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Opinion and Insight

Is There a Crossover Between Hollywood and Adland in LA's Post Production Industry?

LBB Editorial , 2 years, 3 months ago

What could they learn from each other in the capital of film? LBB’s Addison Capper finds out

Is There a Crossover Between Hollywood and Adland in LA's Post Production Industry?

Los Angeles’ film and advertising industries naturally overlap. But perhaps the sector in which they do so the most is post production. Some post houses are set up to service both features and commercials and many artists have dabbled in both. But what could the two industries learn from each other? What are the biggest differences and how does film feed adland and vice versa? LBB’s Addison Capper spoke with local LA post people to find out. 


What could LA’s film industry learn from adland?

"The agencies in LA are constantly changing. Forward-thinking tech-based clients and a great creative community lead to a natural evolution. The traditional ad model is changing daily and certain successes and failures definitely hold true to the film business. Like all industries, staying current is the key and nobody can rely on past glories."

James Razzall, Senior Executive Producer, Framestore


"A three hour film is too long, and expensive. Other than that, and I think this might be impossible given all the money involved, the approval process for most feature films is too long. And there’s a lot of cooks in that kitchen. With as much testing as they invest in, they waste countless dollars and valuable time running up too many flagpoles before that testing. Believe it or not there are fewer flagpoles in advertising."

Jay Nelson, Editor, Cut+Run


"Something that is good about advertising, at least for the 'youngsters', is that there's a clearer career path to navigate. The creative side and the business side all happen in the same building at an agency, and you can see how you might find your way through the craziness and get to where you want to be. You can follow their trail through the filmmaking process and figure out at what point in it you want to park yourself.

"The film business is weirder.  It’s a collection of independent writers, producers, and directors scattered all over the place. You have the studios and the talent agencies, but much of what’s happening there is the marketing and business side of films. They are picking their projects out of the creative community. It’s hard to get on a creative 'team' in the film business, but it is also really hard to find success being an island because you don’t know anyone. It can be almost impossible to navigate if your parents aren’t famous or can set you up in the business somehow."

Joe DiSanto, EP of Therapy Studios


"I think the feature film industry is always learning from advertising and has for a long time. The collaboration between big brands and mainstream movies allows for both industries to reach their consumers using all platforms from point of sale to big screen endorsements. We’re viewing moving on many different devices and advertising is customized for those, so if anything, the more movies align themselves to the right kind of advertisers, the more customers will be reached and vice versa. It’s a win-win for both parties."

John Smith, Founding Partner / Editor, Whitehouse Post 


"The quick turnarounds in the ad world, the multiple rounds of approval and, ultimately, the need to create something that serves a specific function leads to a creative process that is streamlined and asks the question “Why does this exist?” The film industry could learn a lot from that."

Brent Nichols, Founder/Executive Creative Director, Daron Hollowell, Founder/Managing Partner, Ring The Alarm


“My main suggestion would be windows in cutting rooms. I don’t know why but the majority of feature cutting rooms are without windows, seriously dark and cold! Contrary to popular myth, editors are human beings that like light and being able to tell what time it is outside! Commercial cutting rooms are way more comfortable which I think supports creativity.”

Lisa Gunnning, Editor, Whitehouse Post 


And what has the film industry got nailed that adland hasn’t?

"TV and smaller films are shooting so many more pages that they're forced to be super efficient in takes and coverage than in commercials. But it goes the other way too. It's a great thing to have coverage to work with. Especially when working to set time on commercials! That coverage saves you sometimes!"

Geoff Hounsell, Editor, Arcade


"The workflow in most features is truly incredible. They have technicians and supervisors on hand who design astonishingly advanced workflows. From editorial through DI, it’s amazing to be a part of. While commercials have significantly less work to be done, there isn’t yet the evolved workflow process I’ve seen in features. We could certainly learn from that. That said, there’s a lot of wasted time in both realms. Oh, and I gotta say there is a great humanity to the strength of the editors guild. Editors adhering to the daily hour limits tend to be more effective - working 20 hours a day equals less efficiency."

