Turn on the TV, open your phone or, god forbid, open a newspaper, and the world can (often rightly) seem like a pretty terrible place. As storytellers, the advertising and production community has the potential to at least do its bit in changing perceptions around the world and ultimately making it a better place for us all to spend our days in. Chris Zander and Andrew Wonder, co-founders of newly-launched Tomorrow, are intent on doing exactly that, aiming to serve as "agents of change" and completely "driven by optimism".
Chris, the former managing director of US production company Backyard, and Andrew, a director, have been close friends and collaborators since they first met. It also turns out they share views on the world and what a production company should look like in 2019. And so they launched Tomorrow - the production company for, you guessed it, tomorrow.
LBB's Addison Capper chatted with them to find out more.
LBB> Why was now the right time for a new adventure? What inspired the launch?
Andrew> Could there be a better moment for directors or production companies than right now? As a new post-technology era begins, mastery of the latest will no longer decide if you get the job. It helps, but after a decade of breathtaking technological change it’s time to get back to what’s important: fundamental storytelling.
Surrounded by such amazing competition, our marketplace now requires values and ethics as much as it does a great reel. Directors need to be kind, collaborative and accountable and understand the language of a new generation of agency who know the process better because of their forays with in-house production.
Since I first held a mini-dv camera this is the moment in the history of film I’ve been waiting for and I’m so grateful and excited to have a partner in Chris who is equally ready to make it our own.
LBB> You are 'driven by optimism' - what do you mean by that?
Chris> Production is the most fun business we could ever imagine being in. We are in it because we love storytelling and filmmaking and working for quick bursts with intelligent, fascinating people.
When we looked around before we launched Tomorrow, we saw so much self-fulfilling negativity. In contrast, we are optimistic about the future and excited about the opportunities. We love what we do, so we inject that love into every aspect of this company. Optimism is the literal fuel that propels this company forward.
LBB> You're also aiming to serve as 'agents of positive change' - can you tell us a bit more about that and how you aim to succeed in it?
Andrew> When Chris and I first starting drawing up our vision of ‘the future of production’ we quickly realised it wasn’t about bundling post or buying a VR headset, but using our values as humans to create the best place to work for agencies, clients and crew. Our success will come from how nimble and present we are as a production company and hopefully our lasting impact will be our work in re-envisioning how production affects our communities and the world.
Tomorrow doesn’t just talk about values we invest in them. We have been in beta the past few months testing different methods of ensuring inclusive crews, removing plastic from our sets and figuring out what freelancers need to feel safe and comfortable enough to do their best work. These ideas and solutions have come from all facets of the industry, from set decorators to agency producers, and as we refine these methods we hope to release them for everyone to use.
LBB> Tell us about the name... why Tomorrow?
Andrew> If you have a chance to be a part of Tomorrow how can you say no?
LBB> A big bit of the name is based in the fact that you want to build a production company for the future, not the past. What does that company look like?
Chris> Nimble. Untethered by limitations. Active instead of passive. Positive. Energetic. Fresh.
Walk into any WeWork in any city in the world and you’ll see a new way of doing business that is energising and stimulating. Structurally, Tomorrow doesn’t need an office in Santa Monica with Bow Truss ceilings and polished cement floors - it’s just not necessary in 2019 and beyond. There’s nothing wrong with Bow Truss buildings (in fact, I’m a huge admirer!), but having a huge office like that has nothing to do with the current way of doing business, and it anchors those companies that were built in the past to a certain way of doing things.
LBB> And Andrew, how does working for / owning a future-facing production company influence you as a director? How does it feed into your view that 'It’s no longer enough to be good, you need to be a good person too'?
Andrew> What is the point of a beautiful lens flare if I’m leaving behind a heap of trash on the ground? How can I capture an authentic moment if my talent doesn't feel safe? Why would an art director trust my idea for a shot if they have no reason to trust me as a human?
As a director I am on a roster of humans who who feel the same way about the future and the energy has been infectious. I am prepping a job right now as a fellow director bids on two more and we’ve already been on the phone twice today sharing ideas and workflows. When I sit down with a rep it’s not about what boards are where, but about how to express myself better.
