RadicalMedia, a player on the New York production scene for nearly 25 years, has two floors worth of hustle and bustle going on most days at its heavily trafficked West Village headquarters.
The production company, founded in 1993 by producer Jon Kamen, is active in everything from film, TV, commercials, and music videos to post-production, app development, and staging live branded “experiences” for corporate clients. Radical boasts the infrastructure and the reputation that make it perfectly situated to capitalize on the explosive growth in the demand for content, particularly the documentary and music-driven projects for which the company is best known.
“We’ve gone from three to four series and three to four films in production a year, to now 12 series in production and four to five films at any given time,” says Justin Wilkes, Radical partner and president of entertainment. “It’s been a rising tide that has lifted all boats.”
Among Radical’s recent projects were the Oscar-nominated doc “What Happened, Miss Simone?” (which won an Emmy this month), Netflix’s “Keith Richards: Under the Influence,” and the Epix documentary series “American Divided.” Coming soon is the doc “Hamilton’s America” for PBS, three years in the making with Lin-Manuel Miranda, and “Mars,” a hybrid scripted-documentary series that Radical is shepherding with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television for National Geographic Channel.
The growth spurred the company to recruit MTV alum Dave Sirulnick as a partner last year. He likens the environment to that of MTV in its early days — a place that prizes “What if we did this?” brainstorming in the hallways. The industrial-style offices of Radical on Hudson Street — replete with open ceilings and avant-garde art pieces — are outfitted with glass walls to encourage communication.
“Jon and Justin have created the kind of physical space that creates an energy that is really easy to tap into,” Sirulnick says.
RadicalMedia took a detour from its roots in 2010 by selling a 60% stake to European production giant FremantleMedia. Less than five years later, Kamen, Wilkes, and Radical partner Frank Scherma, who heads the Los Angeles office, bought most of it back.
Kamen, who is chairman-CEO, says it became clear that the company’s most important asset is its culture and willingness to tackle interesting ideas — a strategy that was sometimes at odds with Fremantle’s agenda.
“The kind of cross-pollination that we get with people of different disciplines feeding off of one another — that’s a direct result of the culture we have in New York,” Kamen says. “There are not many places you can work where in one room you’ve got someone developing a phenomenally complicated app for Taylor Swift, and in another room someone is making a Netflix documentary on Keith Richards, and in another room someone is taking a trip to Mars.”
Beyond its homegrown activity, Radical provides workspace for a number of notables who work with the company on a semi-regular basis. The “artists in residence” currently include Steve Buscemi (Radical produces his AOL series “Park Bench,” which won an Emmy this month); Stanley Tucci; directors Bennett Miller, Derek Cianfrance, Terry Gilliam and Ron Howard; documentary filmmakers Morgan Neville, Joe Berlinger, Fisher Stevens, and Liz Garbus; and Robert Redford and his producing partner, Laura Michalchyshyn.
The post-production facilities are also a draw for creative talent, notably Cary Fukunaga, who cut “Beasts of No Nation” at Radical.
Dave O’Connor, Radical’s exec producer and VP of entertainment, says the atmosphere in the office mirrors the close-knit nature of the New York film and TV community.
“New York is a drop-in town, built on serendipitous connections and chance encounters, because there’s an openness to the city,” he says. “No matter how much you’ve planned out your day, there’s always something crazy that happens here.”
(Pictured: RadicalMedia’s Justin Wilkes, Jon Kamen, Dave O’Connor and Dave Sirulnick)