MPG unaffected by Oprah’s departure

Media Process Group moved into its West Loop facility in 2005 in part to be closer to Harpo Studios, which is just a few blocks east of MPG on Washington Boulevard.

But even with Oprah Winfrey’s announcement that she’d end her talk show on Sept. 9, 2011 after 25 years on the air, co-owner Bob Hercules was confident about prospects for his company.

“One thing I’ve learned in 24 years [at MPG] is that clients change all the time,” Hercules says. “This has been a great run on ?Oprah’ for many years, but all good things come to an end.

“We weren’t surprised by the announcement ? everybody knew it was coming. Others may have made a mistake to think it would last forever, but we’re always out pitching new business.”

Hercules said Harpo field shoots account for about 10% of MPG’s business. Over the past 10 years, Hercules’s MPG partner, Keith Walker, has filmed Oprah on trips as far flung as South Africa, Paris and Auschwitz.

“All indications we’ve seen are that Harpo is going to stay in Chicago and that they’re developing new shows, and Oprah will do stuff on her OWN network,” a multi-platform joint venture with the Discovery Channel, scheduled to launch in January 2011.

“There may not be much loss of income for us at all,” Hercules says.

Composer Vince Lawrence of Slang Music Group agrees with Hercules’ assessment. In fact, he sees Oprah’s new network as an expanded source of continuing business.

“Whereas there was one Oprah show, there probably will be at least ten or more for her new network. They will be producing an immense amount of original programming, like movies, series and specials,” he says, adding that his company has two shows in development, ostensibly to be pitched to OWN.

Lawrence estimates that 20% of his music business comes from the Oprah show, including scores for the show itself, promos, bumpers, commercials and major TV specials.

“It saddens me that Oprah is leaving, but we are connected. Her moving away from Chicago does not mean we will become disconnected. Our business has never been predicated on geography,” he says.

Walker was the DP of Winfrey’s “Christmas at the White House” Dec. 13 ABC primetime special. MPG staffer Mike Swanson was one of eight camera operators on the shoot, and MPG hired sounder recordist Thomas Zimmerman. Harpo supplied production and lighting crew, supplemented by freelancers from around the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Lawrence’s Slang Music added another Chicago presence to the White House special by scoring and recording all of the music for the show.

The shoot took place a week after Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashed the White House state dinner. But Walker said security procedures were comparable to those he’d experienced during the two times he’d filmed there during the Clinton administration.

Walker is in demand for international shoots as well. This year he filmed promotional videos for the Gates Foundation in Ethiopia and microfinance organization Opportunity International in Ghana.

Media Process Group is at 1327 W. Washington Blvd.; phone, 312/850-1300. See

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