Being on rosters before, I know firsthand that it’s a company’s culture that most directly impacts the work you do. When they choose to be kind, supportive and excited about the future then I can do my best work as a director. These values are the core of who Chris and I are as people and we are willing to bet it all on a future that will be more about kindness than pinching every penny you can out of a client.
LBB> Tell us about the roster you’ve launched with - this arguably the biggest statement of intent when a production company is first launching. What were your thoughts when you first began curating directors?
Chris> All Tomorrow directors have many traits in common: Positivity. Creativity. Great Personalities. They are all the type of people who I want to go into battle with. All are self-creating too: they make short films; they make music videos; they have fulfilling creative side projects. They aren’t waiting around to be fed. Because they are all full of creative vitality, they come into their commercial projects fully refreshed… without desperation for the next set of storyboards. This energy creates a purity of intention and differentiates them from the masses of directors who are waiting for their next TV commercial campaign.
LBB> How would you summarise your roster now and what does it say about Tomorrow as a company?
Chris> We love it. It’s small and focused. Like we are.
LBB> How will you be looking to evolve the roster in the future? Are you quite content with its size or will you be looking to expand?
Chris> We love our starting five. A few exciting director additions are lining up now. We’d tell you but then you’d print it and then everybody reading this would know. Stay tuned.
The perfect roster is the size where every director has the right amount of energy put behind them to succeed. Our directors will get an unusual amount of management and attention. That wouldn’t be possible with 15 directors, so expect Tomorrow’s roster to be far smaller than that. Somewhere around eight feels like the current sweet spot.
LBB> And why did the two of you go into business together? Why do you work well together?
Chris> I’ve loved Andrew since the first day I met him when he was a young filmmaker getting his start in the ad business. I always admired the way he moved in and out of directing commercials with such ease while he made multiple films a year. I was also drawn to his creative energy and positive outlook on life. That energy that I’m describing eventually became the DNA that now runs through Tomorrow.
When we first started talking about potentially joining forces, we realised that the company we were separately envisioning was the exact same company. We sometimes finished each other’s sentences. And when I found out he was more left brained than me (his mom taught him accounting early in his life) and also discovered that we loved the same movies and TV shows (The Bachelor!), it was a done deal. I could go on and on about what I love about him, but Andrew might start blushing.
A production company needs piles of creative energy to be successful. Andrew brings mountains of it to the party.
Andrew> Despite all its apparent glory, directing is a lonely job, especially in commercials where you are relying on everyone else to let you have a chance to create. For almost five years now, Chris was always my panic call and person I thought of most when something wasn’t going right in my career. I have never met someone with so much compassion, grace and focus and to have that gift of a person be your partner is more than any director or company owner could ever dream of.
LBB> How are you finding the experience of running your own shop so far?
Chris> I’ve never had more work fun in my life, and I’ve had a lot of fun, so that’s a big statement. It’s blown my mind to see how many clients are coming our way so quickly for a little taste of Tomorrow. I’ll happily share our secret of success to anybody reading this: be positive and spread good vibes into the universe. Treat people with respect. Try to do concrete things that make the world a better place every day. Smile. If you do this, you won’t believe how the universe takes care of you (try it for a week and you’ll see what I mean). As long as I’m at it, here’s more: try turning off Fox News and CNN for a while and go for a mountain bike ride with friends, or snowboarding in a foot of powder. Drink a lot of water too. Hang out with people who are similarly wired. And always think about how fucking lucky you are to be alive.
LBB> Having just launched, 2019 is set to be a big year for you! Where would you like to see yourselves a year from now?
Chris> This one’s hard to answer because I’d like to see more of the same of what’s already happening now. Happy directors. Good projects. Stimulating relationships.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Chris> Time to stop writing so I can get four treatments and bid packages out today.
Andrew> As production company owners and directors it is our responsibility to use the creative and economic power we have to make our industry the best it can be for everyone who works in it. The world is changing at a pace we can’t control, instead of being afraid, let's find opportunity where no one has found it before.