Most people take very little to a new job - a favourite photograph or treasured coffee cup, perhaps. When Jake Loonan, Chimney New York’s executive producer and head of business development for North America, joined last summer, he brought a decade of production expertise as well as a bevy of award-winning directors who followed him. Seemingly not a guy to do things by halves - he worked in his previous role for 10 years - Jake’s experience has been welcomed as a happy marriage, blending his rich production knowledge with Chimney’s global post-production expertise.
Q> It’s been 10 months since your big move to Chimney! What drew you from the production world to a global post-production and full-service company?
Jake Loonan> Coming from a more traditional production company to a global full-service creation agency delivering features, TV commercials, digital content and B2B communications was something that excited me and Chimney has the talent to back it up across every channel. The industry is evolving and being able to offer end-to-end services as well as á la carte options will be increasingly necessary - I’m just stoked to be in a place that’s already able to do it so well.
The other draw was working with our leadership, both globally and in the U.S. Marcelo [Gandola], our CEO for North America, has some incredibly impressive credentials having helped build Company 3 and Method Studios; Lez Rudge as one of the best colorists in the business, and our super impressive founder Henric Larsson - who’s taken Chimney to where they are today. When I met with Marcelo and Henric it was clear we shared the same vision for growing Chimney into a global powerhouse and that our respective strengths made the relationship mutually beneficial for all.
Q> Before Chimney, you worked for production company Giraldi Media, focusing on talent and roster development. Several of those award-winning commercial and content directors followed you to Chimney, including The Edwards Brothers, Big TV, Babak, Culprit Creative and Kevin Willson, to name a few. How did you sell the big move to them?
Jake> Firstly, I was extremely fortunate to begin my career representing an iconic director like Bob [Giraldi]. Because I was straddling both North American sales and talent development, I was able to build a terrific global roster from the comfort of a small company.
Secondly, I didn’t have to sell the directors - when they heard I was moving to Chimney they wanted in, which was very flattering to me. They’d seen the boards and the work I’d been able to bring them at Giraldi - whether they were on or off my roster, and I think this made the genuine trust between us grow over the years
I also found that most directors were intrigued by the prospect of working with a full-service company, especially the possibility of being more involved in the post-production process - a rarity for directors in the United States. Having production and post-production capabilities under one roof can really open up more work opportunities for directors as tighter client budgets instruct efficiency and frugality. Not to mention having global offices that can get them work worldwide.
Q> New company, new excitements - what’s been a highlight of the first 10 months?
Jake> Well, I’m excited by the duality of being ‘the new kid on the block’ but also having 25 years of experience under our belt. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to build something within a company that’s already so well established globally.
We also just wrapped up Jim Jarmusch’s next feature film ‘The Dead Don’t Die’ which will be premiering opening night in Cannes. We co-produced the film, coloured dailies, managed editorial, supervised & executed all VFX, as well as conform and deliver the final film so we’re pretty excited about that. Our NY based VFX supervisor Sam O’Hare oversaw all aspects of the VFX with our teams in NY and Poland.
Every department is busy, which is also a fantastic sign - the colourists, VFX capabilities, editors, design and motion graphics are churning away, we’re doing animation jobs, full-service live action and post-jobs and we were just the production partner for a recent piece of work. It’s fantastic to be able to offer clients a whole package, and whilst not every job will be full-service, it’s incredible to be able to offer epic talent to execute each and every aspect of the journey.
Q> As far as industry evolution - how do you think the traditional production model will fare?
Jake> I think the traditional model in any vertical of this industry is going to struggle. We’re seeing budgets and margins shrinking which means it’s going to be increasingly more difficult for companies to keep full rosters of exclusive talent busy.
Because of this, more directors are leaning towards freelancing which is actually great for us since it allows us to have access to many more talented directors that we can offer our clients.
Q> Having production, post-production and VFX capabilities in one place is an attractive possibility to brands too, surely?
Jake> Absolutely. Brands are looking for cost effective, creative solutions and we provide that. A lot of our business still goes through agencies, but as content needs increase, brands are looking for more production-centric partners and they want to be more hands-on. Having the features division is something that is equally as enticing for clients and directors. From time to time we get calls from clients who reference feature work we’ve done and want something similar, but for a commercial. Having our artists work on both features and commercials means we can offer the exact artist or director who worked on the feature. It’s an amazing service to be able to offer to clients and translates our features work into even more opportunities for directors and artists.
Q> Chimney Group has a global presence stretching over continents and specialities, with Singapore, Sydney and Stockholm acting as the big full-service production hubs. Will services such as creative capabilities be something that’s rolled out in the United States too?
Jake> The global nature of Chimney is what allows us to be so nimble. If we’re short on artists in our Los Angeles or New York office, we’re able to tap into any of our 300+ artists from our 10 global offices and see how we can respond most efficiently. But it’s not just the talent pool. Having our resources internally - our super-high quality visual effects and animation team in our Warsaw office for example means that instead of hiring up freelance artists and paying the respective full rates, we can use our internal resources and deliver something of excellent quality, while still keeping costs low.
With regard to creative capabilities in the United States - it’s absolutely part of our current offering for those deliverables that don’t need to go through the traditional agency model. It makes sense - as budgets for content continue to be challenged, our talent is often ideating what they will be making. That streamlined process ensures concept can make it to delivery in the most creative and efficient way possible.