James Madison is co-founder of Expressway Cinema Rentals and Format, a commercial-production company. There are three common owners across both companies. James serves as CEO and CFO of Expressway Cinema Rentals and CFO of Format. Expressway Cinema Rentals was ranked #69 on the Philadelphia100® in 2018. The company reported revenue of more than $2.7 million that year, which was up more than 31 percent from 2017. It expects similar revenue growth this year.
Why are you an entrepreneur?
I am a creative person -- I’ve always had a passion for film making and I’ve been making movies since high school. But I also have a logistical skillset. I was always the guy doing the production management and keeping things running, which led me to a producing track at Temple, where I studied film and video. I’ve found the same skills that enable someone to keep production operating smoothly are tailor-made for entrepreneurialism. Running a business is a creative endeavor to me, and I really enjoy it.
Why do business in Philadelphia, rather than L.A. or New York?
We are proud to be a cornerstone of film and video production here in Philadelphia. Our community is here, and Philadelphia will be our headquarters forever.
When we started out producing features and short films, we found that Philly had a shortage of resources, equipment, and infrastructure that filmmakers -- especially young ones -- need. At the time, filmmakers had to truck a lot of equipment down from New York. We filled that niche with the company that became Expressway Cinema Rentals, and it grew into the predominant production-supply company in the region.
Expressway is also proud to own and operate Bud’s Studio, Philadelphia’s only video production studio purpose-built for the advertising community. The previous owner, Bud’s Autobody was our mechanic for many years and a pillar of the community in our neighborhood. We are honored to carry his namesake and continue the tradition of excellent service that the building has been known for over generations.
My partners and I are all about taking care of our community, which means creating opportunities for the people we work with and the people who work for us. Fortunately, we’ve been successful in achieving that goal – especially for the many freelancers who work in our production crews and the amazing staff at our headquarters.
Can you share more about Format?
Format was the original production company, formerly Expressway Productions, the synthesis of all things Expressway and the origin of our legacy. We work with major brands like Levi’s, Comcast, Ikea, and many others. We recently rebranded to differentiate the identities of the two companies. We chose the name Format because of the variety of ways that visual messages reach today’s consumers -- a production company has to be able to deliver at the highest quality across all formats, and that’s what we do.
How important has EFGP membership been to you?
It’s been a huge asset. Having a place in the area’s entrepreneurial community, which EFGP provides, is very important to me. Before I joined, I was learning on the fly, very quickly, with little opportunity for validation. EFGP membership offers a safe space to talk about your business with like-minded people who understand what you’re going through and are usually jumping the same hurdles. There are so many opportunities to learn from -- and with -- my peers. The organization’s leadership does a great job of curating events that are very helpful to all its members.
What was the impact of winning Philadelphia 100®?
Winning the Philly100 gave us reassurance of where we are at as a company – that we are on the right track -- and gave us the confidence we need to keep moving forward. It proved to us that we had successfully evolved from filmmakers to business owners.
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