The Collector - Helly Nahmad Gallery, Frieze Masters

November 30, 2014 / Arts and Culture

By Don Grant

The Nahmads - more interesting than your family.

The Collector - Helly Nahmad Gallery

Frieze Masters

Regents Park


There was really only one stand worth a visit in the whole of this travelling circus called Frieze and Frieze Masters in October, amongst the spray-tans, Armani suits and Hindmarch handbags, and that was the Helly Nahmad Gallery’s offering called The Collector. This was thinking outside conventional gallery precepts, in that it was more like a film set or a piece of theatre. Visitors could walk around this ‘apartment’ from Paris 1968, peer into the sitting room, a study, the bedroom and the small kitchen, with the sink piled up with dirty dishes and marvel at the attention to detail, even down to cinema ticket stubs, receipts, overflowing ashtrays, with Gitanes butts, naturellement, and piles of Paris Match, Le Monde and L’Oeil, the French arty mag. There were stacks of period newspapers, catalogues from auction houses and exhibitions on the floor and tables, postcards, photographs and political posters pinned to the wall, monographs, catalogues raisonnés, art books and vinyl records packed into bookshelves.

On the two small televisions looped black and white Truffaut and Godard films were playing, interspersed with shots of Brigitte Bardot, newsreel clips from the Paris student riots of ‘68 and the Tour de France, with Miles Davis hauntingly mixed with Les Swingle Singers, and the soundtrack from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

We were told the apartment belonged to an obsessive and imaginary collector. As Helly Nahmad said in his introduction, “Our Collector is a complex character with a completely unique [sic] personality. A passionate, brilliant, eccentric and humble man. Living in post-war Milan and then Paris, he lives and breathes art.”

The man who breathed life into the installation was production designer Robin Brown, who was responsible for a cute Bonnie and Clyde period commercial for Entenmann's cakes. In amongst this deep-litter disarray were hanging paintings by Picasso, Miró, Morandi, Cy Twombly, Max Ernst, Jean Dubuffet, Magritte and Dali. On a bedside table, there were three striding Giacometti figures, as casual as you like.

The Nahmad family descended from a prosperous banker, Hillel, from Aleppo, Syria, where he lived until just after the second World War. Following anti-Jewish violence in 1947, he moved to Beirut, and when the situation there became difficult, he took his three sons, Joseph, Ezra and David, to Milan in the early 1960s. All three brothers ended up making a fortune from art. With the emergence of the Red Brigade in the 1970s, Milan was perceived as too dangerous, and the family moved again. Joseph and Ezra headed for Monaco, and David to New York.

Today, their art inventory takes up 15,000 square feet of a duty-free building next to Geneva’s international airport. It is estimated that the warehouse in 2007 contained between 4,500 and 5,000 works of art, worth between $3-4 billion at the time, according to Forbes, including 300 Picasso’s, worth some $900 million. According to Christopher Burge, Christie’s New York chairman, they have sold more works of art than anybody alive. They have bought and sold art on a massive scale over the years, including Morandi’s Natura Morta and a Picasso portrait of his second wife, Jacqueline Roque, for $2.6m, which they sold in 2007 for $30.6m. Other auction purchases for their collection include Picasso’s portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, La Dormeuse au Miroir for $5.5m in 1990, Monet’s Le Palais Contarini for $4.2m in 1996 and Les Canotiers à Argenteuil for $9m in 1998, now valued at $40 million. To cap it all, they paid $60 million at Sotheby’s in 2008 for Kazimir Malevich’s 1916 Suprematist Composition. Léger’s Still Life went to the Nahmad family for $7.9m, while Kandinsky’s Study for Improvisation 3 was sold to them for $16.9 million at Christie’s in 2008.

Helly’s cousin, son of David, also called Helly, (confused?) operated the Helly Nahmad Gallery out of the Carlyle Hotel in New York, and in April this year, in connection with his leadership role in the operation of a high-stakes illegal sports gambling business and money laundering, he was sentenced in a Manhattan federal court to one year and one day; as if he didn’t have enough money. He is now $6.4 million lighter, as that was the extent of his fine, and all his right, title, and interest in Carnaval à Nice by Raoul Dufy, went to the United States, as the painting was involved in a scam to con a British model, who wanted to ‘lose’ some earnings in the Bahamas.

