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Crew Cuts Co-Founder and Editor Clayton Hemmert Inducted into AICP Post Hall of Fame

Awards and Events 17 Add to collection

The legendary mentor and company owner was saluted for his talent, his dedication to his staff and his contributions to the post production industry

Crew Cuts Co-Founder and Editor Clayton Hemmert Inducted into AICP Post Hall of Fame

Mentor, advisor, industry leader, company owner and award winning editor Clayton Hemmert was saluted by the post production industry on Wednesday, June 8 as he was inducted into the AICP Post Hall of Fame. At a ceremony held during AICP Week at the Angelika Theatre, dozens of friends, colleagues and peers joined in honouring Clayton for his career accomplishments as co-founder of Crew Cuts in New York and for his many contributions to the post production industry. 

Clayton was introduced at the ceremony by Editor Chris Franklin of Big Sky, a long time colleague who served with him on the International Board of AICE, the post production trade group that merged with AICP in 2018. Clayton’s dedication to AICE, and his unflagging advocacy for the post production industry and its role, played a key role in his selection for the Hall of Fame; he was president of the organisation’s New York Chapter Board before becoming president of its International Board in 2014, a post he held until 2016. 

“I knew about Clayton by reputation when I was still working as an assistant,” Chris told the Angelika audience. “The company he founded, Crew Cuts, went on to become a wonderful place that had an incredible impact on the business. I know that when I launched my own company, I held them up as my ideal.” 

Rachelle Madden, who served on the New York Chapter Board with Clayton before being named executive director of AICE, said Clayton automatically commanded respect from those he dealt with, both within the post community and the wider industry at large. “The success of his company had a lot to do with that,” she said, “but it was also because Clayton took the time to thoroughly consider any issue we discussed. He’d look at it from all sides, and he made us pause and think things through carefully. He was passionate about these issues, but thoughtful and considered in his opinions, and always expressed with kindness and openness, never animosity.”

Over the years Clayton and Crew Cuts were associated with a non-stop hit parade of notable, surprising and typically award-winning commercials, much of which they edited for the New York office of BBDO. The list includes classic ads for Pepsi, FedEx, Visa, HBO, Pizza Hut, General Electric and many more brands. 

But more than just commercials, Clayton was keen to include a wider range of subject matter and formats at the company, all in the interests of expanding the scope of its artists and mastering every form of storytelling. This ranged from feature films to documentaries and music videos, anything that would help them better explore and understand the mechanics and techniques of telling a story. 

To mark the occasion, Crew Cuts put together a tribute video for the presentation that opened with a surprise: actor Ed Helms, of ‘The Hangover’ and ‘The Office’ fame, was the on-camera host. “Hi Clayton, remember me?” he asked. “I used to work for you, 1990-something,” as snapshots of a young Ed cavorting with fellow Crew Cuts employees appeared on screen.

The video was a wide-ranging roundup of Clayton’s fans, all sharing ways in which he touched their work, their lives and their careers. Actor and model Cindy Crawford appeared, talking about the impact of her 1992 Super Bowl Diet Pepsi spot, which Clayton cut. BBDO chairman and chief creative officer David Lubars said the agency “often viewed him as kind of one of the creative team.” Former BBDO creative director Jimmy Siegel noted, in a deadpan clip, that “this is a business known for crazy, zany, funny people. Clayton wasn’t one of them. But he was supremely talented, and remarkably decent.”

Also appearing were Regina Ebel, former BBDO head of production, as well as Tom Darbyshire, ECD at BBDO, along with almost the entire current staff at Crew Cuts, including partner and editor Sherri Margulies and partner and managing director Nancy Jacobsen, as well as many former Crew Cuts editors who’ve gone on to launch their own successful companies and careers.

Building a Culture

“When you worked with Clayton, you saw how he treated people,” said Regina. “No one was more important than anyone else – he respected everyone.” Regina was also taken by Clayton’s willingness to share, whether that was with work, credit, rewards, you name it. 

Tom, who penned the script for Clayton’s tribute video, is similarly impressed by what Crew Cuts represented as a company and as a resource. “They built an extraordinary culture over there, and it was truly like a family,” he says. “They loved each other, they loved their work and they loved their company. And Clayton was the father figure, a thoughtful, humble guy, with firmly held beliefs but no ego about him. He took care of his people and trained them right, allowing assistants to do things on their own so they could grow. And it just wasn’t about how they crafted the work, but how they worked with clients, too, and how they dealt with the pressure.”

