From his tidy apartment in West New York, Richard Menon is working on a dream; a dream born, as many are, out of equal parts desperation and inspiration.
Menon, a native of India who has lived in West New York for five years, is first and foremost a model airplane fanatic. His small second-floor apartment is dotted with gas and electric-powered airplanes and trucks; an F-15 Fighting Eagle, a Mitsubishi SUV, and a yellow balsa wood and plastic electric-powered plane that boasts a five-foot wingspan.
And it is his love of these miniature machines that has guided Menon to form Penta Films, a small video production company based in West New York. The company is dedicated to producing films in the hobby and craft category. His first effort, entitled “Miss 2” (the name of the model plane in the film) has been accepted for screening at the 2004 New York International Independent Film Festival.
Menon’s journey into filmmaking is inspiring. After losing his job as a credit manager in New York City and not being able to find suitable employment, Menon found himself at a crossroads.
Said Menon in a recent interview, “I asked myself, ‘What do I do now?’ I decided that the only thing I could do is fall back on my hobby.”
When asked why he thinks these types of informative films are different than any others that may be out there, Menon answered, “No one has done something like this before, something that is so comprehensive. Most other films out there deal with air shows. My film shows everything, from beginning to end.”
According to a Penta films press release, “[The film] is instructional in nature and is first in a series of Hobby Films. The whole idea is to introduce various hobbies in an interesting and practical way.”
Penta Films, according to Menon, was partially financed, interestingly, by his landlord, a man named Andy Wagner, and his wife Anna. Starting a business is not a cheap venture. $25,000 was eventually invested by the pair, and Penta Films was born.
That is not to say, however, that it has been smooth sailing. Menon had no previous entrepreneurial experience, so every aspect of the business venture has been an on-the-fly trial by fire.
“I’m basically broke,” said Menon. “But this is worth it, and I think we’ll be successful.”
That $25,000, according to Menon, went toward the hiring of professional sound and video technicians. Though Menon does keep the same old video camera that he began the venture with, he knew that in order to make a splash in the market, he would have to do it right, and that meant using professionals.
On Feb. 5, Menon and his partners will be traveling to Miami, Fla. for one of the many film festivals that the film has been recognized by. The purpose of this, explains Menon, is to find a distributor. And while Menon feels that his product is worthy of distribution, he admits that it takes money to make money and getting to any and all festivals and conventions is a necessary chore.
It may seem that model airplane building and flying would be a small niche market. But according to Menon, who routinely flies his planes at the Bergen County Model Aerodrome in Teaneck (there is also a model aerodrome in Lyndhurst), the National Association of Aeromodels boasts 170,000 members nationwide. Additionally, many of the nation’s biggest and most prestigious museums have sections devoted to the craft of model aeronautics.
Said Menon, “The Smithsonian, the Seattle Air and Space Museum, the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport and the NASA research center all have sections devoted to this craft. And these museums have over 500,000 members.” Added Menon, “Many high school students go to these places and that’s really where our future astronauts are born. That’s who I am aiming my film at.”
People’s interest in hobbies usually begins at a young age, and for Menon, it was no different.
“This all started when I was 8 years old,” said Menon. As a child in the town of Trichuri in India, Menon stood under a window one day when inspiration literally fell from the sky.
“Someone threw a model airplane out of a window above me and it landed in front of me,” he said. “I looked down at it and I was hooked.”
Added Menon, “The man who owned the plane was very protective of it and didn’t want me touching it at all. As you could imagine, it is very difficult to come by model airplane kits and parts in India, so that was understandable. We eventually became very good friends.”
Menon has since gone on to open a radio-controlled airplane museum in India. He opened it in 1999.
Provided he can find a distributor for his films, Menon has grand designs for the future of his company. His next series of hobby films will include a project about radio controlled cars and boats and eventually helicopters, trains and other vehicles.
But Menon’s real impetus is to help other people; not just to help them get into hobbies, but to help future entrepreneurs.
“Eventually, I’d like to start helping people,” he said. “I want to help them become business people. I have struggled, and I don’t want to see other people struggle like I have.”
Anyone interested in ordering “Miss 2” or learning more about hobbies can go to www.PentaFilms.com.