Again creative directors are throwing down the gauntlet to
production companies (Campaign, last week). It seems to have been
forgotten that each time a production company goes through the process
of budgeting and scheduling a production (with no guarantee of the job
in the end) we submit a detailed analysis of how the production will run
- financially and logistically.
We justify how costs and fees are calculated in a business that is not
ruled by science or logic, but by that intangible quality ,’creative
talent’, that creative directors (and the rest of us) value so
Most agencies get very good value for money most of the time. It seems a
central issue of trust is not being effectively dealt with. The industry
relies heavily on individual relationships that we should be attempting
to build - the longer creative directors and production companies dance
around their handbags, the more mutual suspicion will grow.
We work in a free market - if demand for one product or service exceeds
supply, it is inevitable the price will rise. To feel that value for
money is being given, there needs to be an objective judgment of the
investment’s result. If creative directors object to the habits of
directors who require personal chefs on set, they presumably feel value
for money is no longer being given. The answer is simple: don’t employ
While on the subject of who to employ, please do employ effective and
knowledgeable agency producers. They stand in the front line and should
be best placed to spot inefficient or uneconomic production company
One would expect them to be better placed and qualified to fulfil this
role than the cost controller; however, it seems trust is also an issue
between client and agency. Don’t ask production companies to salve that
Regarding clients partaking of discounts given to production companies,
they already do. All too often, budgets are submitted on the basis that
’we’ll make it work later’. The producer knows he is able to rely on
long-term relationships with third-party suppliers to meet a budget that
initially seems insufficient to pay for the production.
The downward pressure on budgets means, on any single production, the
cost cutting can go too far and the job suffers as a result. The agency
producer and creative team should, and in the best cases do, work
together with the production company to fight for the correct budget for
Greater knowledge of the processes involved in production would help
creative directors and their departments assess ’value for money’. Maybe
a knowledge of how the relationship between client and agency works
would help production companies and producers.
Ultimately, you must either make the effort to understand our end of the
business, or trust the people you employ to do the job efficiently and
cost-effectively within the transparent framework we are working in.
That trust doesn’t just happen - the relationship needs to be worked at
like any other.
Finally, please don’t point at pop promos and features as paragons of
cost-effective film-making. They are different businesses that simply
use the same raw materials. Pop promos don’t require anything like the
same level of accountability from production companies that is required
from agencies and clients. Feature films and TV productions represent a
much longer term of employment and investment than the average ad. When
compared with the commercials industry, neither of these types of
film-making requires a similar amount of time and effort involved in
collaboration, on a creative and production level.