He and professional poker player Illya Trincher, who was also fined $6.4 million, operated a nationwide illegal gambling business in New York City and Los Angeles that catered primarily to multi-millionaire and billionaire clients, including Russian gang bosses and Hollywood film stars, like Leonardo DiCaprio. As part of this business, the organization ran a high-stakes, illegal sportsbook that utilized several online gambling websites operating illegally in the United States, which made millions of dollars of sports bets each year. Nahmad was the primary source of financing for the illegal gambling business, and he was entitled to a substantial share of its profits.

The Nahmad family story would itself make a terrific film, a cross between Catch Me If You Can and Citizen Kane, maybe starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Helly, with Christopher Walken as his father? At least one set has already been designed.


Originally published in Kensington and Chelsea Today.

Under the Influence: Olly Blackburn

November 26, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

The Great Guns director digs down to the bedrock of his inspiration.

Looking at Olly Blackburn’s body of work, it’s clear the Great Guns director takes his influences from a broad spectrum of experience. From his big-screen exploits in the horror and thriller genres and recent rural teen drama Glue to his work in commercials, he’s a hard one to pigeonhole.

And when we asked him to name five of his biggest inspirations, his responses reflected these eclectic tastes. “I think every field is inspirational in its own way when you have real masters doing it,” he says. “And each one has a different lesson to tell. All these things, when I first saw or heard them, my mind turned into a supernova, but most importantly every time I re-watch or re-listen to them my mind still turns into a supernova. They all have that freshness and those inspirational qualities.”

PlayStation, Double Life

“To me a great piece of art that’s beautifully done, there’s no difference whether it’s a painting, a photograph or a film. And advertising can be great art. I was at film school in America – at NYU. I had this very inspirational writing teacher called Yvette Biro, who was very European and artsy. The first thing she showed me when I first got there about the art of making a great short film was a reel of classic British ads from the 80s and 90s.

Delivering an idea in 30 or 60 seconds is an art. And especially in this country we’ve proved to be amazing at it. When I was growing up all these ads would come out where your jaw would drop. There are so many of them. All these things like Guinness Surfer, the Vaughan and Anthea ads, Tarsem’s ads. Every time one of those came on it was this moment – this event. It was just beautiful filmmaking.

There’re other great ads; almost too many to go through. It could have been another ad on another day. But that ad for PlayStation by Frank Budgen – there’s something about that I will never forget. When I saw it for the first time I was speechless. It’s the simplicity and the humanity of it.  All great ads I think are very simple concepts. But as we all know getting to simplicity is one of the hardest things to do. When you join the dots between these very real, very strange people with what they’re talking about, which is this escape into a complete virtual world, it’s the whole package – an amazing piece of storytelling.

The storytelling in that ad is so profound, particularly through the casting and the location. Everyone remembers that strange kid saying ‘I’ve conquered worlds’ and he’s in this kind of wasteland. And just that three seconds of image suggests so much story. You could almost create a whole world around that image.

It’s not like I’m always thinking of that, but there are lessons to be drawn from it about casting and visual storytelling that are sunk deep into my bedrock.”

Beastie Boys, Sabotage

“The trouble with Sabotage is it’s almost impossible to describe. It just is. Its genius just exists and it’s almost impossible to break down.

It’s sort of crack cocaine. Whenever [Sabotage] gets played on TV you just have to sit and watch it. It’s the energy. It’s the humour. It captures that really gonzo, high-octane, crazy vibe.

The whole thing is funny because it’s such a pitch perfect piss-take of a 70s cop show – the fake moustaches and the guy dressed as the bellhop and the movements they do. They know their genres so well and they’re just sending it up immaculately. And it’s kickass.

That energy does [influence the way I work]. You want to capture that energy. And there’s something about that video that’s so spontaneous and instinctive about it. It feels like not much thinking happened. They just did it. And they’ve got it 100 per cent right. I think in filmmaking that’s what you’re aiming for.  Sometimes that can be very hard. Sometimes you can have people interfering with you.

