Akiva Shmidman of Baltimore stands with Colette Liantonio, president and creative director of Concepts TV Productions, during the filming of an infomercial for Shmidman's BeActive brace in a Cedar Lake home, April 23, 2014, in Denville, N.J. / Bob Karp, (Morristown, N.J.) Daily Record
DENVILLE, N.J. - This wasn't Collette Liantonio's first infomercial shoot. Far from it.
Liantonio, 63, has been called the "Infomercial Queen." With her 14-employee Boonton-based company, Concepts TV Productions, she's filmed more than 3,000 infomercials over a 30-year period.
"If you're staying up late, you've seen my stuff. I do more two-minute infomercials than anyone in the industry," said Liantonio, whose ads typically run in half-hour or two-minute format.
"Half-hour infomercials are more like telling a story. Short-form commercials are like poems. Every action means something."
Above all else, Liantonio's infomercials stick to a single rule: Product is king.
Infomercials may not seem like art, but Liantonio treats them as such.
She graduated from New York University with a master's degree in directing, and was an English teacher for three years before transitioning to her current work.
"I wanted to run a theater. This is close enough. We operate like a theater company," Liantonio said. "Everyone has to be a generalist, and writing skills are crucial. We do everything in-house in Boonton, from script writing to editing, in our little Victorian beehive."
She's taken her education and skills and transitioned them into a thriving career that has allowed her to travel the country and the world.
"Europe's infomercials are usually 15 minutes, so that's a different shoot," Liantonio said, adding New Jersey is great place to film most of her ads. "New Jersey is really good for shooting. The sets are built in. California charges $5,000 just to use a room. But this winter was so bad we had to go to California and Florida to shoot."
Her commercials have made people millionaires; her most famous ad may be for the George Foreman Grill.
Inventor Akiva Schmidman and Top Dog Direct, the company behind "As Seen on TV" products, hope she'll strike gold once more.
Schmidman, 35, of Pikesville, Maryland, was on scene Wednesday to watch a 10-hour shoot at a home on Cedar Lake in Denville for his product, the BeActive brace.
"I've been working on this for so long and it's very exciting, getting the attention I want it to," said Shmidman. "It's amazing to get to this point."
A physical therapist, Shmidman has been working on the BeActive brace â?? worn around the ankle to alleviate lower back pain - for nine years. He first created the product to treat his patients.
"It takes quite a lot of time, taking a concept and turning it into something that doesn't already exist," Schmidman said. "At my job I treat people one on one. With this, I can treat people globally."
Schmidman has invested about $50,000 in the brace, mostly spent on patenting, because he believes he has a good product with mass appeal.
"When you experience lower back pain, your muscles tighten up in your legs. The brace relieves muscles in your leg which relieves your sciatic nerve. Usually braces go on your back and it's bulky and sweaty and in the way. This hits a trigger point and releases tension without going on your back."
He wasn't the only one who believed his product was a winner. In March, Schmidman took the brace to a speed pitch for Top Dog Direct. He had a minute to present, but didn't have to do much talking. Two of the three members had a history of back pain, tried on the brace and immediately noticed a change.
Schmidman won the speed pitch and partnered with Top Dog Direct. He said he will assume no further financial risk, as Top Dog will handle the marketing and getting the product into major retail stores, as Schmidman collects the royalties.The product is already sold in New York and Baltimore physical therapist and chiropractor practices.
"We wanted a mass marketable product that will solve an important problem and the BeActive brace checks those boxes," said Steve Silbiger, chief marking officer for Top Dog Direct. "When Akiva came to pitch it, we knew right away we had something. It worked, it could be demonstrated, it has good value. Who wouldn't pay $20 to make their back better? There wasn't even a need to change the name. It was off to the races."
Silbiger said Tog Dog is a small firm which handles about six products per year, so he sticks to a very specific criteria to ensure a good success rate.
"We're one or two for three where our competitors are one for ten," Silbiger said. "We have very high hopes for this and expect it to be on the shelf for many years. The only variable is the consumer response and I think we have a high probability for success."
But before the BeActive brace hits major retailers, Liantonio has to work her magic.
At the Denville home, Liantonio filmed the brace in action to demonstrate how well it helped while working around the home.
In the laundry room, where a actor was told to bend down to put laundry in the washer and experience back pain, Liantonio showed her flair for detail.
Liantonio removed a black article of clothing from the laundry basket, saying it was too distracting. It was substituted with a royal blue shirt, which she said was too bright. She settled on a baby blue shirt before turning her attention to the placement of the basket.
"The basket needs to be in front. You wouldn't reach around for your laundry," Liantonio said, while also instructing the actor when and how to show the back pain. "You're doing an everyday task and then you bend down; you're hit with the sharp pain."
It took several takes before Liantonio was satisfied enough to move to the next room of the shoot.
Later, Liantonio and her crew headed to the Rockaway Mall for "man on the street" interviews.
"I like to use the Rockaway Mall or Main Street in Denville," Liantonio said. "We have people try on the product and say what they think."
The infomercial for BeActive brace is expected to be on TV within a month.
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