Highlight Extract:
London Agency Stamp
Talk About The New
Commercial Imaging Landscape

Formed less than three years ago, Stamp is a Shoreditch-based production company that works across stills and moving image in the fields of fashion, music, commercials and documentary. As its rising stars and experienced masters are winning awards and working on major projects, Eleanor O’Kane talks to some of the people that have helped put Stamp in the spotlight.

Phil McCluney – Executive Producer Executive producer Phil McCluney represents the commercials side at Stamp. An agency producer for nine years (spending eight of those at DDB UK and a year at McCann Erickson) he became a new business producer at special effects and commercials post house, The Mill, before moving to Stamp in 2011. Many production companies grow from a group of directors getting together, and tend to remain focused on commercials.

Stamp, however, during its three short years in existence, has spread its wings to cover not just commercials, but also photography, music videos and fashion films. As head of Stamp’s commercials arm, McCluney works in a dynamic side of the industry that insists on the highest technical requirements. While the spheres of music and fashion filmmaking collide – as those two worlds always have – filming in the advertising industry remains slightly apart for a number of reasons.

The digital revolution has transformed many areas of filmmaking and enabled work to be done cheaper, faster and with smaller crews. In spite of this, the world of commercials has stayed largely faithful to its 35mm roots. “In commercials you can’t really devalue [the process] by doing things at less than cost,” McCluney explains. “It’s heavily unionised, so we agree to pay set wages to the crews and there’s no way of circumventing that. When you’re shooting on 35mm film it costs what it costs.” McCluney manages an impressive list of directors, including the Emmy Award-winning Doug Pray, and has recently signed Aleksander Bach; a two-time award winner at Cannes who has also been celebrated by the Art Directors Club. He describes commercials filmmaking as “a very niche activity”. “Once you are in that world, it takes a while to hone your talent, so people tend to stay in it,” he explains. “Directors tend to find their style and stick with that. People fall into categories and, as with anything, when you are working at the top end of the spectrum you seek out the people who can do exactly what you want.”

While the commercials side favours tradition, McCluney says that music videos are often shot using DSLRs, due to the modest budgets attached. “Realistically you’d shoot all commercials on film, or possibly on an ARRI ALEXA, or a Sony F3. Below that is a RED, and then below that you’ve got the DSLRs. If you’re working on a commercial for a couple of days and everyone’s getting paid to ensure that it’s just right, then generally you’d use film. The depth of field and colour on film is pretty much unsurpassed. Choice of camera can depend on getting a certain look, so you might use a Phantom or an ALEXA, but generally you want to shoot at the highest quality, so you’ll choose 35mm. No matter which you use though, you still have to grade and apply the effects.”

While the DSLR revolution hasn’t touched the fine-tuned level of filmmaking in McCluney’s world, he acknowledges that it does allow fledgling filmmakers to get started. “DSLRs allow you to shoot at a start-out level – for example, making music videos – and for newer, younger directors, they allow them to get a better visual. In the past you’d shoot on video; then you’d be someone’s apprentice. In the early days you’d be stealing film off rolls, or picking it up off the floor to get enough together to shoot!”

You can find the full article in issue 3 of Hungry Eye Magazine available direct from us