The Austin Chronicle

Movies and Shakers

The production companies behind – and ahead of – the boom, and how they might be able to help you

By Marc Savlov, May 26, 2006, Screens


"I had been working as a writer at GSD&M and quit to pursue making documentaries," explains Mike Woolf, who, along with partners Andrew and Karen Yates, is one-third of Beef and Pie Productions, one of the most monkey-centric production companies in the country.

"What monkeys?!" we hear you cry. By way of explanation, and as an easy in to the Beef and Pie gang's snarky brand of humor, here's an excerpt from their Web site's "Monkey Disclaimer":

"10% discount on any concept that features a monkey does not apply to animated monkeys, sock-puppet monkeys, monkey literary allusions, monkeys carrying SARS, rabies, or any yet to be discovered virus. No Sea-Monkeys. No monkey mascots (Well, maybe). Or Planet of the Apes posters on the wall. They must be friendly, non-biting, and look good in a Sherlock Holmes hat."

It's rare that you encounter a three-person production company with such a firm grasp of monkeyshines, much less one that, like Beef and Pie, can count among their clients both South by Southwest (for whom they co-created the original 12-part PBS series SXSW Presents) and NSA favorites AT&T, for whom they are currently working on an MTV Cribs-style advertising campaign.

And on top of that, they're open to submissions from outside, where, you know, the monkeys are.

"However, at this exact moment," Woolf says, "we're not actively seeking new projects, but that's just because we're already so busy. We've never been part of the world of feature filmmaking, because we're not into funding things. We generate most of our own stuff in-house, but at the same time we're open to ideas from outside, especially if they fit exactly what we can already do."

Andrew Yates: "We're open to them if you've got the cash!"

So how did Beef and Pie arrive on the scene and begin scarfing up clients like some pint-sized Son of Kong on a Fay Wray bender? Woolf explains:

"I met up with Andrew, who had been a photographer for, at that point, 10 or 12 years, and from there we began to getting directing work together. At that time, I was just finishing the documentary 'Growin' a Beard,' and Andrew totally helped make that happen and, at the same time, introduced me to such concepts as, um, tripods and so on. And then the commercial work rolled in. Karen, Andrew's wife, was producing his photography, and now she's become the Beef and Pie producer. Basically, the three of us are using all the skills we already had in a new context. The context of Beef and Pie Productions. It's very fun right now."

"If we're not having fun anymore then it's not working," Karen Yates adds. "We've always said that we wanted to have a good time and not take on any projects that we're going to dog us."

Or monkey you, as the case may be.

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