Owner: Denise Ferrari
Where: 16055 Old Forest Point, Monument
Find them: www.ferrarifilms.com
Denise Ferrari and her two-person film and production crew were driving past the giant Discovery Communications headquarters — home to the Discovery Channel — in Silver Spring, Md., and felt the grandeur of the building.
“That’s our competition,” she said to her team on that day in 2008.
Ferrari Films — which specializes in video and multi-media production — was in the Washington, D.C., area to film a series of health care videos on traumatic brain injury. One year earlier, Ferrari Films had placed second in the International Health and Medical Media Awards, known as Freddie Awards, to the Discovery Channel’s first place in the area of health care and medical videos.
Not bad for a little outfit headquartered in Ferrari’s Colorado basement. But Ferrari, a fashion model turned talent agent who had survived cancer, buried her husband and raised a child and a business on her own, wasn’t discouraged by Discovery’s size. She was challenged.
Since then, Ferrari Films has gone from $1 million in annual revenue to $3 million, from two employees to seven, and from a basement headquarters to a lush office with views of the mountains. Now the company is poised to grow into national commercial work. And, oh yes, Ferrari Films did bring home a first-place Freddie Award in 2009, beating none other than the Discovery Channel.
“We are poised to do this on a larger level,” Ferrari said.
Ferrari, now 52, has degrees in marketing, management and English, but she was a fashion model and then talent agent in Denver during the 1980s. She was part of the burgeoning Denver film industry.
It was her job to get models in front of people and she led a glamorous life, back and forth to New York quarterly and for Fashion Week to meet with directors and producers. She was fearless and aggressive in getting her clients seen.
By then, she had met Ted Ferrari — friends and colleagues for years before they married in 1986. They often worked together casting for movies and other projects.
“We both realized as blessed as we were in casting, we wanted to do more,” she said, so in 1985 they opened Colorado Casting Associates in Denver.
At the time they were the only centralized casting firm between Chicago and Los Angeles — meaning they prescreened talent and had folks lined up ready to meet directors. They worked on such projects as CBS movies of the week and on feature films for Paramount Pictures.
When Viacom Productions began filming its Perry Mason television movie series in Denver, it threw open the doors for film, casting and productions crews, Ferrari said. And she was on board as a secondary principal casting director and assistant productions coordinator.
“It was fantastic,” she said. “I had three degrees, but with them I learned film production.”
Ted was working on feature films, “Manhunt for Claude Dallas” and “Flashback” with Kiefer Sutherland and Dennis Hopper, to name a few.
“Denver was booming,” she said. “It was a great time to be coming up in this business.”
About the time the Perry Mason movie series ended in the early 1990s, the Ferraris were asked to join IMS productions in Colorado Springs. It was a film production studio, specializing in national commercials and events including work for large nonprofits like Promise Keepers.
The travel and 60-hour work weeks were exciting, but Ferrari began to dream of having babies.
“We said, the five years at IMS was great but if we are going to work this hard, we want to own it,” she said.
In 1996, the couple broke out on their own again, this time with Ferrari Films.
“The plan was to wait one year, get the business going, and then try to get pregnant,” Ferrari said.
One month after leaving IMS, Ferrari was pregnant.
But the work started coming in and they were off and running with national commercials for such companies as Western Pacific Airlines, which was based in Colorado Springs but closed in 1998.
In 1997 they were hired as subcontractors for work with the Department of Defense, which wanted multimedia patient education videos and content. Ferrari Films also started working with Focus on the Family making videos for youth groups and families. In 2001, it was approved as a government contractor and the business was growing.
Three years later, in 2004, Ferrari was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 43 and her daughter was 6.
“It was the beginning of a dark period,” she said.
She had surgery and radiation and made a “bucket list” that included taking her daughter to Disney World as soon as she was in the clear. On that trip to Disney World in 2005, Ted began feeling weak; he couldn’t even lift the suitcases. He was diagnosed with leukemia.
“Neither one of us could possibly believe it,” Ferrari said.
He tried experimental treatments and then received bone marrow from his brother. In January 2006 he watched his beloved Broncos in the playoffs and then slipped into a coma and died. He was 56.
Throughout that year, Ferrari kept the business going with one employee, Peggy Moberly. She had won a contract from the Air Force and Pittsburgh Medical Center for a series on diabetes prevention.
“That program kept me sane,” she said.
She thought about closing the business, especially when it came time to direct the projects. She had always been the writer, Ted the director.
“Ted was the front man,” she said. “To direct, it was hard for me to do that. But I had to. I thought, I’m going to have to buck up and get through this.”
The series earned a nomination for a Freddie Award.
Ferrari had hunkered down in the basement and kept enough work to pay the bills. She didn’t market the business, she just kept the contracts she already had, she said.
Then, Ferrari Films won the big contract for the traumatic brain injury series and Ferrari started hiring editors. The team went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. They were tasked with writing, casting and filming video and web content for the Center of Excellence for Medical Multimedia.
Six months ago, Ferrari Films left the basement headquarters, where the company had been for 16 years. Ferrari first leased, then purchased, a 3,000-square-foot office inside the Jackson Creek Commerce Center in Monument.
“I’m so proud of where we are today — through thick and thin,” said producer Peggy Moberly, who has worked with Ferrari since 1989. “We have overcome battles, and a lot of them were very tough.”
Ferrari Films is ready to jump back into more national accounts, and Ferrari says she’s still fearless.
“We have come full circle,” she said. “We have had time to heal.”