and make recommendations accordingly. Sometimes directors who feel they literally ‘shot out’ a place, been there too many times, would call us for new insight while many production companies we have partnered with previously, might call us at pre-storyboard stage and say ‘I am planning a shoot in Paris, who do you have there?’, it does vary.”
Besides the company’s unique knowledge of a vast number of countries and areas, GPN’s repeat business can be attributed to the fact they vet each company they recommend and go to the trouble of validating the recommendation. Furthermore, the service is without any cost to the production company, "the client doesn't pay a single penny extra," says Weichinger.
"We get our commission from the service companies we recommend. We only charge after you use their services and only when we know they have done a good job.”