The Major Highlights
-At age 26 (2002), I became the Executive Producer at a renowned post-production company in Venice, CA called Brass Knuckles Editorial. I was managing about 20 people and a business with 3 million in revenue. I was also finally starting to loosen my debt noose (a little).
-At age 28 (2004) I bought my first home in Los Angeles for 459K, and we sold it 10 years later for 635K. In addition to producing a great return for 10 years, owning it provided far more than just the return. Without it, much of what you read below would not have happened—or at least taken much longer. It’s also worth noting that I owned this house through the great recession (along with 3 other properties), and still came out ok. Yah!
-By age 30 I was starting my first business, Therapy Studios, with three of my great friends and business partners. It was also a post-production company, and we grew it to 30+ employees and mid-seven-figures in annual revenue. My partners were kind enough to cash me out of the partnership in mid 2018, and offered to keep me on as a part-time consultant to continue managing the finances from afar…for which I am grateful. AND, they keep a picture of me up in the mens’ room for a little ol’ posterity. Nice!
-A couple years into the business (2007) we decided to piggyback on our efforts (i.e. start a new business that utilizes much of the resources we put in place with the first business), and embarked on the production of our first feature documentary called Transcendent Man: The Life & Ideas of Ray Kurzweil. Two years later, it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival to critical acclaim. A year and a half later, it finally released and became the #2 documentary on iTunes (for a week), and hung out in the top 10 for twelve weeks. We just couldn’t beat that Justin Beiber doc for the top slot (Beeeiiiberrrrrr!).
-In mid 2007, we were really outgrowing our space, so we decided to buy and renovate a 10,000sf building in West Los Angeles, instead of leasing and renovating someone else’s building (don’t rent if you can own…its the ultimate piggyback!). We got in for 10% down utilizing the SBA 504 loan program. This was my first experience managing a large commercial renovation, and it started right as America kicked off the financial crisis! We actually lost our construction financing right before we started construction. Wait, what!? Long story. Anyway, we survived, sold it in 2015 and tripled our cash investment (albeit pre-tax). Still…not bad. We each pocketed half and put the rest into Building #2 (below).
-With the success of our first film working for us, in late 2011 we struck gold in the co-production of our second feature doc, Sound City, with Dave Grohl (yes, Foo Fighters Dave Grohl). That film premiered at Sundance in 2013, and eventually led to us co-producing a docu-series for HBO with Dave, called Sonic Highways. In the fall of 2015 the series was nominated for 4 Emmys, and won 2. Major high fives all around!
-In 2012 we did another piggyback and launched a comedy website called worldwideinterweb.com, with a good friend of ours. We didn’t know much about websites, but wanted to learn. We grew the site to 500k unique visitors per month. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but it’s not enough for a comedy website to make much money. So, sadly, our hilarious whoopee cushion of a website wasn’t a financial success. Regardless, I learned A TON about the “business of the internet,” much of which I’m putting to good use even today—so still a win! Plus, WWI is now in the hands of a person that actually understands how to make money with a comedy website, so the dream is still alive. Fingers crossed!
-In early 2015 my wife and I bought our second residence in LA for 1.28 million. We used the proceeds from the sale of the first home to get into this one. Three years and one moderate renovation later, we sold it for 1.7 million. We about doubled our initial cash investment, and because it was our residence, we paid no tax. What a deal!!!
-Later in 2015 we began the negotiations on our second commercial building purchase and 12,750sf renovation—Therapy’s third home. Six months later, we owned it. Twelve months after that we were moving in. Like before, I designed the remodel myself in a home design program, then handed my plans off to an architect. This was a larger scale renovation than the last, and like the last, I fully supervised it (as in I sat inside the building for 5 months at a folding table, covered in dust). It just about brought me to my knees, but it got done. Therapy now occupies this beautiful stand alone building in Los Angeles—complete with a parking lot and 9 hydraulic car stackers! Hopefully time will be as good a friend with this investment. We’ll see.
-Throughout all this madness, my wife and I managed to transact on 10 more properties along the way (2007-2018), with a cumulative purchase price of about about 1.7 million. We currently still own 6 of these, while the rest we sold for solid profits. We also employed the glorious magic of the 1031 exchange, and postponed the tax on most of our gains. What a country!
-In August 2018, at age 43, I departed from my 9-9 to work part-time from home, so we could focus more on our family—and maybe even find something new to try. My wife was able to give up her 9-9 (she was/is a film editor) at the age of 38, with the support of my part-time income, our savings and the income from our investments.
-2019…now its time to “be more present” (ha!)…and we started Play Louder!
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