Set Security Solutions

NMFO: Thank you so much for taking the time today to talk about your experience in film and why it's caused you to want to continue to work in the industry.

Set Security Solutions: We really appreciate it. We think we bring a lot to the table.

NMFO: First and foremost, why don't you guys tell me a little bit about yourselves?

Simon: I'm Simon Drobik. I was with the Albuquerque Police Department for 21 years. During my tenure there, I did everything and translated them into the film world. In 2012, a lot of filming was going on in New Mexico, so we were exposed to production, sets, and the movie lifestyle.

We thought we could incorporate what we know from the police department about securing locations, dignitary protection, and everything we've learned, and we realized that we could move that education and those unique skills over to the movie industry.

Both Rob and I did dignitary protection of the last five presidents that came through. He was more on the tactical side, and I was more on the communication side.

We both have unique skills that we can incorporate based on our background in policing. So, when the movie industry collided with Albuquerque in New Mexico, we were already here, and we learned the business and the language of both industries so we could incorporate the two. Our whole goal is to streamline everything.

Rob: I came to the department about the same time as Simon did, within six months of each other. So, I spent a little longer in the department, 23 years. I recently retired eight months ago. I started out in the field working in the patrol car and different area commands, then went into an undercover position in the gang unit. Prior to that, I was on the SWAT team.

We have learned a lot of things, including threat assessment, security, and issues. We must think eight steps ahead and pre-planning. We recognize that it helps us be a good fit with set security.

We learned quite a bit, and we bring that to the table when it comes to production. So, we realized watching productions take place that there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of dynamics, and we found a niche where we realized there are some issues that people have been overlooking.

Our goal for New Mexico is to make New Mexico number one when it comes to security and set security. The bottom line is making sure that whatever entity, local people, or people from out of town when they come into town, they are very comfortable to create. We want them to have the best experience when they're here, so let us worry about the security side of it. We want to make New Mexico number one when it comes to creating movies and TV shows with no issues.

NMFO: It sounds like you guys have tons of experience. Some of the situations you have been in could probably be movies within themselves. What made you want to shift from the police force into really wanting to niche into the film industry?

Set Security Solutions: I think back to 2012 when there was so much production going on. They had officers that were on the perimeter side doing traffic control and making sure the sets were secure. So, during that time, there were local security operations that would do their job, but at the end of the day, production would come to us.

Our goal, like everything we do with the police department or in the security world, is to make it safe. So, if that was applicable, if we could make that happen, we would, and we would work hand in hand. We were learning the business just as much because we were observing and learning on set how production works. It took a couple of years to spin up because you must be on set quite a bit, you must learn terminology, and we feel very secure and have a great dialogue with anybody who comes into New Mexico to film.

What must happen within security is to make sure that people are comfortable with creating the project they're working on. We saw the need to incorporate what we bring to the table. As I said, we did a lot of work with the Secret Service and a lot of dignitary protection with VIPs.

There may be some issues, and you're trying to get a job done by making the set safe, which is the number one goal for us. We're not security people. We don't have a company of security people. Production can bring in whatever security assets they want and put them in place. We're going to be there to manage that and make sure that everybody's doing their job and address concerns along the way from production or anybody on set.

It alleviates locations or whoever has to worry about that element. They can do their job, and it just fosters better relationships with every entity within that organization. They don’t have to worry about the security side of it. We have found some key niches unique to New Mexico.

In a case that we worked on last year, the production had shut down. It was an incident in a city here in New Mexico where an individual got hurt and production shut down. Now we're talking about a $40 million budget production. It was substantial, and they were not even halfway through. We were able to come in, reevaluate their assets and their people, bring in some other assets, and help manage that. Within about a week, we had the whole thing turned around, and for the remainder of the show, it was like clockwork. We had no issues.

We're good at spotting problem people and situations and pre-identifying any threats or safety concerns. If you can’t manage a situation, things could spin out of control rapidly. When we get involved, we have 24-hour access to any production. So, we're not just there for eight hours. We're there first one's in the last one's out.

We understand there are people coming in from out of state who may want to explore, and we want to make sure everybody feels comfortable exploring a great state and having a fantastic time. We’re that resource that they can lean on, which typically they haven't had before.

