To Tony Productions Business Spotlight

To Tony Productions Business Spotlight

Daniel Hess

To Tony Productions is a creative film production company and overall creative hub in Baltimore, Maryland.

To Tony was founded in 2009 by Daniel Hess and was named after his cousin Anthony Ranocchia III who passed away from cystic fibrosis in 2001 when Daniel was only 10 years old, Anthony or Tony, as everyone called him, was only 14. This is where creativity started for Daniel. Stories and movies became a place of escape from the deep depression. Being expressive was key in this time and has been a continuation since that point. So, in 2009, while still in college, studying film, what to call the company was a simple decision as it should have a deeper meaning. So now through the company Tony’s legacy can live on.

In 2012, Daniel finished college and his thesis short film Voicebox had some solid momentum behind it, playing at many film festivals and even getting a screening as part of an LGBT event in Greece that year. However, because of some unforeseen life changes, Daniel had to move out of his home in 2013, forcing the business to pivot into client-based video production work.

This juncture, which lasts from 2013 to 2018, is sadly where the creativity was lost for a long time. Completing work in both the corporate video production world and weddings and events proved fruitful. At the peak Daniel was netting $100k a year easily with mainly wedding based work, but there was no creative outlet to speak of. It provided a livelihood, but not much more beyond that.

In 2018, the wake-up call moment happened when Daniel went for his year echocardiogram for a birth defect heart condition called aortic valve stenosis. The doctor told him that heart surgery was on the horizon. At age 28, suddenly, this feeling of potential death loomed over. Looking back, it became apparent that 5 years flew by with nothing creative to show for it. So that needed to change.

Daniel Hess

In late 2018, the motions for what would become My Spirit Will Stay were formed around just a general outline and production started in mid-January 2019. After a week of filming, the footage was set and editing began. At first, the vision was to make the project a feature film. Something that after an initial small test screening just wasn’t working. So, what followed was the short film version that exists today. The piece won an award at a film festival in India and played at several film festivals in the mid-Atlantic area.

Following the success of that short, the next project was gestating for a bit, but by late 2019 it was started up as part of the 29 Days Later Film Project in Baltimore, where you have 29 days to shoot and edit a short film. The film was called Adieu Au Racisme and is a sendup of the French New Wave films of the 60s but reimagined with a modern lens. The short did not see as much success as My Spirit Will Stay did, but it was another step in the right direction.

Of course, that brings us to the next hurdle that affected the entire world as early 2020 came around and that was the pandemic. Everything shut down and Daniel saw an entire calendar of client/event-based shoots (something which was still the profit turning side of the business) collapse in a single week.

It was a scary time, with no proper sense of where money was going to be coming in or when things would open back up again. In full transparency the help pushed by the government here in the states is the one thing that kept To Tony going through that time.

Underlined Passages Group Pic

This also allowed for the greatest transition period for Daniel and To Tony to date though. With the extra time to look back on life so far, Daniel realized that he still hadn’t sat himself down to just write a script in a long time. So, with an idea in place, he started working on what would become his first feature film script Sparrows Point, which took the rest of 2020 to complete.

This is also the point where in January 2021, Daniel self-published his first book, a poetry collection called Just a Boy Blaming Himself, which has been featured in many bookstores across the country and has had a solid year of recognition so far.

Now, with a newfound sense of self-discipline, there is a sense of patience with the projects that are in the pipeline. As of the writing of this, there is still no heart surgery in the near future with heart check ins every six months. Whereas the Daniel of 2012 would have wanted to just go out and film the script with no budget as quickly as possible, this Daniel is actively pitching the project to producers in LA and abroad trying to find the perfect match.

Great Heights

So, from a business standpoint, where does this leave us? Well, honestly, for anyone out there reading this, a business in film or videography is not an easy one. If you are looking for something to provide you with a livelihood, it is extremely hard to turn a profit into a strictly creative production studio. Since pivoting To Tony into that space in 2018, there still hasn’t been a true profit made yet.

If you are looking at it from the perspective of working at weddings/events or corporate video production, you can make a great living, but you will work hard. Your hours will be long and varied and you need great client management skills to keep everyone happy. It is not for the faint of heart and just trying to find your footing early on is a tough hill. Expect to do some low paying work at first as you build your brand/skills in order to net some solid jobs.

MSWS Trophy

Across the US right now, though, this is honestly a great time to get into the market. If you would have asked me even a month ago, I would have maybe said something different, but 2022 and even the last few months of 2021 have seen an explosion of video work needs. Couples are clamoring to get their weddings booked next year and businesses are finally meeting in person and in need of new promo/commercial video work. The demand is only going up.

Looking back on the wild world of my career so far, I would say to any of those still in school for film, make yourself as well rounded as possible. Take business classes, take history classes, take writing classes. The more you have in this industry before jumping into, the better you will be in the long run. I came out bright eyed but knew nothing. I was lucky that I had some amazing mentors early on that already had established themselves, but without them, I may have been lost for a lot longer.

Daniel Hess

The video world is fast-paced and you’ve always got to be ready at a moment’s notice. If you go in as a freelancer no matter how good you are, if you say no too many times to being booked, you will be quickly replaced. It can be brutal at times and the number of vacations you can take might be very limited for a long time.

That being said, though, each day will be a little different. The variety of places you can travel too is amazing and you’ll meet people from all walks of life. Get a car that is good on gas or just an electric one if the range is good enough because you will drive a lot. It will be a grind, but the reward of making video for a living can be more than worth the trouble that comes at times.

Now is an amazing time to get into the world of film/video, especially with the economy truly blossoming again. Even without a background in film, there are amazing internships to look into that can get you in at the ground floor. I may have chosen a really tough road to get to the creative place I am at today, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Just a boy blaming himself

Your journey will be exactly that, but when you finally get to the place where you are dreaming of going and you will. The reward at the end will be more than worth any of the struggles that you might have had to face along the way.

I always like to say stay creative always and keep pushing hard in this wild world that we live in. For anyone who reads through this, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me anytime and if I can be of any kind of help or place of advice, I’m always happy to do my part. 

Nataly Komova

Nutritionist. Bluffton University, MS In today's world, people's eating and exercise patterns have changed, and it is often lifestyle that is the cause of many diet-related illnesses. I believe that each of us is unique – what works for one does not help another. What is more, it can even be harmful. I am interested in food psychology, which studies a person's relationship with their body and food, explains our choices and desires for specific products, the difficulty of maintaining optimal body weight, as well as the influence of various internal and external factors on appetite. I'm also an avid vintage car collector, and currently, I'm working on my 1993 W124 Mercedes. You may have stumbled upon articles I have been featured in, for example, in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Grazia, Women's Health, The Guardian, and others.