What you’re really aiming for is to be able to get to those situations where you’re a group of people who’ve all got chemistry and every situation is instinctive and spontaneous, with your actors, with your DOP, with everyone all working as an organism. And that’s what that video says to me. Be like a shark. Keep moving forward. Don’t stop to think and let the creativity happen.”

The Clash

“The Clash is just, for me, the greatest band that ever existed. And the reason why is that, first of all, they both played incredible music and they looked fucking great. So it was the double-whammy. Secondly they lasted five years and they were like this meteorite. They didn’t outstay their welcome. They didn’t turn in to U2 or the Stones. They just delivered incredible shit then they exited the stage. They knew the great lesson, which is timing: when to take the stage and when to get off.

The other thing is that although they were punk rock they had this amazing eclecticism. And in the five years that they were making music as the original Clash, they did reggae, they did electro-funk, they did sort of soul music, RnB. They just had this incredible breadth and appetite and yet made it all sound like their own, which I think is extraordinary.

My commercials are completely different to the films that I make. The films that I make are very dark thrillers and horror films and I hope to make more films in different genres. But I feel that I have a lot of different interests and a lot of appetite and creatively I want to explore a lot of things. And that’s one of the great things about The Clash.

I wish I could have that rock and roll spirit. They represent the true spirit of rock and roll.

And they also wrote one of the great songs about advertising, which is Koka Kola off the London Calling album.”

Don McCullin

“We live in a visual medium and a photographic medium. A lot of commercials directors do photography. A lot have come out of photographic backgrounds. I love photography. I’m not a professional photographer.

Another day it could have been a different person but Don McCullin has always been one of my loves ever since I was a kid. I got given a book of great press photos.

There’s something about the way he captures the moment and the way he captures a face that gets to some kind of truth. He has a very famous [photograph] of a shell-shocked soldier in Vietnam. There’s something about that picture that just gets beyond anything you could express vocally.

The other thing I love about him is he shoots these very gritty things and there’s this kind of huge epic resonance to his eye to the way he frames, the way he shoots – I call it the ‘everyday epic’.

I’m British at heart. Almost all the commercials I’ve ever made have been in Britain and have all been about showing Britain in a very poetic, cinematic way. And a lot of that is inspired by Don McCullin and people like him and the way that his eye is trained.

He shoots beautiful black and white and I haven’t shot black and white for a long time, but whenever I try and shoot black and white that’s always the reference I give. This is how black and white should look.”

Night of the Hunter

“My favourite film changes each day, but there’s a certain core amount of films that are the supernova going off in your brain. First of all it’s one of those films that when you watch it, it’s so influential that you’re like ‘oh, shit, that came from this film!’ It’s full of stuff. You’ll be amazed at how much comes from that film.

When it opened it was a disaster. No one wanted to see it. It was too weird. Charles Laughton, who directed it, was an actor. He never made a film again after that. But it’s only just grown in influence ever since.

That [river boat] sequence is just unforgettable. It’s one of the most poetic moments in cinema. It captures the essence of fairy tale, of darkness and of dreams. It’s about these children fleeing a psychotic preacher and someone sings a song over the top as they float down this river [while] you see these frogs and rabbits in the foreground.

The reason I chose it is because it’s another one of those things where creativity is unforgettable in life and ever since I’ve seen it I’ve never forgotten it. It has a resonance that goes beyond time. It summons up a series of feelings in you about childhood and storytelling and darkness and light that just seem to break beyond the screen.

There’d be very little way you could directly connect it with the commercials I’ve done but there’s something about the visual storytelling and the poetry in it which I think does factor into [my work]. If you’re delivering an idea in 30 or 60 seconds each frame has to have a logic and humanity and poetry to it. You need to figure out where that lies. And it’s in casting people with rich faces that tell stories and being able to get the performances out of them, even if it’s just looking into the camera. It’s understanding where the innate soul of those five seconds is. All these things are about that. There’s an instinctive, innate soul about them.”

Have a look for these influences on Olly's reel.

Signed: Tore Frandsen

November 26, 2014 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

This Danish dynamo has been scooping up advertising awards since he was a teenager.