We also have connections throughout the state, such as Espanola, and we have a direct line with those types of assets. New Mexico is unique.

In New Mexico, if you call 911, you may be transferred around three or four different times, so you find the right jurisdiction. What we do as a company is we come in and figure out where we are, what resources we have in place, contact the resources, make sure that they know that we're there, and then if a critical incident were to take place on one of those locations, everything's in place to rapidly start mitigating that situation.

We know who's picking up the other line, who's showing up, what route we need to take, and where we need to go. So once again, when we're briefing the set and the stage every morning, we're bringing to the table the dynamics for today, the resources we have in place, so everybody can walk away from that meeting knowing that if anything happens, there's a plan in place.

NMFO: It sounds like you guys do a very good job of bridging communication from your experience. For somebody who may be coming out here and doesn't understand the area, you're really bridging that communication on top of adding safety. Thinking about somewhere like Espanola where you have Santa Fe County, you have Río Arriba County, and then you have tribal lands that are zoned in the area, it's important to have that.

Set Security Solutions: Absolutely. I know they have set safety meetings, but we made it very pertinent that we were going to have a security meeting at the beginning of the day to address any concerns from the previous day or moving forward. What are the set concerns? A lot of it is deploying assets that sets already have in place, but they may not be deploying them correctly.

For instance, we were shooting in Albuquerque in a very busy area of town with a lot of movement from people. It's very hard to secure, and the burnout rate is quick. We have been in uniform and sitting out in the sun for an hour, and you're pretty much done. So, then now your attention span is gone. It's small stuff like putting up additional fencing, building perimeters, and making the scene secure.

We were able to mitigate that cost-effectively by just looking at it from a different perspective instead of putting lots of bodies in different places and securing places. So, when our number one stars base camp and any other personnel left a secure base camp and arrived in a very secure set. There was no in-between. There was no traffic we had to worry about. We got people from point A to point B.

Locations are fantastic about getting these plans in place, but occasionally, on paper, it looks good, but in real life, it can rapidly unfold. Now we have time to set a perimeter up and we go out and do a scout beforehand. There are scouts, of course, all the time for different locations, but our eye is always looking at the scout as a security concern.

How would we address these different situations? Whether it's traffic, population, or any other issues, we'll be able to work in any of those parts because we've worked throughout the state.

NMFO: Budget and timing are imperative when it comes to production and filming. So, being able to mitigate that and doing so in a timely manner really helps them stay on time, stay on budget, and helps them do what they need to do. What recommendations do you have for a production that's coming in? What are things that they should look out for or any checks and balances that they might not be doing now as far as set safety that they can start thinking about?

Set Security Solutions I think we have a very fantastic structure here in New Mexico, of New Mexico workers and people, and relying on the people who live here to be the guide. We've got a great workforce base here in town. So, coming into a situation when people come from the outside, we want to make sure that they're comfortable while they're here in the city.

We want to make sure that they realize what we bring to the table is security and no headaches. They can come in and plan their day and do what they want to do without having the distraction of a critical incident happening. For example, many people walk into sets, and we pride ourselves on communication. We are trained in crisis intervention training and enhanced crisis intervention training. So, our goal is to mitigate a circumstance through communication and move on. A lot of times when these incidents happen, it shuts production down, and we want to make sure we isolate that and move that situation off-site and deal with it so everything else can flow easily because the clock's ticking and money's ticking on that clock, we understand that.

Another element of us is rapidly dealing with situations that unfold. Without that type of communication skills coming in or expertise, you're relying on maybe a security guard to mitigate that circumstance or, heaven forbid, like a location person, that that's not their job to communicate or secure that individual. If it does escalate to calling the police or an entity of law enforcement, we would be able to call them rapidly. There's not going to be any lag in getting people and resources to our set because we've already done our own.

NMFO: Absolutely. Some perceptions of films and productions coming into New Mexico and not utilizing New Mexico talent. I think security is another thing where nobody really thinks that that's part of the production and part of the jobs here that we utilize in production; what would you say as far as the impact in New Mexico of these out-of-the-box jobs and employment? Speaking of your experiences, how does that really impact our economy?

