Bringing Production Into FOCUS

November 26, 2015 / Features

By Alex Reeves

How the location production event could unite the disparate tribes of production.

A good producer is someone who can organise everything and everyone involved in making a film to within an inch of its life. And good organisation takes knowledge, particularly when you’re shooting somewhere unfamiliar.

Jean-Frédéric Garcia has been Managing Director of The Location Guide for over ten years now. For almost 20 years the publication has been an indispensable resource for anyone planning on shooting just about anywhere, providing all the essential pre-production resources needed for filming on location around the world.

Now they’ve started something new – an event with the same goals. On 14th and 15th December 2015, the London’s Business Design Centre will be host to FOCUS.

According to their website, FOCUS “is London’s first international trade show, summit and networking event for film, television and commercials”. That sounds ambitious, so we asked Jean-Frédéric what the big idea is.

The Beak Street Bugle: Where did the idea for a location production event in London come from?
Jean-Frédéric Garcia:
Over the years we’ve been going to the Location Trade Show in Los Angeles, organised by the AFCI, and almost every year people were asking us ‘why don’t you do one in London?’ With our contacts in location management and production across screen industries, we’re the natural link that can bring all the right people together.

We thought it was something interesting and were approached by several big event companies to do it in London, but wasn’t always the right time. I know that several other organisations and publications in the UK were thinking about doing an international production and location event in London. But because it’s a big venture and there’s always the risk of doing something that people are not going to attend. So nobody made it happen.

We’ve been toying around with the idea for a while but The Location Guide is a publishing company and we don’t have the expertise to do a big event, because it involves such a lot of organisation. If we were to do something we’d want to do it properly. We didn’t want to do five tables in a hotel reception.

Early last year we were introduced to LiveBuzz, a company that specialises in helping media owners plan their first event. We had lots of conversations and meetings. They liked the idea, the industry and people’s reaction to The Location Guide so much that they said ‘we want more than to help you; we want to do it with you.’ So that’s what happened. They believe in the project as much as we do and so FOCUS is a joint venture between LiveBuzz and The Location Guide.


BSB: Why do you think now is the right time for this kind of event?
London is the big production hub of Europe but nobody has ever done anything here that actually talks to all screen industries. Film, TV, the internet, commercials; everywhere in the world they used to be extremely separated. They used to have that silo mentality – you shoot one or another. However, when it comes to directors I can’t remember having met one who does commercials who doesn’t want to do a feature film.

Because of the explosion of content with the internet the whole industry is creating so much more now. It’s unbelievable how much is being made. And with that the old lines between film, TV and commercials are getting blurred. I’m not saying there’s no difference anymore, but the borders are not as clean cut as they used to be. And The Location Guide is perfectly placed to talk about that or to galvanise all of those people together because that’s what we’ve been doing since we became independent.

We always wanted to talk to all the screen industries because when it comes to film and location it doesn’t really matter whether you bring to the location a documentary, a feature film, a commercial, a TV series. It’s work that arrives in a certain place and you need to make sure crews work, eat, sleep and play.

It wasn’t always easy to make sure that everybody understood that we wanted to do something for all the screen industries, but we really wanted to transcend all of that because the audience will not care what format you are labelling your content as. If it is cool they will watch it. If it lasts two hours they will watch it. If they want to binge watch a TV series then they’re going to binge watch it. It’s not about airtime anymore because they don’t care about that. They just want to access whatever is good wherever they want whenever they want.


BSB: What are the benefits of bringing these industries together?
The aim has never really changed. We really wanted to use the platform of London to create an international event and to make sure that producers, production managers, location managers, executive producers etc. could all meet under one roof and benefit from the other industries.

Feature film people work so much with incentives, which is something that is just about to start in the commercial industry, but is very interesting to see how it worked for them and how now hardly any movie goes somewhere to shoot if there isn’t an incentive. Incentives have obviously spread to TV with all the high-end TV dramas. High-end TV dramas need money and sometimes they turn into very neat (or sometimes not so neat) branded content, which is more like advertising. Our objective was to make sure that all of the people would be able to talk together. And benefit from each other.

