Barna-Alper and a Unique Idea
"What inspired us was storytelling," says Laszlo Barna, who teamed with his wife, Laura Alper, in 1980 to start a documentary and film production company.
"In those days, there was very little independent filmmaking," he says. Barna-Alper Productions Inc. cut its teeth making documentaries for the National Film Board and corporate videos.
Along the way, they had an idea. "The documentaries were a natural bridge to doing dramas," says Barna. Starting with full-length TV films chronicling dramatic Canadian stories, the firm gained prominence telling the stories of the wrongful imprisonment of David Milgard and the assisted suicide of Sue Rodrigues.
"RBC Royal Bank was very good at understanding this was a very solid business. At one time, other banks thought it was a speculative business. But it's really not that much different from any other manufacturing sector," says Barna. "RBC Royal Bank was there for us first." Laszlo Barna, Barna-Alper Productions Inc.
Soon, the company became one of Canada's leading producers of dramatic TV series, such as Blue Murder and DaVinci's Inquest, as well as movies-of-the-week and documentaries.
Barna-Alper and RBC Royal Bank
"We started as a mom-and-pop business," he says. "When we became a full-fledged business, we needed a bank. That meant serious money and serious corporate support, and RBC Royal Bank was the leader in the field."
In the film business, though, financial needs can be wildly erratic. "We may employ thousands at times," he explains. "Thirty-five weeks of the year we have a $1 million a week payroll. The bank is very involved in helping us through that."
Aside from interim production loans, RBC Royal Bank's Media & Entertainment team is available to help Barna-Alper wherever the company is filming across Canada. "That's the thing you get with the RBC Royal Bank - one-stop shopping," says Barna. "They're available for counsel, corporate banking and other kinds of the financing from coast-to-coast."
Barna-Alper and Success
56 Gemini Awards and many international honours later, the Toronto-based company is now one of the largest fact-based producers in Canada. In addition to the TV shows Blue Murder and DaVinci's Inquest, other well-known productions include Turning Points of History, Frontiers of Construction and Human Wildlife. From two employees in the 1980s, Barna says the company still runs "lean and mean" with just 20 employees. That said, the business has an eye on growth, with more features in the wings and more international productions.
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