The woman behind 'Macho Men' returns to Detroit to turn a stage show into a franchise
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Detroit native Maria Costa and her husband, Francisco Segovia, hope to develop her stage show into something more using a business model resembling Tyler Perry's "Madea" franchise.
When Detroit native Maria Costa and her husband, Francisco Segovia, visited Detroit last year to attend to family matters, they decided to meet with TechTown representatives.
That was a fortunate decision, because TechTown took them on as one of roughly 150 members to which the organization provides business development coaching and other resources.
The husband-and-wife team subsequently moved to metro Detroit from Los Angeles to launch a franchise based on a stage show Costa developed called "Macho Men and the Women Who Love Them."
The show features Costa performing comic vignettes of characters found in the Latino culture. Costa and Segovia formed Oro Entertainment Inc., now based in Lincoln Park, to develop the show into a franchise using a business model akin to Tyler Perry's "Madea" franchise.
" 'Macho Men' is an exaggeration of the truth based on a combination of many Latino men I've met with characterizations that are over-the-top," Costa said. "It's about an independent, modern woman who met a traditional man with traditional values, and his expectations are different from how I think a relationship should go."
Oro Entertainment plans to spin off the live show — which has sold out in theaters along the West Coast in audiences ranging from 1,500 to 5,000 — into a feature film and, eventually, a television series.
Planned sequels include "Macho Men and the Women Who Marry Them," "Macho Men and the Women Who Love Them Have a Baby," "Macho Men and the Women Who Love Them: A Family Reunion" and "Macho Men and the Women Who Love Them Go on Vacation."
"Without a doubt, (Oro) is an ideal company for what we do," said Herb Drayton, Oro's entrepreneurial champion at TechTown. "They've already experienced great success, so their business model is good, and they are coachable."
Oro has staged nearly 100 live shows, including 15 cities throughout Europe and at events such as the National Council of La RazaAnnual Conference and the NAACP Theatre Awards.
TechTown has helped Costa and Segovia get in front of potential sponsors and donors to fund their projects. It also helped them get a deal with PBS to distribute their content and connected them to the Dearborn-based advertising agency ASG Renaissance, which is working on a commission basis to raise sponsorships.
Through its relationship with TechTown, Oro Entertainment received a $3,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.to complete a feature film script. It is eligible to receive an additional second-tier grant of $37,000 for further film development.
This kind of funding isn't available in Los Angeles, where a company would approach a bank once the whole package — a completed script, talent and foreign distribution — is in place, Segovia said.
"There are a lot of financial opportunities here in Detroit for our business," he said. "Here, we are part of a business community. If we say we want to meet with PBS or need an ad agency, doors open."
The project is in development, confirmed Rich Homberg, president and general manager of WTVS Detroit Public TV, the local PBS affiliate.
"We are working on a show with them, and they are currently getting funding," Homberg said. "There seems to be good energy with the national production group who think they've got potential."
Oro Entertainment will launch a 16-city tour July 26 at the theater in the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, followed by two additional shows in August. Another show in a yet-to-be-determined venue in Detroit will be filmed for PBS most likely in the fall.
Costa and Segovia are meeting with angel investors and venture capitalists to raise money to complete the development package, which requires $4 million to produce the feature film and $1.5 million for the 16-city live show.
The team hopes to get much of the money needed for the tour by selling sponsorships for the PBS show to advertisers looking to reach the Hispanic market in the 16 cities.
"The airing on PBS really is a marketing vehicle for the 'Macho Men' film to expand the fan base around the country," Segovia said.
Costa, a Detroit native who grew up in and around Mexicantown, attended Wayne State University before heading to Los Angeles 15 years ago at the encouragement of Jeff Daniels, who directed her in a production at The Purple Rose Theatre Co.in Chelsea.
Since then, she has appeared on several prime time television shows, including "Ugly Betty," "Brimstone" and "Joan of Arcadia."
It was an HBO executive who encouraged Costa to expand her "Macho Men" character. Costa wrote an initial script of "Macho Men" along with Hollywood comedy writer Rick Najera, who has been co-writer on all "Macho Men" projects since then. She performed the show, inviting representatives from networks such as HBO, Showtime and Comedy Centralto showcase her work.
"At that point, there were some offers, but they wanted everything, including creative control and a percentage of the royalties," said Segovia, who is the show's producer.
"At that point, we thought, 'Why don't we develop it?' " The couple created the company in 2007.
Segovia, who owned a mortgage company in Los Angeles, put in an initial investment of $40,000.
They presented a tape to Image Entertainment, which was interested in filming the show at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. The resulting DVD was distributed to 300 Target stores in key Hispanic markets as well as Amazon and Netflix. The show had 672 downloads in 2010, the latest data available.Last year's revenue reflected Oro Entertainment's focus on planning and relocation. The company only grossed $10,000, mainly from a few shows and revenue from DVD sales.
This year, projected revenue is $162,000, based on numerous live shows to be held in the final quarter of the year.
Although Detroit may seem an unlikely place to put a production company, plenty of filmmakers base their companies where they live, said Chris Green of the 5,100-member Producers Guild of America, based in Beverly Hills, Calif.
"They have roots (in Detroit) and draw a lot of content from their community," Green said. "Ultimately, the content is what matters, and any producer or distributor will tell you that. The biggest challenge for any producer is getting the material in front of studios or networks that can distribute it to a wider audience.
"It is an uphill battle virtually for everyone. Even the most established producers have a fair number of hurdles to jump. But if you have a basic level of talent and ability with something to sell or say and put the time and effort into it, you will get your opportunities, and then it's just a matter of making the most of it."
Carol Dunitz, who also performs a one-woman show in Southeast Michigan, said Oro's goals are reasonable, especially because Costa has experience. The issue is having the funding.
"The biggest challenge I hear is from the economy," Dunitz said. "People are keeping their wallets much closer to their belts, a lot of organizations aren't willing to spend, and theaters are less likely to take as many risks."
Dunitz said companies have to be creative with their marketing and constantly approach new groups and venues.
One thing Costa said is missing in the Detroit area is an established film industry.
"In L.A., there are always red-carpet events — movie premieres, DVD release parties — and that's really missing here," she said. "That was part of how you do business, and that really helps."
Oro's appeal for Detroit, TechTown's Drayton said, is that it could create jobs through theatrical productions and film production, and it represents "a move away from some of the traditional kinds of businesses we think of in this area, which makes for a more robust economy."