Arts / Career development

Take a look at 1440 Film Co.’s downtown studio

The young film company has plans for creative use of the space, and for more growth.

A 1440 shoot featuring Sen. Chris Coons. (Courtesy photo)

When Mike Pfeifer founded 1440 Film Co. in 2019, he rented a small office at The Mill. Most projects were on location, and it was easy enough to find studio space to use when it was needed. He wasn’t actively looking for an all-in-one studio-slash-office.

But when he heard that the sprawling fourth-floor space at 605 N. Market St. — a building known as the former home of coworking space CoIN Loft and data and analytics agency CompassRed, and the current home of WHYY — he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to move in.

The space is large and open, with exposed brick and a wall of windows overlooking the Delaware College of Art and Design. There’s a lounge area with couches, two small offices (one for Pfeifer; one is an editing suite), and an in-development dressing room area — a nook by the restrooms that just happened to have a mirror lined with lights on the wall when they moved in.

“We’re getting a table built for in front of the mirror,” he told, adding that the antique molding above the mirror was discarded from a nearby building renovation and recovered by contractors, giving the nook even more of a vintage, The Queen-type feel.

1440 has no full-time staff, as projects are done on a contract basis, with jobs generally requiring four to 20 crew members. On the day of this reporter’s visit, an even smaller crew works on a social media ad for a watch company in the versatile studio space that has a built-in cyclorama wall.

“That’s always been the business model,” he said. “Stay small, be nimble.”

Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 1440 landed a contract with Wawa and shot an ad in Philadelphia with Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert. Pfeifer hopes to do more business with the brand post-pandemic, but he’s found that even with the challenges of the pandemic, there’s been work to be had, especially in the area of digital marketing content.

“We recently did a new shoot in here with Zip Code Wilmington,” he said. “Everyone right now is trying to tell how they’ve pivoted. That’s been a saving grace for us. There’s almost a whole new set of marketing needs.”

Another local client is Delaware Prosperity Partnership — “a great client, because we get to go out and tell Delaware stories.”

With a Delaware film company, Pfeifer gets asked where he finds work here, or if he gets all of his jobs from Philly or New York or D.C. Actually, around 95% of 1440’s work comes from inside the state.

Not that he isn’t open to working with bigger firms in bigger cities.

“My hope is to build up the portfolio and start swinging for some bigger agencies in Philly and Baltimore,” Pfeifer said.

The portfolio is becoming increasingly impressive, including a sports piece for Delaware Tech and a futuristic awareness generator for CompassRed and the Delaware Data Innovation Lab:

CompassRed cofounder Patrick Callahan, Pfeier said, “is awesome. It’s honestly just cool to be in the same room. They’re talking about solving all these big problems, and I’m like, ‘OK, we’ll make it look cool.'”

Another project in the works is 1440’s second Project Giveback film. Each year, Pfeifer chooses a nonprofit and donates a short film to them at no cost. Last year, TeenSHARP was selected. This year, it’s the Down Syndrome Association of Delaware.

As he looks ahead to a time when pandemic restrictions are loosened, Pfeifer is thinking not only about growing as a film company, but using the space as a place where members of the community can gather.

“I think this would be an amazing art gallery,” he said, describing the exposed brick walls covered in local artwork as people mingle over cocktails. He’s already started hanging a few pieces on consignment. Eventually, the vision is to open the studio as a hub for creativity in the heart of Wilmington, including as an event room and makerspace.

Check out the space here, in photos:

Companies: CompassRed

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