Busy Fall for Filmwerks Builds Toward Historic ‘Carrier Classic’

In the ’90s cult comedy Swingers, Trent (played by Vince Vaughn) introduces his best friend Mike (John Favreau) to a Las Vegas waitress as “the guy behind the guy behind the guy.”

One might introduce Michael Satrazemis in a similar fashion.

As CEO of Filmwerks International, Satrazemis helps venues, broadcast teams (such as ESPN and Turner Sports), and even rock stars do what they do best by providing electrical power, climate control, and equipment for temporary facilities, stages, and mobile studios at major events from coast to coast.

Based out of Wilmington, NC, Filmwerks has provided infrastructure for events ranging from the Super Bowl to major motion pictures to Rolling Stones concerts to disaster relief. This fall, however, the company has encountered something even it had never seen before.

Cruiser Turned Court
These days, Satrazemis’s desk is covered in blueprints of, of all things, an aircraft carrier.

Large structures and unique circumstances are nothing new to Filmwerks. However, even Satrazemis has to shake his head as he sifts through large sketches of the USS Carl Vinson, the same carrier used to transport the body of Osama bin Laden to sea after U.S. Special Forces killed him in Pakistan in May.

It’s aboard that ship that ESPN, the NCAA, and Morale Entertainment Foundation, with the support of Filmwerks, will produce one of sports television’s most unusual events of the year: the 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic in San Diego.

On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, the University of North Carolina will face Michigan State University on a basketball court constructed on the deck of the Carl Vinson. Filmwerks is building and designing systems for the event and will be on hand to control the logistics for hospitality as well as supplying lighting, power, and staging for ESPN and its on-site SportsCenter crew. Filmwerks will even build 24- x 60-ft. trailers on the pier to serve as, among other things, team locker rooms.

“It’s like setting up and powering a temporary stadium on the deck of an aircraft carrier,” says Satrazemis, adding that it will take about two weeks for construction and logistics in San Diego to be completed. “It’s just an amazing structure. We’re really excited to be a part of that.

NBA Uncertainty
Like many production companies, Filmwerks has its fingers firmly crossed that a deal can be reached to settle the ongoing NBA lockout. With Turner Sports (a primary NBA network property) as a major client, Satrazemis admits that he is “very concerned” about the prospect of the league’s losing games and Turner’s losing broadcasts.

“We certainly would be out looking for things to do,” says Satrazemis. “The problem we run into: we have a lot of alternatives, we could go out and do a lot of movies, but then. if I’m asked to commit to a 10- or 12-week movie and [the NBA] comes back all of a sudden, that could really hurt us.”

It’s the “will they, won’t they” of the NBA negotiations that puts Filmwerks in a tough place. Satrazemis acknowledges that his company turns down a fair amount of work and that, if the NBA declared the season cancelled with a significant amount of notice, his company could comfortably and confidently turn to more film projects.