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Z-Axis designs monitors for DiCaprio flick

Rochester Business Journal
December 27, 2013

When Leonardo DiCaprio portrays stockbroker Jordan Belfort in the movie "The Wolf of Wall Street," he will share the screen with equipment made at a firm in Phelps, Ontario County.
 
Z-Axis Inc. was hired to design and build custom video-display monitors for the movie set with the goal of creating authentic replicas of those used on Wall Street in the 1980s.
 
Z-Axis president Michael Allen said the firm created and supplied up to 50 monitors for the film. He did not disclose the contract price but said it was a relatively small deal for the company.
 
"We did it more for the novelty than anything else," he said.
 
The company completed the job in three weeks to meet filming schedules. It was the first time Z-Axis had built movie props and worked with set designers.
 
The film, directed by Martin Scorsese and also starring Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill, opened in theaters Christmas Day.
 
The biographical black comedy is based on the true story of Belfort, from his rise to wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.
 
Now an author and motivational speaker, the former self-described Wolf of Wall Street was convicted of fraud crimes related to stock market manipulation and running a penny stock boiler room for which he spent 22 months in prison.
 
Z-Axis created the displays with historical accuracy, then modified them so they would flicker in sync with the movie cameras and display the text properly on film, Sales Manager Brenda Fultz said. If you looked at them in real life, they would not look right, she said.
 
The job took Allen, who has been with Z-Axis since 2003 and its president since 2006, back eight years to when making video display monitors was 99 percent of the company's business. Today it accounts for 1 percent.
 
The company, which has 68 workers, designs and manufactures specialty power supplies and offers contract manufacturing services.
 
Allen said it was a great experience and highlighted the company's ability to custom-design equipment. Z-Axis employees are eager to see their work on the big screen.
 
"We are all excited," Allen said.
 
Fultz said the job almost did not happen because the request from the movie's set designer group in New York City came via email and she originally thought it was spam.
 
"I almost disregarded it," Fultz said.
 
The set designer group had found the local firm through its website, and after an agreement was reached, the contact was done through emails.
 
The buzz around the project at the company has been part of a year of changes at Z-Axis.
 
In October, its parent company, Georgia-based Video Display Corp., announced an agreement to sell Z-Axis, as well as its BEAR Power Supplies and Boundless Technologies business units, for an undisclosed sum to a newly formed private company formed by Allen and his wife.
 
The deal is in the final stages of completion and could close by year-end, the company said.

12/27/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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