CAMPAIGN CRAFT: THE CREATIVE ISSUE - Production companies pay a price for nurturing new talent. A talented director could prove a dicey investment. Why? Emma Hall reports

A director’s loyalty has to be bought and earned. But what happens when, after a production company has slugged its guts out for a new director, got his or her career off the ground - and the director then decamps to another production company?

A director’s loyalty has to be bought and earned. But what happens

when, after a production company has slugged its guts out for a new

director, got his or her career off the ground - and the director then

decamps to another production company?

Nothing happens. It is not unusual for a production company to invest

pounds 12,000 in a director during the first year, which goes down the

drain if the director doesn’t stick around. Cash is quickly eaten up in

the making of test films to showcase skills, the compilation and

distribution of reels and the valuable time invested in a director by

senior producers.

The rule is that it takes three years to break a director. The first

year is all investment, the second year you should start to get

something back and in the third year you start to make money.

When dealing with talent, an element of risk is inevitable, and younger

directors are always likely to be more fickle in their loyalties and

keener in their craving to be part of whatever is new and sexy. The

frequent movers, though, tend to be the directors who are always seeking

work and rarely finding it. They are looking for someone who will get

them a job and they want a company that attracts scripts.

The producer and other staff at a production company have invested

emotionally in a director and put their own reputations on the line. All

they can do is keep their fingers crossed and hope that loyalty will

flow both ways but, when it doesn’t, there is no recourse for the

production company that finds itself deflated and out of pocket.

Andy Morahan’s career was in the doldrums when Laura Greg-ory signed him

up at Great Guns and got him the D&AD-winning Guess ’cheat’ commercial.

But in the middle of doing a coveted Lynx spot for Bartle Bogle Hegarty,

Morahan decamped to join the Paul Weiland Film Company.

Steve Reeves was doing very well at Brave Films, but he wasn’t getting

quite the honours that his former partner, Paul Gay, was getting for his

work through Outsider, and he jumped ship to Stark Films.

When Neil Morrissey wanted to branch out from acting, he joined Smith

Jones Brown & Cassie as a commercials director. Just as he was

establishing a reputation, he quit to set up his own outfit, Quentin

Morrissey; but he gave up on the commercials side after less than a year

when he found out that it took up a lot more time and resources than

he’d bargained for.

Should these directors - and the countless others who have similar

stories to tell - have remained loyal to the people who got them

started? Bertie Miller, the managing director of Spectre, says: ’It is a

short-lived and glamorous business and if people think they can get a

leg up they will move on. But the ones who move about the most tend to

be the ones who aren’t working much and they blame the production

company. Directors can be seen as tarty but they are very vulnerable,

and they have their own reasons for moving.’

Jo Dickens, a producer at Smith Jones Campbell, suggests the idea of

football-style contracts, where a transfer fee is negotiated between

companies, although she concedes that this is unlikely ever to


Jeanna Polley founded the Producers, which has just lost Calle Astrand

to, despite having secured the latest Lynx campaign for

Bartle Bogle Hegarty as his first UK job in addition to an Adidas spot

for Leagas Delaney. She acknowledges that there are sound reasons for

Astrand’s move - the benefits of joining an international company and a

tie-in for his Swedish colleagues - but she still regrets the loss of a

talented director as well as her considerable investment.

Calle says: ’It was not a personal decision. EPA (his Swedish production

company) wanted a UK partner that could represent us in the US, although

that is not the main goal for me. @radical. media is a new company and

it is good that we can develop together.’

The relationships between producers and directors are often intense,

personal, inter-dependent associations.

Some, like good marriages, last forever, while others are bound to burn

themselves out. And it should be remembered that the production industry

is one that thrives on friendships, good working relationships and, yes,


Miller’s company, Spectre, is on many directors’ wish-lists, and also

works with two of the least flighty directors around - John Lloyd and

Daniel Kleinman - who stuck with Limelight until its demise. Often,

though, Miller says directors express an initial interest but their

existing ties are too strong to go through with a move. Encouragingly,

he adds: ’The biggest stumbling block to people moving around is usually

their loyalty.’


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