One person who knows what it’s like to be invited in is Sherri Margulies. Now an award-winning editor in her own right, she was one of the first hires, joining shortly after the company opened: “It was three editors, three assistants and me,” she recalled. She eventually became Clayton’s assistant, a full time editor and eventual partner. 

“Clayton taught me a serious work ethic and an in-depth approach,” she said about her experience working with Clayton. “He took the time to explain things, and made sure  you knew what was going on. And he left no stone unturned – he was methodical about exploring new ways of telling a story or new interpretations on things.”

Regarding the company’s transition to being woman-owned, Sherri said the process reflected Clayton’s philosophy on sharing. “It was always our culture to promote our fresh talent, to keep the company current,” she said. “He was always looking for ways to reward and recognize people. He was never afraid to share; he used to say, ‘The bigger the pie, that more you can give away.’”

A Circuitous Career Path

A New Jersey native who got his start in the industry in roundabout fashion, Clayton initially wanted to be a social worker, and studied sociology and psychology before switching gears. He enrolled in Ramapo College as a fine arts and comparative literature major, he recalled, since “I loved theatre, art, music, photography and sculpture. And so I graduated with two worthless degrees!”

Thinking these interests might have a place in the film industry, he started asking people if they’d talk to him about what the business was like. He made close to a hundred calls, he noted, and over a dozen said yes; from these conversations he came to think that editing might be an appealing field. So with no experience and a flimsy resume, he started sending them out, rapidly getting nowhere, until he got a call from Edna Paul at a small boutique post company called Edna & Friends. 

This launched his career, and the experience of working under Edna, whom he described as a consummate mentor and one of the few women in the post industry at the time, helped shape the values that guided him for the rest of his career. 

Edna trained many people over the years – including editor Arthur Williams and post company founder Mark Polyocan – and Clayton was no different. “She was an amazing teacher, a constructive and kind person with a deep knowledge of film,” he said. After freelancing for a number of years, he landed at Editing Concepts, a company started by Arthur and Mark, as Williams’ assistant, before partnering with editors Chuck Willis and Steve Kraftsow to launch Crew Cuts in 1986. (Steve left in the early nineties, and Willis in the mid-aughts, both to launch their own companies.)

On first learning of his Hall of Fame induction, back in 2020, his first reaction was of being deeply honoured and appreciated, and initially thought he wasn’t worthy. “But AICP is all about craft, and the unspoken part of craft is teaching,” he said. And the act of teaching, and the part it played in the growth and development of Crew Cuts, is among his proudest achievements: “Creating a culture at the company where people could learn and grow, even if that means you’re likely going to lose them, meant a lot to me,” he added. “By not holding them back, they won’t hold back, and you’ll get the best out of them.”

Another of his achievements is that transition of Crew Cuts from a male-owned and male-dominated company to a woman-owned and run company – something, he noted, that was accomplished long before it became a trend. Indeed, if anything, Clayton said embracing change is a big part of what made Crew Cuts special.

It’s hard to say how much of Clayton’s eventual success was planted in that year of working for Edna Paul, but in his acceptance speech at the Angelika, he recalled asking how he could pay her back for all she did. “She said, ‘That’s simple. Just teach someone else someday.’” Given how good a student he was, it’s no surprise his career unfolded as it did. As Chris Franklin noted, Edna was one of the first people inducted into the AICE Hall of Fame, back in 1996, followed a decade later by Arthur Williams, who trained under her before launching Editing Concepts. “It’s worth pointing out,” Chris added, “that Clayton assisted both of them.”

Since Clayton stepped away from Crew Cuts in 2017, he’s kept busy: he and his wife Geri have hiked and travelled in Africa, Europe, and throughout the US; he’s on the board of the Thomas Edison Film Festival (formerly the Black Mariah Film Festival), a travelling short film festival affiliated with Princeton University; and he does volunteer trail building and maintenance at New York’s Harriman State Park and Sterling Forest. He also spends time with – and dotes on – his brood of grandkids. “For 35 years I had no time – ever. Now I have time to breathe a little, get outside, see friends and family and travel. And I like this chapter a lot.”

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AICP, Thu, 23 Jun 2022 07:53:03 GMT