'It's not rocket science launching a production company. The only blueprint you need is a bloody good director, a phone and a fax.' So speaks the enthusiastic Tim Marshall, ex-producer for Gorgeous' Chris Palmer, about setting up Another Film Company with the award-winning director Steve Reeves.
And he should know. Marshall set up Gorgeous with Palmer six years ago, but his new venture shows that it's time for a change of scenery. And what better man to set up with than Reeves, a well-known face in the industry, who has carved out a reputation for top work for the likes of Ford, Sanyo, Volkswagen, BT and Peugeot.
Reeves' departure from Stark Films, where he had been for two-and-a-half years, is a further step down a well-trodden path. He is one of a number of creatives, such as Tony Kaye, Frank Budgen, Paul Weiland and Graham Fink, to quit an agency for the world of commercial direction.
Reeves worked as a creative at BMP DDB with his partner Paul Gay for eight years. They left the agency in 1995, but their last two years saw them directing most of their own commercials. The team then took the plunge and moved to Blink for 18 months as a directing duo. They directed work for Ford, Electrolux, Levi's and Kiss 100 FM at Blink, then split and Reeves joined Brave in December 1996.
An agency is a good breeding ground for commercials directors and stands the turncoats in good stead, bringing first-hand experience of how an agency functions, complete with the knowledge of what to expect from creatives and the finer dynamics of a commercial. The attraction of being able to choose jobs is equally pleasing - although it can sometimes take time to be able to afford such a luxury. Still, Reeves has firm ideas of how he wants the company to operate: 'I want us to be more open and involved at an earlier stage in the creative process. Coming from an agency background, it's nice when you can now do something your own way.'
His history in advertising has left a mark on Reeves, who encourages creatives to phone up with half an idea so that he can get involved at an embryonic stage of the process. 'I do miss coming up with the ideas,' he admits.
Reeves and Marshall will need to carve themselves a niche in a crowded market. They have made the conscious decision to position themselves as an outfit focusing primarily on commercials with a comedy element. Says Marshall of his reasons for leaving: 'Gorgeous has achieved an enormous amount. But with Frank and Chris there, they've got their sights set firmly on the feature film world. I wanted to get back to doing the commercials we were doing when we were younger; comedy dialogue with a look.'
But even though comedy is a fertile area, cynics might say there is no room in the market for another production company. However, Stephen Gash, managing director of Stark Films, argues: 'There's room because Steve has the talent and personality to front it. He has a style that is his own, which is why he's so successful.'
Reeves and Marshall will be hiring new directors once they are established. But the issue of whether big names such as Reeves can overshadow the development of more fledgling directors is not something that bothers them. Marshall says: 'Having two big names like Gorgeous can put people off. But it's not like that, as the top should feed the bottom.' And it can certainly be advantageous for fledgling directors to be passed jobs they wouldn't otherwise get.
The duo knows well enough that it's a tough environment out there. 'Anyone who breaks in a new director is doing well,' Marshall admits. So, with budgets being squeezed, is there enough work to go around? 'There's a lack of work, so people are more interested in finding solutions,' Marshall says, pointing to a growing collaboration between production companies and agencies.
And the bygone days of directors being precious seem, thankfully, to be drawing to a close. 'It's so competitive that you can't ponce around in Timberlands and act like you're the dogs bollocks,' Reeves says.
Some observers would argue that the growing number of start-ups are undermining the big production companies. 'I really don't know the answer to that,' Marshall admits. 'But it all comes back down to the directors.'
With a strong director at the helm, Another Film Company seems to have the requisite combination of creativity and industry recognition to succeed, along with the right name. 'We went for one that didn't take itself too seriously. I like to think we're approachable,' Reeves says.
Gash agrees: 'Steve is incredibly user-friendly. He gets a terrific amount of repeat business.' This is something which will be very handy over the coming months. However, the team has already been sent 20 scripts from the cream of the London agencies. 'It's testament to Steve,' Marshall says loyally. Reeves is equally self-deprecating: 'A lot of that is because we're new.' How bashful.