It’s also good for the London production industry to see what is out there. Many producers have the one production service company that they use in South Africa a lot because it’s great to shoot in South Africa. There’s no way around it, South Africa and Spain are massive countries to do service, but we wanted to show them that maybe they could consider other places and providers who are really keen on making the best job they possibly can for London or Europe.


BSB: What have been the main challenges?
We never went into this thinking it’s going to be easy. Obviously this is a commercial venture, and the two biggest challenges were to make this proposal viable for all parties concerned and to attract the right audience for the exhibitors.

A show without visitors is not a show. But I believe that we are on the right track to provide the audience. The figures look good so far. But have we overcome the challenge? I will only be able to tell you that afterwards.

It also looks like the producers are willing to travel for FOCUS too. 57 per cent of visitors registered come from the UK, 24 per cent from Europe and 19 per cent from the rest of the world. We always thought that the bulk would come from the UK, but that’s quite a good mix.

The conference [FOCUS Summit] is a massive beast. We’ve got really cool names to talk. It’s going to be extremely interesting. I can’t stand boring speakers at conferences. I prefer to go home and sleep. One of the things we decided early on is we will need to have speakers who are really engaging because that’s so important. It’s one day. It’s going to be full on but people really have to be engaged. That’s why it took us a bit longer to put the summit together because the speakers really need to be of a certain calibre within the industry.


BSB: How have your aims changed as you’ve put the event together?
I don’t think our objectives from the moment we started to where we are now have changed. I think it’s still the same – to create an alternative to the more corporate events that already exist in London.

We tried to remove as many barriers to entry as possible. It’s free. So whether you come for an hour or the day you’re not going to pay for anything. The second thing is we tried to schedule it in the least busy period of the year. In the second week of December the industry starts to relax a little. People are going out and catching up for Christmas drinks. We wanted to make sure people would not be abroad shooting a movie or something, so a fair amount of the industry would get to the show. We’re going to have a big bar lounge at the show to make sure that people will be able to catch up with their friends.

It’s in central London – N1 – not some out-of-the-way exhibition centre. We’re going to have a drinks reception on the opening night. On the second night we’re throwing a party with the APA, so we’ve tried to make it as networking-focused as possible. People will have a chance to meet and greet, renew contacts or make new ones.

Register now to visit FOCUS. 

What Epica Taught Me About The World

November 16, 2015 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Cultural learnings of the world for make benefit glorious industry of advertising.

I spent last week in a dark, soupy room in a Parisian conference room with a rabble of assorted journalists who had been assembled as the pre-selection jury for the Epica Awards. As the only creative prize awarded by journalists working for marketing and communications magazines around the world, I was proud to be part of it. It has a unique impartiality because nobody in that room had any personal connection to the work we were judging.

Over the week we voted on over 3,000 pieces of advertising. It was exhausting but enlightening. As Epica is a truly international award, we saw entries from the most unfamiliar markets (at least to this London ad industry journalist).

I noticed that not only was there good work coming from unexpected countries, but they also taught me a lot about the cultures that they were made in. Good advertising won’t work if it doesn’t understand its audience, so commercials are a brilliant tool for learning about the world.

I am saving you watching over 3,000 ads here, by bringing you the most interesting and odd ones that you won’t have seen.



Denmark isn’t making enough babies

Apparently the Danes need a bit of encouragement to make more Danes. There are also some good facts about sex in this campaign. People have 28% more sex in a sunny location on holiday and exercising together increases chances of having sex. Useful knowledge.



Kazakhstan needs to stand united

I don’t think I’m alone in saying I know very little about Kazakhstan. And I expect Borat wasn’t the most reliable documentary source on the subject. So it was interesting, if sad, to learn that they have serious racial tensions that the government are trying to soothe through nostalgia. This campaign harkens back to the hard times directly after the break-up of the USSR, when the nation pulled together to help each other. The hope is that reminding the people of their past unity will bring the different ethnic groups closer again.



Lebanon don’t like black cats
…But New Zealand do

Superstition is a funny one, but it’s hard to work out how the black cats being unlucky thing somehow morphed into them bringing good luck. Anyway, this is probably a fictional event, but it’s interesting to learn.\



Argentina’s mechanics are just like everyone else’s mechanics

Our international jury had a good laugh at these ones. They’re built on an observation that’s valid in every culture around the world – mechanics will always try and fleece you. There’s something reassuring about that.



