BETC London meet their maker

BETC London were invited to the inauguration of Pantin (BETC Paris' new office) to drink, dance, and witness the start of a neighbourhood regeneration.

Starting with true British flair the entire London team travelled to Paris, instantly looking for pudding-shops (boulangerie), tobacco stores and the nearest seat available for a tiny coffee.

With a speedy stop at Mama Shelter, we were off to Pantin. And, after getting in the way of the French Prime Minister, collecting wristbands for free drinks and loitering in the lobby, we were ready to be taken on a building tour by our founder Remi Babinet.

The impressive former flour & grain warehouse (dubbed ‘graffiti cathedral’)  stood derelict since 2000 on the canal in Pantin. So when it came to renovating, celebrated artists and designers came onboard to help preserve and respect the building's history -keeping the full original structure and the cultural landmark intact. 

After the tour, we joined a mini festival right outside the office, where we were picked up by boats for a short cruise down Canal de l' Ourcq, docking at Cabaret Sauvage to dance until we couldn’t.

We had a ball with our French family. Their new home standing sweet, striking the delicate balance of avoiding gentrification, while celebrating and welcoming new culture. We can’t wait for our next visit.

Image credits to Florian Duboé (mainly), Felipe Pires Dias, and Kate Gibson (who has a photography GCSE).

Application: Rich Stoney

By Rich Stoney

Peter Mead started his career in the post room.

Gordon Smith began as a runner.

Mike Cozens set type.

Alan Parker was another post room alumni.

Mark Denton was a paster upper at Knitting Digest.

Barbara Nokes was a secretary.

Charles Saatchi started as a voucher clerk, verifying press ad appearances for the clients of a tiny agency in Covent Garden.

I guess you’ll have spotted the theme running through that list.

Yep, none of those jobs exist any more.

These were the entry-level jobs, roles that required no qualifications and no training. Exactly the kind of jobs that you could get even if you were a bit of an oddball. In fact, especially if you were a bit of an oddball.

All were low paid but live-able. And for the some, like the names I began with, they were an unconscious foot in the door. The first step of a glittering, richly rewarded and richly rewarding career

These jobs gave the mavericks a chance. The chance to exist within an agency environment and allow the addictive grip of advertising to seep into their blood. The chance to be the one who was there, late at night when no one else was about, to write a last minute ad for a desperate client. The chance to observe the jobs in progress and to think: “I could do better than that.”

The opportunities that flowed from those humble beginnings have disappeared along with the jobs: the relaxed didactic conversations; the unofficial mentoring; the trade ad apprenticeship; the essential getting-it-wrongs on the way to getting-it-right.

Today’s agencies are very different.

Today, there are no ‘entry level’ jobs. Joining a creative department comes with the immediate expectation of a facility with photoshop, illustrator, indesign. Of being able to put together a deck. Of knowing how to get it right, right away.

And because those are expected from day one, the vast majority of new creatives are hired from broadly similar backgrounds -  the Watfords, the Bucks, the Falmouths, the SCAs, etc.

The problem with this, efficient though it is for agencies, is that agency personnel are becoming more and more homogenised. That’s despite the courses, good as they are, making serious efforts to diversify their intake.

No, if the attitude is sink or swim from day one, new recruits make sure they have the ability to fit in.  And not necessarily to stand out.

We kid ourselves to think that the talented could walk in off the street - raw and visceral - and succeed. But it’s not true.

Against our own better natures, we’d batter them with guidelines, processes and deadlines, until they too learned to produce the ‘right kind of things’ and ‘buyable ideas’ to order.

I’m not arguing that youth should have it all, that we can’t question their creativity. Not at all. I’ve seen drivel and rubbish dreamt up by creatives of all ages. What I’m arguing for is a little more time, a little more space and a little more understanding that to grow, talent has to be nurtured not neutered.

But that same proto-talent needs to eat, drink and live.

So if ad agencies, particularly creative departments, are to avoid being wholly staffed by the white middle classes who can rely on family to support them through placements, we’ll need to find a way to pay for them.

Otherwise, there’ll be no future equivalents of AMV, GGT, BBH, CDP, SPDCJ or any of the other agencies from my original list. And if none of those existed, we’d all be poorer for it.



Polly's Exhibition

The Public Baths.jpg

by Hulya Corty

Hi there! I’m Hulya, the new freelance producer here at BETC London.  I like photography and illustration and try to surround myself with it as much as possible. So I decided to visit my friend Polly’s very first exhibition in Peckham and asked her some questions.

Polly is a young artist who is excited by the people and situations that happen just in front of her eyes every day.  Real life is her muse. Real people are her inspiration.
Don’t expect to see perfection; the beauty lies in the imperfections of the people Polly draws. Obviously in a slightly exaggerated way, but that makes it all even more fun to look at.
I had to get my hands on a print called ‘The Public Baths’. Puts a smile on my face, that’s for sure.
Her work has so far been featured in Elle Collections Magazine, Suitcase Magazine and many more.


What inspires you?

I do follow the work of other artists, but mostly my inspiration comes from conversations.
I have or overhear, articles I read and the people around me. What usually starts as an observation usually escalates to a weird joke and that is what manifests itself on the page.

Who is your favourite artist and why?

Since I was a child it was always Quentin Blake, but as I got older and more of a bad person.
I fell in love with artists like David Shrigley and Grayson Perry. I like artists who aren't afraid to draw a penis or two.

Do you listen to music when you draw? If yes, which is your favourite?

