Terry Leahy (TerryLeahyFilms)
By Leo Dillinger
Photo provided by Terry Leahy
Being an entrepreneur requires a great deal of ambition, courage to overcome the fear of failure, and the proper skill set needed to attain your goals. Which is why this year, the Entrepreneur of the Year Award goes to Terry Leahy of TerryLeahyFilms, who has spent the last two years producing and directing Manayunk’s first-ever web series and working with local businesses on video marketing.
Working at a movie theater in high school sparked Terry’s interest in the industry, leading him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video at Penn State University. As an 18-year-old having never used a camera before, he entered his first video production class with a determination to learn as much as possible. He even reshot an entire project to fix the mistakes from his initial submission for extra points. His professor was so impressed by Terry’s drive for perfection that he helped him lock in a part-time job at a PBS station in State College, which he held throughout his college tenure.
“It literally became, ‘Do you want to skip college real quick?’” Terry said jokingly. “And that’s what it felt like, because it was so different. You learn all the technique and the physical toll that it can put on you. Eventually, I was shooting stuff remotely for ESPN. You can’t do that if you’re a student, but because I was already working in the industry, I was able to.”
After college, Terry accepted a full-time job at QVC but immediately realized it wasn’t the right fit for him. Coming from a background in news and sports, he found the work too boring and the crew too apathetic. Terry decided to quit and move back to his hometown of Saratoga Springs, NY.
One day, Terry noticed a car that had “Bigler Productions” written on the side. Out of curiosity, he emailed the company’s owner, Dave Bigler, and offered to volunteer his time to help in order to keep his skills sharp. Dave spoke with him over coffee about his professional experience and soon after, invited Terry to a shoot that night to showcase what he could do. Sure enough, Terry proved his worth and the very next day, Dave offered him a part-time job. Over time, part-time became full-time and eventually a partnership in the company, spearheading a corporate marketing division.
“YouTube had finally hit, so companies were ready to start tapping into it,” Terry said. “In that town, there were only three of us who knew how to shoot. So we had to figure it out and before too long, people started throwing money at us. Dave really showed me how to start a small company and run it successfully.”
By the time he turned 27, Terry had amassed nearly a decade of videography experience as well as a full arsenal of camera equipment. He knew it was time to take that leap of faith and venture off to start his own company: TerryLeahyFilms.
Being originally from the Philadelphia area, Terry figured it would be a good place to start. Terry researched different neighborhoods where small businesses were thriving with a functioning chamber of commerce. When he came across Manayunk.com’s massive online and social media presence, he immediately contacted Executive Director, Jane Lipton, to discuss ways to work with the community. Coincidentally, he reached out at the right time for the inaugural Best Of Manayunk event and was put to work filming red carpet interviews. The final videos came out so well that Terry proposed taking this partnership with the neighborhood a step further.
“I had a plan that I wanted to start a video series in town so that I could meet everybody and they could see what I could do,” Terry said. “When the conversation of compensation about Best Of Manayunk came up, I told Jane that instead of getting paid, I wanted help to executive produce a local show, and that’s essentially how Manayunk Mornings got started.”
Now two years and nearly 40 episodes later, the show has entered its third season of featuring everything the neighborhood has to offer and gaining thousands of views with every episode.
“The most important decision I’ve made in the last three years was meeting with Manayunk.com because that changed everything.”
Since starting his own company, Terry has gained a vast array of clients (including a number of Manayunk businesses) and traveled all across the country from Los Angeles to Chicago to North Carolina for shoots. But with more clients comes more deadlines, and Terry quickly learned he couldn’t do everything on his own. Now, Terry has a team with the right skills in place to handle editing, coloring, and audio, which gives him more time to handle the production side of things.
“I didn’t put my name on the company out of arrogance. I put it on to let people know I am steering this ship,” Terry said. “I got into this business to direct. I can always guarantee I will be on that set.”
In today’s digital age, the demand for video content has skyrocketed, and Terry has taken notice. Terry wouldn’t be where he is today without the people who believed in his work. And, it goes without saying that his work speaks for itself. Although he is eager to see what the future has in store for TerryLeahyFilms, he’ll always remember Manayunk for the special role it has played in his life.
“I’m here to help,” Terry plainly stated. “The reason I’m in this specific area is to help it grow and become whatever it was meant to be. You can always call. I’ll take any meeting and have any conversation with anybody in this community that just has questions of how to do it. At the end of the day, we all want to succeed.”