CLOSE-UP: CRAFT - JO GODMAN. Godman's 20 years in the world of UK production

Jo Godman's choice to bow out ends an extraordinary career, Jenny Watts writes.

There are not many people in the production world who have had as long and glorious a run as Jo Godman, the famously shrewd founder of the eponymous production company, Godman. But Godman is now bowing out after more than 20 years in the business.

Over her career, Godman has carved herself a reputation as a stickler for attention to detail and a ruthless professional who guarantees a job being done well. Her shoots are not unlike military operations. This is where her legendary fearsome reputation comes from. She admits she's brutally frank.

"They say I'm tough, but I tell people the truth as I see it," she says, adding: "But I also give credit where it's due."

Starting as a Girl Friday in a Soho production company, Godman soon got a grip on the machinations of the industry, rising swiftly through the ranks to become a producer at Tom Bussmann Films.

In 1981, she set up her first production company, Patterson Godman, with the director Willi Patterson.

However, a phone call two years later from Tony Scott asking if she was interested in joining RSA proved too good an opportunity to miss.

For the next 13 years, Godman managed RSA, where one of her surviving legacies was making it the yardstick by which other production companies matched themselves in creativity as well as professional production values.

Philippa Thomas, a founding partner of Godman and now the managing director of Thomas Thomas, has worked with Godman for 13 years. She says: "She's very, very tough to work for, but very inspiring to work for because her focus and passion is without comparison. She's very smart and works incredibly hard."

This perfectionism has paid off, but not without the requisite clashes.

She fell out with the Scott brothers, going so far as allegedly firing Ridley's son Jake, and exited the company abruptly. Godman says now: "Ridley and I fell out, really. We had a fantastic relationship for 12-and-a-half years, but then we saw things really, really differently. Our relationship soured. However, I still have a huge respect for him."

In 1996, Godman set up her eponymous production company. Naming it after herself suited her ambitious, no-bullshit style and proved the point that she could manage her own company with the same dedication and drive that has characterised her career.

Godman has consistently proved that she can spot talent. Among those she's discovered are Adrian Moat, Hugh Johnson and Chris Hartwill. She produced Tom Carty's directorial debut for The Economist. She stopped producing seven years ago, but while she did she usually worked with the young directors, grooming them for the future. Spots she's directly associated with include Pirelli's "double indemnity' and Levi's "pool hall".

Godman will gradually bow out over the next two years, for personal reasons, but has named her successors: Ed Sayers and his brother Dan. Ed has been directing through Godman since its launch, while Dan joins from the marketing communications company Boom.

Hers are tough boots to fill, but Godman has faith: "Ed's understanding of the process, and his love of the industry, is fantastic. There was nobody else I trusted as much as him to be able to do it."

But it's unlikely that you've seen the last of Godman. As she says: "The industry will always be part of my life ... I'll always keep in touch with it. I've enjoyed it all so much."


VAUGHAN ARNELL, co-founder, Godman

Jo has probably invented the best school of production. Any producer, production manager or PA who has worked with Jo will tell you it's the passport to working anywhere else in the world. Her name strikes fear in runners, but she's also got the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met.

She's given me six fantastic years of laughs, fun and support. She's a bullet-proof vest; you can stand your corner with Jo beside you, should anyone take a shot at you. She's a forcefield. No-one else could have turned Godman round in a year and won Production Company of the Year from scratch. My departure has been tough because I don't want to lose a best friend.

I talk to Jo frankly; she's got a brilliant, strong character. I'll remember her for the time she hit me in the Gucci shop for making out she was my mother; when she drank me under the table in Barcelona; and the most beautiful fireworks display she gave me and Carol for our wedding.

MARK WNEK, executive creative director, Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper

Jo Godman is the number one producer. She is the name you want in your corner for anything huge, complex or awkward. Nothing but nothing gets past her.

Winning the Production Company of the Year award in her very first year after leaving RSA was an absolute triumph and two fingers to some.

For someone so physically petite, she can be very scary. Had she gone into broadcast television she would be running Channel 4 or something by now.

For someone so eminent she is also a surprising silly billy. Once I was shooting on a beach in Portugal and Jo appeared looking like Goldie Hawn in a diaphanous number which probably cost £20,000. The director kept complaining she was in shot and Jo kept edging away until she fell backwards over a rock into the surf and emerged looking like a Yorkshire terrier and laughing like a gnome falling off a toadstool.


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