Thunder Studios Looks To Become Major Player In Hollywood

Rodric David and Thunder Studios Looks To Become Major Hollywood Player.

August 11, 2014

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Up in northwest Long Beach lies Thunder Studios — 150,000 square feet of enclosed studio space that boasts of some of the largest green screen space and lighting in the county. But it’s about 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles, and fighting for Hollywood recognition. rodric david standing at thunder studios logo

“We’re the largest independent production facility in Los Angeles,” said Rodric David, chairman and CEO. “The scale of this place is surprising to the industry proper.”

And so, even though Thunder Studios is located within the 30-mile rule (a union travel policy), David said he is fighting to get noticed.

Since David bought and rebranded it in April 2013, Thunder Studios has shot 600 days of principal photography. Miniseries “The Spoils of Babylon” was filmed on the lot. So was the reality show “Motor City Masters.” Controversy lightning rod Rihanna filmed one of her more recent music videos, “Pour It Up,” in front of a Thunder green screen. Flo, from The Progressive Insurance commercials, can be found walking the halls of 20434 S. Santa Fe Ave. on occasion.

“Anyone who produces here can be producing pretty quickly,” David said. “All you need to do is arrive here. We have everything.”

Thunder Studios officials say they have the largest green screen on the West Coast (6,000 square feet that can be combined with a floor for 16,000 square feet) and they boast full motion gantry and light box systems. There also is “Big Bertha,” named as the world’s largest Fisher light box. There are 20 stages of all different sizes. A Coffee Bean is coming soon.

David was born in Sydney, Australia, but his parents allowed him to go to school at the University of Southern California, where he earned a degree in theater.

“I’m a product of America’s export of its culture via film and television,” he said. “I grew up watching American movies and T.V.”

Still, despite enjoying his time at USC, David returned to Australia — with an American girl who would become his wife — and got into the family grocery retail business.

“I wasn’t necessarily sure I wanted to invest in the amount of time needed for a theatrical career and the risks associated with being successful or not,” he said. “Through the family business, I followed a private equity career, and a couple of years ago, for family reasons, we moved back to the United States.

“When I was looking for opportunities in America, the first thing I looked at is what is the advantage of Los Angeles, and unique about Los Angeles. Clearly, Los Angeles is the epicenter of the entertainment industry.”

And so David found what would ultimately debut last year as Thunder Studios in industrial northwest Long Beach. Previously, a company that produced western television advertising for General Motors was running it — thus a lot of equipment and space in Thunder Studios is ideal for commercials and music videos.

“When I delved into the documents, it had actually been wrongly advertised,” David said. “This is a fairly major production facility. In one way, it was a cautionary tale to not have just one customer.”