CRAFT ISSUE/PRODUCTION COMPANY START-UPS - What motivates directors to give up secure jobs to go it alone, Jenny Watts asks

Last week, Kevin Thomas and his producer, Philippa Thomas, announced they were leaving Godman to form a new production company, Thomas Thomas.

Last week, Kevin Thomas and his producer, Philippa Thomas,

announced they were leaving Godman to form a new production company,

Thomas Thomas.

Although many directors stay with an established production house to

concentrate solely on directing, others are determined to test their own

fortunes. Undeniably, the attraction of owning your own company is a big

one. What can be more appealing than strolling into offices with your

name above the door?

But having to pay for everything from legal costs to stationery out of

your own pocket is enough to bring anyone down to earth with a bump.

Adrian Harrison, the managing director of RSA Films, says: ’Directors

have to worry about being a businessman as well.’

So why is the appeal so strong? Sometimes directors feel the need to

leave to make their own headlines. If an outfit has a star name, other,

less high-profile directors can feel undersold. Often - as is the case

with Thomas Thomas - it is just the desire to give it a go. But Philippa

Thomas warns: ’You have to believe in your ability to spot talent.’

The other attraction is being able to choose which jobs to take -

although start-ups can’t always afford that luxury. ’We want to be a

tight, well-run, small outfit able to produce good work and not be

scared to turn jobs down,’ the pair say, adding: ’We’d prefer to

compromise on the building rather than compromise on creativity.’

There has been a plethora of start-ups breaking away from ad agencies

and each time one does, every effort is made to proclaim its


Yet when production companies start up, the unique selling point is

usually in the name. ’It’s more about the director than the production

company they’re with,’ Matthew Kitchin, a producer at 2AM Films,


Some complain that larger production companies have a monopoly on top

talent. But agencies will always be drawn to different production houses

for the style of film their directors make. There’s always the wish to

find the next Jonathan Glazer, and companies are starting up because new

talent is not always given the chance to flourish at bigger houses.

Nick Fewtrell, the managing director of Bone Language, a recent start-up

production company, believes that ’there’s a mould to be broken’.

Madeline Sanderson, the managing director of Partizan, agrees. ’Why

would you need to go to Tony Kaye if there’s a director who can get the

same result without the drama?’ she asks.

The constant complaint of the production industry is that budgets are

being squeezed and there is not enough work to go around. ’There’s an

over-supply of directors, but not of top ones,’ Paul Rothwell, the

managing director of Gorgeous, says.

Thomas Thomas is a brave move, and the pair will need to be confident of

their abilities. But they seem to have the requisite combination of

nous, creativity and industry recognition.

’Kevin is a name in terms of directors. Philippa is a very

well-established and thorough producer. I think they’ll be very

successful,’ Harrison says.


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