NEWSMAKER/JAMES STUDHOLME: Affable eccentric helps give Blink a new identity - James Studholme’s talent for management is justly rewarded By Jane Austin.

James Studholme, managing director (or ’ginger supremo’ as he prefers to be known) of Blink, thinks his company has failed to be selected as Production Company of the Year. He thinks Campaign has arrived at his Wardour Street offices to interview him for a one-off production company report on the runners-up. ’That’s a great idea,’ he says. ’Who’s bought ads in it?’

James Studholme, managing director (or ’ginger supremo’ as he

prefers to be known) of Blink, thinks his company has failed to be

selected as Production Company of the Year. He thinks Campaign has

arrived at his Wardour Street offices to interview him for a one-off

production company report on the runners-up. ’That’s a great idea,’ he

says. ’Who’s bought ads in it?’

Mumbling the names of a few lighting and dubbing companies, and hoping

he won’t ask for a discounted quarter-page ad in the mythical report, I

allow him to ramble on about how happy he is that Blink managed to make

it to the shortlist and to guess who is overall winner. Oh, the power

that knowledge brings.

Sounding like a humble Miss World contestant, he mumbles: ’It would have

been nice to have won it, of course, but it’s great to make the


So who has won it? It’s not X is it? Good, because that would have

killed me. How about Y? I knew it. You’ll get a lot of flak for it. We

were nearly there, maybe we’ll get it another year. So why didn’t we get


I’m beginning to wish I could tell him, just to shut him up, but a new

subject is now on the agenda. That old chestnut of poaching a rival

production company’s directors.

’Get a load of this,’ he says, as he crams a letter into my hand. The

letter, addressed to the director, Ivan Zacharias, was sent to Ivan, c/o

Blink, and was pounced upon by the eagle-eyed Studholme. (Zacharias, who

is still a film student in Prague, was signed by Blink early last year,

was selected for Saatchi and Saatchi’s New Director Showcase last summer

and directed the noted ’catisfaction’ campaign for Whiskas through M&C


The letter is a basic; this is who I am, this is what I’ve done, I think

your reel is inspired, let’s meet for a drink, I want to have your


’It’s outrageous,’ Studholme exclaims. ’It’s not as if they can offer

Ivan anything different or special. It really is a case of seeing that

reel and thinking: ’Yes please, I’ll have some of that’ - anyway I’ve

sent them this,’ he says as he flourishes another letter.

It reads: ’Forgive my English it is terriblle. How nice of you to


My life is miserable hear. They make me do catfood advertising film.

They keep me locked up in basement and pretend that I live in Czech


Everybody tell me blink is awful company I desperate to leave and join

another crazy company. Perhaps you should speak with James. Big mad red

man. I dug nearly all of tunnell but he find out and fill it in. I’m so

unhappy. I don’t know wether to get the ferrari in red of yelllow. Ta

much your little cheski pal pp James Studholme.’

The poaching letter struck a protective chord with Studholme. With the

other Blink co-founder, the director, Bob Lawrie, Studholme has spent

ten years building the company, and the past three turning it around

from a small quirky animation shop to a live-action commercials

production company.

Blink now has a roster of six directors, Bob Lawrie, Doug Foster,

Zacharias, Pat Holden, Trevor Melvin and John Downer. (The directing duo

Paul Gay and Steve Reeves have now left Blink and gone on to other


Two new directors at Blink are to be announced shortly. ’We look for

diversity when we choose new directors,’ Studholme says. ’The more your

directors feel they are capable of anything - the better it is for the

company. We are focused on good work and not reputation.’

M&C Saatchi’s art director, Kevin Thomas, has no doubts about Blink’s

capabilities. ’I think that it is one of the two or three - if not the

best - production companies in London,’ he says. ’It has a good

selection of directors, not one is dodgy and none of them are

flash-in-the-pan talents.’

The Bartle Bogle Hegarty producer, Mike Hazeldine, backs up Thomas’s

sentiments: ’James is an ace geezer.’ Hazeldine continues: ’He’s

dedicated to what he does, and you get the impression the whole company

is as involved as he is. They all work very hard towards the end


Studholme began his career a long way from the advertising industry with

a gentleman’s degree, a 2:2, from Reading University in land


This followed formative years spent at Eton. For Studholme is not your

usual Soho type - his father was an army Captain and his brother is a

Baronet. In days gone by, the second son would traditionally opt for an

ecclesiastical position, but Studholme moved to London to become a rock


To supplement a fledgling rock star lifestyle, Studholme got a job as a

runner at the Moving Picture Company and then moved to the now-defunct

Direction as a production manager for Tony Kaye. He ’loved’ working

there, but had to leave as he felt that his nervous system was getting a

bit ’twitchy’. He switched to Sierra (now folded) where he produced the

’skinhead’ ad for Persil.

After leaving Sierra, he became involved with Blink which, at the time,

according to Studholme, consisted of ’Bob (Lawrie) on his own in a room

with a spliff doing animation’. Studholme and Lawrie produced the first

graphics for Channel 4, the award-winning ’hopping pecker’ ad (with the

director, Simon Fellows) for the Terrence Higgins Trust through Simons

Palmer Clemmow Johnson and the banned ’rock chunk’ ad for Yorkie through

J. Walter Thompson.

Dave Buonaguidi, now the creative director of St Luke’s, worked with

James and Bob on the ’rock chunk’ campaign, when he was at JWT. The ad

featured a macho cartoon-like he-man who bursts into a wooden chalet in

the American wilderness and saves a damsel in distress. The damsel,

wearing huge prosthetic breasts, was carried away by the hero, as he

took a manly bite on his Yorkie.

The aforementioned breasts provoked 120 complaints from the public which

led to the Independent Television Commission banning the ad. ’I have to

say that I had the best fun on ’rock chunk’ with Blink I’ve ever had on

a shoot,’ Buonaguidi comments. ’James is a brilliant producer who

absorbs everything that is going on around him. Blink has now got a

great roster of directors which has really helped it distance itself

from its old reputation as an animation specialist.’

Buonaguidi says: ’James is definitely one of life’s great eccentrics,

with a unique dress sense. I was always told not to mix red and green,

but he does it all the time. But, if you’re nine feet tall and ginger -

you might as well draw some more attention to yourself.’

According to an old family friend, Charles Skinner, the editor of

Campaign’s sister publication, Management Today, Studholme is ’a very

thoughtful bloke’. ’The key thing about James is that everything he does

is part of a long-term plan,’ Skinner says. Studholme’s tastes are

eclectic. He is currently building an arboretum at his farmhouse in

Devon and is the singer-songwriter with the country and rock ’n’ roll

band, the Wright Brothers. One of his proudest moments, relates Skinner,

was when the band won the title of best band in Fulham during a pub


Musical tastes aside, Studholme is known for his flamboyant, luxurious

style. ’I remember when James was about 24, he had a portrait painted of

himself swathed in a huge velvet cloak,’ Skinner recalls. His wife,

Shah, is a stylist and contributing editor to Vogue. Their homes in

Shepherd’s Bush and Devon are beautifully decorated. Before the wedding,

Shah was photographed in Vogue wearing her wedding dress, which was

designed by Victor Edelstein, talking about the forthcoming nuptials and

the dress.

’I never thought I would marry a ginger man,’ she was quoted as


The ginger gene is a great worry to the Studholmes. Both are reported to

be concerned that their baby son, Arthur, will develop this ginger trait

and become an army officer to boot, just to irritate his creative,

bohemian parents.

Production Company of the Year, page 36.