Conrad & Laura Denke
American Production Services was founded by Conrad and Laura Denke in 1973, who later changed the name to Victory Studios in 2002. The Denkes’ commitment to their dream of producing film and video entertainment has been revered by communities worldwide. As the industry has evolved over the past four decades so has the studio, employing over a hundred artists & engineers, contracting freelancers and offering internships to hardworking students emerging into the competitive field. Conrad and Laura have displayed assiduous devotion to the clients and people who have helped make Victory Studios Seattle’s largest production house.
Victory Studios (“Company”), formerly known as American Production Services (APS) was founded by Conrad and Laura Denke in 1978. Prior to that, Conrad graduated from the University of Washington and Laura from BYU, both in the arts. After school, Conrad spent four years making films in Asia for the United States Air Force. Upon his return to Seattle in 1973, he became the Director of Production for Cinema Associates, a Seattle film company. At the same time, Laura was studying with Martha Graham in New York and choreographing and performing in Summer Stock musicals. Conrad and Laura both returned to Seattle in 1974, met, and were married in 1975. Three years later, Conrad and Laura started their own business in part of their home in Seattle’s Ballard district. The challenge was to survive the first few years.
One of Victory Studios’ first clients was the Robbins Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of tunneling machines. It took nearly two years to complete the first film for them entitled Tunnels Under Chicago. The film won several national and international awards. About the same time, The Weyerhaeuser Company contracted Victory to produce a film on soil surveys. This film won a Cine Golden Eagle award and led to many more productions for Weyerhaeuser.
The Company reached a point where it was impossible to keep the business going without some help to run the office, but income was insufficient at first to be able to afford anyone. Conrad and Laura looked for ways to have an additional person generate some income while taking care of the office. An opportunity came when a typesetting company down the street was going out of business. They acquired the client list, purchased a computer typesetter, hired an assistant, and taught her how to set type. This became American Typesetting, an income generating business, which provided the needed office help.
In the early 80′s, several requests for video production indicated that a shift in the market from film to video was inevitable and imminent. In cooperation with a client, the company acquired some video equipment and began producing on tape. Early efforts included a series on hair styling, and another on flower arranging.
After producing many video programs and finishing them at local video postproduction houses, it became apparent that video editing facilities in the Northwest were inadequate. The broadcast houses were too expensive, and the industrial houses too unprofessional. Conrad and Laura began to pursue investment money to put together their own video editing facility. It took nearly a year, but the loans were finally approved. Shortly thereafter, they acquired a company that did high-speed audiocassette duplicating.
The business saw steady growth and more employees were added as they filled a need in the marketplace. The company expanded its video duplicating capacity, and established a rental facility for production equipment. With the increase in the video side, it became apparent that the typesetting business did not fit the picture anymore, and it was sold in 1984.
In addition to the development of the company, Conrad and Laura became involved in the community and other ventures. Conrad became President of the International Television Association in Seattle and started the Emerald City Awards. He later joined the board of the Washington Film & Video Association and was elected President of The Association of Independent Commercial Producers. Laura increased the size of her ballet business, and moved her school to a large studio in North Seattle. Her ballet company – Seattle Children’s Ballet – became very successful, toured Europe, and developed exchanges with the USSR and Australia.
One of the overall goals for Conrad and Laura was to produce uplifting family entertainment for TV and Cinema. When the production business became financially viable, Laura decided to sell the ballet company and turn her full concentration to production. In addition, the Company built a 3,500 square foot sound stage named Studio One in the Fremont district. Now having most of the necessary facilities, Conrad and Laura produced their first program; a children’s special called Adventures on Sinclair Island. Laura wrote and directed the program, and it was sold to stations in the United States and to a number of foreign countries.
In 1987 a distribution arm was formed to diversify within the television entertainment business. They acquired several additional TV programs for distribution from other producers. Two shows were placed on the Nostalgia Channel nationwide, and other programs were sold to The Disney Channel, The BBC in England, Canada’s Family Channel, NHK in Japan, and networks in several other countries.
In 1988, the Company produced 39 episodes of a talk show for teenagers called Teens Talk, starring Laura as host. Its purpose was to help teenagers understand and better cope with the numerous important issues affecting them. The program appeared locally on Channels 13, 22, and 9, weekly on the ACTS National Cable Network, over satellite in the US and Canada, and on several other stations throughout the country.
1989 was a year for major changes. After 11+ years in two houses in Ballard, the company purchased the former Armed Forces Induction Center building on Seattle’s 15th Avenue West. In July of that year, the entire company was moved. At the same time, Studio One’s lease ran out, and it was decided to build two studios in the new building. The company eliminated all names except for one. The facility became American Production Services.
In the 90′s, American Production Services matured to a major force in film and video in the Northwest. The company included a studio, rental facilities, camera crews, editing bays, computer graphics, audio sweetening, audio CD/tape and video duplicating, DVD authoring, and music and stock footage libraries. In 1991, the company started producing its own trade magazine, ONLINE, which was distributed regionally to the film and video business. In 1993 Conrad produced a “made for TV” movie entitled William, which was sold for broadcast in Europe.
In 1994, APS opened an office in Redmond to service eastside clients. The same year, Conrad began producing documentaries for PBS. The series was called National Desk and 16 hour-long programs were produced for national PBS distribution over a five-year period. The series won many national awards. National Desk was discontinued in 2000, and Conrad formed a new non-profit corporation called E Pluribus Unum Films for producing public affairs national programming. In 1998, the Redmond location was sold and a building was purchased in North Hollywood where American Production Services LA was established. A year before, Conrad had invested in an HD editing facility in Seattle – one of the first in the US. HD was added to the LA facility in 1999 and American Production Services became well known nationally as a pioneer in 24P High Definition Production and Post. In 2000, the publication ONLINE was replaced with HIGHDEF Magazine, a national publication featuring projects done in HD with Laura serving as its Editor. Also in 2000, APS purchased the telecine facility from Pinnacle Productions in Seattle and replaced its smaller studio with two telecine rooms.
In 2001, a decision was made by Conrad and Laura to spend more time in production and Marketing in Los Angeles, so they brought in Mark MacDonald to run the company as President, with Conrad assuming the role of CEO and Laura as Executive Vice President. In mid-2002, the Denke’s altered the structure of the organization and changed the name from American Production Services to Victory Studios.
In 2003, seeing the cost of technology decline and a resulting increase in competition even from its clients, Victory altered its long-standing tradition of avoiding full production of corporate and commercial content. Victory now provides any production services needed (e.g., creative design, writing, directing, crewing, talent, etc.) to a wide range of clients (e.g., consumer, broadcast, filmmakers, sports teams, wholesalers, ad agencies, corporations, etc.) needing a wide range of audio/visual products (e.g., commercials, movies, corporate communication videos, training videos, sports teams, documentaries, etc.) distributed in a variety of mediums (e.g., theater, broadcast TV and radio, podcast, webinars, YouTube, PPV, stadium display boards, discs, etc.).
Victory is committed to evolving with an ever-changing market in all methods of distribution, styles of communication, creative design and technology. Along the way, many very talented individuals who share the vision that Conrad and Laura began have joined Victory Studios. The Company’s success now lies in its attention to our unifying principles and emphasis on giving our clients memorable experiences and products. This history is provided so that, as Victory Studios grows, its people will never forget where the company came from, and what made it all possible: our vision, our great people and our great customers.