After Rusty and Dave Prevatt decided to leave their father’s insurance practice, he followed them into the exciting new world of video.
Photo by Fred Greaves
(This story first appeared in Comstock's magazine in June 2019)
On a cold and dark overcast morning, a girl with long, dark curly hair walks alone down a street in Rio Linda, clutching the straps of her backpack. She’s about 11 and focuses straight ahead. Right behind her, and what she’s walking away from, is one of the lowest income schools in Sacramento County. Children get free hot meals and special programs, and school secretaries who let them visit their office during recess, giving them snacks, games and somebody to talk to.
Across the street, Rusty Prevatt is warmly guiding the girl, portrayed by an actress for the video shoot, down the street. His younger brother, Dave, is aiming a camera at her while the production staff is gathered around a utility cart loaded with backup cameras and half a dozen battery packs with 20 extra hours of power if needed. Franklin Pictures is on scene for the latest of its many projects, a video ad for United Way that will tell the story of a foster child who became a success story.
Franklin Pictures is one of the premiere video production companies in the region, with such clients as the Sacramento Kings, Intel, Chevy, Bogle Vineyards and many others. Run by father Frank Prevatt (full name Franklin) and sons Rusty (real name Franklin) and Dave, Franklin Pictures pays such attention to detail that its promotional videos not only capture an image, but tell a story and evoke an emotion. Think about a memorable Super Bowl ad, a movie trailer or television commercial you’ve seen. That’s the kind of work Franklin Pictures creates.
“They won’t deliver something that won’t resonate,” says Meghan Phillips, CEO of Honey Agency, the public relations firm that set up the United Way shoot. “They’re always insuring that it’s the best product, not only for the client and the agency, but for themselves.”
Franklin’s introduction video in 2013 for the new Sacramento Republic FC soccer team drew widespread praise and shot the company to stardom. Rusty and Dave had to create a launch video compelling enough to engage and unite the community around a team that at the time did not yet exist. They mapped out locations, from children playing in a field to a postal carrier delivering mail, all kicking around a soccer ball in various Sacramento neighborhoods. “The Chant,” which has been viewed more than 60,000 times, helped brand the team in its infancy.
Joe Wagoner, executive Vice President and co-founder of Republic FC, credits the video with generating significant interest in the team and contributing to higher-than-expected ticket sales. “Twenty minutes into our first meeting, I knew we had found the right people for the job,” Wagoner says. “We wanted to create something that represented how this sport could touch every corner of Sacramento and unite people from all backgrounds and walks of life under one common identity. Franklin helped us bring this vision to life and we couldn’t be happier with the impact ‘The Chant’ would go on to have for this club and launching this movement.”
Franklin Pictures has won three Emmys for its work, including beating out major professional teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks to win for its coverage of Sacramento Republic FC’s 2014 championship game. It won another for its 2015 video “Live. Work. Play.”, also done for Republic FC, promoting Sacramento as a great place to live. Franklin also has won more than 20 Addy awards for advertising excellence and Telly awards for outstanding video production.
“Our goal is not just to make a video. Our goal is to make something that will move the needle … get a feeling or some kind of reaction,” say Rusty. “Nothing goes out the door unless we think it’s great,” says Dave.
There are more than 30 video production companies in Sacramento, ranging in expertise from shooting weddings to music videos and events, though Rusty says he doesn’t worry about competition. Franklin Pictures continues to expand, and the company says it doesn’t have to seek clients because most come to them.
The first thing you notice when you enter Franklin Pictures in East Sacramento is it’s not your ordinary workplace. There are no cubicles or bosses behind closed doors. Rusty’s 9-year-old daughter Camy is coloring with crayons on the coffee table and greeting visitors. Turning the corner, a black Labrador named Kouzco is wagging his tail wildly. The open-loft, warehouse-style office is humming with activity from workers dressed in jeans, hoodies and baseball caps. This is where the magic is made.
