Updated April 18, 2023 - 7:47 pm
Karl Nickoley spent his career producing film, TV and commercial projects in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and he knows the headache caused by coordinating multiple departments to get a project across the finish line.
“The way that movies and commercials have been made is still very antiquated, in my opinion,” Nickoley said. “It’s like a slow-moving armada of a mix of trucks and people and gear.”
He had an idea to help make the process more efficient — taking a cue from NASCAR. And nearly 10 years later, the company, OnLocation Production, is now offering its services to the film and TV industry with its 53-foot-long trailer.
The trailer combines multiple production departments under one roof, and it can be driven by a semitruck. It’s also equipped with a diesel-powered electric generator so it can operate in remote locations.
It houses eight different production departments including hair, makeup, lights, sound, grip or camera rig, writing, production design and editing. These departments are sectioned into different parts of the trailer and includes office space for about five people.
Nickoley wanted the trailer to have all the basic departments needed for small to medium TV, film and commercial productions. He estimates it can have enough equipment to support a crew of about 40 people.
OnLocation Production also has over 20,000 pieces of equipment for the trailer to support production such as walkie talkies, lights and cameras.
Danette Tull, production and communications manager for the Nevada Film Office, said creating an all-in-one production trailer is an “innovative” idea.
“It’s amazing to have all those elements in one portable location,” Tull said. “It’s unlike anything else that the industry has ever seen before.”
Inspiration and design
The idea for OnLocation’s trailer started in 2013 when Nickoley attended the Speciality Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas. At the time, he was living in Los Angeles, and he saw a trailer used by NASCAR crews on display.
“The way that NASCAR does their pit cars and their whole experience like everything all in one, it’s a rolling mobile workshop. And they bring the cars with them; they bring their crews with them,” he said. “It just instantly clicked.”
Nickoley worked with his brother, Scott, a composer for film and TV shows, on the idea of an all-in-one trailer. It took a decade for the trailer to materialize since Karl Nickoley couldn’t get any funding.
By 2018, the brothers had moved to Las Vegas, and the pair decided to start working on the trailer in late 2020.
They were able to receive funding with the Bank of Nevada to finance the multimillion-dollar trailer, according to Karl Nickoley, who declined to provide exact costs.
The brothers then spent the past 14 months purchasing equipment and perfecting the trailer’s design.
“We designed this truck to be efficient for time and money,” Karl Nickoley said. “If you’re going to rent all the gear that you have on this truck, you’re spending about $65,000 a day, three days a week — so call it $150,000 a week. We’re offering 30 to 40 percent less than that across the board.”
Karl Nickoley said the trailer is now available to rent, though prices are flexible.
Nevada’s production industry
The trailer can be used almost anywhere, but Karl Nickoley said he hopes it can keep busy in Nevada. But he noted that the business environment is not as friendly for production companies.
“They call Vegas the Entertainment Capital of the World,” he said. “But as far as making the entertainment content, it’s kind of an afterthought.”
Tull said Nevada has lost some filming projects to other states because it doesn’t have enough sound stages to support long-term productions, and its production incentive program isn’t as competitive “as it could be,” compared with other states.
Nevada offers a 15 percent base tax credit, although it can be as high as 25 percent for productions that use Nevada-based crew members or film in rural areas. There is a cap of $10 million per fiscal year for this tax credit, according to the Nevada Film Office. Meanwhile, New Mexico has a 25 percent to 35 percent tax credit for productions, according to the state’s Film Office.
Revenue from the production industry in Nevada over the past 24 years has fluctuated. In 2022, revenue was $80.2 million while 2001 brought in the most at $154.9 million. The lowest amount was $33.6 million in revenue in 2020, according to data from the Nevada Film Office.
Karl Nickoley believes a better incentive program can attract more production projects to Nevada and help companies like OnLocation Production.
“Nevada is poised to steal market share away from Los Angeles and New Mexico. We just need to be willing to make that investment in the Entertainment Capital of the World,” he said. “(Mark) Wahlberg said he wants to make Vegas a Hollywood 2.0, and there are very valid reasons that (it) could be a reality. So as far as I see — the sky’s the limit.”