23. Patrick Rafferty, BS ’87
By Tim Hyland
Photo by Jared Castaldi
Patrick Rafferty’s entrepreneurial adventure began with a promise to his wife.
The year was 1993, and Rafferty was a young television copy-writer and producer working for Nagy Films, a small production company in Washington, D.C. Rafferty enjoyed the work, but after six years in the industry, he saw an opportunity that he knew he had to seize — even at the risk of upsetting his new wife.
“It was kind of scary,” Rafferty says. “When I first started out, we had just recently gotten married, and I was making this decision to leave a full-time job to start working as a freelancer. My wife was looking at me like I was crazy.”
She had good reason, too. To get the funds he needed to launch his new venture — a company that would help large organizations tell their story through the then-exploding medium of digital video — he sold off the couple’s brand new wedding china. But promised he’d buy it back for her within a year.
He did precisely that, and in the years since, he’s gone on to establish his firm, RaffertyWeiss Media, as one of the most sought-after video production companies in the Northeast.
His company works with health care firms, nonprofits and other organizations to create award-winning commercials, public service announcements, documentaries, marketing videos and more. Over the years, he’s interviewed numerous celebrities — everyone from Wyclef Jean to Ross Perot, Bill Gates to Hillary Clinton, Val Kilmer to Quincy Jones — and counts among his clients Discovery Communications, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Georgetown University, the National Institutes of Health and Walt Disney Pictures.
The firm targets only high-end work from high-end clients — a strategic decision that Rafferty says he and his partners made from the very start. And in truth, Rafferty says, that decision has been crucial to the firm’s success.
“When we started, we made a pact with each other that we weren’t going to do work that we didn’t really want to do,” he says. “We weren’t going to go after the low-hanging fruit. From a business standpoint, that was a very smart thing for us to do. And so, we continue to this day to look at everything we do from that business standpoint.”
The fact that Rafferty is in business at all — and that he’s making a career in film production — is somewhat of a surprise, even to him. After all, when he first enrolled at Drexel, his main focus was basketball (he was a star player for the first Dragons team to ever make the NCAA basketball tournament). And if he had any ideas about his career, they were focused on the world of politics.
Everything changed, though, when his Drexel co-op landed him a job working at a D.C.-area radio station alongside longtime University of Maryland sports play-by-play man Johnny Holliday. It was there that he got his first taste of media production, and by the time he was a senior, he was sold on the world of media — thanks, he says, in large part to his co-op experience and his challenging classroom training.
“Drexel was a stretch for me,” he says. “It was hard academically, very strenuous. But it taught me a lot. It helped me grow up.”
So much so, that by the time he graduated with his degree in communication, Rafferty felt ready for any opportunity that may come his way. After briefly considering a move into sports broadcasting, he ultimately decided to return home to D.C., where friends and colleagues had told him of a fast-growing market in video production. He landed a job at Nagy Films and found himself thrown into high-profile projects right from the start.
“This was the late ’80s, and getting a job then was tough,” he says. “But I think the fact that people knew I played sports and the fact that they really respected the Drexel name helped a lot. Because of co-op, they knew I worked — that I wasn’t just a lifeguard during my summers.”
Nearly 30 years later, Rafferty is still working, still delivering high-quality productions for his clients, and still building the RaffertyWeiss brand.
He says the experience has been great — and one that has made sacrificing his wife’s beloved wedding china worth it.
“The competition is as tough as ever, but the world of video production has changed and it’s changed for the better,” Rafferty says. “I still believe our difference is our experience. People are comfortable working with us because they know we can go in there and interview a Bill Gates or a Wyclef Jean or a John Glenn and do a great job. People trust us.”