Secret Location

March 14, 2011 / Humour

By Graham Aza

Think you've shot everywhere London has to shoot? Each edition top location manager Graham Aza serves up an intriguing and unknown London location to whet your appetite.

Think you know where this is? Post an answer below.


Graham Aza is a location manager and runs online locations site

Agony Jim

March 14, 2011 / Humour

By Jim Watkins

Veteran producer and sage cum digital native Jim Watkins solves your advertising conundra.

©  Zoe More O'Ferrall

Dear Jim

I believe I have solved the problem of ever-decreasing budgets. The answer? Slavery.

Since purchasing slaves for the office and shoots earlier this year, I’ve been able to reduce staff overheads by a whopping 80%. Over the next six months I’m planning further efficiencies, by executing the least productive slave after every job, and using their remains to feed the rest of the ‘team’ through the next production. It’s all about the work.

Dora Winhoffer Orton Folsbury

You are in luck, Dora. I am an expert on slavery, having watched Roots when it was on television. I’ve done some research for you too and read The Slave Trade Act of 1807, but then remembered that advertising and the media industry as a whole had reinvented slavery back in the 1990s. We were instructed to call it work experience, and I am now told the poor little buggers are called interns; a more modern American term which makes the slaves feel more important and saves them demanding money.

Killing the least effective is certainly a creative execution but I expect these days would see complaints about their human rights being infringed etc. Bloody PC brigade!

Yours in commercials, Jim


Dear Jim

We’re currently in production on a commercial. The client was concerned at script stage that their logo would not be prominent enough. We addressed this in a number of ways, but none was entirely sufficient.

Eventually it was suggested by one of their marketing team that we brand the logo on the face of the lead actor with a hot iron, as he is addressing the camera throughout the film. This will up the logo visibility significantly, but I’m worried that the searing pain may affect his performance. I’m told that you’re an expert on branding. Please help.

Jeremy Particle New Curlingham

Really, Jeremy, I do not know what the world is coming to. When I set up the world’s best known advertising agency - Watkins Collett Dickinson Pearce - in 1952, we did not put up with this sort of thing.

We would come in, smoke a packet of fags, drink some whisky, spank our secretary for some infraction real or imagined, (it didn’t matter really) and then create a brilliant ad. The client said thank you.

I remember on one occasion a client wrote to us after receiving our script and asked whether it would be possible to mention the product. We were outraged. Bill Smethwick, our talented but volatile creative director, was straight round there. The client apologised but Bill tore his head off and burnt down his warehouse anyway, as a warning to others. Tell ‘em where to stick their branding!

Yours in commercials, Jim

Dear Jim,

I have previously been quite cynical about the virtues of cost consultants. No more. Burpy Knob have inspired me in so many ways I just had to share them.

With their help and 'big picture thinking' we have recently managed to reduce a complex 10-day overseas shoot to an afternoon in our own offices (with the lights off). How? Simple. Less cheese in the sandwiches.

Lateral creative thinking around costs just got sexy. Please share these insights and wisdom with the membership as a whole (hole?).

T. Oady

Bramble on the Mold

You have been truly blessed T. I really learned a lot from working with these people.

I discovered that if you shot for a shorter time, it cost less than if you shot for longer. If you had three lights instead of four there were savings too. In fact if you had less of anything it was almost always cheaper than if you had more. Who knew?!

The secret to the success of this approach is not to let your judgement be clouded by things like the client’s objective in making the commercial in the first place, or whether the film will be any good. If it’s good enough for Woolworths, MFI and General Motors, its good enough for any advertiser - that’s my mantra.

Yours in commercials, Jim




Dear Jim,

As MD of a top London production company, I’m all too aware in these straitened times that agencies are looking to us to budget jobs more efficiently. After examining our bottom line, I’m considering replacing the First Assistant Director on one of our current shoots with a Mackerel. As you may be aware, Mackerels are among the best value fish on the market, retailing at £2.99 for two from Tescos, against £488/ 10-hour day for a First Assistant. Please advise.
Chipping Norton

Sounds like the cost controller has been spinning you a line. Any one who understands filmmaking knows mackerel are useless. Haddock is the only fish that will do the job. They attend a training school and provide the net gains you seek.
Yours in commercials


Dear Jim,

I was delighted to recently be invited to pitch on a multi-script campaign for an International car brand. I submitted what was in my view a conservative budget of £400,000 based on 5 shoot days, but was dismayed to learn that the actual amount the client aimed to spend was £7.99. Do you think this is achievable? I’m told the films will only be going online.

Lower Bewsbury

That is an average budget for online and, as such, perfectly fair. If your commercials are going online, Panavision or Arri will provide all your equipment free. These are not businesses but philanthropic enterprises enabling multi national corporations that seek to increase their profits to satisfy that objective. All the crew will work for free and will feed themselves for the simple pleasure of working on this remarkable script (have you seen it yet?).
Don’t forget to ring your landlord, to remind him not to invoice you for rent this month under the “working on a viral” clause in your lease.
Yours in commercials

Dear Jim,
I have just signed an extremely talented director with a reputation for being temperamental. For the first month or so he was no trouble at all, but last week (as a result it seems of some poor quality visual research) he cut the head off one of our runners with a sword. Apart from the re-hiring costs, there was a PPM taking place at the time, and the meeting room window was left spattered with blood. I’m concerned that too many of these incidents might begin to affect morale. What should I do? He is excellent with actors.
Wilton On The Wold

Was it only the head? I never found that had any significant effect on the performance of a runner. I would suggest a first warning would be sufficient. Draw his attention to the production company staff handbook, setting out what parts of a runner or other staff members might be dismembered and what sanctions, if any, are (unlike the runner’s head) attached.
Yours in commercials

If you have a production problem you think Jim Watkins can help with, please email, quoting Agony Jim.