Creating videos wasn’t the Prevatts' first business collaboration. Patriarch Frank was a successful insurance broker for 30 years, one of the top five producers among 850 Farmers insurance agents in California. He had a big office on Howe Avenue with a massive desk and winged chair. He lured Rusty, who had graduated from York College in Nebraska in 1997, into the family business by promising he’d buy him jet skis. Soon after, younger son Dave joined them.
The sons say they loved working with their dad for seven years. They were busy insuring homes, cars and property items. The brothers started their own company, Pacific Point, that insured things Frank’s company did not. But Rusty didn’t want to wear a suit and tie anymore, and he had an itch to do something different. When he talked to his brother, he found out Dave had it, too.
“Dave and I were just kind of dying in our souls,” Rusty says now. “Insurance is the last industry on Earth to exercise any kind of creativity.” That honest admission doesn’t offend Frank, who says he wanted, and still wants, his sons to be happy.
Rusty and Dave laugh about the ideas they tossed around back then, including operating a gas station, hardware store or restaurant. They say they were a bit scared to tell their dad they wanted out of insurance; after all, Frank had built a family empire that was not only lucrative, but gave his sons plenty of time to have fun, too. Rusty and Dave say their father’s response was so important for the next step of their careers and their lives.
“I don’t care what we do,” Frank said then, “as long as we’re doing it as a family.”
The brothers had always liked to tinker — Dave is the “maker” in the family, who likes to take apart computers and cameras. As young adults, they played around with hand-held video recorders. The Prevatt’s family pastor was at home, watching one of Rusty’s amateur motocross videos that turned out not to be so amateur, when his neighbor stopped by. That neighbor was Ray Jensen, a video producer for the Sacramento Kings, and he was intrigued by the video. Soon after, in 2005, he invited Rusty to a Kings game to watch Jensen work. When Jensen walked Rusty to his car, he asked what he thought. “I said, ‘Man, I’d do this for free,’ ” Rusty recalls telling Jensen, who responded, “ ‘You don’t have to do it for free. I want to hire you.’ ”
“We wanted to create something that represented how this sport could touch every corner of Sacramento. … We couldn’t be happier with the impact ‘The Chant’ would go on to have for this club and launching this movement.”JOE WAGONER, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC FC
Rusty became a freelance camera operator, and the more video he shot, the more projects he was offered. Pretty soon, he had so much work he brought Dave on board. They set up an editing bay in a bedroom at the back of Rusty’s home. They took the marketing principles they learned in the insurance industry and launched Franklin Pictures in 2006. Two years later, dad came out of retirement to join his sons again as CFO. Their motto? Pay attention to detail. Treat people like you want to be treated. Operate with integrity.
Franklin Pictures is working on 15 to 20 projects. During the photo shoot for the United Way commercial, the Franklin crew is on the playground of an elementary school. Rusty is directing three young girls in the shot. Dave is operating the camera, holding it low to the ground as the girls scrawl out a hopscotch board with colored chalk and play on it. The team carefully scripts each scene before the shoot.
“When we shoot a commercial that’s scripted, we already know each scene, each shot and how it’s going to look,” Dave says. “A lot more thought goes into every shot, every edit, every sound, every movement that’s being directed. It’s all wrapped into telling a proper story.” It takes more to tell a story than simply a pretty image, Rusty adds.
Jody Bogle knows a thing or two about family businesses. She and her two brothers run Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg. She tells the story of how Franklin Pictures did a video shoot in the vineyards at 2 a.m. for their “Phantom” vintage red blend. The video depicts a ghostly image some claim to have seen at Bogle winery.
“Almost everything they’ve ever done has given me goosebumps,” Jody Bogle says. “There’s just some magic to it.”
Some family businesses don’t work out. The siblings quarrel or compete with each other or one partner tries to control the operation. The Franklins say that’s not the case with their company. “We are all equal partners here. We all have equal say,” Frank says.
Filming in Guatemala, along the picturesque Central Coast, in California’s rich agricultural land and at top sporting events, the brothers no longer feel unfulfilled. “We realized we can work hard, but also enjoy that work,” Rusty says. “With family, we trust each other and know we have each other’s back. It’s the way we were raised.”