Keen to understand where Rogue is headed, LBB’s Alex Reeves met with its two new EPs for chat about their vision for the future.
LBB> You’ve each recently come to Rogue from very well-respected companies, Biscuit Filmworks and RiffRaff. What convinced you to make that move?
Orlando Wood> Biscuit Filmworks, let’s be very clear, is an unbelievably good commercial production company. So many people asked why I moved. It was because there was a real appetite at Rogue to develop new business models. Carnage is a great example of that.
Barney Richard> It was a no-brainer when you look at what they’re trying to change. Orlando’s always been passionate about other mediums and entertainment as a whole, which can be anything. The reason I’m here is that forward-thinking mindset. Talking to these guys initially, I was flabbergasted by their willingness for change. This company’s got 15 years heritage and you can’t fault them. David [Van Der Gaag, Partner / CEO] and Charlie [Crompton, Partner / ECD] are well aware that Rogue needs to push forward, though. So they’re looking to people who can do that. It makes total sense.
LBB> You’re both very sales-focused EPs. Practically speaking, how will you divide up the roles at Rogue?
OW> Any EP who’s not a sales-focused EP is missing the point. We’re in talent management and opportunity creation. If you’re not doing that, you’re letting your directors down on some level. So that will be split up however we see fit, whether that’s just because one of us really digs an idea and feels we’ve got the best feeling about it to be able to work with a director collaboratively to win the job, or if it’s just because Barney’s been on three pitches while I’ve been working on something else and I need to work on one to take the weight off him. That’s one of the great things about our friendship. I think we’ll be very honest with each other about that division of labour.
It will mirror, a little bit, the way David and Charlie have worked for a long time, which is why this works very well. David has run the finances, the company and the staffing and all that kind of stuff, while also EPing jobs and making that process run, whereas Charlie’s always been a creative-directing kind of EP who focuses on making sure treatments are singing, making sure the director’s feeling the job. I think we’ll divide quite similarly.
Barney’s an unbelievably creative EP, one of the most creative that I’ve seen in the industry, which is why I wanted to work with him so badly. I, however, love the way systems work. I love the way business plans work. I love figuring out how we can get better margins on new ways of working and being able to generate revenue. Even if it’s not the same delicious advertising margins that we’re used to.
BR> If you look at it from a visual point of view, Orlando will be binary and I’ll be a rainbow. You put those two together and you’ve got a mathematical rainbow. How good is that? But I do need a backstop because I have a propensity to go into wonderland.
OW> Barney, you would never know it, but he’s unbelievably organisational, very entrepreneurial and really good at business. I have a bit of mad creativity about me as well, which is why I appreciate him.
BR> Oh stop it you big softy.
LBB> Where do you think the industry’s perception of Rogue is, as you embark upon this new era for the company?
OW> Charlie and David, when they came in, were the enfants terrible of the advertising industry. The notion of Rogue was of these guys that were so thrilled to be able to do cool work and always signed cool people. The industry has changed and I think Rogue is a very well-liked company; it has a great brand. Does it need to be refreshed? Absolutely. Does it need to be modified so that rogue culture and notion of change, inspiration, creativity and rogue-ish-ness is applied to the business models themselves? Yes. There is work to do here.
We came here because there are two unbelievable guys who started it, they have a great willingness to adapt to the changing marketplace, they’re fully committed to that and willing to allow two people who are equally committed to input into changing the place and making it what we believe it should be for the next generation of advertisers.
LBB> How are you changing the business to adapt to today’s landscape? What’s the key?
OW> Bringing as many disciplines together and being in a place where you can call Rogue not just for any script you have, but also for any problem you have. The more big ideas come out of agencies, the more those ideas are going to filter into areas where traditional production companies aren’t necessarily equipped to handle it. So you have to offer a really great directors’ roster and also offer production thinking that spans beyond just 30s and 60s.
BR> Fundamentally production is what we do and by virtue of that we are problem-solving people. That can extend into any environment because we have a natural mindset to find a solution. That could be creating an event, putting on a gallery exhibition, doing a long-format feature film. It doesn’t have to be film related. It can be any facet of creativity.
The interest for us as creative people is to not just work in one genre. Making 30- and 60-second commercials is fun but it’s not the be all and end all of what we do because creativity doesn’t stop at TV.
LBB> What about the industry has changed that requires this approach?
OW> It’s the complexity of problems. Producers have always been treated as project managers. They aren’t expected to be creative in their approaches to problems. Nowadays producers have to have the ability to answer more different types of problems.
Now problems are coming in: ‘we have an ambition to do X.’ And X could be is a music video that’s half animated, half live-action, with a documentary component and content component that may or may not go on television. It’s about the production acumen being front and centre, not necessarily the director acumen.
BR> Directors are still important. You have to build their careers. But the bigger picture is that you need to be understood as a creative shop. Amplifying an idea comes not only from a director but also from the core team within Rogue. Everyone along the chain has got an idea, if you open it out to people. The collaborative environment of a production company is so creative. That value is instantly added to a brief. Then you chuck a director into the mix and you’ve got a powerhouse of creativity.
OW> If the directors are going away for opportunities, you’re not doing your job as a talent manager. And we are talent managers first and foremost. We link directors with opportunities. And we do it in a traditional agency structure, but if you’re seeing them get more attractive opportunities elsewhere the question comes: why aren’t you developing those for them? Why aren’t you helping them get them a least? If you weren’t they’d be going away anyway, so at least keep a relationship there.
BR> All of these other opportunities within the creative landscape, whether it be social or long-form or broadcast or creative writing or placing talent - they all fit together like a sexy jigsaw. It’s the sum of its parts. You can’t just have directors and shoot stuff anymore. Why would you?
LBB> Don’t you risk saying you’re the jack of all trades and the industry thinking you’re the master of none? To claim you can solve so many kinds of problem is a big one.
OW> To be honest, I think it’s only really true if it’s true. But a lot of times it kind of is true. We’re working on some stuff that’s going to be able to properly demonstrate that, so it’s not just willingness.
I’m an F1 fan. When people ask why I came to Rogue I say it’s like what happened when Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes. People told him they didn’t understand why he went there and he was like: ‘I saw the car.’ He knew that that was the place to go. Not to compare myself to Hamilton (I’m as good a driver but not nearly as handsome), but I know Rogue is going to have those key pieces of evidence in multiple categories that will allow us to show that. If you can’t show that, you’re just another production company asking for more work and claiming you can do it. But they’re not wrong when they say that. One production company specialism is taking a problem the likes of which nobody’s seen before and producing it.
OW> But we’ll ask you to check out the hook because otherwise you might not let the DJ revolve it.
BR> And if you’re not revolving the record, what the eff are you doing, yo? That’s production in its most simple form; it's how I describe what I do to my dad. Funnily enough he still doesn't get it.