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The Influencers

Free the Roster! A Foundation of Diversity for a Production Company

BRF’s London MD and Partner Margo Mars on pledging to Free The Bid and her vision to nurture unique talents to direct for advertising.

Free the Roster! A Foundation of Diversity for a Production Company

Diversity: ‘A range of different things’ / ‘A variety’. 

Since joining B-Reel Films in London last January as Managing Director and Partner, I have carefully worked towards building a roster featuring unique voices of multi-talented creatives who are all adept at conveying strong narratives with their work, and who I believe can make exceptional advertising and permeate a wider culture. 

Looking back after a great first year, I can see I’ve been ‘freeing the roster’ as a direct response to the exciting changes in advertising, and I decided to share my findings. After all, without the engagement of everyone in the food chain… well, there’s just me and the sound of one hand clapping.

“It does no harm to the Mystery to know a bit more about it” - RICHARD FEYNMAN

Last autumn, I was thrilled to sign the incredibly brave and visionary director Alma Har'el to our roster. Around the same time, Alma made waves in the ad industry and in wider culture with the launch of #FreeTheBid, a revolutionary concept aimed at getting ad agencies to pledge 1 woman director in every 3 directors at the pitch stage. I immediately pledged to Free The Bid, because it’s right. 

As a production company, this means I support women directors (signed or unsigned) and consider signing more women. But, Free The Bid is not just about giving female directors an equal chance to work in our industry. I love this quote in their FAQ: ‘I can’t find a woman! Fuck, What now?’  '#FreeTheBid with your own interpretation of diversity!'

We have work to do; the sooner we level the playing field, the sooner we can start categorising directors by talent instead of gender. As a true believer that this WILL happen, alongside my support of female directors, I have also made my own pledge to have the diversity of talent as the foundation of our roster. 

 

BRF: a selection of work.


It is our collective job as the advertising industry to reflect the entire world’s population who, especially when it comes to digital content, are all our audience. It is time to nurture and offer up diverse talent as through the means of advertising we now can become creators of culture. This is how we will not just be able to Free the Roster, we will simply need to free it. 

In the past year, Danny Sangra (writer, director, artist, illustrator), Alma Har'el (director, writer, producer), Maisie Cousins (photographer, artist, director), Martina Hoogland Ivanow (artist, photographer, director), The Rig Out (creative agency, director, influencers) and now Natasha Khan (musician, artist, writer, director) have all joined the company of other well-established commercial directors on the BRF roster.

We have some strong women directors on the roster and strong men directors. Ultimately, it's not a gender thing, but it IS a diversity of voices and backgrounds: the way I've curated the roster is based on aesthetic, ability, drive and vision. The directors I’ve signed to our roster all possess not only unique vision, but diverse talent across a variety of disciplines, breaking the traditional mould. I want to sign the best directors, and whether they are male or female shouldn't be an issue - although with #FreeTheBid it became clear that it is an issue. One that is long overdue action, which is where Alma Har'el has been so vital.    

Besides a strong pool of traditional commercial directors, I want to guide artists who I believe can create exceptional work but are not straight forward commercial choices for creatives. I see in them the ability to tell real, exceptional stories through their endless diverse experience, curiosity and willpower.

Take Natasha Khan, who through her self-written short film ‘I Do’ and her music videos has made a gutsy and assured debut as a director. With decades of experience in the arts, tons of musical and visual references, I personally cannot wait to see her helm for instance a documentary style commercial. Her love for people, rich voice and curiosity for the world are so visible in her musical persona Bat for Lashes, and these qualities can only enhance her directorial vision. 

 
still from ‘I Do’ a short film written and directed by Natasha Khan

I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious - EINSTEIN 

I think that, as a production company, you can work on diversifying the creative output of content for brands by guiding new or unconventional talent, but that does mean working twice as hard! Good projects also need to be made with an abundance of social skills, an ability to adapt and a special sensitivity to circumstance. Even exceptionally talented people need to work hard and even more so have the right guidance to develop their talent. 

You must acknowledge the creative producer is of equal importance as the directing talent. Together we seek originality whilst crafting a beautiful ad, and with each pitch we work hard to inspire this. Multi-disciplinary voices aspire not to replicate. Free of free of old conventions and tired ideas we are after all in Production not re-Production. Mimicry of movement between people is a form of confidence and trust in another party. In situation of stress and uncertainty mimicry, often unintentionally, becomes more common.

I say be rejoiced and curious when we recommend a less than obvious choice who hasn’t got the exact spot on their reel – yet. Free the Bid! There are very experienced people behind that choice. 

Art only begins where imitation ends - OSCAR WILDE 

It’s so exciting now, as the demand for varied content is high. We get content briefs that seek to challenge and then we get the more risk averse carefully crafted TV commercials… and anything in between. We now have an opportunity to speak to more people than ever before, with more diverse voices than ever before. 

A great successful example of the food chain working perfectly is our recently released short JellyWolf. Through the Fifth Sense platform, CHANEL Fragrance bravely and cleverly celebrates originality and female creativity. They commissioned Alma to create epic, challenging work aimed at a millennial audience embracing feminism on their own terms. The result is both spellbinding and unique, but most of all, it is deeply personal, and significant as if almost coded for those who it’s meant to be heard by – young women who need a voice. 

That is only possible through a level of freedom I am certain we will see more and more. 

 
still from ‘JellyWolf’ written and directed by Alma Har’el

So it’s a good idea to diversify – we all need to stand out in a crowd in a time where production is being seen as a commodity easily replicated inhouse at agencies or in low cost centres.  To view a concept from different angles and perspectives WILL progress creativity. 

I actively look at diversifying our roster, as the traditional commercial director and producer will need a lot more strings to their bows to survive this great heap of opportunities. The diversity in gender, race and creative output also creates a special super creative climate for the company which results in better and more interesting work. 

Let’s be surprised, let’s work with the brave, let’s trust, let’s be curious, let’s Free our Rosters! 

Margo 

PS. Creativity is magic. Don't examine it too closely - EDWARD ALBEE



BRF (B-Reel Films) London 








Portrait of Margo Mars credit:  photography Addie Chin / art Danny Sangra for Grolsch #Doodleism

Genre: People , Storytelling , Strategy/Insight