Production Company Toldright Embraces Gig Economy as Video-Content Creation Explodes

Small, midsize clients are connected with ‘Neighborhood’ of production pros and storytellers

As video-content creation for social media, streaming, branding, and advertising continues to expand, there is a growing need to ensure that content is created professionally and at the right price point. A new on-demand production-resources company, toldright, with a leadership team with experience at ESPN, NBC Sports, the Olympics, and more, is looking to meet that need.

The concept, says toldright CEO/co-founder Max Heineman, arose out of conversations with marketing professionals, who said that video is the primary way for brands, companies, and nearly anyone else doing marketing to reach customers. Heineman and toldright President/co-founder Adam Hertzog (who was with ESPN for 20 years) saw a pressing need.

“Adam and I looked at each other,” Heineman recalls, “and said, ‘Who is going to produce all of this video? And how do you staff for that?’”

Their answer was to start a company that would connect those who had production needs with production professionals and storytellers looking to put their talents to use. Heineman and Hertzog quickly brought in others to help lead the efforts: Patrick McManus — who has worked as executive director for ESPN, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports — and Jason Bernstein, who worked as SVP, content, for Intersport and ESPN.

One of their first efforts was to bring together their relationships and connections to build out “The Neighborhood,” a community of more than 1,500 fully vetted production professionals and content creators across the country. Amanda Short, who had been operations coordinator at NEP Group and also worked as senior production manager for Golf Channel, is head of The Neighborhood, and Katie Gorman, formerly of ESPN, is its director. Daniel Shoy is diversity executive in residence.

Toldright’s Max Heineman: “The real growth engine is where brands become their own content creators to engage with customers.”

“Their decades of collective expertise across production, multimedia, sports, technology, and inclusion, in addition to their understanding of compelling video content and exciting storytelling, will continue to inspire the iconic brands we work with,” says Heineman.

Those iconic brands and 30 million small and medium-size businesses are the sweet spot for toldright’s ability to pull together a production team that can get any level of project not only off the ground but completed on time and on budget.

“We believe the real growth engine of this is where brands become their own content creators to engage with customers,” says Heineman, “and that needs to be scalable, nimble, and, frankly, an on-demand solution. It is too expensive to have a vertically integrated content team.”

Toldright’s Adam Hertzog: “The great byproduct of this is, we’re putting people back to work.”

According to Bernstein, toldright treats each project like the bespoke project it is. A key strength is making sure clients who may not understand the vernacular of production avoid mistakes.

“Some [projects] are due tomorrow and some six months from now, and we work with the client to understand their timeline,” he says. “We really dive in, marry their needs to the personnel, and remove a lot of the unknowns.”

Although toldright does not provide any technical facilities, it does have a vast network and an understanding of the production-technology landscape to find the right technology solution.

“There are so many great technological solutions,” Heineman notes, “and there are creators in the neighborhood who know how to tap into that. We can get to that budget number that [clients] need, and that has been very well-received.”

Extending The Neighborhood

Toldright expects to expand The Neighborhood to meet a growing need for content creation and to give more opportunities to industry creatives who increasingly find themselves no longer part of a network production team but rather part of the gig economy.

“They just want to create,” notes Heineman, “so we started to patch together a network. We hand-vetted each person to make sure we would feel comfortable assigning them to client work.”

Today, the network has 40 disciplines of preproduction, production, postproduction, and technical experts and creators. And it is growing.  Hertzog points out that the industry is trending increasingly to full-time freelance people and that those people will be looking to get involved with new types of productions. More important, smaller companies and brands will find talent in The Neighborhood that, historically, would have been simply off limits because of budget and access.

“It’s about deploying [the talent] to a whole new marketplace that they’ve never been introduced to before. Working on these kinds of productions is a great way to make a living for so many people,” says Hertzog. “And then the clients have never had access to this kind of talent because it was just locked in by the linear-TV world. Now corporate America has access to all of these people, and we’re here to connect them.”

Toldright’s Jason Bernstein: “We dive in, marry [client] needs to the personnel, and remove a lot of the unknowns.”

Of course, connecting them is one thing. But connecting them in a way that creates a cohesive team that is a good fit for a project is a whole different challenge, and that is where the experience of Short and Gorman comes in.

“Amanda and Katie take the lens that Adam and Patrick crafted and apply it every day in one-on-one phone calls with people,” Heineman explains. “It’s being very well-received by the folks that get that call, and, for a lot of them, this is the first time they’re a gig-economy employee.”

When the world returns to normal after the pandemic, the team at toldright expects the return of commercial shoots and other productions ancillary to the live broadcast of a sports event. The company recently produced three separate video packages, titled “Together Royal,” for the Kansas City Royals’ 2021-season ad and social-media campaign.

“What we’re able to do is take a concept and bring it to reality easily for a client,” says Bernstein. “And we have the full weight of a platform behind us to deliver an experience that they wouldn’t otherwise get.”

And in a time when more and more freelance production people are concerned about their future, The Neighborhood is a welcome development.

“The great byproduct of this is, we’re putting people back to work,” says Hertzog. “It’s such a tough time in our business and in our industry, but, at the end of the day, we’re able to help people. And we’re hoping to continue to put people to work as we scale our business again to a whole new marketplace.”


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