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How Ruckus Films Is Making Some Noise



Founders JJ Adler and Greg Jones talk LBB through the director-led philosophy and creative freedom that underpins Ruckus Films

How Ruckus Films Is Making Some Noise

“Greg and I have been working together for something like eight years. And for probably six and a half of those, we’ve been talking about setting up a company together”.

It’s fair to say that Ruckus Films founders JJ Adler and Greg Jones have hit up a strong working relationship. In addition to that, the duo share a vision for how a modern production company should look - and it’s one that offers an intricately tailored, custom experience to their clients, all whilst giving directors more control over their own brands in the industry. 

“Of course, anyone will tell you that most productions require some customization and unique problem-solving,” Greg says. “But this industry is changing so fast. We just saw this tendency among production companies to stay bogged down in old process decisions that don’t efficiently address either the project at hand or the times. There’s a lot of looking backward at the way things have been done for the last 10, 20, 30 years. And for us, that’s just not a viable approach for remaining relevant”.

That spirit of reinvention can be traced through Ruckus Films. “In our own collaborations before Ruckus”, explains Greg, “JJ and I aimed to always be as inventive behind the scenes as we were on screen. And to really customize the flow of each project to suit the creatives’ and clients’ specific sensibilities and personalities. 

With Ruckus, we wanted to take this approach further, treating each project like its own universe and challenging old assumptions. While always turning out the sort of high level, super-premium final product that’s part of JJ’s brand.”

As the company’s website playfully puts it, “nimble behind the scenes, premium on the screens, baby.”

It’s a philosophy which has seen the company hit the ground running, with Ruckus’ first few months on the market being marked by high-profile campaigns with big name brands and talent. Their upcoming work for Progressive includes a new campaign for their motorcycle product, as well a new installation of their half man, half motorcycle 'Motaur' series, lensed by Phaedon Papamicheal.

- Above: The first spot from Ruckus Films for Progressive’s ‘Wanderer’ campaign. You can check out the second spot here

Quick out of the Blocks

From the outside looking in, 2020 may not have felt like the best time to set up a new production company. For Ruckus, however, the company’s philosophy and capabilities have mitigated the impact of many restrictions enforced by the pandemic. 

“We’re fortunate to have been as busy as we have”, says JJ. “Right from the beginning of the pandemic, before we even launched, Greg found himself becoming the unofficial authority on remote shooting.”

Indeed, Greg Jones was so quick out the gate producing remote Covid-safe campaigns last spring, he found himself cast as the remote shooting oracle for fellow producers. “Don’t get me wrong, Covid still sucks”, he notes. “But if I can help people get through it, then great.”

Despite the limitations of Covid, however, Ruckus launched and immediately began production on some eye-catching projects. Perhaps most notably CBD’s 'Happy Dance' spot starring Kirsten Bell, which hilariously takes down conventions around the skincare category.

- Above: CBD’s Happy Dance spot starring Kristen Bell was directed by Ruckus’ JJ Adler.

“Our friends at Weiden dropped this super fun, very fast moving project in our laps within two days of launching”, says JJ. “What a dream to kick off my own company with such stellar creative and Kristen Bell.”

Don’t Cut the Comedy

It’s fair to say that great comedic directing is something of a strength for Ruckus, with the company having built up a roster of filmmakers with formidable portfolios of work in the category.

“I think I’m right in saying that I’m the first female comedy director to set up her own production company? Fact check me on that”, laughs JJ. “In any case, our roster came together via the people in our orbit whose work we admire. Right now we all happen to be in the comedy space but each with our own little niche.” 

For Greg, the times we’re living through are particularly suited to comedy. “It’s pretty much a perfect antidote to the ‘in these unprecedented times’-style ads we’ve all been sitting through”, he explains. “So far we haven’t done anything that specifically addresses the pandemic, and yet our work has been doing pretty well in the midst of it. I don’t think that’s a coincidence - there’s value in giving people a break from everything”.

But going forward, JJ notes, “our vision is to eventually support all genres. In the long-term we want to be the sort of company that each great director on our roster can treat as their own.  A place where we’re not above their heads restricting their autonomy or getting in the way of how they like to run their own shows. But we’re there as teammates”.  

Part of Ruckus’ identity also stems from JJ and Greg’s reflections on how some rosters can inadvertently be set up to stymie talent. “I also find a lot of rosters seem to have a bunch of directors who all do similar work”, says JJ. "You often wonder whether a very talented ‘director A’ would fare better if they were able to bid against a talented ‘director B’ instead of sit quietly on the roster beneath them. We hope to add more directors who will anchor their own genre at our company. And then empower them with creative and strategic control over their own careers.”

In the meantime, however, there is much for Ruckus to look forward to in the near future. “I can’t tell you how much I hope things get back to normal,” says Greg. “It’s going to be such a relief to see full human beings again and not just disembodied faces over zoom. Believe it or not, I even miss those three-hour agency dinners.”

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Ruckus Films, Tue, 23 Feb 2021 11:41:37 GMT