We thought that the Hungarian state television would be the most ideal TV company to sell our show to, whose president was famous for never ever picking the phone up for anyone, maybe for the prime minister, but no one else. But what he would do was text on his mobile with anyone.
At the this TV channel no one spent energy and time on making television, they were all preoccupied by surviving the forthcoming change in government. But since we knew him from before, he forwarded our material to the decision makers, and that we need to meet with the program manager, who was infamous for never signing anything. He told us how brilliant our show was, but please contact him again in a month. We were very pleased and enthusiastic, but when that time arrived, he did not pick the phone up. Iván tried again and again, quickly escalating to phoning him five times a day, during which he never picked up the phone. After about a month and a half he picked it up to say a typical alibi for rejection, that the mother-tongue committee rejected it. This was a huge lie, a typical way to decline something, while he had kept us hanging for three months.
Regardless, we still had faith in our documentary, so we sent it to commercial channels, but after a few months we had to face that nothing worked. This was quite a hopeless period, since it seemed to be impossible to sell our series.
Back then we did not have any way of making a living. So we started to look for other options to be able to survive this period somehow. We started to think about creating online videos and interviews, using the expensive equipment that we had invested in. At this point we were only asking for the minimal wage, while we were providing the equipment and editing. An online newspaper said how brilliant our offer is, but they have all the colleges they need, but one of them is alcoholic, so if he drinks again then they will kick him out and take us in his place. So absurdly we ended up in a situation where we were having to hope that he would drink again. But they never contacted us.
A Lucky Turn in Fate
This was the time of the financial crisis in 2008, a time when people wanted to spend even less money. It is not the best thing to be unemployed during a financial crisis, when they rather sack people than employ.
Then the phone rang. Iván’s high school friend, who worked at a advertising agency that got a commission from the National Lottery. The company liked our documentary and somehow that was enough as a reference for them. We were rather brave to take part in this even though we had never worked on a film production with a large crew and we were not even aware of what kind of genre television commercials were. We kind of had an idea what a crew’s structure was like, but a commercial’s is completely different compared to a television show or a documentary. It seems we introduced ourselves successfully and our price was probably very favourable as well, so we got the job. One could say we won the lottery by getting hired by the Lottery. But of course if we would not have had that acquaintance, we would not have been chosen. This long story gave us quite a good insight for us into how one can succeed in Hungary, and we did not really like this.
Regardless, this project went well and the agency decided that we can work on their next project as well; within that same year we produced three large campaigns. This was a huge breakthrough for us, because by that time we had hardly any money to make a living, then suddenly we got three large projects! We got on well with the agency, we worked hard and cost effectively.
A crisis like that often breaks lots of foundations, giving opportunities to new and “cheap” people instead of large companies, who become too expensive, so with us being young beginners we were ideal for an opening market requiring cheap opportunities. So this timing had a big role in our success.
It was when this first project of ours started that Progressive was created. The name was Iván’s idea, which after a while created a few complications, because it turned out that there is a Progressive Productions in Los Angeles and Ireland as well, but when we thought of the title in the first place, we would have never dreamt that we would become so internationally known that someone could mix us up with the company in LA. But since then this has become reality. Life can bring some truly surprising turns that one can not foresee.
We were aware the agency would not last forever, but it lasted a lot longer than we expected. We worked with them for four years as their exclusive producer company for their films. It was a long, fruitful collaboration with a good atmosphere. Then we tried to work with other advertising Hungarian companies, so we sent lots of emails, once someone replied, but came to nothing.
After a month we had enough of this world which only worked based on personal contacts and relations, on who are your mates or who you had a drink with. So we tried to find an alternative; to bring international productions here. We had heard someone say that there are lots of opportunities in international productions, but we didn’t fully understand, why would someone want to come here? But we became interested. Then Iván had an idea to collect contacts of production companies. We sent them an introductory email on shooting and producing in Hungary.
An arabic man contacted us, with whom did our first international production, which unfortunately did not work out as well as expected, but we learnt from that as well.
This is how we reached to Progressive’s present. As the years went by, we got more and more references, and not only in commercials, but television series, documentaries and in photography shoots as well. We were extremely happy to take part in such tendering, where it was not contacts that counted, but the quality of the services on offer. Probably our story shows that this is what we are at home in. Unfortunately, in Hungary’s inner market even today it is often not the value of the services that count for many, but we believe that there will be changes in this in the future.
We remember when Progressive started out, firstly we were happy that now we have some money with which we can continue to try to sell our documentary… it was rather hard for us to let that dream go. Then gradually we got more and more involved with this scene and the opportunities for development that it had. We started to built a good company background for our activities; we decided to always invest some of our profit in our company, which was a new mentality for us. So this is how the company acquired its own office. Back then we bought our furniture from a secondhand shop, that sold the furniture of companies that went bust, because we could only build gradually. By now we have swapped all of these old pieces to cool modern furniture. If you’re interested in our office’s new atmosphere, we’d happily show you around!
All in all, our generation’s challenge was finding new paths in the changing world, since the older generation’s experiences are not enough in our constantly opening and developing globalized world. We were both born during socialism, when there weren’t even bananas available to buy in the shops, so it was quite unbelievable that one day we will be able to work on a international market with clients from all around the world. These were things that could not have been possible even just a decade or two ago. Now the European Union brought change enabling us to easily work internationally. It might have been hard to imagine in the beginning that there are other possible pathways in life, but it can be done, especially if one strives to be professional and successful.
We think it is important to be able to let things go, so that things develop however life brings it, without having to try to stick to a pattern. One can not start with the aim of being internationally known, we just took the opportunities that came and now we are at the point of getting mixed up with the production company in Los Angeles!