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After a ‘hole opened up’ under it, Surreal Media Lab is designing a brighter future

Jason Fischer couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

He got a message from an associate that a robber had hit his business. Gone was everything the thief could carry, all his expensive camera equipment, tens of thousands of dollars’ worth that he needed for Surreal Media Lab, his design and media business.  Years of work, of pouring money from a job here and a job there back into his one-man media company trying to make a name in the community, out in a flash.

And the gut punch?  His insurance policy would not be covering the loss due to a technicality. “How am I going to fix this?” he asked himself.

Fortunately, there is a happy ending to this story.

Today, Fischer is one of Omaha's most sought-after director/producers and visual designers, building a small business around crafting his artistic vision for nearly a decade.  Over the years, he moved from airbrush illustration and acrylic painting, incorporating graphic art into his work, and began to dabble in digital photography.  Fischer taught himself dozens of graphic arts software programs, eventually became a master photographer, and conquered the cutting edge components of web design. Finding an early niche in compact disc covers and model pictorials over the years, Fischer built his reputation of being the go-to guy for professionally designed graphic arts and web design projects.

Jason Fischer of Surreal Media Lab

Jason Fischer, owner of Omaha-based Surreal Media Lab

He grew a unique way of meeting customer needs. “I have been called a big picture thinker seeing the full potential of a client. I ‘reverse-engineer’, from top to bottom the person and their business, giving them something that’s tailored to them and their mission.”

But after the robbery, Jason said, a “hole opened up under me.”

He soon met with Centris Federal Credit Union, the SBA’s 2011 National Rural/Small Business Lender of the Year, where he was approved Nov. 11, 2010, for an SBA Express loan under provisions of the Jobs Act.

The proceeds went for new equipment, allowing him to follow the market shift away from print and stills work to web design and high-quality video production. He also began to offer business development for his clients, include branding, long-term planning and budgeting.

“I’m doing okay,” Fischer said.  Indeed, these days he has a stable of clients, mostly non-profits and small businesses, that offer steady work, and he has a network of talent to do larger projects.

Fischer also decided to move from his Ames Avenue location to a studio on 26th and Harney Street, near Omaha’s trendy Midtown Crossing, where he shares the location and cross-collaborates with a handful of other directors and production firms on new ideas and approaches in design.

One of Fischer’s signature jobs was the design for the marketing campaign for the 2011 Omaha Film Festival.  But perhaps his most ambitious project is “InFuse Live,” an online series featuring talent from the across the Midwest.  The idea, pulled from open mic events at area clubs, pairs various local artists from different trendsetting genres, raw creation of new and refreshing works live on stage, giving each a platform to launch a career in the entertainment world.

“In a sense it does feel like it’s a new business,” Fischer said.  “It feels like I’ve worked in other places, and this direction is so new it feels like I’ve transformed the business.

“But it’s the same work ethic, the same design experience,” he said.  “It’s a new day.”