He built a million-dollar one-man business around his love of film and television


Pete Chatmon followed his passion for storytelling and created a one-man million dollar business along the way. He is a television and film director who runs the production company The director in Los Angeles.

Chatmon has directed over 60 television episodes, including HBO Max’s Air Hostess, Insecure, Silicon Valleyand Love life; You, on Netflix; ABC Grey’s Anatomy and Blackish; and AppleTV mythical quest. Recently, Chatmon served as co-executive producer for Reasonable doubta new show for Hulu.

Chatmon’s production company began creating branded content for advertisers in 2014, relying on the help of a team of contractors. He started producing podcasts (including his own, Let’s shoot! with Pete Chatmon, where he interviews directors); short films; commercials and direct television. “It’s an ecosystem of creative solutions, anchored around my hiring to lead,” he says.

Chatmon is part of a rapidly growing trend: the rise of million-dollar one-person businesses. In 2019, there were 43,012 businesses with no employees except owners that fell into the $1 million to $2.49 million revenue category, up from 41,666 in 2018, according to the US Census Bureau. Another 2,553 reached $2.5 million to $4.99 million in revenue, and 388 reached $5 million in revenue and beyond.

“I think in today’s world, what’s really exciting for almost any business is that there’s been different levels of democratization,” Chatmon says. “To me, in particular, your phone is a camera. When I started, I had to go into debt at NYU Film School to touch a camera. The barriers to entry have been lowered. Access to the information has been reinforced. You add your passion and perseverance to this cocktail, and there is not much you cannot accomplish.

After picking up his first Super 8 camera at NYU Film School, Chatmon began his career making short films and went to the Sundance Film Festival with his NYU thesis film, 3D, in which Kerry Washington starred. He then wrote and directed the feature film Primewhich premiered on Showtime after a limited theatrical run.

In 2017, his little shop was doing well with branded content for Fortune 100 companies and ad agencies. “We would provide them with video content that the brand would share with their social media channels, mostly,” Chatmon says.

Chatmon moved to Los Angeles, where he continued to do branding work, but remained open to other opportunities. “As television directing has become a bigger volume, it’s been added to the portfolio,” he says.

It was during those years that he learned an important lesson: “Whatever you do creatively, you have to master your craft,” he says. “You have to be curious about what came before you and what’s come out now.”

But beyond that, he learned that to take the independent route, he also needed to understand the business of his craft. “You have to be aware of the business side of it, the specifics of your business,” he says. “It’s different for film, television, commercials.”

To keep business running, Chatmon works with its clients to help them deliver content that not only meets their creative needs, but fits their budgets. “I appreciate where a client comes from,” he says. “If we have $30,000 to make a short film, we try to make those numbers work.”

Chatmon has seen his business grow during the pandemic. “A lot of content producers and distributors have recognized that storing more of it makes sense,” he says. “There was a lot more production. If it happens again, the networks will want to have more content in the well.

Recently, Chatmon has entered another field: as a book author. Earlier this year he released Transitions: A Director’s Journey and Motivational Handbook. “It’s full of principles that, in retrospect, were the North Star of what we do,” he says. “This is a book I wanted to read all the years trying to find a way to connect the dots and get paid for what I was trying to do.”


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