Golan Hits the Road

by Andrew Webb

From recently renovated offices on gentrifying North Avenue, one of the industry’s youngest entrepreneurs is energetically hauling in a growing share of the film and video business.

Ari Golan, 25, a director/cameraman, incorporated Golan Productions five years ago while operating from his parents’ basement. Today, his full-service production company has a full-time staff of seven. Business is pretty evenly split between video and film and at least doubles every year.

Golan and his operations manager, Aigar Dombrovskis, also have spun off a second enterprise, Roadworthy International, which provides image magnification to concert venues such as Poplar Creek, the Rosemont Horizon and the recently-opened World Music Theater in Tinley Park.

An on-going project is helping the Chicago Park District install a television production studio for public use. Golan Productions has spent the past six months installing gear and once completed will train operating personnel and consult with the Park District.

Golan Productions also figures in test spot production. Golan shot a Michelob Dry test spot (featuring Buddy Guy and Ron Wood) that went national and King Cobra Malt Liquor, a national spot. He sponsored and produced an anti-littering PSA that’s being offered to tv stations nationally. “I feel very strongly about the environment, as you can probably tell,” he says.

Golan Productions’ facility includes a 25×40-foot sound stage with hard cyc, lead-lined walls and a sound-isolated control room. There are two edit suites. Besides offering conventional single and multi-camera and location packages, the company owns specialized equipment for shooting underwater, special mounts for allowing cameras to operate up in lighting trusses from spotlight chairs, creating an unusual, overhead shot of live performances, and custom-designed projection screen systems.

The company is also a Beta development site for several software manufacturers because of its heavy involvement in Mac-based computer graphics and animation. “We usually end up doing sales and training tapes for those companies, too,” Golan says.

Golan, a Chicago-area native, began his career after enrolling at the University of Michigan. He had intended to study law, but changed his major after taking an elective film course, (“I ended up screwing up my life,” he jokes).

After obtaining two BAs, in film and telecommunications, and after a brief teaching stint, he shuttled out to California for training at the Sony Video Institute and for Arriflex and Panavision operation. He worked at an Ann Arbor video company and as a freelance cameraman, saving enough money to buy some basic equipment and set up business back home in Chicago.

The sister company, Roadworthy, was incorporated two years ago. Golan had met Dombrovskis, a former lighting technician for a Bryan Adams tour, while working on music videos at the Vic Theater. When Clubland and its novel video wall moved into the Vic, Golan snared the business of producing pre-recorded tapes and magnified live images for replay by the bank of monitors and the giant projector screens.

“That was about four years ago,” Golan relates. “Video at concerts was just starting to become the thing, it wasn’t really popular before. We saw a great need for people to be able to see in a large venue because video and music videos are becoming a part of the culture. It’s not only an image magnification source, it becomes part of the show.”

Golan has always been interested in the rock industry and music in general. “We love doing music videos and live concerts-it has all the excitement of live tv without the boredom of sports or game shows, productions typically associated with live television.”

Roadworthy has garnered business leads from surprising sources. Ads placed in Lighting Dimensions and other international journals have prompted inquiries about consulting or provision of services for concerts or sporting events from as far afield as Norway, South Korea, Guam and New Zealand. “We’ve gotten inquiries from places I didn’t think had video,” Golan says.

One of the first shows for which Roadworthy provided live video was Johnny and the Leisure Suites (Jonathan Brandmeier is still a client). Then came a national tour with Kenny Loggins. Upcoming concerts include the Grateful Dead, Depeche Mode, The B52s, Jimmy Buffett and Bill Cosby.

Creativity runs in the family. Golan’s father, Joseph, is principal second violinist with the Chicago Symphony, and can be heard occasionally on Golan Productions’ original soundtracks. Brother Lawrence, the firm’s musical director, is city concert-master in Portland, Maine. His sister plays piano, while another brother is “a heavy metal headbanger.” Golan himself played the violin until he was six, and still occasionally picks up his saxophone.

“When I was very little, I wanted to be a scientist,” Golan recalls. “When I got older, I was into art and photography, then I got more interested in business and law. Finally, all three came together and I’m now an artistic businessman. I’d be doing this as a hobby anyway, and I feel lucky I can make a living at it.”

Golan Productions is located at 507 W. North Ave.; phone, 274-3456.

AUGUST 20, 1990
VOL 12 NO. 31
PG 41,42

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