Like many directors before him, Tore Frandsen got into directing through his role as an advertising creative. Starting as a runner at JWT in his teens, he had a habit of writing his own creative and littering the desks of executives in his department with his ideas. It paid off, earning him work on various campaigns and winning him a slew of awards, including a Cannes Lion, before the age of twenty.

A graduate of both The Danish Advertising School and the Copenhagen Film and Photo School, Tore’s had the opportunity to flex his creative muscles in both ideas and their actualisation, and he’s won accolades for both writing and directing. He even started his own production company, Fandango Film, before he caught the attention of Denmark’s biggest commercial company, BaconCPH.

Since then Tore has fleshed out his reel with work many genres and styles and now he’s chosen to partner with The Sweet Shop to manage his global career. It seems like he ticks all the boxes, so it'll be interesting to watch his global career progress.

Watch some of his work here:

Some Thoughts from Roman Coppola

November 14, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Titbits of wisdom and conjecture from the visionary filmmaker’s appearance at Ciclope festival, including his unique point system.

He’s one of the coolest members of Hollywood’s most creative family, a polymath equally talented in directing, writing and producing. Working across music videos, commercials and feature films, he also runs production company The Directors’ Bureau. Roman Coppola recently swung by the Babylon cinema – a delightful art-deco spot in Berlin, just round the corner from the former Communist party HQ (now Soho House Berlin) – to share his experience and wisdom with the brightest sparks of advertising gathered for Ciclope festival. In case you missed it, here are some highlights from his live interview to intrigue, and hopefully inspire.

On The RC Point System
With characteristic confidence, Roman revealed how he decides which commercial scripts to work on by sharing his tried and tested point system.

In case you can’t read that off the image with Roman cooling it, here it is in text:


(Looking for jobs which rate a 6 or higher)
Great creative – ADD 5 POINTS
Very good creative – ADD 3
Good creative – ADD 2
OK creative – ADD 1
Weak creative – SUBTRACT 1
Strong budget – ADD 2
Average budget – ADD 1
I get to write or contribute significantly to script – ADD 2
They use me as a ‘spokesperson’, or there is a paid PR component – ADD 1
Shoots in LA, Paris, Rome, Buenos Aires, Tokyo – ADD 1
Shoots outside of Above cities – SUBTRACT 1
Celebrity talent – ADD 1
Stage or back lot shoot – ADD 1
Good agency or creative team – ADD 1
Product I like – ADD 1
Fun/interesting subject to shoot (includes stunts, new technology or dance) – ADD 1
If this is a commercial which is a continuation of a previous campaign – SUBTRACT 1
Extended prep, longwinded back and forth – SUBTRACT 1

Roman Coppola: “I just cooked it up because I realised these are the things that I was looking for. Sometimes you work with people and they’re confused [and ask] ‘why’d you turn that down?’ It’s pretty accurate.”


On Risk

RC: “Working in commercials there’s a lot of fear of failure and concern about risk and, to me, risk isn’t so risky. In fact it’s a good bet to go with risky choices. As a director you always have to find colleagues and people that can deliver. That’s my job – to spot talent. But once I spot them I guide them and let them do their thing. It’s a pretty good strategy.

“With creative folks trying to make good work, in general, if you start with a good concept, find someone you think will do a good job with that, the more you can allow them to do it truly with enthusiasm, without a lot of hassle, I think the project will be better, by and large. Risky choices are a safe bet.”


On Inviting creativity
“A good project to me is like throwing a party. You get all of your ingredients for the party. It depends on your taste, but you get some alcohol, you put ashtrays around, some cigarettes – a little cup of those, that brings a smile – some food, make sure you have toilet paper – a lot of different things.

“And on set you bring people together. You have a way for people to gather. You make it an essential thing to make it fun and make it in the spirit of what you’re trying to achieve. Generally the work I like to do is more playful and fun and evokes a sense of delight. It’s hard to go wrong when you have talented people who have some enthusiasm and feel like they’re doing something for a worthwhile reason – not just a gig – and the magic tends to come just by inviting it to happen.
“I’m just a big kid. To me the world of creativity [is] invitations. So Wes – we were just friends and he said ‘will you come out to Rome and help with this thing?’ [And look where that landed him!] I just have my radar out for interesting invitations and experiences that are diverse.
“Happenstance is a big part of it. I love lucky accidents. You talk about risk and part of what that means is letting something happen that you don’t expect to happen. So I love surprise and delight.”


