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A Different Breed: How Mutt Film Adds Value to Production

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This bicoastal women-owned business is reinventing what it means to be the underdog

A Different Breed: How Mutt Film Adds Value to Production

Beth George and Shannon Lords-Houghton are no longer asking for permission. After spending decades working in the male dominated world of automotive advertising, the pair have commandeered a vehicle of their own and finally find themselves in the driver's seat. 

After 15 years as EP at Boxer Films, Beth decided to go her own way. In 2016 she founded the company that would later become Mutt Film. It wasn’t long before she joined forces with production savvy Shannon and the enterprise was granted their Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certifications.

Hailing from what they call a 'deep car background' Beth and Shannon boast wide-ranging skill sets that span producing, directing and editorial disciplines. At Mutt, both take on executive producer titles and operations are built around their unique skill sets, with Beth overseeing treatments and Shannon reviewing budgets. Taking the reins was exactly what these two creatives were yearning for, having felt outnumbered by men at numerous times in their careers. Mutt provided an opportunity to lead the way for creatives who are a combination of different pedigrees as opposed to one singular breed.

Operating between LA and New York, with partnerships in the UK and Europe, the company has metamorphosed into a bold brand to be reckoned with. Since its founding, Mutt’s roster of filmmakers have flexed their creative muscles by working with agencies such as GDS&M and Publicis Sapient, as well as some of the world's biggest brands including Vans, Converse, Amazon, Jeep, Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Samsung, FCB/Chicago, Team One, and Doner. Beth and Shannon recognise automotive work earned them their stripes and are hungry to become even more established within the space, paving a path for other creatives to find their voice within the advertising niche.

The idea of naming a shiny new production company after a dog - of the mongrel variety no less - is not the obvious choice but that was the main appeal. “When the name came to me I laughed so hard at the analogy: we work hard, we’re loyal and we’re really grateful!” 

Upon closer inspection, the name feels fitting, serving as the perfect metaphor for the company’s objectives. Beth believes Mutt’s production solutions are a way to “value add” through a winning combination of super high production value, a vast understanding of the industry and an unwavering work ethic. Described as a ‘collective of directors, producers, and designers who fiercely pride themselves on their individual perspectives’, Mutt Film is happy for comparisons between their creative approach and self-appointed spirit animal to be drawn. “Our namesake has transformed as we’ve grown,” Beth continues, “In the early days, going up against the behemoths in the industry, we were the underdog, so we had to be like a dog with a bone.” This tenacious attitude worked in Mutt Film’s favour. Five years down the line, they have won multiple major bids and curated an impressive roster of filmmakers, including Justin Wu, Gerard de Thame, Marc Corominas and We Are The Rhoads.

The meaning behind the name continues to evolve, representing the diverse make-up of all involved: “I love mutts as they are so many different things and are a lot stronger because of it,” Beth explains. “As a company we are always looking for creative people who embody diversity, whether it’s in their backgrounds, their life choices, or the work they embrace.” 

This philosophy has manifested in the catalogue of directors on their roster, all of whom have been making waves in their respective fields, granting Mutt the freedom to bid on an array of projects. From their much-loved car commercials to daring documentary projects, there are very few briefs Beth and Shannon feel can’t be delivered by the talented directors on Mutt Film’s books. “Above all we want to collaborate with directors who have their own unique aesthetic and are driven to see that come to life in their work,” Beth says. 

Eager to explore long-form film and television projects, Mutt ventured into the documentary space following a discussion with director Jonathan Hyde. “He pitched the idea of documenting the lives of a group of transgender models,” Shannon recalls, “Once Jonathan met Jane and her mom, we knew it was her story we wanted to tell.” Shooting for the four-part Amazon Prime docuseries ‘Always Jane’ started in late 2019. Unfortunately, production faced its fair share of obstacles before business was shut down completely, as covid reared its ugly head. 

Luckily, thanks to a great deal of practical on-the-ground experience, Shannon is equipped with the appropriate skills needed to problem solve in times of adversity. “I came up through the ranks in production. I think that helps me relate to our directors and be the support system for them and our production teams once we’re deep in it,” she explains. “The relationship between the director and production company is like a marriage. We have to trust each other, believe in each other and be ready to help each other grow.” In spite of the mounting obstacles, Always Jane was delivered and has received rave reviews since its release in November 2021. “Getting our first series over the finish line, despite covid, is one of Mutt Film’s biggest achievements to date,” Shannon says. The success of Always Jane has led to the development of three more long-form projects, with Mutt also looking to develop feature length scripts and narrative television series.

Alongside these exciting new endeavours, Mutt plans to stay true to their commercial roots,  and continue to bid against the big car companies. One particularly successful collaboration was a fast-paced Jeep spot directed by Gerard de Thame. Shot on location in Portugal, the work encapsulates what Beth and Shannon love about car commercials. “Cars are big moving mirrors and that is both the challenge and the excitement!”

“We have extensive experience in automotive which, as women, is unusual,” Beth explains, “I spent 15 years of my career working on high end car stuff and so did Shannon, so we know the best people for the job. We definitely want to get deeper into the car world.”

It is important for their work to steer clear of conforming to stereotypical car-commercial tropes, with both partners keenly observing the rapid rate at which the world is changing. One key area of change Mutt Film plans to pioneer is establishing an equilibrium between the ratio of men to women working on car projects. “What we really want is to find a woman car director, that is something I am putting out into the universe every single day, because it is a boys club, frankly,” admits Beth. “We are really looking for more female directors, not because we don’t love our male directors because we totally do, but because we find it really invigorating to help women.” 

Keen to kickstart the careers of other like-minded mutts, Beth and Shannon are energised by the prospect of embracing new challenges and collaborating with new talent, on their own terms. “We’re very excited by what it means to be a woman-owned company. We’ve always been required to ask for permission, but not anymore. It is so liberating!”

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Mutt, Wed, 04 May 2022 13:49:47 GMT