David Reviews

 "You're not an artist, Peggy. You solve problems." Don Draper.

CAL GORDON'S BURNING AMBITION LEADS TO MISSION CREEP.
30 July 2018

Cal Gordon is part of a new wave of entrepreneurs working in the advertising business. Temperamentally and stylistically, it feels as though he belongs with the skateboarding scions of the US tech revolution, and he projects the sense of infinite possibility associated with those operating in that realm.

Talking to him about his decision to set up his own company rather than journeying down the tried and trusted approach of working your way through somebody else's, you can't help but be impressed by his ambition and his preparedness for the volatile landscape faced by today's filmmakers.


We were the generation who grew up knowing you can just pick up a 5D, that there's no point shooting on film... the people who have killed the industry.

 ”

Gordon is well aware that his generation's acceptance of the new terms and conditions can set him at odds with those waiting in vain for the good days to return because - as far as many of them are concerned - he and filmmakers like him are responsible for shrinking budgets.

He sets this out in deliberately provocative terms: "We were the generation who grew up knowing you can just pick up a 5D, that there's no point shooting on film... the people who have killed the industry."


He's fairly blasť about the idea that it was brave of him to set up his own company before he'd tried the traditional avenue:

"Burning Reel was a drunken conversation between me and Joe Elliott at our final year of film school. We were walking along and decided we didn't want to just leave uni and be runners. We wanted to cut out the middle man and just start a production company with zero experience."


It's amazing when you go into one of those post houses and you have all the bells and whistles in front of you and you can see it working and that's amazing, but those bells and whistles cost money.

 ”

Fortunately for Gordon and Elliott, their plan worked. It helped that both were willing to spend a long time walking before they could run. They kept their overheads to a minimum and built a network of similarly-minded filmmakers whom they could turn to.

Starting with low budget promos and short films, they evolved into a company capable of handling anything and these days Burning Reel's output is highly eclectic, both creatively and financially.


A couple of years ago, Cal Gordon realised that advances in technology were leading post production towards a similar moment in its development to the one which had led to the foundation of Burning Reel.

Out of this epiphany emerged Creep - a company which takes the 5D mentality into the VFX realm. Gordon describes how they considered going down the venture capital route which would have enabled them to match the expensive and sophisticated equipment available to other post companies. Ultimately, they rejected this approach because of a fear that a major investment would impact their agility: "It would have been good, but there might have been too much flabbiness... we looked at it again and we put a big red mark against anything that wasn't essential to ensure clients got a really great product."

The gap in the market lies in projects where there's a limited budget for post, and going to a big company feels like you may be paying for more than you require:

"It's amazing when you go into one of those post houses and you have all the bells and whistles in front of you and you can see it working and that's amazing, but those bells and whistles cost money. That's great when you're working on a multimillion feature or a global TVC, but what about everyone else?"


While he continually emphasises that other companies also have a love for their craft, Gordon is very taken with the idea of Creep as a company which directors can turn to for their passion projects. Naturally, he's hoping they'll then bring their global TVCs as well!

Running both a film production company and a post outfit creates an opportunity to handle a job from start to finish but Gordon is keen to maintain a firewall between the two entities:

"We wanted a complete separation because I don't want Burning Reel directors to think, 'Oh right, so I'm going to have to use those people' and then feel that all of Soho is shut down to them. We would never do that."


Budgets have shrunk. That's just a reality... and they're not going to unshrink.

 ”

Gordon acknowledges that the perception of separateness will be enhanced once Burning Reel and Creep have different premises from one another and he's hopeful that will happen in the near future but only if it makes sense:

"We want to be able to be the adaptable company that can facilitate different needs and different budgets. Budgets have shrunk. That's just a reality... and they're not going to unshrink."



When asked what he considers to be the most important aspect of Creep's ethos and how the company can draw repeat business, Gordon pauses for a few seconds before setting it out:

"I would hope the reason people keep coming back is because they like the quality of the work that our artists can produce and they have a good time interacting with us whilst we do the work with them. I think if you can make it a pleasurable experience for people, they'll come back, and that's what we really want to do.

"I'll always say to people, 'Just give us a go. You never know.' Hopefully when they're in, they'll have a decent enough experience and they'll want to come back. Yeah."

To talk to Cal Gordon about either Burning Reel or Creep, call him on 020 3972 8088 or contact him via email on cal@imacreep.co.uk.

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David Reviews - Lovely Lenzie Ltd, Woodbourne House, Seven Sisters, Lenzie, G66 3AW. Telephone: +44 141 776 7766. Editor: Jason Stone.