On Commercials and Wes Anderson
“[When making commercials] there’s a certain ritual. You do a comments call, write a treatment – all that type of thing and we do it different than other people. I always welcome people that speak more directly. If there’s a chance to cut through the BS it’s a nice place to start. Wes is a very different person. He’s a big filmmaker. He’s a real artist. And commercials intrigue him but it’s not something he seeks out. He’s very firm about what he won’t do. He won’t get on the phone or write something up just to make sure someone feels good. He does what he thinks will be best for the project – he’s very hard working in that regard.”


On Producing and Executive Producing
“To me there’s not really a division [between running The Directors Bureau as a director or as a producer]. We’re just trying to do interesting things. As a director I have a sense of what I think other directors would want, to be supported and not be pressured to do lousy things and have an environment that puts emphasis on being able to do research and [gather] visual materials. I think [I run The Directors Bureau] more as a director, but also as a producer too. The creative act of the producer is to gather people, get some good food and make sure there’s good coffee and a nice place to work.”

“It sounds obvious. [As a director] you want [your producer] to support you; someone who listens to you. They’re there to serve you really – to make sure you have all the elements that you may need and it’s always great – in the rush of production things get left behind – [good producers] take time to say ‘what would make this better’ and if I gave you my party analogy, good producers have a knack for thinking of those things, whatever it may be like ‘by the way we have some cold water here.’ Just little things that show that they care and the crew recognises that, so thoughtfulness and creative application of anticipating what problems might be and getting to them before they get to be problems.”

High Five: November

November 11, 2014 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Style and theatricality were used to their full in this month’s best advertising.

We know everyone’s getting their baubles in a twist over the Christmas ads already, but we’re saving our festive spirit for now. There’s only so much to go around and it’s important to pace yourself. We’re easing ourselves into it with just one Christmas cracker this month, alongside a handful of other delights of advertising.

Brand: Google
Title: Through Glass
Production Companies: Academy / A+, Decon
Director: FKA twigs
Production Company Producers: Morgan Clement, Anton Mallie
Director of Photography: Jackson Hunt
Ad Agency:  Anomaly
Creative Director: FKA twigs
Creatives: John Downing, Matt Knapp
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Sarah Iben
Sound Company: Factory
Post Production Companies: Framestore, Finish

Google – FKA twigs

Brands have done music videos before, but usually they’re either irrelevant because the music is terrible or they’re little more than product placement in a popular artist’s next promo. This is a different approach – a commercial that splices bits of songs from Mercury prize nominee FKA twigs with a powerful and creative visual demonstration of the Google Glass product. Directed and performed by the artist herself, it feels like a true creative collaboration, and while the cuts between the two tracks are a little jarring, it’s undeniably cool.


Brand: H&M
Title: You Vs
Production Company: Good Egg
Director: Tell No One
Production Company Producer: Adam Smith
Director of Photography: Alex Barber
Ad Agency: H&M Red Room
Creative Director: Donald Schneider
Art Director: Sandberg & Timonen
Agency Producers: Anna Granditsky, Strange Cargo
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: James Rosen
Post Production Company: MPC

H&M – You Vs

We’ve all seen those long, languorous fashion films full of pouty models mincing around over-art-directed locations, usually with no decipherable message or story. This isn’t a million miles away – it’s still recognisably a fashion commercial for Alexander Wang’s collection at H&M and the people in it are definitely a little pouty, but there’s a dynamism here that this category rarely sees. While maintaining a sleek, health goth aesthetic, mysterious directing collective Tell No One have made a film with both guts and glamour.


