Fresno isn’t known for its film industry. Yet.
Producers George Ohan and Khetphet “KP” Phagnasay hoped to change that when they founded Fulton Film Company in June with the intention of luring the film industry north from Hollywood.
The company opened a creative space in the storefront beside Crest Theatre in downtown Fresno with several studio spaces where artists can shoot photos, meet, film scenes or take advantage of the downtown location for $20 per hour. Filmmakers can also host small film screenings there.
With a goal of being a resource for aspiring filmmakers, actors and artists, the pair will offer classes and other programs to help bring together and coach the next generation of producers. By helping young and novice filmmakers get appropriate insurance and permits before filming, the founders want to ensure their students understand the industry and follow regulations.
Aside from being a resource, the company also will produce videos for small businesses, offer consulting for aspiring entertainers and take professional portraits.
“I really want to bring the film and production industry to Fresno,” Phagnasay said. “It’s about creativity. We’re giving artists support to do what they’re passionate about – no more excuses. If someone is dedicated, they can come here and do it.”
I really want to bring the film and production industry to Fresno. It’s about creativity. We’re giving artists support to do what they’re passionate about – no more excuses. If someone is dedicated, they can come here and do it.
Khetphet “KP” Phagnasay, cofounder of Fulton Film Company
Phagnasay has close to 20 years experience as an actor, producer, talent coach and notable martial arts and stunt coordinator. He founded KP 1 Studios, a full-service independent production studio, in 2014. Co-founder Ohan graduated from the Los Angeles Film School after eight years of active military duty, and he said he has since worked on more than 300 creative projects, including commercials, documentaries and short films.
$20 per hour to rent studio space
The duo hopes to create a healthy film industry in Fresno, taking full advantage of location and local talent. Ohan sees the Central Valley as an ideal place for filmmakers to work on large box-office productions. Because Fresno is only a 3-hour drive from Hollywood, Ohan thinks it has the potential to become a haven for filmmakers looking for somewhere more affordable, yet close to the state’s entertainment hub.
Having a few large-budget films in town annually would bring millions of dollars to businesses in the area and boost the economy, Ohan said.
“We really feel like this will help Fresno,” Ohan said. “We have the talent; we have the passion.”
But luring big-budget productions to the central San Joaquin Valley is a challenge, said Kristi Johnson, the associate film commissioner at the Fresno County Film Commission. One reason for this is the 30-mile zone established by entertainment-industry labor unions to encourage production in the area surrounding Hollywood. The premium for leaving the 30-mile zone actually raises production prices substantially.
Regardless, independent films and other non-union or smaller projects often look for local talent when they film in the Fresno area. An independent film, “Praying for Rain,” set to come out in December, was shot in Fresno, employing about 50 local actors, Johnson said. So far this year, promotions for Dollar Beard Club and a popular Japanese television show called “Sekai Gyoten News” were filmed in the area.
With nearby Yosemite and agricultural land, Johnson said Fresno has the allure of unique locations for filming. Having more people interested in production is definitely a positive thing, she said.
“The fact that they’re developing local filmmakers is really great for the people here,” Johnson said. “Every Steven Spielberg, every George Lucas has to start somewhere.”
The founders share a goal of using their work to improve downtown as well. Phagnasay explained that bringing more people downtown for creative reasons would bring more business to everyone in the area.
Ohan said he hopes Fulton Film Company also can become a resource for youths to come and learn, especially if they don’t have other mentors.
“It’s not like they can go to the YMCA – there is no YMCA here,” Ohan said. “So, I’d want them to come here and learn how to use film equipment and find something they enjoy so that they can go make $150 a day on a film set somewhere.”
During the grand opening on June 17, close to 100 visitors passed through to see the space, network and congratulate the pair on their latest endeavor. Many attendees were actors, performers or artists excited to see film-making celebrated in downtown Fresno.
With a face painted like a mime, Whitney Hord put out a flaming baton in her mouth and posed for pictures during the event. She majored in dance at Fresno State but has since expanded to different types of performance art.
“Places like this are priceless,” Hord said, gesturing to the Fulton Film space. She explained that an artistic community exists in Fresno, but having more resources for creative young people would help it to grow and flourish.
Other types of artists looked forward to the opportunities in Fulton Film Company, too. Robert Vargas has been making costumes and prosthetics since he was 13 and has accumulated more than 20 years of experience through self-teaching and dedicated practice.
“It’s a family,” he said. “Once you start working with these people, we’re all there for each other.”
Although it is early in Fulton Film Company’s life, the entertainment community sees it as an opportunity to become a more visible subculture in Fresno. The company has goals of elevating the industry and making it more accessible to existing artists as well as those interested in learning more.
“I think this’ll encourage those who don’t know where to start,” actor Adriano Ages said. “These guys are like a navigation system for young artists.”
If you go
Visit Fulton Film Company next to the Crest Theatre at 1904 Fresno St.