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Do Agency Production Departments Nurture Filmmaking Talent?


Speaking to CPOs and heads of TV across London, LBB’s Zoe Antonov explores the topic of the agency in-house production model, and how it discovers and nurtures talent

Do Agency Production Departments Nurture Filmmaking Talent?

Last week, we explored the emergence of a new generation of production heads across UK agencies, and spoke to representatives from the industry about what the role entails. This week, we are keeping the agency in-house production theme going strong, and we’re talking about how agency production departments nurture directing and filmmaking talent. With the rise of the in-house production model, we at LBB wanted to find out how agencies today can mirror the model of smaller production companies, for their growing roster of talent.

According to Susie Innes, chief production officer at Dentsu, it all depends on the level of in-house service offered, and if it is proportionate to the ambition and business model of the agency providing it. 

Jess Ringshall, CPO at Saatchi & Saatchi also thinks that it might be a simple formula: hiring talent. “Agencies often want to stay ‘safe’ with their choices, using talent that has a full reel of similar work,” she says, “yet there is such a wealth of exciting emerging talent out there.” The best thing those agencies can do today is seek out that talent, hire, champion and mentor it. To Jess, it is all about mentoring young creators and giving them the space to work and be collaborators, which is what anybody working in filmmaking does best. 

“The Saatchi & Saatchi ‘New Creators’ Showcase’ has always given a launch pad to great new talent,” Jess adds, giving examples on how the industry can improve its approach. “It spotlights them and gives an industry-facing platform, and our partnership with Channel 4 has allowed us to give the winning creator a chance to make a piece of work for Random Acts, which will further support their career.” Not only this, but Saatchi & Saatchi are currently gearing up to launch this year’s New Creators’ Showcase, with promises that it will unearth incredible sprouting talent.

Similar steps are being taken by BBH, an agency that has a number of programmes committed to finding and nurturing new stars in the advertising world. Stephen Ledger-Lomas, chief production officer at BBH, reminds us of ‘Unsigned’, which started as an annual BBH showcase of underrepresented talent in film, photography and illustration, before snowballing into a multiple-agency-initiative called ‘The Unsigned Union’ in 2021. “The aim is to find, showcase, mentor and support new talent,” explains Stephen. “It’s important to find their representation through our production partner network and projects via our inhouse studio, as well as to not allow agency loyalties or protectionism hold anyone back.” 

He continues, explaining that production companies have always been incredible at spotting talent, investing in directors and surrounding them with amazing production support. “We want to come to the table to help find the most exciting and underrepresented names and prove we are serious about wanting diversity, as well as brilliance,” Stephen adds. 

That is exactly what Peter Montgomery, head of production at Droga5 also thinks should be done. “The most important thing agency production departments can do is shine a light on new talent within their agency, and champion that talent when the right opportunity presents itself,” he says. 

Off the back of what BBH and Saatchi & Saatchi are doing, it is clear that the industry is keen on creating those perfect opportunities more often than before. Peter’s advice to both filmmakers that are part of the agency in-house model, as well as those who are looking to nurture those rising talents is this: “Hunt out new work, share things that excite you and talk to the people who have made it. And be patient, it has always been very hard for new directors to get their foot in the door.”

He continues, “Agencies and clients can be risk averse and often opportunities aren’t there, but it’s beholden on us all to seize them when they present themselves - working with a new director when they’re on their way up is one of the great joys of our job.” When it comes to agencies being able to hit the ground running the same ways in which production companies do, Peter isn’t so certain. “In-house production is here to stay, but I’m not sure agencies will ever do exactly what production companies do when it comes to discovering new talent. Production companies do an extraordinary job in finding, nurturing and supporting young directors - it’s not easy but it’s something that their business model both allows and demands.”

Will the industry demand the same from agencies soon enough? We can only wait to find out, but until then, we will keep an eye on the ways in which that part of the industry paves the way for talent to be discovered, nurtured and progressed up the filmmaking ladder.

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LBB Editorial, Wed, 22 Feb 2023 16:40:20 GMT