David Reviews

 It's the work, stupid.

RIFF RAFF ADD TO THEIR ROSTER, BUT PHILOSOPHY REMAINS INTACT.
24 September 2018

When Matthew Fone chose the name Riff Raff for the company he founded seven years ago, he was making a statement about his own outsider status. More than anyone else running a film production company, Fone has maintained a semi-detached attitude to the industry that sustains him even though he's a significant figure at its heart, and some wrongly perceive this as a grumpy intolerance of everyone and everything.

In reality, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone with a greater love for this business than Matthew Fone. He has a passionate belief in the power of advertising to do good and to be good and it's the struggle to make films which meet these standards that sometimes allows frustration to get the better of him.

Fone was offered the opportunity to make a trio of new signings when Strangelove decided to close down after only eighteen months, and this resulted in Ben Liam Jones, BRTHR and Marco Prestini becoming Riff Raff directors, and it seemed the perfect moment for a catch-up with our favourite silver fox.

So, a few weeks ago, DAVID sat down with Matthew Fone and one of his new directors, Ben Liam Jones, at the company's Clerkenwell HQ to talk about the additions, and how they'll fit in with the existing roster of directors.


I feel very much like a small fish in a big pond for the first time and that feels really great.

 ”

For Jones, the decision to join Riff Raff was a 'no brainer' even though it meant winding up Strangelove, the company he'd co-founded: "When I look at what Matthew has done with talent like Sacred Egg and Megaforce... the way he's brought them on to where they are today, I'm in awe."

His admiration doesn't end there: "It's the only time ever, and I say this with complete honesty, it's the only time I've been on a roster where I'm going like "Oh shit. How did Megaforce do that? How did François [Rousselet] do that?" I've obviously been on long rosters with great talent before, but I'm talking you know, premium, premium work. I feel very much like a small fish in a big pond for the first time and that feels really great."


Ben Liam Jones's charming new ad for Cadbury.




For Matthew Fone, the addition of the three directors from Strangelove started as a conversation with Tom Berendsen who had put together the roster there. The discussion about each had been different. BRTHR was such an obvious fit that he "worried, in a weird way, that they were too similar to what we've got".


I think sometimes Riff Raff can be looked at as too-cool-for-school... I never wanted to do that, I've just invested my time in people who I think have just got talent.

 ”

With Marco Prestini, the decision was pretty straightforward but Ben Liam Jones felt "quite different to what I think Riff Raff is perceived as and, for me, that was quite good. I think sometimes Riff Raff can be looked at as too-cool-for-school you know, it's trying to do too much out and out wacky, creative stuff. And I never wanted to do that, I've just invested my time in people who I think have just got talent."


BRTHR's film for FIFA 19 was a co-production between Riff Raff and Passion Pictures.




Warming to his theme, Matthew Fone becomes quite animated as he describes how filmmakers with Jones's skills are sometimes underestimated by an industry that sometimes fetes edginess at the expense of a naturalistic approach: "I realise how hard that is to do... people don't realise how hard it is to get performances like that. It's a fucking talent, because there's a number of people who think they can do it and they can't."

He describes reading a recent treatment written by Ben: "it's not so much, this is how I'm gonna do your 30" script scene-by-scene-by-scene. It's a sort of analysis of how you go about the craft of doing that job, and that's basically what we do in this company."


Megaforce's Nike ad demonstrated the full gamut of Riff Raff's skills.




Matthew Fone has never based the decision-making for Riff Raff on money and one way he's protect his ability to maintain this is by keeping a small roster and keeping overheads to a minimum. None of the offices he's inhabited have been showy, including the modest Roger Street space where we spoke. It's a lesson everyone needs to learn, including the big beasts of the production world.

He describes how compromises start when you have to meet the costs of unnecessary overheads before proudly asserting that Riff Raff has never been about "pounds, shillings and pence".


A US ad for Uniqlo by third new signing Marco Prestini.




The integrity of the work is everything to Matthew Fone and it's already made a mark on Ben Liam Jones, who quietly admits his astonishment at scripts with generous budgets that his new boss is willing to turn down because he doesn't think they'll enhance the company's canon.

It's a creed dear to Fone's heart: "We ask ourselves: is it a good script or not? Should we be doing it? Do we wanna do it? And because the overheads are low, we don't have to take those jobs that other companies might... we wanna do stuff that we believe in, stuff that furthers the career of our directors."

You can speak to Matthew Fone about the talented directors of Riff Raff by calling him on 07971 224679 or via email using matthew@riffrafffilms.tv. Their website is at https://www.riffrafffilms.tv and their David Reviews Profile is http://www.davidreviews.tv/Profiles/riffrafffilms/.

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