There are very few companies in the country—and even fewer in the Northwest—that are able to provide the multifaceted services that Talent Services does for its production clients.
The Lynnwood, Washington-based company not only provides payroll management, but they also offer union signatory services for industrial programs and manage all of the employer responsibilities, which allows their clients to focus on their productions—not on paperwork.
“We’re the middle man between the government and the various unions in the media industry,” explains Talent Services owner Gunnvor Tveidt. “So we handle all the payments, obligations, and all the liabilities for the government and the unions. And that was one of the reasons this business was started. Many companies, many smaller producers, don’t want to get saddled with all the paperwork and obligations to sign up with the state for workers’ comp, unemployment, taxes, etc. It’s time-consuming to handle when you’re busy making your living doing something you like to do.”
Tveidt bought the company about 16 years ago from a friend who had started out in the casting business. “Working in casting, she realized that there was quite a need for production and payroll management for both the crew and talent side and the producers,” says Tveidt. “I wanted to grow the company and help fulfill this need.”
She knew that the business would be difficult to learn, but she was ready for the challenge.
“I’m Norwegian. I’m stubborn. I’m persistent. So even though I bought a company that already existed, I think there was a little bit of a question whether I was going to make it. But I never doubted I was going to make it and I’ve grown the company substantially since then.”
A major factor in this growth was Tveidt’s decision to expand into the union side of things, and, she says, “pretty soon we got to be quite good. No one else wanted to do it because it’s difficult.”
Due to the complex nature of the business, the high cost of entry, and the amount of financial security necessary to handle the liabilities, Tveidt has seen many competing companies come and go. “People think, ‘if Talent Services can do it, so can I. I know accounting, I know production, I can do it.’ And then they do not realize the complexities and the demand on a company like ours. So they don’t make it.”
Tveidt says that while there are several huge companies based in L.A. and New York that perform similar services, there are very few companies that are small- to medium-sized like hers. But with a huge company, clients don’t get the personal touch that they might get with a smaller company, which is perhaps why Talent Services has been able to gain so many national clients. Most recently, they’ve worked with Lego Batman, Nike, Adidas, and Wheel of Fortune (“Vanna White is the nicest person,” says Tveidt. “She knits!”).
In fact, Tveidt estimates that 75 percent of the work they do is for out-of-state clients.
“I know it’s hard to believe, but we do business with a great part of the larger companies in the U.S.,” she says. “We were just part of a Wells Fargo production and that didn’t take place in Washington or anywhere near the Northwest.”
And although the job includes a lot of time-consuming paperwork, Tveidt says that it is not without adventure.
On a recent project—she won’t name names—Talent Services was working for an Oregon-based company doing a snowmobile shoot in the Colorado mountains.
“As they went up the mountain 8,000 or 10,000 feet, there were warnings about white-outs and about staying off the mountain. That didn’t happen,” says Tveidt, laughing. “They ended up getting trapped. People had to be airlifted out. Someone broke their leg. It was really, really bad. They went up there with tennis shoes and froze their toes. That was a huge helicopter bill.”
She continues, “People in the industry, they’re fun people, they’re creative people and risk-takers, and this was like a total synopsis of how they use their talent. I have to laugh about it.”
This good-natured, “can and will do” attitude, combined with high integrity and exceptional payroll management services, has produced what Talent Services calls “raving fans”—clients that come back again and again.
For more information, visit www.talentservices.com.