Production Services

Meet the Producers!

Interview with the Partners of Progressive Productions

Exactly how and when did you establish Progressive Productions?

Iván: At first we were working in television with Zoli, but even then we wanted to do our own project, so we decided to create a series of documentary films. We thought out every detail and we even produced the pilot episode with our own money. We had to realize that we wouldn’t be able to sell our own projects in this country’s limited market, and we also totally ran out of money. Then we had an opportunity to work on a commercial as producers. The Advertising Agency was really satisfied with our work so they continued to work with us on more projects. After all this positive feedback, we founded Progressive.

Exactly how and when did you establish Progressive Productions?

Iván: At first we were working in television with Zoli, but even then we wanted to do our own project, so we decided to create a series of documentary films. We thought out every detail and we even produced the pilot episode with our own money. We had to realize that we wouldn’t be able to sell our own projects in this country’s limited market, and we also totally ran out of money. Then we had an opportunity to work on a commercial as producers. The Advertising Agency was really satisfied with our work so they continued to work with us on more projects. After all this positive feedback, we founded Progressive.

Zoltán: One year after starting the company, we were still a very new company, but we decided to test ourselves on the international market. Thanks to our open-mindedness, courage, hard work, and the fact that we were the only new generation production company in Hungary, this move turned out to be very successful.

Zoltán Haulis Biography

He obtained a degree in Communication and Media Studies from a Hungarian university. During his years spent studying, he actively participated in the faculty’s academic life: with one of his researches he won the second prize in the country’s most prestigious student conference. In addition, two other researches of his were published in full length in the most popular media journal. After leaving the school bench, he joined one of the longest standing production companies of the country, where he became a lead associate of a daily television show. He was mainly focused on the show’s visual aspects and its constant renewal in which he achieved outstanding results. He founded Progressive Productions in 2009 with Iván Gerő, with whom he worked together on the aforementioned television program.

Iván: We felt that working in the international production market would help our progress. Before working in television both me and Zoli worked as journalists, so we have a background and an insight into the industry which is more content centered then production centered. I think that the thing that makes us special is our background, our approach to production, and our experience. We can help to create the content of the projects, and our clients really appreciate that.

In your opinion, what makes Progressive Productions unique?

Iván: I think our speciality is that we make a lot of effort to get to know our clients’ goals and ways of thinking. We try to pass on our local knowledge to our clients. When they ask something from us, we make it happen of course, but we also try to suggest ideas to make the project better. So far my experience is that our clients really appreciate this attitude.

Ivan Gerő Biography

Ivan was raised in Budapest. His mother is an economist and father is a professor of history. During his high school years he lived in the USA for a while. He got MA degree in communication studies in Budapest. After finishing the university he started to work for different TV shows as an assistant producer and later as line producer. He founded Progressive Productions with Zoltan, who was his former colleague with the aim to build up something that is fresh and unique in the Central European market.

What are Progressive Productions’ biggest advantages and strongest features?

Zoltán: We have always been reliable and trustworthy. We have financial stability for our projects, for example we have bank guarantees to lock exchange rates. I think it is also important that we work with responsible, well-known crew members and suppliers, who have already proven their reliability many times.

Iván: What makes us strong is that we have come a long way and we really appreciate working. We have put a lot of effort into building this company and every time we win a project, we feel euphoric. I think this attitude is a very strong feature in this industry.


Reliability, trustworthiness, honesty, responsibility, flexibility, fairness.”

Another thing that’s very important is that, as I mentioned before, we have to get on well with our clients and I think we are especially good at that. Once every year we travel to a country where one of our clients comes from to learn about their mentality and their perspectives on the industry. Finally, I’d like to stress that continuous communication with our clients is very important, because this is the only way to fulfill every request properly.

How would you describe Progressive Productions, what kind of services do you offer and to whom?

Zoltán: We offer a wide range of services. We produce and service produce commercials, tv movies, documentaries, photo shoots, and we also work in the digital or corporate genre. Plus, we offer lots of in-house services, for example our in-house location service. I think I can say without any doubt that we have the most extensive location database in the market. We work on it every day, because our goal is to put together the finest location database. So far this includes over 100 thousand location photos.

We have the best and most extensive location database in the market.”

What’s very special about our location database is that we made more than 95% of it ourselves. I would like to also highlight our talent casting service, which is also unequalled in the country. Not only do we work with the best agencies in the country, but we have also developed such a casting method with which we are constantly searching for new talents. Our project management is also done completely in-house, because we think that a project will only be great if we control most of the processes.

Iván: A very important part of the different services we offer, is that we follow the actual trends of all the genres we work in. Our work is especially consistent, but we apply different mechanisms to different genres. It is really important that we understand the differences in various genres

What aspects do you take into account when choosing your team, crew members for the shootings?

