Today, Jeff Becker runs Cinevo, a growing business for cinema equipment rentals with a strong presence in both the Phoenix and Los Angeles markets.
But a decade ago, he was a man who needed a change. With an education in electrical engineering and experience as a marketing executive for companies like Bank of America, Intel and Honeywell, Jeff Becker was high up on the corporate ladder by his thirties. But years of traveling for work left him longing for more stability.
“My daughter learned to walk when I was somewhere in India, and I didn’t get to see it,” he tells MovieMaker. “These things started to kind of weigh on me.”
During his last year in the corporate world, he worked for Lumasense, a company that used camera light sensors to detect the temperature in hot, hard-to-reach areas like coal power plants, volcanos, and glass factories. He was based in Arizona but estimates that he traveled a quarter of a million miles by plane.
“I would go to Southeast Asia a lot. I had a team in Germany and northern Europe. I had a team in the central U.S. I was just on a plane all the time doing conference calls, crazy hours in the morning, that sort of thing. And while that was a ton of fun, and I did that my whole career and I got to travel the world and meet all sorts of cool people, it’s hard to balance that with a family and little kids,” Becker says.
Becoming His Own Boss
He decided he needed to become his own boss. He just needed to find the right business. First, he started a water treatment company. But when he learned that a Phoenix camera and equipment rental company called Reel Men was up for sale — the founder was a gaffer by trade and wanted to get back to working on sets — Becker decided to check it out.
What he saw changed his life.
“I fell in love as soon as I walked into the shop for the first time,” Becker says.
There was just one snag — he didn’t have any background in movies or television.
“It’s an incredibly steep learning curve to walk into a business like this and reach a level of technical competency. It’s not just learning all the equipment — even the vocabulary is different,” Becker says.
But he refused to let what he didn’t know slow him down.
“It’s a never-ending process. But I think the only solution to do it is just to completely immerse yourself in filmmaking and just learn as much as you possibly can as fast as you can. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it all by myself. We had employees, we had crews that were in town, and I was constantly building sets. So when we were slow at the shop, we would practice.”
He sold his water treatment business and focused on Reel Men. That was 10 years ago, and it’s been nonstop growth ever since. In 2021, he acquired a second camera-rental business in Culver City called Brain Box Cameras in order to expand his inventory of equipment. This past fall, he merged Brain Box and Reel Men together and rebranded them into one larger company called Cinevo. Becker is the president and CEO.
Now, Cinevo is in the perfect position to capitalize on Arizona’s new film and television tax incentives bill, which just went into effect at the start of the year.
Cinevo clients, whose projects range from film and television to social media and commercials, will now have access to rental equipment from both the Phoenix and Los Angeles offices.
The Phoenix branch offers everything from trucking to generators to grip and electric to cameras and lenses. Becker can source cameras and lenses from his Culver City location while still remaining eligible for Arizona tax incentives to clients renting from the Phoenix office.
Cinevo chief operating officer Ben Ragains says one of the most popular cameras to rent are the Alexa 35, the Sony PXW-FX9, and the Sony Venice II. A lot has changed since he graduated from college in 2006, when Hollywood had not yet transitioned away from shooting mostly on film.
“It’s really interesting to think of how the industry has advanced in such a small amount of time,” Ragains says.
Of course, no one rental house can cater to every type of production — but Cinevo comes pretty close.
“If you are shooting the next Avengers movie, we’re not the rental house for you, and we realize that. But likewise, the right rental house for the Avengers movie is not the right person to go to if you’re shooting a commercial or you’re shooting a low-budget feature,” Becker says. “We’ve kind of defined this nice, medium spot in the middle of the market where we feel like there’s not a lot of good rental houses to serve that market, and we’re ideally positioned to do it.”
Arizona Tax Incentives
The new Arizona tax incentive bill promises to bring millions of dollars in incentives to productions that shoot in Arizona. Becker expects it will be a huge boon for Cinevo’s Phoenix office — though perhaps not right away, as it takes time for productions to select locations and begin shooting.
“We have been operating without tax incentives for quite a long time — for more than 10 years. It will make a pretty large impact in terms of the amount of production work out here, 100%,” Becker says. “Right now it’s much cheaper to shoot in Arizona than it is in L.A. Everything just costs less.”
For years, Becker has watched in frustration as productions traveled from Los Angeles to New Mexico in search of tax incentives, completely passing by Arizona and all it has to offer.
“If there was a level playing field, a lot of those projects that are currently in New Mexico would just be shot in Arizona,” he says. “I don’t think it’s going to immediately hit and there’s going to be like this giant spike of work — I think what’s going to happen is, as people are trying to decide where they want to shoot their project, now we’re a consideration. And as new projects come online and they go through that process, more and more, they’re going to select to shoot in Arizona.”
Main Image: Cinevo president and CEO Jeff Becker. Photo courtesy of Cinevo.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Winter 2023 print issue of MovieMaker Magazine.