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Citizen Kern - Paula Madrid

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Name: Paula Madrid

Age: 50+

Birthplace: Santa Barbara, CA

Title: Owner, P&M Aircraft Company

How She Got Started: Joining an airplane dismantling/storage business 29 years ago seemed easy enough for Madrid, who learned the ropes from her late husband, TWA Captain Mike Potter. But the company changed as the industry changed: Madrid realized there was potential in the couples’ land. They began opening up their airplane “graveyard” to directors, producers, musicians, and actors looking to film movies and music videos. It wasn’t long after that they were watching the band Berlin film the famous video for “Take My Breath Away” from the Top Gun soundtrack on the wreckage of one of their planes.

Career Highlights: With a long list of celebrities traversing her land, you wouldn’t think Madrid could pick any. The whole ride has been amazing, but one experience stands out. “I was taking a check into my bank for deposit and the cashiers kept doing double takes and asking management about my check from Scary Movie 4,” Madrid said with a chuckle. Having the stars of movies like The Grey, Speed, and Twister walking around on her property was also pretty amazing.

Favorite Part of the Industry: For Madrid, her biggest challenge has been proving herself every single day in a “man’s industry.” But one could say that the challenges have also become her favorite part of this industry. She’s turned the tragedy of her husband’s passing 18 months ago into hope and overcome major business hurdles by trusting her gut. Today, she’s got a long list of international clients in addition to being sought-after by Hollywood location scouts. She even hosted Kevin Reynolds, a Spielberg protégé who filmed an episode of Amazing Stories.

Her Heroes: Her husband taught her so much about the industry that it’s only natural that she view him as a hero. He was a tenacious, young commercial pilot who was grounded early on after a diagnosis of diabetes. But he never gave up. His expertise, paired with her drive, helped them build a successful business early on, back in the days when they would hop around the world to gather old airplanes for storage, including Elvis Presley’s private plane, and discarded airplane parts.

What she’d like to do in the future: She wants to continue to grow as a location for numerous production companies. Already she’s played host to several commercials, band photo shoots, and the History Channel, when producers arrived to film a segment for the show United Stats of America, a show that chronicles some of the amazing statistics in American history.

Photo provided by Renato Zacchia

Article appeared in our 29-3 Issue - August 2012