Established in 2013, Gramercy Park Studios has not been shy of taking on challenges. The post-production facility was established during a time when the country recuperated from recession and the advertising industry was beginning a period of transition, which continues today. GPS set out to break the mould of the traditional post-production model and it was these conditions that enabled the facility to flourish. With ten skilled staff fuelled on coffee and passion, and name to be confirmed, GPS opened its doors with the aim of doing things differently.
This year the facility approaches its fifth birthday and it seems that the risk has paid off. It has more than proved itself as a newcomer, growing to over 40 staff with growth across every department and has been providing post for brands as varied as Heinz, Vodafone, Lego, Channel 4, BBC, Ford and Gucci. In commemoration of five years of Gramercy Park Studios Managing Director Richard Ireland reflects on its beginnings and considers the keys to its success…
On paper, GPS may have seemed like a risky proposition. Clients were reassessing their creative and media strategies, ‘digital’ was coming in to its own, and the “C” word (content) was on everyone’s lips. In response, GPS saw a way of doing things differently in the industry and proposed an innovative ‘all-under-one-roof’ approach by combining audio and visual post together in one space.
GPS’s first Super Bowl ad was for Butterfinger’s ‘Bolder-than-Bold’ campaign directed by Oscar winner Armando Bo. The facility delivered the full VFX package, working seamlessly across 2D, 3D and Colour Grading to take a skydiving, bull-straddling cowboy from bold idea to Super Bowl reality.
Gramercy Park Studios was established in response to a gap in the market, explains Richard: “It was clear to us that clients were looking for efficiencies, both in terms of cost and time, and agencies were looking to ensure that neither the creative idea nor quality of work got diluted. By creating an end to end solution with proven talent, we have been able to meet all of these challenges.”
And, whilst post-production companies were under immense pressure, these circumstances made for the success of GPS as Hogarth Worldwide invested in the purpose-built facility.
As the team of ten had concentrated all attention on perfecting their new collaborative model, it was not until the final days before opening that they decided on a name for the venture – a coincidental acronym for their location.
Ford Ranger Black Edition - 100 Days of Dark was directed by Toby Dye, produced by RSA Films, and created by GTB. GPS completed the colour grading, VFX and Sound Design for the ad.
“We’d focused so much on making sure the offering was right, that people understood what we were attempting to do, that we had the right talent, that the build was on track in addition to the million other things that need to be done when you’re launching a project of this scale - that we’d not had time to nail the branding.” says Richard.
He continues: “We’d gone quite far down the road with different names, only to come up against legal issues or to find that when we were in the facility it just didn’t feel right. We adopted the moniker GPS as it was an acronym for our location, Great Pulteney Street. And at roughly the same time our parent company set up shop in Gramercy Park, New York. In the end the two fused, and we became Gramercy Park Studios."
GPS executed the Colour Grading, CGI, VFX and Sound Design for a recent campaign with The Royal British Legion. The ad asked the nation to Rethink Remembrance by recognising the sacrifices made by the Armed Forces community, past and present.
Despite having the faith of a worldwide network in their model, the team had to work hard to gain faith in the company by clients. Richard says: “As you’d expect to be the case with any newcomer, we were constantly having to prove ourselves. Every job was hard won, and we had to battle to win over clients at every stage. The first two years were challenging yet rewarding.”
It was these early challenges, overcome by a small and passionate team, which came to shape the facility. Richard recalls: “We had to just get our heads down and get on with doing the best work that we could. One of the unexpected benefits of that was that it created a really optimistic, passionate and collaborative working environment and really shaped the facility. Everybody who has worked for GPS in the last five years has just wanted to create great work and we’re really starting to see the benefits of that.”
Today, GPS’ industry-leading talent is a balance of established heavy-weights and home-grown artists and operators, something Richard attributes as key to the facility’s success. He says: “The people working here have been absolutely vital to our ability to facilitate a strong creative output and grow as a business. We have largely the same creative leads as when we opened our doors in 2013, so we have proven our ability to provide consistently high-end creative work. But the departments have all grown with some top-notch talent working across the board.”
In the short film series Human Made Stories, Volvo shows that it is people who drive the world forward with the relentless pursuit of innovation. Aired on Sky Atlantic, GPS completed the 2D VFX and Sound Design for the spots.
Now in its fifth year, Richard says the it’s not only the company’s talent that has made GPS what it is today, but a steady approach. He says: "We had a solid plan when we opened, and we’ve remained flexible, both in the way we’ve built and upgraded the facility and also in the way we produce projects and offer solutions. We’ve also responded to changes in the industry in the short time we’ve been open - continually assessing what the current needs are. We’re a reasonably small group of 40 people and so need to maintain the flexibility that we were built on.”
Whilst GPS is still a relatively young company, five years is a milestone in an incredibly competitive industry where the barrier to entry is still as high as the possibility of failure. Although its not a guarantee of future success as the advertising continues to constantly evolve.
Looking to the future, GPS shows no signs of slowing down. After a facelift in 2017, an additional six online and edit suites and a third sound studio were added to the facility’s offering with plans afoot for further expansion in 2018.
Offline and offline editing, VFX, CGI and Grade were completed by GPS for the Big Brother ad which saw them win Best Reality Promo Bronze at the 2016 Promax Awards.
Richard upholds the same drive as when GPS first opened its doors. He says: “We’ve got some really strong partners within our network. But we’re well aware that we need to maintain a diverse range of clients and continue to do our best on every job that we win. We don’t take anything for granted. We want clients who want to collaborate with us. We also recognise where our strengths lie - and that means we don’t try to be something that we’re not. We want to be working with the best agencies, the best creatives, the best directors. We’ve worked hard to build creative credibility. So we need to maintain momentum and continue putting out great work.”