Nathan Gardocki has spent most of his life in Oklahoma – he grew up here, graduated from Bishop McGuinness High School and started his own equipment rental business while still in college – and almost as much in film.
“In fifth grade, I started borrowing my dad’s camera and writing scripts with my friends,” Gardocki says. “I filmed plays at my school. Then in high school, my friends and I made a couple of films for a film contest, and even made a two-hour James Bond movie. It wasn’t all great. But I kept feeding that passion. I always knew I wanted to go to film school.”
After researching film programs, Gardocki found what he was looking for at Oklahoma City University. Fritz Kiersch, director of the original Children of the Corn and co-founder of the film program at OCCC, had launched a four-year program at OCU and was executive producing a feature film called Unsolved on campus that summer.
“I applied and got accepted to OCU the summer they made the movie Unsolved,” Nathan recalls. “I was shocked at how many people it took to do the film, but I was excited to get to work on a feature film before entering college.”
“Growing up, I really wanted to be a director, because I thought that was the person that put everything together,” Gardocki continues. “On Unsolved, I saw that the director ran the creative side and the producers handled all of the logistics, scheduling, budgeting and managed the crew. That’s how my brain is wired. I was immediately drawn to the production side.”
Since Unsolved, Gardocki has worked on 25 feature films, including Rudderless, The Killer Inside Me, Crazy Enough and Te Ata. For 12 of those films, he has served as unit production manager, the person who hires the crew and oversees every aspect of the production.
But production work is only half of the story. Gardocki was equally quick to understand that the people making a living in the film industry weren’t just working production to production; they owned their own side businesses, such as hair salons or catering companies. He looked around to see what was needed and acted quickly to address it.
“In college, there was not a lot of equipment available,” Gardocki admits. “A fellow student said he was looking to rent a specific camera. I asked if he would rent it from me if I bought one. He said yes and rented it for four days, and he connected me with Skyline Media, who also wanted to rent my camera. Then Skyline asked if I had sound equipment, so I went out and bought it. The demand from locals started growing.”
Nathan Gardocki Productions started in 2008 in Nathan’s garage. The company moved into a warehouse and incorporated in 2011, and moved into its present location – with triple the size and a full-time staff – in 2014. Now Nathan Gardocki Productions is the largest film and video equipment rental house in Oklahoma, providing camera, sound, grip, electric and production gear to nearly every film, television show and commercial produced in Oklahoma.
“Our first clients were student films, then small ad agencies, then small independent films, then big ad agencies, then big movies,” Gardocki says. “Now we can do three movies with full production and sound. We have been buying to meet demand; now we are starting to get ahead of the demand.”
Gardocki is quick to point out that family has been key to his success. His wife, Angela, has been with him since the beginning; his older brother, Matt, does freelance visual effects and DIT work on their productions; and the man who helps keep the rental business running is his younger brother, Jonathan.
“ … Jonathan got interested in film at OCU and started working part time for me,” Gardocki says. “After college, he took over the organization of the equipment, streamlined the rental process, took everything online and created a database and a website. It was not a dynamic I had counted on, but it has been crucial to our success.”
Now Nathan Gardocki is looking to the future. Last month, he launched a film workshop for 45 students to help them get on-set experience working with professionals on an actual film.
“My main interest is growing the workforce and providing a bridge between the local college programs and the professional film community,” Gardocki concludes. “We are here to stay, so we want to do whatever we can to help build the industry in Oklahoma, and help others succeed.”