Entrepreneur Ryan Wiik, best known for creating the $100-million-dollar WR Entertainment, shares his experience and why he chose to resign from the company.
R: Instead of going to “Hollywood,” you decided founding your own movie production company. Were there challenges, along the way?
RW: Oh, yes, they were a lot starting with the cost of staying in business by physically residing in Hollywood itself. In the nine years of growing WR I had to keep people motivated and focused on the end goal. It was always difficult to pay salaries and expenses but eventually I started getting above water and things improved to the point where I wasn’t in a daily scramble to meet ends. It wasn’t easy at all to build a global project of such magnitude from the ground up and with limited liquidity. I planned to finance $50 million dollars in production and P&A costs, per green-lighted movie. On top of that, there were the corporate requirements of the parent company, which had its own milestones, regarding publishing and market positioning.
R: We can imagine that having limited liquidity, you had to meet with banks, too.
RW: Yes. I feel like I spent five years of my life just meeting investment bankers, to mention all the millionaires and billionaires in the investment world. I met oilmen, princes, IT tech moguls, you name it. It was exhausting. I traveled from one end of the globe to the other. And, for every “yes” I received, I got 15 “No’s” and that is the nature of putting together financing for what could be a viable and successful company. WR was that for sure, at least in the early stages. I often had the feeling certain investors and bankers tended to string the project along, always saying there was another milestone to reach before they’d fund, just to see what the other guy would do. Most of them didn’t understand that the company needed financial resources to reach the next level. But I don’t blame them, it’s really the nature of the world they live in. Only when the company was made public in a format they could relate to some of the people I had had regular meetings with finally stepped up.
R: You once said that you resented Hollywood for all its clichés.
RW: We did find a solution, as we planned to launch a series of franchise films, with fixed installments. My partners and I were ready and determined to pump as much value as possible into production out of our estimated $27 million dollars budget while financially planning a minimum of two other movies to be produced simultaneously. The strategy was to amortize costs across productions. It didn’t make sense to rent sound stages and studio space with all the props, costumes, horses, along with building all the sets and afterwards being forced to pay for demolition and storage. We needed to find a studio facility for our base of operations. Luckily, we found a true opportunity with the Baja Studios.
R: That’s Mexico, right? Wasn’t it too far?
RW: No, not at all, only three hours south from Los Angeles by car. It was a great opportunity, as in having a low-cost production factory. It was built especially for the making of “Titanic”. So, after conducting production budget comparisons globally, we found that studio to be an excellent match for the value that we wanted to achieve.
R: Was this at all risky?
RW: We conducted significant financial and logistical planning and everything was alright. The opportunity was developed and brought up to WR’s shareholders at a low risk regarding the acquisition of the real estate which was to be used as the company’s headquarters for the planned movie franchise.
R: So, what happened with the Baja studios?
RW: At the time, I had stockholders who didn’t share my view that owning our own production facilities was essential to the success of what we were trying to achieve.
R: It seems you made quite a journey. Wasn’t it hard, tedious, time and energy consuming?
RW: Yes, it was. But this is what you do as an entrepreneur. You must insist, fight, and endure. Until the vision becomes real, palpable. And until the people begin to believe, to share your vision!
R: You seem contended with that, even though you resigned from your company. Why is that?
RW: Well, WR was a vehicle that took the vision to a point. But to go beyond, and for me to be free to create entertainment value that the world would benefit from, I had to leave it. You know, you create this and you let it be, as to go forward and create something new – I think that’s the discipline!
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