Brand: Halfords
Title: Street Rider
Production Company: Somesuch
Director: Aoife McArdle
Production Company Producer: Dougal Meese
Director of Photography: Andre Chemetoff
Ad Agency: Mother London
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Dan Sherwen
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Robson
Post Production Company: Finish

Halfords – Street Rider

One of the first Christmas ads to hit our screens, this charmer from Halfords isn’t out to grab any headlines. It’s just a straightforward ad made with the utmost expertise at every level. Built on the pure idea that there are few childhood joys greater than riding a new bike down your street, everyone involved has proceeded to make a top-quality film. It’s fun, beautifully shot and edited, accompanied by a great track and its bright, frosty grade will help it to stand out from all the cosy warmth we’re going to be smothered in by Christmas Day.


Brand: Honda
Title: The Other Side
Production Company: Somesuch (and Digital Production Company: StinkDigital)
Director: Daniel Wolfe
Production Company Producer: Dougal Meese  
Director of Photography: Robbie Ryan
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London
Creative Directors: Scott Dungate, Graeme Douglas
Creatives: Scott Dungate, Graeme Douglas, Paul Knott, Tim Vance
Agency Producer: Lou Hake
Editing Company: Trim
Editor: Tom Lindsey
Music Company: Wake the Town
Composer: Bobby Krlic
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designers: Anthony Moore, Tom Joyce
Post Production Companies: The Mill, Framestore

Honda – The Other Side (Click for the full interactive film

This triumph of interactivity works so well because of its elegant simplicity. The idea is easy to get your head around – two opposing versions of a driving sequence, one of which shows whenever you hold the ‘R’ key – but the result is utterly compelling. A brilliant way to capture the contrasting spirits of their Civic range, the impression it ultimately leaves is of a film engineered to the highest quality.


Brand: Woolmark
Title: Lost & Found
Production Company: Neon
Directors: Tom Bridges, Roland Woolner
Production Company Producer:  Rebecca Vine
Directors of Photography: Paul O’Callagahan, Simon Hammond
Ad Agency: Neon
Creative Directors: Roland Woolner, Charlie Cassidy
Editing Company: Neon
Editor: Tom Bridges
Music Company: Box of Toys
Sound Company: Box of Toys
Post Production Company: Neon

Woolmark – Lost & Found

A brilliant example of the transformative nature of good filmmaking, the folks at Neon have made something as prosaic as a piece of wool into the star of its own textile odyssey. Close-ups and slow motion follow it on its journey from fleece to finished garment, turning the processes involved into epic clashes and trials, creating something faintly mythological. Considering hairs and fibres were once the nemesis of 3D animation, the mixed-medium approach here is very impressive, too.

Naming Rites

November 5, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

You see these companies’ names all the time, but how did they get them?

Scan over the company names on the APA’s list of members and you’ll learn why so many people want to get into the creative industries. Sure, a couple have simply slapped the founders names above the door and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the majority have bizarre names that defy any good sense of professionalism.

The stories behind these monikers are no doubt a rich vein of entertainment, so the following is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of the tales behind how companies in advertising got their names.

Disclaimer: for the purposes of entertainment and lack of editorial rigor, some of these stories may be false. But we wouldn’t want the truth to get in the way of a good story, would we?



James Bradley, Managing Partner: “In 1998 we spent months thinking of what to call our studios. On my computer I had almost 2000 potential names.

Then the inevitable happened and my machine crashed. I managed to salvage a few potentials like 6000 Mexicans and headed to a crunch meeting with the bad tidings and the knowledge that we had to come up with a name that day for marketing and publicity purposes.

After an hour of getting nowhere one of us spotted a paperback version of The Right Stuff based on Chuck Yeager's attempt to break the sound barrier with a jet.

The question then arose, what is the speed of sound?

The answer, depending on the dryness of the air, altitude and temperature, was 750mph. We had found our name.

A few phone calls to trusted mates received a thumbs up and we have been travelling at the speed of sound ever since.”


Big Buoy

“When first forming the company we realised that all of the staff members were involved with sailing. We had an ex tug boat captain, a deep-sea diver, two pirates and three who had appeared in several episodes of Baywatch.

On one of our bi-annual trips to Butlins in Bognor Regis, we all decided to go for a late night swim. Little did we know it was hurricane season and we were washed out to sea. By an incredible stroke of luck or, dare I say, fate, in the distance we saw a Big Buoy and we were saved.

Hence the name was born.