Jay Nelson, Editor, Cut+Run


"There is a loyalty in the film industry, where people use the same crew, editors, talent, etc. on multiple projects, that is really nice to see. It seems like there more of a set process in place on the film side that creates structure and a level playing field for the people involved. The ad world is more free flowing and there's a whatever-gets-the-job-done approach."

Brent Nichols, Founder/Executive Creative Director, Daron Hollowell, Founder/Managing Partner, Ring The Alarm


How do the two feed each other talent-wise?

"There is definitely a criss-cross of talent in LA.  There have always been companies that cater to both industries, though LA is not the only game in town for film anymore, so other places like Vancouver, London and New Zealand are attracting both new and existing talent.  I do see folks come to LA looking to get into film and ending up in advertising but not always for the same reasons.  Some people enjoy the shorter schedules of advertising while others find they like the type of work more.  As I've gotten older I've seen age play a part, too.  Working in film may require travel for long periods, which is hard on family life.  Advertising can provide the same creative satisfaction while remaining local."

Zach Tucker, VFX Supervisor, MPC


"From a music perspective, there is a new "class" of young hungry film composers every year. They move to LA thinking they’re ready to score the next big feature film. Many learn quickly that there is more constant work if they makes a move towards ads - plus there's more opportunity to improve on their compositional skills . There are entire companies, like SOUTH, looking to collaborate with new freelance talent that service advertising specifically. These young composers can already be primed for this type of situation. By numbers of projects alone, there just isn't as much consistent paying work in film/television for folks with less working and networking experience."

Dan Pritikin, Creative Director, South 


"For editors, I think there’s less of crossover from the features side into advertising. Once you’ve begun assisting in features, you usually stay in that lane to become a features editor, which can take a very long time.  I don’t see many predominantly features editors coming over and cutting spots in their down time. 

"I feel like I see more predominantly commercial editors able to take on features from time to time. Often they get to work on long-form projects when the directors they have strong relationships with cross over into the film world. That recently happened at Therapy with Kristin McCasey, when she got the opportunity to edit the movie Walter, which was a debut feature of a director she has worked with for a long time.  Or you will see commercial editors go help out on a film as an additional editor and eventually build a feature career that way.  That is how our Editor/Partner Doobie White has done it.

"VFX is its own category.  If you’re a company that does big effects for features your probably working in commercials as well.   But you’ll have to be a certain size of a company to be doing it in features…at least at the supervision level. Smaller effects shops can often do shot work for whoever the mothership is."

Joe DiSanto, EP, Therapy Studios


"I think it’s hard to make a transition either way. I came to LA to get into feature writing and soon found myself answering phones at a company that edited a lot of music videos. The guys doing it then were 23 or 24 years old and drinking vodka with Nirvana. And I thought, “Wow, I can get my hands on the film in a year and be sipping Vodka Lemonades with Keith Richards in no time.” So I just went where the media was closest to me. Nowadays I don’t know too many young people who come to LA wanting to be a commercial editor. I think people are first attracted to making film, and discover there’s a lot of other ways to get your hands on shaping various media."

Jay Nelson, Editor, Cut+Run


"We are consistently working with feature directors and DoPs on commercials. Likewise, a number of our commercial directors are working on their first or second movie. From a production point of view, LA is first class. I am constantly impressed by the crews in this town and it all stems from the film industry heritage. One of the benefits of having such a large internal talent pool is that we can pull in people with very specific skills for a certain project. That might be someone from Film in Montreal or Framestore Labs in London, it's all about flexibility."

