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Bespoke Media Growing, Set to Tell Al Bell Story

4 min read

Little Rock’s recently expanded Bespoke Media Group will produce a “docu-series” of Arkansas native Al Bell, the renowned music executive and songwriter.

Bell is considered a member of the record industry’s elite “Who’s Who,” an icon of soul music active since 1965, who wrote, produced and promoted hits from acts such as Isaac Hayes and Prince. He’s the former owner and chairman of Stax Records, former president of the Motown Records Group, former owner and president of Bellmark Records and current president and CEO of Al Bell Presents.

And Bespoke, founded in 2012 by former KARK-TV general manager Rick Rogala, has been operating quietly under the radar, much like Bell himself, in warehouse row on the edge of Riverdale. The company has grown from a simple video production firm to a full-fledged media conglomerate, and now it will tell Bell’s story.

The series of documentaries will chronicle Bell’s life, the innovations he introduced to the industry and the influence he had on the artists with whom he worked.

For Bell, the decision to tell his life’s story wasn’t an easy one. But once he made the decision, Bespoke was an easy choice, he said.

“I have wrestled for some time with the facts of my life story being told,” he said. “My life has been filled with many gut­-wrenching, revealing and rare entertainment arcs, and the key was finding the right storytellers who could do it justice. Telling the stories of Al Bell, Stax, and Motown, and all the incredible musical artists whose sound embodies Soulsville USA and who influenced so many, is very important.

“Not just from an historical perspective, but critical for building a vibrant and soul­-satisfying music and entertainment industry today and tomorrow. Bespoke Media Group understands this, and the creator knows I am delighted and thankful to be working with them. It is time now.”

Bespoke’s clients include Wal-Mart, Discovery Channel, ESPN, Animal Planet, Heifer International, CHI St. Vincent, local digital media startup Hark, even Arkansas Business Publishing Group.

Rogala, of course, is happy to add Bell to the company’s portfolio.

“We are honored and exhilarated to be working with Al Bell and to tell this incredibly important and powerful story,” he said. “It is a story of genius, vision, and courage wrapped in music that defined and transformed our culture. And, it’s a story that is absolutely relevant to the world we live in today.”

Rogala says distribution details are still in the works, but look for a late 2016/early 2017 release.


In addition to securing the Bell project, Bespoke recently opened what it calls the largest studio and soundstage in the mid-South from its Cantrell Road base.

The “Studios @ Bespoke” now feature the region’s only 50 foot by 50 foot infinity cyclorama wall. A cyc wall, according to ProCyc.com, is “any type of walled background incorporating one or more curved surfaces that are used to create a background with no perceptible beginning or end.” When all corners are seamless in a cyc studio, it’s referred to as an infinity cyc.

The cyc wall and new studios at Bespoke have already attracted major motion picture production, Rogala said (though he wouldn’t divulge details), and can be used for many other functions including corporate video and still photography.

All this growth has entailed the branching off of three companies under the Bespoke umbrella: Bespoke Health Media (marketing, training and communication for the health care industry), Bespoke Entertainment (long- and short-form entertainment programming) and Bespoke Digital Ventures (investing in local digital media).

Rogala said the Bespoke complex is also home to Southern Light Pictures and Continuous Grip Electric Services, who collectively provide the bulk of film lighting and production support services across the region, and The Hive, a creative co-working space launched in September that serves as the Arkansas host for the House of Genius global entrepreneurial think tank.

Rogala calls Bespoke’s growth a “quiet but robust ascendancy.”

“We are thrilled to be building what we aspire to as a global media company based in Arkansas,” he said. “The opening of our studio, the continued growth of our market-­leading video storytelling, and the expansion of our media footprint in health care, entertainment and digital media is a credit to the creativity and hard work of our incredibly talented team.”

Captain’s Log, Supplemental

Regular readers may remember Jacklyn Carroll, a recent graduate of the Iron Yard coding school in Little Rock who was featured in a recent Arkansas Business story. Within a couple weeks after earning her certificate from the Iron Yard, Carroll was hired as a Web developer by Little Rock digital marketing agency Mass Enthusiasm…Jeff Wilson has returned to edit the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway on an interim basis. Zach Ahrens left last month to become president and publisher of the Topeka Capital-Journal in Kansas, and Wilson stepped in to edit the Cabin on an interim basis, which he also did for eight weeks in 2012.

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