The United Arab Emirates have similar taste in films to the West

This was just one execution from a very funny campaign for cinema chain Du. It’s interesting to know that people watch the same sorts of films on the shores of the Persian Gulf as they do in the West. And it’s good to know they find the same sorts of films ridiculous.



Norway is full of people with good intentions and unrealised dreams

I must admit I have a stereotype about Norwegians being offensively good-looking, outdoorsy, active sorts of people, so when this ad implied that some people don’t go through with their exciting hobbies, it made me feel a bit better about my own lazy lifestyle and lack of staying power.



Sweden have a very dark sense of humour

It probably has something to do with the dark winters they get, but a lot of the Swedish ads we saw were very gloomy. Even when they’re joking they keep it disturbing.



But they’re also pretty chill when it comes to sex and sexuality

The Swedes clearly take pride in their social equality and apparently don’t mind taking a subtle pop at Russia, which is undoubtedly a little behind on such issues.



Russia is a very macho country

This is just one of the many Russian ads we saw in which men were men, in the old-fashioned chest-beating, sausage-loving sort of way.



Egypt have a strange taboo around saying mothers’ names

To Westerners like me, this seems bizarre. None of jury had ever heard of this taboo before so it raised a number of eyebrows when we first saw it. My mum’s called Sarah by the way.



Thailand really push the boundaries of advertising

One of the great things about watching advertising from around the world is the abundance of WTF moments. This is one that stands out. Imagine a UK client agreeing to this idea.

Signed: Olly Goodrum

November 15, 2015 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Nice Shirt’s newest signing has an unflinching, realistic style.

The latest director to sign to Nice Shirt Films has had a short but impressive career so far. Unsure of what he wanted to be when he grew up (who is?), Olly Goodrum studied Multimedia production at Nottingham Trent University. In between studying he watched a lot of movies and worked for the Fire Brigade, a job that involved looking at pictures of fatal road traffic accidents and house fires.

For his graduation piece he made a music video – Consequences of the Kill by Casually Sunshine – and it did very well for him, winning in the 2011 Lovie awards and earning five official selections at international film festivals.

Deciding he wanted to become an editor he took a master’s degree in Audio and Visual Production, but he soon started to become dissatisfied with the footage he was cutting. He started shooting his own footage to practice his editing and ended up making a short film in the process.

His second short film, This Is Vanity, was an unflinching drama about a single mother struggling to protect her disabled daughter. The film was shortlisted for BAFTA 2014, BIFA 2013, was broadcast on Channel 4 and 4OD, picked up three awards, six nominations, 16 official festival selections and a Vimeo staff pick.

After further honing his craft on a few commercials and music videos, he’s signed to Nice Shirt films to take his career up a notch. Hopefully we’ll see much more of him soon.

Watch some of his work here:

High Five: November

November 11, 2015 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Laugh or cry before you buy.

We are living in an age of emotional advertising. The industry figured out a while ago that the key to memorable brand messaging is making us laugh or cry. Our pick of the best ads from the past month have the potential to do either of these (although one is more likely to make you sweat). That’s why they’re so good.

Brand: Acura
Title: The Test
Production Company: The Corner Shop
Director: Peter Thwaites (UK Representation: Outsider)
Production Company Producer: Jay Shapiro
Director of Photography: Joost Van Gelder
Ad Agency: Mullen Lowe
Creative Director: Margaret Keene
Creatives: Paul Foulkes, Chris Ford
Agency Producer: Dustin Oliver
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Bill Smedley
Sound Company: 740 Sound
Sound Designers: Chris Pinkston, Rob Marshall
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Acura – The Test

They may not make the most exhilarating cars on the road, so Acura have made a smart move selling themselves on safety in this campaign. It’s a simple, smart idea and the execution makes its emotional impact really poignant. Peter Thwaites’ subtle directorial touch paired with the gentle, futuristic music creates a powerful effect – one that stands out starkly from the usual noise of the commercial break.