We lost three that night, they went back to Baywatch, I miss the Hoff. He was a great flame op.”



James Studholme, Managing Director: “Blink was born sometime in 1985. The child of Bob Lawrie, a tiny irascible antipodean graphic genius, Blink was quite definitely an animation company back then.

Bob had left Australia in the mid sixties at the age of 18 to seek fame and fortune in the UK, having become the biggest thing in book jacket design in Sydney.

It was B for Bob and L for Lawrie in Blink, with the ink part being a pun on the principle of film making and the inky nature of graphic design and animation.

I joined him later that same year. Our office was at 18 Archer Street Works (a Soho street shady on both sides). Our studio had been purpose built to service the music industry in the days when every theatre, club or bar had live music. Musicians would congregate in the afternoon hoping to catch the eye of a bandleader with work for that evening. The Works were where they got their instruments mended.”



Eva Custers, Marketing & Communication: “Our name reflected our desire to use a word that would pretty much be understood in an international context. In that sense we were both very ambitious and somewhat arrogant too.

We also thought that starting with a "C" would put us fairly high up in alphabetical directories, see? Practical and arrogant, truly the best of both worlds.

And lastly we wanted to convey immediately how exceptional our company was. For us the word caviar conjured a sense of uniqueness and sophistication that we felt represented perfectly the kind of work we wanted to do.”


Dark Energy

Matt Brown, Managing Director / Executive Producer: “So after working through 1500 names we narrowed it down to things like Blacklight and Dark Matter, for all of which the domain names were taken. Then my wife said ‘what about Dark Energy?’

My initial reaction was no. I’d never heard of it, then I thought ‘hang on – I like it.’ I went onto Google and looked it up and to my surprise read this: In astronomy, dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy which permeates all of space and tends to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Dark energy is the most accepted hypothesis to explain the observations since the 1990s indicating that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. The universe contains 26.8% dark matter, 4.9% ordinary matter and 68.3% dark energy. So in short it is this little known substance, which is in fact incredibly important and everywhere.

On the day I registered the company I saw an article online saying ‘finally it looks like we have proof of the existence of Dark Energy’ and they were right!”



Dom Murgia, Managing Director: “I was asked to come up with a name for a new production company and suddenly from nowhere, the word Doofer popped into my head.

I thought it was kind of relevant to our industry in that in the north west of England it can mean TV remote control... It wasn't until I checked out the urban dictionary that I realised it has many meanings, depending where you are in the world.

We made a page on our website dedicated to the name and its various interpretations.”


Good Egg

John Hassay, Executive Producer: “Our moment of conception came as an industry leader remarked to me that commercial production companies existed to shit out golden eggs for their owners.Immediately I thought Golden Egg would make a great name for a production company.

After an abortive experience trying to get it up and running with a resolutely bad egg I realised that it was actually more than a little hubristic and I needed to think more carefully about the people I wanted to work with.

From there the process was simple. Good Egg is a phrase I used to bestow compliments on the best of friends; people who quietly go out of their way to help. It’s about loyalty, hard work, seeing the process through and, like my first company, Colonel Blimp, it reflects the very best of British.”


Grand Central Recording Studios

Carole Humphrey, Founder / Managing Director: “Grand Central Recording Studios is named after Grand Central station, which is an important New York transport hub.

I wanted us to be a hub of activity and delivery. Naming a facility after an iconic, beautiful building in America seemed aspirational and exciting.

Our studios in Marshall St had a central reception area, and the 4 studios, Xfer and offices came off that - like a concourse with platforms coming off it in a square. It was a brilliant design and working space. It made for a busy and social facility.

Our letterhead had the windows from Grand Central on it and we commissioned someone to take some photos of Grand Central that were in reception for 10 years.”


A Large Evil Corporation

Ellie Botwood, Head of New Business: “The animation company now famously called Evil, came to light after the company was searching for a new "iconic" name. Being friends with Mark Denton, Evil asked the creative director and advertising guru if he could help with a new identity. In true Denton-esque style, Mark embraced the creative circuit and they all sat down one night for beers and a good old fashioned "gang bang" (Mark's words not ours...) to come up with a new name. Names such as Chinese Burn Masters & Superwinners were hot favourites but it was when someone said A Large Evil Corporation did everyone sit up and take notice.

