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Entrepreneur taps his documentary-film roots

Rochester Business Journal
May 31, 2013

By TROY L. SMITH

Since launching his film company, Fish and Crown Creative, in 2010, Ben Gonyo has been busy telling other people's stories.
 
Fish and Crown's first project was "Gamers," an hourlong documentary about the people who make up the world of multiplayer online video games like the hugely popular "World of Warcraft." In the documentary, Gonyo travels to some of the largest video-game conventions in the country to interview gaming fanatics.
 
Gonyo licensed "Gamers" to the Documentary Channel and to Hulu, an online subscription video streaming service. He says he used the money from the licensing deals to purchase more film equipment and expand Fish and Crown's service offerings. The company now focuses heavily on commercial work.
 
Fish and Crown has worked on marketing videos for Cornell University, Seneca Park Zoo, Summit Federal Credit Union and Villager Construction Inc.
 
In promoting Fish and Crown, Gonyo has gone back to his documentary roots. He says one of the company's biggest marketing tools is "Local Local," a series of short documentaries about interesting people in and around Rochester.
 
Subjects for "Local Local" have included a Brighton watercolor painter, the owner of A Dog's Dream canine day care in Pittsford, and the women behind EvenOdd Creative upcycled fashion accessories in the South Wedge. The short documentaries have been big hits on social media, Gonyo says.
 
"Even if we're doing commercial work, we like to focus on people," he says. "People are compelled by other people."
 
"It's less interesting to know about a product than the people who made it or how it is going to affect a person. Finding the personal connection is stronger than doing a typical ad."
 
Gonyo, 33, has spent the past 10 years developing his film skills and philosophy. He received a bachelor of fine arts degree in film and video from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2002.
 
After graduation, he moved to New York City, where he worked as a production assistant for NBC and then a video editor for the Lopes Picture Co., a production house for TV commercials and corporate videos.
 
Gonyo moved back to Rochester in 2007 and became a creative producer for Time Warner Cable Inc. He spent three years shooting and editing videos at Time Warner before filming "Gamers" and developing Fish and Crown on his own.
 
"It was nerve-racking to start my own company," he recalls. "It took a long time to prepare, and I saved up a lot of money. The first year was slow with a job or two a month, but we've built momentum from there."
 
Last year, Gonyo hired his first employee, Mike Martinez, a former production intern at Martino Flynn LLC. Fish and Crown moved into office space on Alexander Street in March.
 
While Fish and Crown's commercial work continues to grow, Gonyo still dabbles in feature films. Thanks to the success of "Gamers," the Documentary Channel signed on as an associate producer for Fish and Crown's second documentary feature, "The New Blood."
 
The film, which goes inside the world of low-budget, do-it-yourself monster movies, is currently airing on the Documentary Channel, Gonyo says.
 
"The commercial end of the business has been very steady," he says. "We're to the point where we have to hire freelancers to help with some of our bigger projects."
 
"I'm also still looking for that next big feature project. I'm getting older and more experienced now. That big-budget blockbuster could be just around the corner."

Small Business is a bi-weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at sjacob@rbj.net.

5/31/13 (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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