Brand: Freeview
Title: Set Yourself Free
Production Companies: Rogue, Electric Theatre Collective
Directors: Sam Brown (Rogue), Sam Taylor & Bjorn-Erik Aschim (The Line)
Production Company Producers: Kate Hitchings (Rogue), Serena Noorani (Electric Theatre Collective)
Ad Agency: Leo Burnett London
Creative Directors: Matt Collier, Wayne Robinson
Creatives: Phillip Meyler, Barren Keff
Agency Producer: Becks O’Sullivan
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Amanda James
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designers: Sam Ashwell, Sam Robson, Mark Hellaby
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Freeview – Set Yourself Free

The choice of song in this ad is brilliant. While the rendition of Les Miserables classic I Dreamed A Dream may not be the most rousing we’ve heard, its message is a strong one, particularly paired with the Orwellian visuals. What are they trying to say with their song choice? That having to pay for TV channels is a miserable existence, comparable to the plight of peasants in pre-revolutionary France? Maybe that’s a bit much, but why the heck not? We’re being presented with a society of conscious, humanoid televisions and the protagonist is somehow actually quite cute. It’s a wildly excessive idea, but it’s a lot of fun for it.


Brand: Lotto
Title: Please Not Them (Vinnie Jones)
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Jeff Low
Production Company Producer: Dougal Meese
Director of Photography: Mattias Nyberg
Ad Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Creative Directors: Alex Grieve, Adrian Rossi
Creatives: Clark Edwards, Tim Riley, Jeremy Tribe
Agency Producer: Matt Towell
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Saam Hodivala
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designers: Sam Ashwell, Sam Robson
Post Production Company: The Mill

Lotto – Please Not Them (Vinnie Jones)

This whole series has been absolute gold and Vinnie Jones’ instalment is a particularly good one. Even when he’s evangelising about the virtues of anger, he’s somehow totally charming. The script is ridiculous and witty and it’s all drawn together by director Jeff Low’s comic chops, which must be world-renowned by now. 100 seconds usually seems an indulgent running time for a piece of advertising, but in this case it’s only just long enough.


Brand: Nike
Title: Last
Production Company: Park Pictures
Director: Lance Acord
Production Company Producer: Caroline Kousidonis
Ad Agency: Wieden+Kennedy Portland
Creative Directors: Alberto Ponte, Ryan O’Rourke
Creatives: Heather Ryder, Darcie Burrell, Patty Orlando
Agency Producer: Shelley Eisner
Editing Company: Rock Paper Scissors
Editor: Angus Wall
Music Company: Walker Music
Sound Company: Barking Owl
Sound Designer: Michael Anastasi
Post Production Company: A52

Nike – Last

It’s tempting to draw parallels between this ad and Nike’s 2012 Jogger spot, which was also directed by Lance Accord and also focused on one not particularly proficient runner, but this is more than a replication of that good idea. It’s an antidote to the tone other sports brands often land on, where young people with flawless bodies and tight-fitting sports gear effortlessly glide through some athletic pursuit, leaving us mere mortals feeling flabby and incompetent. With only two shots and a simple, classic endline, the story of this woman is clear and its effect is an inspiration for all.


Brand: Wrigley
Title: Sarah & Juan
Production Company: Rattling Stick
Director: Pete Riski
Production Company Producer: Tessa Mitchell
Ad Agency: Energy BBDO
Creative Director: Pedro Pérez
Creatives: Andrés Ordoñéz, Josejuan Toledo, Jesús Díaz, Pedro Pérez, Sofía González
Agency Producer: John Pratt
Editing Company: Cut+Run
Editor: Eve Ashwell
Music Company: ole Media Management L.P.
Sound Company: STIR Post
Sound Designer: Matt Holmes
Post Production Company: The Mill

Wrigley – Sarah & Juan

It’s easy to criticise schmaltzy commercials like this one and it definitely has more than a whiff of cheese to it (despite the cool minty flavour of the gum it advertises). But what’s wrong with that? Emotional storytelling is one of the most powerful tools advertisers have at their disposal and the amount of attention this ad has received from the public (over 12 million views on YouTube and counting) and the press (the Daily Mail, The Mirror and Buzzfeed, to name just a few) proves that it’s moving people around the world. Not all ads can rely on sardonic British comedy. Global brands like this have to speak to many audiences and, luckily for them, love is a language we all speak.