Yes, I have to. I don't have anywhere private to work so I'm always trying to zone out of the situation I am in, forget about real life and lose myself in weirdness. At the moment I like listening to anything that sounds like it has been made by disco aliens in space, like this.

If you are around South East London during January, go to The Peckham Pelican                                                              

If you want to see more of Polly’s work, click here, and worth a follow on instagram @pom_lette.



Happy New Director


by James Briggs

Working with production companies and directors is a vital cog in the ad-making machine. So we hopped over the fence to have a chat with independent writer and director Adam Simcox.

Hi Adam, Happy New Year. What are you up to right now?
Thanks, same to you.  Well, it’s the first week back after Christmas and it’s always one I look forward to (don’t hate me) because I put together my company Uncanny’s showreel for 2016. It’s a good chance to reflect on what was successful last year, and what my ambitions for the year ahead are. 
Where did your fascination with film begin?
It was when I spent a year working in Vancouver after I finished university (doing a very un-film related degree of Law).  The film industry’s massive there, and you would just happen upon huge shoots at the end of your road.  Film, in general, was just a much bigger deal there. I ended up doing an acting course and that definitely lit the touch paper – after that I devoured every last bit of information about filmmaking.

 From slow to Snow.

From slow to Snow.

How did you turn a dream, into a dream job?
Painfully slowly! I went into it backwards. I did an MA in TV & Documentary production which ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Because as well as on the job training, the contacts and friendships I made were absolutely vital (I’ve gone on to work with several people on the course).

Then, instead of working my way up from the bottom fetching coffees, I tried to bypass all that and head straight for the top, directing feature films. It sounds glamorous, but definitely wasn’t! I wrote and directed three feature films between 2003 and 2010, with varying degrees of success, but absolutely did not make me a penny (quite the opposite).  Meanwhile I was doing anything to get by, working in call centres, debt collecting, doing public sector work. It wasn’t until 2010 when I actually started making money. I branched out into music videos and commercial films and started my own production company a couple of years after that.

Glamour and gloom? Tell us about one aspect of each part of your job. 
I did a lot of travelling when I was younger, and film has allowed me to carry that on. I did a mini American tour with my last feature film, Kid Gloves, and commercial work often takes me to Europe. If the novelty buzz ever leaves you as you’re about to board a plane for paid film work, you don’t deserve to be doing it! 

The gloom part isn’t exclusive to just film, it’s true of any type of freelance work; it’s feast or famine!  Sometimes you’re overloaded with work, sometimes not, but it’s the nature of the beast. Due to doing piecemeal jobs over the years, I was always used to the uncertainty anyway, and it’s a small price to pay.

 Adam's third feature film.

Adam's third feature film.

Where does the inspiration come from your documentaries and films?
The documentary series that I made last year (called, funnily enough, Inspirations) came simply from me wanting to find out what inspired remarkable people in subjects I was interested in. One in particular, where we interviewed one of the Mars One candidates (a mission to send three astronauts on a one way trip to Mars) was probably the most enjoyable project I’ve ever worked on and reminded me how much I loved space when I was a boy.

 Is there life on Mars? The 'Inspiration' documentary series aims to find out.

Is there life on Mars? The 'Inspiration' documentary series aims to find out.

Your style is quite eclectic, are you keen to push contemporary visual styles and techniques in your work?

I am, but depending on the sector you’re working in, there’s a limit to how far you’re able to push it.  When I started in the commercial sector, the fact that I’d made features was a bit of a sales tool, and meant I could make them look a bit more stylish than the average corporate video.  But it’s a constant balancing act between pushing the boundaries, and giving the client what they want.  You may insist that a genre-hopping visual tour-de-force is the only thing that will make their film sing, and they may just want a simple five minute talking head piece with Bob from accounts. It’s the age old battle between art v commerce, I guess!

As an independent director how do you promote your films?
When I started out, it was all about getting your work into film festivals.  Whack it into Sundance and Cannes, wait for the acceptance, and decide what colour your private jet’s going to be.  And that, obviously, isn’t realistic.  The sheer weight of films produced now is staggering – the quality you can achieve with a £500 camera (or iphone, come to that) is absurd – and that means festivals are blitzed with submissions.  And big budget ones, at that; even middling festivals will receive big (in indie terms) name films.

So it’s all about trying to get a foothold online, whether that’s through film review websites, Vimeo staff choice (the equivalent of a decent festival acceptance, now), or trying to grab on someone else’s coat tails!  The Mars documentary was our most successful film, largely because we timed it to come out with The Martian, and managed to draw people to our film via social media.
You’ve had success at film festivals around the world, does it make it all worthwhile? 

I think with festivals, you have to allow yourself to enjoy it and appreciate the moment. Getting to travel halfway across the world to show a room full of strangers my weird little English film about an OAP boxer remains one of the best experiences of my life. There was a moment towards the end of the screening, in the final fight, when someone got up and cheered when the hero landed his first proper punch.  It’s unlikely anything I go on to do will match the feeling of that!

What film do you put on a pedestal above all others?
Two relatively low budget films that I’ve found inspirational were 'Swingers' and 'Once'. Neither are flashy, but both of them have cinematic magic in their veins.  Swingers’ script is as good as they come, and Once had the ability to get under my skin and it’s never really come out!  They’re what I aspire to.

 'Once' bitten...

'Once' bitten...

You can die happy when?
To have my film screened at Sundance would be about as close to cinematic happiness as I could get, I think.

Adam Simcox is the director and owner of Uncanny Films.