Set Security Solutions: We are both homegrown kids here from New Mexico. We went to high school and college here. We worked for the people of New Mexico, especially for Albuquerque. We know the culture here. We know what dynamics are. What are the needs? We understand we're inviting people to make movies and TV shows, and we want to be great house guests, but we must understand those people who show up also have to be guests in our culture in New Mexico.

That falls back on the amazing apparatus that we have in place now for the movie industry. The reason we got involved in this whole thing in the first place is because we got a phone call from a friend who said, “We've had this incident at our production; what do we do?” We went up pro bono to talk to them and say, “This is what we think you should do. This is what we can bring to the table. This is how you should manage this situation.” We did it because we cared about that production. We cared about our friends on set. That is how it turned into a business.

We understood there was a need there. The heart of this was to keep our friends safe and keep production going. It wasn't to create a business, although a business came out of it. It was to help our friends, and we get great economic development out of the movies and TVs that come here, and people keep coming back because they've had that great experience. New Mexico is unique. We're very proud. We've worked very hard to put this apparatus in place.

We want to continue. We found this niche that is on the security side, in the rural side of parts of town, and in the busier parts of town doing what we've been trained on for 20-plus years. We can bring that to the table to make the movie and TV experience here in New Mexico far greater and more collective and compatible with New Mexico with what we bring to the table.

We want to make sure that whoever we're taking care of doesn't feel overwhelmed that there's a security force right next to them or people who can act rapidly. We want to make sure that they're comfortable. We are always keeping an eye on what's going around us and what's happening. Who's coming onto our set? Who’s leaving our set? We take care of our dignitaries, keep an eye on them, and mitigate it through communication. So.

We don't use any strong-arm tactics. That's not what we do. We're a professional organization. We manage the people that we have. Whatever production company wants to bring in their resources, we'll manage those resources and alleviate that from the production so they can solely focus on creating the TV show or the movie that they're doing.

NMFO: Thank you so much for all that you do. Safety is of utmost importance, and the fact that you are bridging the gap of being here locally, having that communication, and ensuring that you're doing so in a protective but not overbearing way, so everybody feels very comfortable is amazing. Thank you for doing this. How can productions or people find you or get to know your business and your organization much better?

Set Security Solutions: We try to be very subdued because the goal is to be comfortable to create. We're not flashy. Our main staple is to get us in a room; we'll talk to you, and we can tell you what we bring to the table. We’re going to get the job done; you're going to have a good time while you're doing it, and we'll make sure you're secure and safe. Our concept is,

Let's talk face-to-face. If you have an issue, if you've got something coming up, or if you need some help, like figuring out how I am going to do this, we'll help. The bottom line is making sure that our friends, our families, and our communities are safe. We are willing to go that extra mile and talk to people about what they might need. We’re usually on set, mitigating, managing, and being there for every single person on that set.

We have our website up. You can call us. My number is 505-610-7883. That's how we do business. We talk to people. We don't refer to other people. We have a website, but we don't really want to refer people to a website. Call us, we'll talk. We're friendly, and we like to talk to people.

NMFO: You add even more of the personal aspect, which makes people feel a lot more secure because then they feel like they get to know you much better.

Set Security Solutions: Yeah, we're not going to show up the first day and then start work. We need to build a relationship prior to that and find out what the needs are. What are the concerns? How many people do you have? What are their concerns? Then we can come up with a great game plan before we even hit the ground.

NMFO: That's amazing. Is there anything else you would like to add before we close today?

Set Security Solutions: We've been having some fun. Let's keep this going. We've been having a really good time on the sets. They're very long hours, but our experience has been fantastic.

NMFO: Absolutely. The feedback we've gotten from productions is that when they come to New Mexico, everybody feels like a family, and it sounds like you guys are really encompassing that within your organization.

Set Security Solutions: That's our goal. This all came around because of that. Taking care of friends and family and making sure everybody's safe.

NMFO: Thank you so much again for taking the time to chat today. It's been really fascinating to hear about your trajectory into the business and what you have to offer. Set safety is so important and thank you very much for doing what you do.