JOURNALIST • EDITOR • DIGITAL STORYTELLING
SANTA CRUZ — Digital Media Factory, a once-thriving multimedia design and production company, has shuttered its stage and offices and is hosting its final studio warehouse liquidation sale Saturday.
It is a sad ending for the nearly 10-year venture of producers Marty Collins and Ginny Mitchell who envisioned connecting a community network of businesses and a nonprofit digital media training center only to suffer in the economic downturn followed by several years of medical crises that landed Collins near death.
“If the cancer hadn’t happened, none of this would’ve happened,” said Mitchell who has been the primary caregiver for Collins and spouse. “The economy and health issues are not of our own making.”
While Collins is rallying, and even walking again with the help of a cane, it is a long journey of rehabilitation. The business plan that had bloomed into a 15,000-square-foot enterprise has dwindled now to a smaller footprint of storage space.
“It’s a crushing blow, I think, to the community and yet this is what needs to happen,” said Tracy Parker, a local musician who has performed through the years with Mitchell, also a singer. The factory produced and taped one of Parker’s shows on the factory’s stage.
“There was a greater vision waiting in the wings that Marty wanted to have materialize,” Parker said. “All the challenges they’ve faced in the last couple years have been too much for any mortals to do.”
Hurdles included 16 months battling lymphoma, then esophageal cancer and an esophagectomy, the surgical removal of all or part of Collins’ esophagus. Despite that, Collins was recuperating and was found to be free of cancer last year.
“We had three brand new clients that were large clients,” Mitchell said. “He was CEO of the Digital Signage Factory, a company he helped to get off the ground. We had a contract for a movie that we were about to embark on. He worked up to the day before he went into the hospital (for a medical procedure). We were doing a music video with Sista Monica.”
A planned medical procedure to insert a feeding tube, however, resulted in a perforated colon and sepsis, which landed Collins in critical care for six weeks, then months in a rehabilitation facility before he was brought home on a ventilator and with a tracheal tube to be cared for by Mitchell.
During that time there were several community fundraisers with local star billing. While Collins was learning to swallow again and walk with a cane, his friends and colleagues tried to keep various aspects of the business going. It wasn’t, however, enough to stay afloat. The company, one of the first businesses to set up space in the then-cavernous former Wrigley gum manufacturing plant in the Westside neighborhood of Santa Cruz, had fallen behind on rent to Ow Properties at a time when the building is experiencing a vibrant new life with new businesses and artists as tenants.
The company is “probably more than a couple years behind rent,” according to William Ow, property manager and owner. There are businesses interested in the 7,200 square feet of space still occupied by the factory or it may be turned into smaller artists spaces, he said.
Collins and Mitchell say it’s time for a new chapter. They will continue as Mitchell Collins Productions.
“There was a lot of good work done by everybody,” Collins said. Collins says has enough stock footage on hand to build a couple of shows. He hopes to revitalize his nonprofit, the Digital Media Learning Foundation, which trains interns, and put together a new production team of union folks.
“It’s what can happen if you get cancer and you fall behind,” Collins said. “The world doesn’t wait for you to get better. The cancer has affected everybody. All those people were impacted by my absence.”
For the last month of Saturdays, people have arrived from all over the region to buy equipment. People in need of studio, theater and gallery lights, office furniture, huge ladders, dimmer packs, props, a vending machine, and electrical gear will find it on sale Saturday at the factory. Everything that is not sold off will go to auction.
Follow Sentinel correspondent Jennifer Pittman at Twitter.com/jenniferpittman
AT A GLANCE
Digital Media Factory
ABOUT: The privately owned company produced videos for businesses and individuals, commercials, music videos, training materials, special event media, films and documentaries, as well as post production services such as special effects, 3-D animation and sound design.
HEADQUARTERS: 2809 Mission St., Santa Cruz
HISTORY: Founded in 2004 by Marty Collins, Ginny Mitchell, Ned Hearn and Brian Critchlow.