Inside Doc Shop Productions: A Conversation with Cutting Edge’s Zeke Margolis

Doc Shop Productions is an LA production company creating documentaries for TV and online users. The company uses Avid Nexis Pro shared storage, Media Composer, and Avid Pro Tools.

Cutting Edge’s Los Angeles Sales Manager Zeke Margolis recently sat down with Doc Shop’s Engineer in Charge, Kurt Schemper, to talk about how the company leverages an “all under one roof” workflow to create quality content on a deadline.

Zeke: So Kurt, talk to us a little about Doc Shop Productions.

Kurt: Doc Shop Productions got started in September of 2016, so we are a pretty new company … but just like the name says we focus on documentary television. The popularity of documentary TV seems to be really taking off right now. We are excited to be in the middle of that and to be able to bring great doc content to different TV networks that we are partnering with.

Zeke: Talk to us a little bit about some of your current projects.

Kurt: We recently completed a project with TNT called American Race with Charles Barclay. It was a show that Charles went out to various cities, every episode was a city and a theme and he looked at the issues surrounding race relations in America. That was a short run series but we found it to be very successful. And I think had a great impact, certainly great feedback from the network and from people who saw it. We also created a pilot of VOX for CNN and are in production on a new series for Netflix.

Zeke: So you’re working in both HD and 4k and it sounds like you’re also working in traditional television and digital delivery?

Kurt: We are still kind of bridging that line between HD and 4k depending on who the client is and what their needs are … and we have to be prepared to deliver whatever our partners are in need of.

Zeke: How important do you think 4k and the higher resolution acquisition is the art form of documentary production?

Kurt: I think that 4k production can be very valuable in producing documentaries. It’s certainly something that Netflix and other partners are pushing right now, and we’re excited to use 4K in delivering our stories. Certainly, we can tell stories in using just about any medium. But, it’s been fun to use that, and in particular we’ ve been using the Canon Mk2 cameras. They’ve been great workhorses for us. I think we’ve been able to produce some great content.

Zeke: How would you describe the challenges of doing a show like America Race, were there unique challenges to doing that sort of format?

Kurt: Documentary production always has its challenges. It can be unpredictable. We go out there with a plan, with an idea of what we think we might get, what the goals might be. But you never know what you’re going to come back with, you never know what might happen in the field. And what makes our documentaries in general great, is being open to the stories that are unfolding right before your eyes . So, while there’ s challenges, there’s also a great reward when you’ re producing documentaries in that spirit … exploring the material and seeing what comes back.
Zeke: How have you found the working relationship with Netflix to be so far?

Kurt: Netflix is a great partner. They do things very well, they have a specific way about how they operate. It’s always good to work with folks who know exactly what they want and how they want it. They are great partners on the creative and they are also great partners in the production and post production area.

Zeke: And have you found it challenging to manage television both network and Netflix production simultaneously in the same environment?

Kurt: Storytelling is storytelling … I don’t find that has been a difficult thing for me or for our company. The process is generally the same no matter who we are dealing with and what the vendors are. There are some deliverables that are different. And certainly, 4K versus HD is one of those things, but across the board still, the workflows are largely the same and the time it takes to tell the story has also been very comparable.

Zeke: And you’re managing complete end to end production here, so from location shoots all the way through to final deliveries. Do you feel there are advantages to having everything under one roof?

Kurt: With certain projects you’re working and making changes until the very last moment. And being able to have everything under one roof gives you the most flexibility to make tweaks all the way through the end. That’s been invaluable, especially when you’re coming across really tight deadlines for air and the network is asking for changes, we’re able to do it.

Zeke: Speaking of vendors, how would you describe the relationship with Cutting Edge and Doc Shop?

Kurt: Anytime you start up new you have a great opportunity to see what’s out there and build the best system you can. Cutting Edge was great to be able to come in and advise us into what was the best equipment and the best workflow available to us at this time. I think it really helped us create smooth- running, and reliable, and efficient set up to service our shows the best way we are able to at this time.

Zeke: How important is audio in the documentary production process?

Kurt : Sometimes audio is all you have. It depends if there are times when the cameras can’t get in, so all you have is audio. Audio is very valuable. It helps us know how to feel in various moments. Audio,
all the way from dialog to sound effects and music plays a tremendous role.

Zeke: What does the future hold for Doc Shop; what do you see coming up in the near term?

Kurt: I think we are going to try to push the envelope creatively. And be able to bring new ideas and new stories into the documentary world. We’re out talking to various partners about what’s next. I think we have some things that are very exciting. Like we said earlier, this is kind of a golden age right now for documentary TV and we are excited to be a part of it.

Zeke: We’re excited to be a part of it with you. Thank you very much.

See how Doc Shop leverages Avid Technology solutions in our Cutting Edge Client Spotlight video available here.