EP06 – Production and Staffing in Live Events with Joe Mertz
In this 6th episode of The Production Channel, Stephen Bowles and Clem Harrod delve into the entrepreneurial side of the live event business with Joe Mertz, CEO of Mertz Productions and MertzCrew. During his 20 years of entertainment production experience, Joe Mertz has successfully created and developed two companies—Mertz Productions, a full-service live event production company and MertzCrew, a payroll and staffing service designed specifically to assist live event industry companies and freelancers.
Joe, a native Pennsylvanian, got his first taste of the entertainment business working a summer job during college as a technician for a small theme park called Sesame Place. He was all set to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree but later decided that he wanted to pursue more interesting and exciting work in film and television. After graduation in the late 1990s, he followed some of his Sesame Place colleagues to Orlando, Florida to see if he could become involved with any of the production slated for the newly-built Disney soundstages. Upon arrival, he realized that the bulk of the film and TV work was done in Los Angeles and New York City so he found an alternative, live event production at Walt Disney World. Joe started as a freelance production assistant in the live events department on various corporate shows, including the Super Bowl Halftime show in 2000. He naturally progressed into a freelance stage manager, often calling shows for Disney or getting hired by other production companies.
Soon afterwards, Joe evolved his freelancing business by starting his own company, Mertz Productions, by planning and executing events for his own clients. He started off creating Halloween theme park entertainment while acquiring a small list of corporate clients needing additional help. He states, “My key demographic is those clients that don’t have any type of production…we get them as they are growing out of hotel A/V, when they’re getting frustrated with the lack of creative design.” Joe says the success of his business is just to really take care of the clientele. “Like I try to tell my clients, you guys focus on the content, on what you want to say. We’ll make sure it is heard and comes across to everybody in the audience.” Many of Joe’s clients have stayed with his company for years because “they’re very happy with our progress and the way we do things…that’s the kind of slow and steady growth I’ve focused on with Mertz Productions.” Aside from theme parks and corporate shows, Mertz Productions has increased their offerings in recent years to include high end cruise line entertainment.
When Joe isn’t acting as a show producer, he is often found involved in meetings with his MertzCrew team. MertzCrew, an online staffing and payroll service used by freelancers and production companies, came about to help friends and co-workers get paid correctly and hold the necessary insurance to accept jobs. At first, it was a small home business with a handful freelance clients, but the load quickly changed when a large production company, LMG, asked Joe if MertzCrew could process their whole freelance payroll. Joe says that MertzCrew has become successful because “it came from an existing need that was out there. And I feel like, the benefit we offer, we work the way the industry works.” Joe understood the way people needed to be paid, and he created a team to implement tools to make it easier. MertzCrew decided to focus on the rental and staging arena and really attend to the nuances of contracting and payment. Joe states, “My end goal with MertzCrew, we want to be a software platform that really handles your personnel and your labor on a show site from the beginning of when you need that role, all the way to the end when the guys get paid…we want to own that.”
In this episode, listen in as Stephen and Clem ask Joe Mertz to reveal how his innovation came from necessity and how he continuously juggles his responsibilities amongst his family and all the Mertz Madness.