SouthEast Stories: Jonathan Halley, Big Slate Media
Calm Before the Storm
In March 2020, Jonathan Halley was facing a very uncertain future.
Along with the team at his video production company, Big Slate Media, Jonathan was on location about to begin a project in Gatlinburg, Tennessee when the realities of the coronavirus pandemic began to unfold across the country.
Forced to turn down the job in Gatlinburg, Jonathan watched as projects he had planned for his team for the year started canceling. One-by-one, the concerts, festivals, and events that made up so much of Big Slate Media’s revenue had either gone virtual or were not happening at all.
“Gigs started canceling, and the work started drying up,” says Jonathan.
Like so many small businesses, Jonathan needed help keeping his staff together while he planned what to do next. His company that began as a side hustle shooting drone footage in 2015 had expanded into one of the fastest-growing video production companies in the region, with clients who continually worked with Jonathan and his team for their video content needs.
For visual storytellers like Jonathan, it’s never been about how to make the most money. Rather, he and his team at Big Slate Media have always believed telling a great story was the greatest reward with the job.
“A lot of people get into video production because it’s what they love to do and not for the paycheck,” says Jonathan. “I think that’s true for everyone on my team. We’re here for the message and we’re here for the story.”
A True Partner
At this moment, though, he was searching for a bank to partner with him to help keep his business and his experienced, highly skilled staff intact. Jonathan tried working with several area banks to secure federal funding provided through pandemic relief, and each time he was left at a dead end.
“When the PPP money and the EIDL money became available, every banker I talked to said, ‘Oh yeah, I got you,’” says Jonathan. “As we now know, none of them had us and nobody knew what was going on at all.”
Exasperated and trying to save his company, Jonathan found a partner in SouthEast Bank. It was a relationship that began years earlier when Jonathan first started to look for ways to grow his company. Within a week, Jonathan had the funds he needed to continue paying his staff and operating his business.
“I truly believe SouthEast Bank had my best interests at heart and knew what they were doing,” says Jonathan.
A Brighter Future
With much-needed relief money available for his company, Jonathan was able to keep his staff and shift from shooting events to producing stories of how companies in the area were doing what they could to help combat the pandemic through COVID safety protocols. Jonathan was also able to turn some of his attention to volunteering his resources to helping some of Knoxville's most beloved institutions that were struggling with new lockdown protocols.
“We reached out to the Tennessee Theater, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Clarence Brown Theater, and several other places to say, ‘Hey, we have cameras, and you can’t reach your audience right now. Is there anything we can do?’” says Jonathan.
Through that work, Big Slate Media produced a concert series for the Tennessee Theater, as well as loaned gear and provided training and consulting to the Clarence Brown Theater at the University of Tennessee.
“If you look at the full trickle-down of SouthEast Bank doing its job and fostering our relationship all the way down to when we needed them, they were there,” says Jonathan. “Because they were there, we had the finances to be able to affect our community in a time that’s been really terrible on the arts and culture society.”
In the middle of a global tragedy, SouthEast Bank enabled Jonathan and his team at Big Slate Media to create difference-making work that had a major impact on the Knoxville community. It’s a partnership that continues to this day and a relationship that’s built on trust, dependability and the promise that throughout life’s ups and downs, there’s a bank that’s ready to support business customers when they need it most.
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