DotCross Makes Media With A Purpose

July 28, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — When a group of 20- and 30-somethings decided to create an “integrative media” company with a message, they picked Grand Rapids.

Dot&Cross combines commercial work with company-developed projects such as movies. Managing partner is Brett VanTil, who previously ran Process, which worked with local advertising agencies on television commercials, with corporate clients, and on the Nooma DVD series featuring Mars Hill Bible Church Pastor Rob Bell.

VanTil said Dot&Cross’ five partners gave long thought to the location for their new company.

“We had lots of discussion about it,” said VanTil, a Jenison native, noting that one partner, cinematographer Corey Petrick, is based in Los Angeles.

“Probably 10 years ago when I was just coming out of school, I really wanted a big city. But Grand Rapids has developed to the point where we really see the potential here and really want to be part of building something.

“One aspect that surprised us is how deep the talent is here. The more we networked and found those people, the more confident we are we can pull off what we want to pull off here.”

He said Dot&Cross now has a mix of commercial and self-developed work, and it hopes to eventually concentrate on developing its own uplifting projects.

“We do feel very strongly there is plenty of media out there, but there’s not enough media that is positive,” Business Developer David Wenzel said.

“We have the same purpose of creating media that impacts culture. We think there’s a value in doing good in the work and being rewarded for working hard,” he said.

To that end, Dot&Cross is seeking to develop projects with investors that have a positive social impact across media forms: film, Web and publishing.

The line-up includes production work for motivational author Marcus Buckingham of “Now Discover Your Strengths;” and author Donald Miller of “Blue Like Jazz.” The firm is working with Christian publishers Zondervan and Thomas Nelson. The company also is working on a feature film based on the book “The Only Road North,” which is the account of Grand Rapids native Erik Mirandette’s motorcycle trek across Africa with his brother and two friends, which ended in tragedy.

Finding investors for its projects has been challenging during the current economic downturn, despite the added value of socially important projects.

“It has been tough,” VanTil said. “We really want to be able to approach people with our ducks in a row. We would love to at least start here and give our network first crack at these things. We would love to build it here and nurture the community.”

Yet local investors have been reluctant to fund Dot&Cross’s vision, saying it’s too much money; and West Coast investors say the projects aren’t big enough, he said.

“There are very different attitudes from the different coasts and people we’re talking to,” said VanTil.

“We’ve been talking to multiple businesses in the area about investing in these media projects. We’re not seeing people come out of the woodwork to say ‘I’m going to put my money in a Michigan production company.’”

In addition to VanTil and Wenzel, Dot&Cross partners include Corey Petrick, an American Film Institute graduate with a master’s degree in cinematography; writer and director Santino Stoner, who worked on the Nooma series with Flannel; and Gary Mahieu, founder of iMart and a 2005 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year finalist.

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