Do London’s Production Companies Need to Re-think Repping?
They say the USA and the UK are two countries divided by a common language, but American advertising and UK advertising are divided by a whole lot more. One of the stand out differences is the way production companies sell themselves to agencies, with experienced reps in the States often handling multiple clients. On the other side of the pond, repping is often done in-house and there’s an (unfair) stereotype of a social butterfly/party animal. Ellie Botwood is one of a small number of reps in London looking to transfer the slick professionalism of the American model over to the UK. She’s just launched her own company, Bot Inc, and explains to LBB’s Laura Swinton why production companies in London need to re-think repping.
LBB> How long have you been thinking of launching your new business – and can you remember what sparked the idea?
EB> I’ve been representing a variety of small companies for quite some time. Sara Cummins from Coy Communications came up with the brain wave and suggested I represented Coy, Short Films and A Large Evil Corporation back in 2012. None of them were financially connected but were in some ways intertwined. They shared a runner, researcher, so why not share a rep?
I found it really interesting working over various disciplines of production and it also gave me an opportunity to widen my experience and knowledge. I knew nothing about animation before I worked for Evil so it was a real learning curve. As time went on I was regularly approached by other companies, who were asking if I would represent them as well. So it was something I was keen to explore. And then I went to the US and saw how they do it over there and hey presto! Bot Inc was born!
LBB> What do you think the main problem is with the way production companies/directors are represented in the UK?
EB> I spent a month in the US, East & West Coast, in September this year. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it was such an eye opening experience. It was incredibly hard to organise and build contacts from the other side of the pond but I was amazed how the US took the job of repping really seriously. I rarely got cancelled at the last minute. I always had a full attendance and creatives and producers were genuinely interested in my companies. I think the term ‘rep’ in the UK has now got a bit of a bad reputation. I understand that everyone is busy, I worked in agencies for years, but I think the main thing about having regular screenings and meetings with production companies is that you may see something you’ve never seen before or, most importantly, find the next biggest thing. I’ve always thought it’s quite important to know your market and know who is doing what out there. I love meetings and I love walking away knowing that people know something that they weren’t aware of before. It’s a real buzz.
LBB> And do you feel young production company reps are getting enough support and training for their jobs?
EB> I’ve been in the industry over 10 years now and I certainly couldn’t do my current job back then. It would be like being fed to the wolves! I just simply wouldn’t have had the knowledge, experience or contacts of the industry that I do now. I worry that some young reps aren’t prepared for it. It takes a certain amount of guts to stand in front of a group of well-respected industry folk and sell your directors or companies. You have to know your product inside out because, believe me, you will always be asked tricky questions. A rep is the face of your company, you have to be able to trust them, and listen to feedback because it’s invaluable to your business. Too many times I hear the rep getting the blame for not bringing the work in which isn’t entirely fair. Selling should be everyone’s responsibility not just one person.
LBB> What has the response been like from agencies and other production companies? Is the UK really ready for a US-style repping system?
EB> The response from agencies and production companies has been nothing short of amazing. It is definitely what is going to happen more in the future in the UK. The UK is so ahead of their time in some ways but in other respects there is a reluctance to change. The fact is production companies simply cannot afford experienced in-house reps anymore. I think it’s going to take a while for everyone to get on board with the whole idea of a rep working for many companies but it really makes sense. I am very excited to be working over many disciplines such as a music company, a VO company and an animation company. The best thing about having an ‘umbrella’ is that we can all help each other out and support each other. Doing it on your own is so tough and I am fortunate so far I have found some fantastic, well-respected companies who are prepared to be bold and take that leap into the unknown. 2015 is going to be a real challenge but I can’t wait to get going.