A Pint With… Lee Pavey

March 31, 2017 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Knocking some jars back with Mr. Electric.

Photography by Nipon Ravel.


I was relieved when Lee Pavey suggested The Sun and 13 Cantons for our rendezvous. With some practice, I could probably spit at it from my desk.

The choice wasn’t just for my benefit though. Since they started five years ago Electric Theatre Collective have employed three people who worked behind this bar and moulded them into valuable soldiers on the front lines of visual effects. We necked two pints of Edison British Pilsner (relevant, we thought) from the Electric Bear Brewing Co. with relish, nattering away and engaging in some colourful Soho people-watching (we think we saw Danny Boyle saunter past at one point).

...This pub was my introduction to Soho. I got my first job just down the road at Glassworks. All my mates in the industry come here. It’s been our regular haunt for about 20 years. It didn’t used to be so cool. It was a dive back then. There’d always be someone up to something.”

...Spurs are finally allowing me to come to work happy on a Monday.
They don’t lose every week anymore, so I can hold my head high when I walk into the office. I used to start the week a little bit tender.”

...I always dreamt I’d work on Star Wars. In my first runner interview the company told me they were about to work on the new Star Wars film. I thought it was destiny. I didn’t get the job. I’ve worked on a Nissan commercial with stormtroopers in and a Star Wars and Adidas collaboration, but that’s the closest I’ve come.”

...I couldn’t believe my luck when I got my first running job at Glassworks. At the time they were working with immensely talented people, on huge pop videos for the Spice Girls and George Michael. I was working at Marks & Spencer’s before and I refused to quit my job there, just in case. I used to come to the office in my black and green uniform. One day Hector told me not to turn up wearing it anymore. I eventually trusted him and let go. Amazingly, they never fired me.”

...Being a runner was the most amazing job. I was getting paid to hang out with interesting people and learn loads of skills, getting the chance to learn every aspect of the business. I didn’t want to move on. I met loads of people who are still in the industry. Now they’re directors, agency producers or heads of TV.”

...I’m anti Vanilla ads. So many are forgettable. At Electric it’s really important that real people – not the ad industry bubble – are talking about the stuff we work on. I want it to have a cultural impact.“

...People don’t realise how much work VFX is. Nobody queries the cost of building physical things, but when someone’s making something on a computer people expect it’s free. It undervalues the skill and craft of people in visual effects.”

...I believe in specialists. I believe in the client-agency relationship and the agency- production company part. I believe in editors, graders, sound designers. We’re all skilled craftspeople. That is really important. If we start to detach parts and those industries disappear, that’s bad for the industry. We could do everything at Electric. We could get an editor, but they wouldn’t be as good as someone at Work or Final Cut. You wouldn’t go to a suit tailor and ask him to make a pair of shoes. You go to the best craftspeople and you get what you pay for.”

...Oasis at Knebworth was a unique moment in cultural history. I was there. It was the last gig that will ever be like that – the last coming together on that scale. It was 250,000 people over two days who all lived one type of life.”

...Some young directors now would have been megastar directors 20 years ago. How can you make something great for five grand? Then how do you keep doing that time after time? They’re making stuff that’s baffling. At the UKMVAs there’s a category for budget music videos. And they look like they cost half a million pounds.”

...I love my ridiculous dog. She’s a British Bulldog called Tubbs, after the character in the League of Gentlemen. She’s annoying – needy, difficult and expensive to keep – but also the most amazing thing in the whole world.”

...People rely on VFX to make their bad ideas look better. If an ad’s a stinker, it’s a stinker. We can’t save it. We can make it better, but the idea needs to be great. It’s more important than ever to have a great idea.”

...I keep fit by boxing on Golden Square. Every Wednesday at 10:15. It’s not worth watching, but people can come. Being fat doesn’t suit me. I
just get a belly and look like Mr Potato Head. And gym’s boring. So I started boxing with this guy Honest Frank. It gives me a calmness, just concentrating on hitting something. I can’t pick my phone up either, which is liberating.”

...My job is the best. I get paid to run a company with my best friends. We have a good time. We make great work. And we’re proud of what we’ve done. We don’t want to own the world. But what we do, we want to do really well.”

Lee Pavey is Co-Founder and Producer at Electric Theatre Collective.

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