May 31, 2022 | When Kellen Lor met Pedro Garcia in 2017, he wasn’t looking for a business partner. They both happened to be working on a music video for a mutual friend, and Kellen immediately admired Pedro’s skill behind the camera. Looking for tips on how to expand his filmmaking beyond self-education on YouTube, Kellen sought to pick Pedro’s brain. The pair quickly realized that their ambitions, artistic vision, and work ethic were aligned, and began creating together. The same year, they launched Hidden Temple Media, a film production house. Now, with financing from California Capital, they’ve launched Imported Studios, a studio space with ready-made sets available for rent by fellow filmmakers–and they’re set to become key players in expanding opportunities for Sacramento’s diverse community of creators.
To be sure, the pair have come a long way in the past five years. “The first few years, we were working minimum 14-hour days,” explains Pedro who, along with Kellen, was working full time for ABC10 while establishing Hidden Temple. “The basic idea was that we were two hardworking individuals who had a similar goal, and could put our resources together and rely on sweat equity.” Through collaboration with local artists they trusted, they stayed focused and gained momentum.
Hidden Temple’s capacity exponentially increased through a mentor partnership with media firm FutureNow, and Kellen and Pedro were able to hire two employees, maintain a cadre of contractors, focus on commercial and documentary work, and bring in steady money.
Problem Solving, Business Growth
At this point, looking to decrease their workload while increasing capacity, the founders were ready to bring Hidden Temple into a larger, more established studio space. “We were trying to solve a problem, and we started a business,” laughs Pedro.
The idea for Imported Studios was born at this juncture, and grew to fit within a goal shared by individuals and institutions across the city: developing and retaining Sacramento’s creative workforce.
“A lot of the problems we saw with creatives in Sacramento were with finding controlled locations [for filming],” explains Kellen. “You can get a short-term rental home, but once you start bringing in big lights and cameras, the owners don’t like it.”
Expanding Sacramento’s Creative Capacity
As experienced Sacramento filmmakers, the pair knew that most creators in the area were traveling to Los Angeles to solve this problem by renting studios that included ready-made and customizable film sets.
“A lot of production studios in Sacramento only offer green screen infinity (or cyclorama) walls, which are great. But we didn’t want to blend in with the competition,” says Kellen. “We wanted to bring the L.A. demand up here and open a space for creatives to use it and bring money to Sacramento as well.”
Ultimately, these aspirations defined what Imported Studios would offer. To stand out from other local studios, this new space would feature 24-hour availability to accommodate varied schedules; fully staged, 3-walled sets that filmmakers can customize to fit their vision; and a sound-dampened, warehouse location to allow creators to use sound and other special effects worry free.
After translating their ideas into an actionable business plan, the search for financing began. In need of seed capital to build sets, secure a lease, and launch, Pedro and Kellen applied for funding through several banks–but because Imported Studios was a startup, traditional lenders were hesitant to take them on. That’s when their mentor at FutureNow suggested looking into non-traditional funding options, and they turned to California Capital.
The loan application process, reflects Pedro, put the endeavor into perspective. “Getting financing was the biggest obstacle we’ve overcome as entrepreneurs,” he says, recalling the challenges the business partners faced during the early days of Hidden Temple. “We had multiple jobs back then, but we didn’t have as much weight on our shoulders, so failure wasn’t as scary. Now we have this other business so it’s higher stakes.”
Partnerships and Service
Imported Studios ultimately received financing through the California Capital Lending Center, and opened their doors in April of 2022. They plan to begin expanding their clientele through events and workshops designed to get creatives in the door–both to see what the studio has to offer, and to dream up their own uses for the space. Beyond serving their own business interests, Kellen and Pedro want to see the space become a hub for building the Sacramento area’s creative workforce.
“Sacramento hasn’t been known for media production. We want to change the narrative and let people know that we have experienced creators,” says Kellen. To have that impact, building connections with leaders will be crucial.
They plan to collaborate with the film program at Sacramento State to bring students in for free or discounted training and workshops, and they’ve met with the City’s official film office, Sacramento Film + Media, who is keenly interested in developing a strong contingent of local filmmakers. Through these partnerships, Imported Studios is poised to play a key role in establishing Sacramento as a renowned location for artists of all stripes to find success.