Alumni’s production services company finds success in entertainment industry
Founded by alumni Mikel Elliott (left) and Jordan Kitaen (right), Quixote is a production services company that provides equipment, vehicles and studio spaces for the entertainment industry. (Courtesy of Jake Ross. Photo Illustration by Katelyn Dang/Illustrations director)
Jan. 6, 2022 12:01 a.m.
Quixote is a moving home for the entertainment industry.
What began as a small collection of customized motor homes in 1992 has developed into a production services company that now offers an assortment of trailers, trucks and studios for the entertainment industry. Quixote was founded by alumni Jordan Kitaen and Mikel Elliott, who used their background as English students to carve a path in the film world, Kitaen said. While the company may have started off by providing motor homes as a side gig, the co-founder said the brand started with the word “Quixote,” taking inspiration from the 17th-century novel “Don Quixote.”
“Primarily, we love the look of the word itself, Quixote,” Kitaen said. “It’s a very graphic word with a ‘q’ and an ‘x’. … From day one, we knew we were going to try to brand this thing – make it memorable – so that we possibly had something that was of value down the road.”
After deciding on the name, Kitaen said the pair then focused on how the book’s plot aligned with their own story. The character of Don Quixote’s whimsical nature fit the duo in their shared journey of following their dreams and their restlessness for change, CEO Elliott said.
After graduating from UCLA, Kitaen said he was working in screenwriting while Elliott was pursuing producing when they reconnected. Elliott, who provided the first motor home, said they both renovated three motor homes to rent out to sets, which Kitaen and Elliot helped drive. The initial goal was to make professional connections in the industry for their above-the-line careers, a term to denote creative employment in entertainment, Kitaen said.
“At one point, we just looked at each other and said, ‘Is this what we want to do, or do we really do we want to be on the creative side of the business?’” Kitaen said. “‘We can always double back, and after we make a few bucks, maybe we can fund our own projects.’ Frankly, that doubling back never happened because we just kept seeing the opportunity and the production side, the below-the-line side.”
As the company has expanded from the original three motor homes to about 600 vehicles and 22 studios, Elliott said the culture has kept Quixote cohesive. By emphasizing 13 company values – such as fearlessness and authenticity – through themed games focused on one apiece, he said keeping everything fun encourages the company to grow on an individual level. Externally, Quixote hosts an annual Barbie at the Q as a party for Hollywood to unite and mingle, Elliott said.
For chief financial officer Olivia Theroux, the booming entertainment market and Quixote’s emphasis on growth drew her in after working as an investment banker with Quixote as her client. Considering Quixote’s origins in Kitaen and Elliott’s risk taking, Theroux said she works to ensure its financial leaps are feasible and grounds the company’s ambitions with numbers. Elliott said their creativity – seen in their playful website text and emphasis on humor – is what gives Quixote its competitive edge, and the company’s clean presentation encourages creative spaces.
“There’s a creative thread that runs through the whole company, given that we were more liberal arts majors, English majors,” Elliott said. “We want to be the Apple of production.”
To expand on the fun in Quixote’s services, Elliott said it is now offering Studio Bourbon in their trailers and studios. He said a board member had connections to a family distillery, and Quixote spontaneously decided to work with the company to produce a small batch of bourbon as another small touch to add to its branding. While it is not the first release of Quixote-themed alcohol – Kitaen said they once had a Crew Brew beer – the bourbon does not mark a branching off from the company, Elliott said. Instead, Studio Bourbon allows for Quixote to market itself, he said, as well as provide for opportunities for wordplay, such as “The Spirit of Hollywood.”
With plans for the bourbon to be released in the spring and new studios to be established in Canada, Elliott said he hopes for Quixote to continue evolving and drawing in new people. For Kitaen, the success of streaming has reinvigorated Hollywood and taken Quixote back to its roots.
“Hollywood is definitely in another golden age,” Kitaen said. “Production is booming, and we’re just at the very beginning of what we established, (what) we set the wheels in motion for many years ago, and this is really now coming to fruition. We’re seeing the boom.”