McDONALD -- At 6 years old, when his mother took him to the taping of a TV talk show, Martin Graff knew how he wanted to spend his career.
"I knew from that day I wanted to be behind the camera," he said. "It seemed so cool, so thrilling, to be involved in the production, to film the action."
All of the advice he received, though, as he grew up and began to seriously consider a career, was that the video business was too hard to break into, there were no career opportunities and no money. But through all the other things he did -- such as studying art, opening an art gallery and getting degrees in business and communications from Cleveland State -- Graff always remembered that 6-year-old who liked taking pictures of the action. He was determined that it would be part of who he is.
"I was going to make it work because I loved it," he said. "I always kept on coming back to it."
Graff worked on the fringes of the business while in college and later while he was running the art gallery in Rocky River by working at the old Coliseum.
From there he worked his way up the ranks of one of the largest production companies in Cleveland, Classic Worldwide.
Needing more challenge, he opened his own business.
Clients: Most of his clients are out of the area. He has filmed pieces for Oprah, Animal Planet, TLC and CBS News as well as commercials for companies and broadcast TV.
Graff and a client spent three years filming a PBS documentary called "Self-Determination for the Mentally Handicapped." He is proud of the project, not just as a work product but because it changed the way some people and governments think about the capabilities of the mentally handicapped.
"My mother always taught me you need to be happy in what you do in life," he said. "But you also need to try to make a difference in other people's lives."
Four years ago, Graff moved from his native Cleveland to this area when he met and married his wife. Because his business is conducted all over the world, his office location was easier to change and he saw a void for independent studios in this area that he hopes to fill.
Job conditions: From the outside, filmmaking seems to be a glamorous way to make a living, and sometimes it is, said Graff.
But there are other times when it means 24-hour-plus days in conditions that are, at best, uncomfortable. It's a competitive business, so to make it, Graff must stay up-to-date in both technology and artistry and must temper his practical and creative sides.
But he's where he wants to be, doing what he loves -- and at this point in his life, he wouldn't have it any other way.