PERSPECTIVE: Ad industry waves a very fond farewell to Gentleman Jim at 75

James Garrett's decision to close down the commercials production company he founded 40 years ago and retire at a sprightly 75 marks the end of an era.

Garrett has always been one of the more decent and intelligent people in a business full of decent and intelligent types. Supremely well connected, as befits a past president of the 30 Club, it's difficult to overstate how influential his company has been to the worldwide standing of the London production business.

"Gentleman Jim" was a true pioneer. He was not afraid to question the union closed shop that once exercised such a stranglehold on the business.

He was the first to set up standalone production companies, each with its own chemistry.

His was the first UK production company to open up a US sales office in New York. Relying on director talent as its stock in trade (and, arguably, relying too much on its directing figurehead Richard Loncraine who became increasingly absent on film and TV work), Garretts was never afraid to hunt for new directing talent from advertising and from stills photography. David Bailey and Terrence Donovan were early recruits.

Garrett dedicated a remarkable working life to improving the standards of the industry and perfecting its working practices. A hard taskmaster, but gracious and generous to a fault, and with a wicked sense of humour, he brought a sense of professionalism and good business practice to commercials production. It is typical of him that the Garretts staff, both directors and producers, will transfer to another company rather than be cast adrift. He will be greatly missed.

Garrett is bowing out of the production industry at an interesting time.

As for agencies, the message for production companies is cut margins, reduce overheads, adapt or die. In this climate, the merger of Stark and Spectre into a new company winningly dubbed LargeCorp makes sense. Having a broad spread of good directors and producers under one roof will avoid that danger of a company built around one director.

Increasingly, those production companies built around one or two superstar directors taking large daily rates and profit-share look outmoded. Fine, if they are in the Budgen/Glazer league, but not if they are in the middle ground where 250-odd companies representing 1,200 or more directors chase around 500 elusive creative teams.

Happily, it's not quite time to say goodbye to Garrett because he's granted his first and only interview to Campaign (or any other magazine, for that matter). How Jim punched a gun-toting client on a shoot, what he thinks about production companies being trendy, what Mary Wells did for him and he for her, whether he should have taken his hand off the tiller earlier ... read all about it here in two weeks' time.


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