Not many production companies make it to 50 years. But looking at the cultural dominance of LA PAC’s output, it’s no shock that the French production powerhouse has made it through so many decades of change with its head above the water.
To mark this anniversary, LA PAC just released its first book, cataloguing the greatest advertising films and the greatest French and international directors the company has worked with other the years, including: Jean-Paul Goude, Oliviero Toscani, Ridley and Tony Scott, Bettina Rheims, Patrice Leconte, Bertrand Blier, Alain Corneau, David Lynch, Jean-Michel Roux... and more recently Quentin Deronzier, Nathalie Canguilhem, Roman Coppola or Reynald Gresset. The artistic direction of the book was entrusted to Peter Knapp.
The man at the helm of the business as CEO for the last seven years is Jérôme Denis, who got his first job at France 5 TV fresh out of business school. Not long after, he had the opportunity to move toward the music industry. He spent 10 years working in companies such as Virgin Music, Sony, Naïve and Warner before arriving at Wanda in 2005, where he began to produce clips and music documentaries.
He produced more than 150 videos for artists such as Madonna, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Mariah Carey, before turning his attention towards advertising and setting him on a path towards leading the unique creative business he now leads from Paris.
As LA PAC reflects on 50 years through its beautiful new book, LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Jérôme.
LBB> I see you started out in music. What led you into film production?
Jérôme> Luck and passion, friends, and drive. I was doing marketing at Virgin, Sony, Naïve, Warner… when one of my friends [Béatrice Leterrier] from Sony and Naïve became my producer at Wanda. She produced all the music videos I commissioned then. She met her husband (Louis Leterrier) on a shoot thanks to me actually. When we got back from the ‘Danny the Dog’ shoot in Miami, she invited me for lunch and announced she was about to quit to become a director. And she wanted me to take over. That was 20 years ago.
LBB> What’s the most important lesson/piece of advice you received early on in your career? How does it influence you today?
Jérôme> They say, ‘You are what you do’. Well, for a producer, you are what you produce. In our business, there is a lot of talking and pretending. The truth is what you do.
It says a lot about who you really are. And helps you live a happy and serene life, not lying to yourself or about yourself to others. I believe you always win by being authentic, and telling the truth even if you are very often not heard.
Everybody has a great potential to inspire others, but the device is never the same.
LBB> What were your expectations about joining LA PAC. What did you know about it and what were you expecting to accomplish in your role?
Jérôme> I took over LA PAC seven years ago. It has been a very instinctive move. I expected to become rich and replicate the best I learned from the wonderful years I spent at Wanda. And probably to change this business. Very modest! Result: I’m no richer, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But the outcome is amazing: I know more about myself and my team, my friends, and what I love above all. Creating winning teams, meeting soulful people and letting the magic happen.
LBB> What inspires you as a leader?
Jérôme> My wife, my two sons, my parents and sister, my grandmother, my partner and my team, the interns, my friends… people, good people only.
Charles Pépin’s podcast [‘Une philosophie pratique’]. And a quote from [Johann Wolfgang von] Goethe: ‘the goal is the journey’, as well as one my kids’ teacher passed along. I’m not sure who said it but, translated, it’s something akin to ‘it’s the journey that makes a person.’
LBB> What trends have you noticed lately across production or advertising?
Jérôme> Horizontality. Participative democracy. Surface versus depth. The world being one village.
LBB> Where do you think the industry is headed?
Jérôme> I really have no clue. It’s been a year since I’ve been working on the LA PAC 50th anniversary book that we are releasing. Working on that book and questioning 50 years of advertising, talents, creatives, processes… made me understand that nothing has really changed except technology. More, faster, the thrill of the nano second… that may be the only difference. A more industrial approach, production engineering more than the talent and unexpected.
LBB> Tell me about a recent film that really reflects LA PAC’s style.
Jérôme> The next one (I’ve always wanted to answer this in an interview).
LBB> What led you to create a book to commemorate the 50 years of LA PAC?
Jérôme> My passion for books in general. I’m surrounded by books. The idea that friends and lovers of good advertising would love to have it on their nightstand. The pleasure of offering something one-to-one to industry folks over the next few months. Diving into memories and trying to make them present and future. Discussing for hours on paper grammage, front cover, back cover, selective varnish…
LBB> How did you select what to put in the book?
Jérôme> I didn’t. Peter Knapp did. One of the best art directors in the world, 90 years of craft and arts, Swiss, and smart : he’s the man that cannot fail. Well, I hope. If anything’s missing, please call Peter.