Iván: Putting the crew together and hiring the right people is a great responsibility. We work with a well-known professional freelance crew, who have worked on all of the international projects shot in Hungary.


We only hire people who speak English well.”

 It is also important that we always pay attention to the details, for example we only hire people who speak English well. We have a digital database in which we keep record of the crew members we have worked with over the years. We keep track of and rate everyone’s work so we know where and when we worked with someone and how the quality of their work was.

The Story Behind the Birth of Progressive I.

The beginning of Progressive Productions was a rather unusual, adventurous one. It all started when we (Iván Gerő and Zoltán Haulis) met and decided to become partners. We did not study producing as a degree, nor did we spend years as assistants; we learnt on the spot. Our story is about how the last generation born in the Post-Communist Hungary could find new paths, in a country becoming open internationally for the first time in fifty years, by becoming a member of the European Union.

The Exotic World of Western Style Televion 

It started when we the two founders, Zoltán and Iván met while working on a daily television show on public affairs and politics in 2005. It debuted on ATV, a Hungarian television channel, with six one-hour-long episodes a week. It was hosted and produced by Sándor Friderikusz . He was a very famous person in the early 90s, because after the political change he brought the causal, glamorous type of show business and the modernity of the Western entertainment industry to Hungary making him quickly become everyone’s favourite. Also he was the first to bring internationally famous actors, even from Hollywood, to the Hungarian screens. Friderikusz brought modernity to Hungary by pretty much copying US television.

He was part of the early stage of the political change, when everyone thought that anything is possible; success and money would come if one would simply bring in Western ideas. He had millions of viewers back then, so because of these reasons he was a real icon for our generation, who grew up on his shows. So for those who wanted to work in this profession, that is with visuals and media, he was a desired figure to work with, as a teacher and professional.

Zoltan Haulis, 2006

So when he started his new television show on ATV, many applied to work with him and so did we, and we were accepted. He envisaged a Hungarian version of such shows like those with Anderson Cooper or Larry King.

This show enabled us to gain practice in directing an entire technical crew. We spent three years there, which meant a huge amount of experience for such young people as we were back then, since compared to our young age we were given huge responsibility. We could edit the footages with the eight editors as creatively as we wished, we aimed and were expected to bring as visually interesting footages as possible with lots of visual ideas. Also we learnt how a visual product is created, how many people work on it, how to coordinate them and communicate with them. It was an exciting period.

The show provided us with a great professional environment, where we got proper feed back on the quality of our work and it was all very final product orientated. We did not have to work on anything else, just the show, which gave us an opportunity and motivated us to make high quality materials, which we hoped would have an effect on the world. We still believe that if someone creates something of high quality, maybe not as quickly, but it will still have a real effect.

Iván Gerő, 2006 

Then when the prime minister resigned, our show was cancelled, making one believe that it was probably more politically affiliated then we thought. So we lost this professionally and financially safe environment. But by then we had met and worked together, so our professional partnership had begun.

Our Courageous Documentary Experience

We were uncertain what will happen next, but a strong friendship had formed between us, making us sure that we would like to work together in the future. Although after the end of the show we did not have a specific goal of creating a company, that was kind of secondary, we rather aspired to create a good product, which we could believe in, since we got rather bored of that show after working only on new episodes for three years.

Our idea was to create a television documentary series about travelling around the world, for which we came up with the name - The World Presents. Our concept was that we do not need a lot of equipment or crew members; we would simply buy a camera - we would be the camera men and do the voiceovers, we’d say the stand-ups on location as well. We also bought sound equipment, so it was all quite DIY. Our decision of which countries to show was simply based on where there were cheap airplane tickets to.

Planning started for it during the last year of the Friderikusz show, for example our first journey happened during the show’s winter break. Due to an administrational fault there happened to be a very cheap tickets to Oman and we quickly bought them. We had 8-9 days to record a film’s worth of footage.

In preparation for the trip, we had bought a professional camera and had practised using it together. I remember when we arrived in Oman, we adjusted the iris to the country’s strong sunshine, we noticed that there was a spot on the lense. A large, black spot. But we did not worry, since we thought we could easily fix the situation by taking the lense apart ourselves in our hotel room with nail scissors. Of course, this attempt failed. So we took our camera to a Panasonic service, but they said that it needs to get flown to Dubai, because that is the only place where they can fix it. This was quite a breaking point - having bought plane tickets, organised interviews, flown out with our brand new camera only to find a spot on the objective. So we had to learn to live with the spot and take the footages regardless.

Also, we didn’t really know where we were. Sometimes secret police officers would come up to us enquiring why we were filming on certain locations. Back then we were rather innocent and naive, so our film ended up being about what a wonderful place Oman was, how much it had developed, unconsciously faithfully presenting the political messages that the leaders told us.

In the last few years you have worked on several American TV series like Covert Affairs and Royal Pains. What was it like to participate in the making of such shows?