James Razzall, Senior Executive Producer, Framestore


"While we work in other arenas at Wolf & Crow, I’ll address this from the post production side.  There are artists who definitely prefer film over advertising.  It often relates to the kind of work they do.  Character animators may take pure joy from being part of a larger narrative meant to sell a story rather than a product.  Effects artists also often prefer feature work as it allows them the time to refine and develop; a harder proposition in adland.  Conversely, a more design-oriented artist usually will gravitate to commercials as they are able to build a portfolio rather than devote a large portion of time to a single project.  Feature artists often have a hard time dealing with the demands of commercials from a time perspective."

Kevin Shapiro, Managing Director Wolf&Crow


“I know a lot of movie editors who would love to cross over into advertising. It gives them time between films to choose really good scripts and craft their careers. It can be hard to break in, though, if they didn’t start out doing it. The industry is quite closed off unless your movies have been particularly successful or you’ve won an Oscar!

“Editing films and editing commercials are two very different jobs. Fundamentally, commercials are about compressing storytelling into beautiful bite-sized nuggets, whereas movies about maintaining tension over a long timeline. The storytelling is very different, I think my commercial background really helped me with film editing because it allows me to think differently. There is a non-linearity in commercials that has informed the way I’ve cut some movie sequences. Title sequences and action scenes lend themselves to commercial style editing. I’ve also tuned into my experience on commercials when I’ve needed to montage a few scenes together in order to quicken the pace where it might be lagging in a movie. There are a few tricks that definitely cross over!”

Lisa Gunnning, Editor, Whitehouse Post 


"A lot of post people go back in forth between TV, film and commercials. But as a start, getting into commercials is perhaps easier because there's more work available. Steadier work, quicker turnarounds. So on the commercial post side you can get more hands on experience early on even if you didn't set out to work in commercials. I fell into editing commercials that way. Went from working on a documentary about hospice care as an apprentice. Super fun subject matter. Through someone on the film, I fell into a job at another post house that did commercials."

Geoff Hounsell, Editor, Arcade


What are the biggest differences between Hollywood post production and that of LA’s ad industry?

"We have worked on a number of features and schedule is a huge difference as I mentioned before. From a musical perspective, you're more likely to find whole companies with staffs of artists and composers in the ad world. Whereas in the film world, you're more likely to find one "rock-star" composer scoring an entire film. He/she might collaborate with others, but it's all about the single name when the credits roll."

Dan Pritikin, Creative Director, South 


"From a post perspective the biggest difference I find between film and advertising is the need to be fast and nimble for advertising versus a more buttoned up and streamlined for a feature film.  When you work on film projects you have the opportunity, if not the need, to create workflows that can be used for many many months, if not years, to handle the huge volume of work.  This initial and on-going development is cost-effective because it can be amortized over a longer period of time for a single project and ideally passed onto the next.  The shorter schedules and more varied work in advertising necessitate a more flexible workflow to adapt week to week."

Zach Tucker, VFX Supervisor, MPC


"Advertising is our bread and butter, and it paid for us being able to make our first film. In the end, ads also helped us to recoup our investment on that project [Therapy’s first job was a documentary about a book by Ray Kurzweil called The Singularity is Near that they put $10,000 a month towards], because we got commercial projects from people who had seen the film and loved it.  But we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in film if we didn’t just make (and finance) our own film in the first place.  That’s the big difference, I think to get somewhere in Hollywood, you have to put your money where your mouth is and make stuff.  It’s hard because you aren’t getting paid to do it like you are when you make spots. (Well, usually getting paid that is!)"

Joe DiSanto, EP, Therapy Studios


"I’ve done five features at this point. I think the biggest difference is the assembly process. Commercial folks can edit a three-minute scene together in no time flat. But there’s a lot of work to be done after that. Once a movie is complete that three minutes will get ripped apart and revisited a dozen times. It’s hard to maintain objectivity in that process. While a commercial bloke can edit rapidly under the gun, it’s hard to do that over and over again on the same thing so feature fellows have a heck of a lot of resilience. There’s also a completely different politic at work in features. It’s harder to navigate and takes a completely different strategy to get an idea through."

Jay Nelson, Editor, Cut+Run


Main photo credit: Jelson25