What started off as a hilarious joke quickly became a reality and quickly followed Evil branding in terms of books and postcards and posters not to mention Evil branded dollar bill business notes. It still makes us chuckle that A Large Evil Corporation is actually a lovely and small animation company in the beautiful town of Bath. However, Evil are now a household name and have recently finished the Xmas campaign for Sky (an actual Large Evil Corporation) and their Evil Vinyl toy designs have caught the eye of very very Large Evil Corporation's in the US so perhaps the Evil dream will come true someday in the near future...

And so the Evil brand was born.”


Riff Raff

Matt Fone, President: “It’s hard thinking of a good name – one that cuts through, one that you have a empathy to. I always liked the film, the Peanuts character and the feeling it gave me: Me Vs. the rest.

And then my six-year-old kid drew the logo and I thought “I like that!” It suddenly became something other than what I thought; it became something else, which is the best part – something of its own.

Just have to make sure I don't fuck it up…”



Tim Nash, Managing Director [in an entry from their blog]: “Anyone who’s ever started a company will have faced the task of naming that company. It’s a tortuous journey. Our company was nearly called so many shit names, vacillating between the pretentious and the plain retarded. Architecture. Chapters. PFB. High Rise. God Speed. Unknown Pleasures. Work Makes You Free. Sun Ra. The Golden Bough. Atrocity. Blah blah.

One thing we all agreed on was that we liked books. And writing. So for about a day we were called I’d Prefer Not To after Bartleby the Scrivener’s famous dictum. But then common sense prevailed: I’d Prefer Not To was probably not sending out the right message for a new shop opening in the height of a recession.

Sally and I are big fans of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There’s a great passage where Huck and Jim meet a pair of grifters called the Duke and King. They’re down and dirty swindlers. Confidence tricksters. They throw a sham play called The Royal Nonesuch to try and make some cash. So for about a week our fledgling production company was called The Royal Nonesuch. We tried to register the name with Companies House and were quickly informed that to be Royal anything we’d need a letter from the Ministry of Defence and the Queen’s consent. This left us with Nonesuch films, but we eventually reasoned that Nonesuch Records would take a dim view of it, especially given their litigious reputation.

One morning Sally [Campbell, Executive Producer] said, ‘What about Somesuch?’ Somesuch. Some. Such. Hmmm. I liked the sibilance. It was a nice word to say. Well, not really a proper word. More of a nonsense. But it felt good in my mouth. Somesuch. I thought it sounded like what an Atlanta based hip hop label would call themselves. Somesuch Entertainment Inc. We’d have a logo designed by Pen and Pixel and sip lean all day. But Sally loves ampersands. So we had to have an &/And. And the &/And was quickly followed by Co. It made us feel reliable, like those old menswear shops on Jermyn Street. Somesuch & Co. Like a long standing family business, rather than a company started on a credit card, some borrowed desks, and a wing and a prayer.

After a while you grow into your name. It feels as though you could never have been called anything else. And of course, much to our annoyance, no one ever used the &/And Co. It was always just Somesuch. Hello Somesuch.

Now the &/And feels like a hipster affectation. Suddenly everything seems to be &/And bloody something.

Our new website [launched in August]. We’re fucking off the &/And Co. From now on it’s just plain old Somesuch.

The new website has a section called Stories. It’s a platform for long form fiction and non-fiction. We’ll be launching a new story every Sunday.

In the end it always comes back to writing.”



“Why Ten Three? Well we actually prefer tenthree. The name was born in the most unlikely of places far away from the manicured edit suites of Soho. This is a tale of shattered dreams and broken bones set in the mud and sweat of Kingsmeadow playing fields.

tenthree’s founder, Billy Mead, used to moonlight as a professional footballer but his career was cut painful short by a double compound fracture of his tibia and fibula. For those without a degree in anatomy and physiology that basically means he snapped his shin in half and the bone came out of the skin. That fateful moment occurred on 10th March, or the tenth day of the third month of the year, or tenthree. It marked the end of his aspirations on the football pitch and in turn ignited his passion for editing.”