Zoltán: We very much enjoyed service producing these shows, and I hope in the future we will have more opportunities to produce further series. These shows require a great deal of work, patience, teamwork, cooperation, and flexibility, but it’s really worth it. We were very lucky that the creators and producers of the shows chose us to work with. It was a great experience. The American producers were looking for that flexibility, and freshness that we represent and luckily they found these qualities in us.

Youtube

Iván: It is a great feeling to participate in a show that is being broadcast all over the world. It feels good to show the beauty of the city that we live in. This is why we feel like a little part of us is now in the show.

In the last decade there have been more and more projects being shot in Budapest. Why do you think it is worth shooting in Hungary?

Zoltán: I think that producers choose Hungary because they hope for and expect something different, for example more interesting locations than those they could find in their own country. They are not wrong to expect that, so far everybody was satisfied with our country. For instance, the team of Covert Affairs came here because they wanted a city that could look like Moscow, and the fact that the Moscow scenes from Die Hard V were shot here convinced them. After this the creators of Royal Pains decided to shoot here because they heard about the good experiences that the Covert Affairs team had. It’s really interesting that they first wrote the script for Prague, but they liked our locations more, so they rewrote the script for Budapest. In the end I think every one of them was really happy with the outcome.

Iván: Many features make Hungary a great choice for shooting. We have a 25% tax rebate for documentaries and feature films, beautiful scenery and locations, the production value is high, and our price/quality ratio is the best in the surrounding nations. In Hungary you can get great quality for an affordable price. Budapest has other pros, like the fact that it is an incredibly beautiful and a very colorful city, our film industry has a great history, and the people who work in it understand how all of the genres work. Budapest has a freshness, a novelty, and it is very dynamic and flexible. As are we. Plus several projects were shot here because of our company, so I guess we can consider Progressive as an advantage too.

What would you say to those who are considering shooting in Budapest, why should they choose Progressive?

Zoltán: Our company policy is based on stability and reliability, we always take everything into account, we won’t ”forget” anything from the budget just to make our offer seem more favourable. For those who want a reliable, trustworthy company handling their project, we are the best choice in town. One must understand that when a producer would like to shoot in a country, where they have not worked before, then there are multiple ways that they can find a local partner. We truly value a client who does in-depth research via the internet. This is why we developed our website so it would share as much information as possible in order to assist that a good decision is made. If someone chooses us, then they will not get a surprise packet, since all information about how we work is public. If someone only chooses a local partner merely based on a recommendation, then they will still not be able to be truly certain that they have decided well, since they have not seen anything about their work.

How would you describe your client policy in some keywords?

Zoltán: Our main goal is to have a trusted partnership.


Iván: Reliability, trustworthiness, honesty, responsibility, flexibility, and fairness. These are the keywords. Plus, we have received much positive feedback about our „can do” attitude. This attitude makes it possible to work out requests that seem impossible at first.

What do you think makes the shooting of a project successful?

Iván: We really try to create a good vibe on the shoot, because we want to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. This is becoming more and more of a goal for us, to create a stress-free environment for shooting, because these moments, these days are unforgettable memories for us and for our clients too.

After many successful years in Hungary, You opened an office in Vienna, Austria as well. Did you outgrow Hungary or what was the reason for this step?

Zoltán: It was not at all the case, that we felt that there were no further opportunities to develop in Hungary. It was simply because many of our previous clients with whom we shot in Hungary, asked whether we knew a production company in Austria, that we would recommend. Therefore there was a demand, making Austria a promising area to expand to. Also, I grew up by the Austrian border, so I always was in contact with that country and the German language. But I am not alone with this; Hungarians generally are closely connected to Austrians, due to their partially interconnected history. So this is how we decided to open an office there as well. It was not simple, because Austria is completely different than Hungary: it is a lot more expensive, the legal system is different and people’s mentality is different, therefore shoots are different there too. We typically work with an Austrian-German-Italian crew in Austria, depending on the precise location of the shoot.

The Story Behind the Birth of Progressive II.

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!

What are your future goals? What would you like to achieve in the coming years?

Zoltán: I would like to make good strategic decisions regarding the future. As a company we have to make a lot of decisions every day which affect our future, so my goal is to make the best decisions possible and through this help Progressive get stronger and become the market leader company.


Iván: I’d like to make Progressive a well-known company all over the world. It feels great every time to hear a positive feedback or to hear about a former client recommending us to another potential client. I would like our potential clients to know that when it comes to Budapest, Progressive Productions is the company that is worth working with.

What do you consider the best, the most positive feedback you have ever received from a partner?

Iván: For me the best feedback is when we keep in touch and stay friends with our partners after the project. When it comes to our performance, the biggest honour for us is when a former client returns to us to make another project or recommends us to someone else.

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