Wednesday, June 06, 2001

Elias Arts Goes Bicoastal and How I Got My Big Break

When film composer and record producer Jonathan Elias moved to Los Angeles, he took two staff composers with him –Chip Jenkins and Christopher Kemp. They opened shop in a beautiful mansion in Laurel Canyon but had to move when neighbors complained about bagpipes echoing throughout the valley.

Shortly after Jonathan’s big move, the New York office's production and creative departments emptied out. Producer Hugh Barton departed for Thad Spencer's amazingly creative studio, Asche & Spencer in Minnesota; Then Ray and Sherman Foote left to start their own empire. Next composer, Doug Hall, and the company’s sales rep Andy Messenger launched their own soon-to-be award winning venture, Mess Hall. Finally, Paul Seymour and creative assistant Jon Nanberg followed the Foote Bros. down the street to Union Square, leaving our west twentieth street Chelsea offices quite empty.

Initially, Scott and Jonathan hired a headhunter to fill the vacant production positions with new blood, and thereby fill a necessary leadership role within the company. When they didn’t find anyone suitable after six months, Scott gave me the job, and I did my best to consolidate a department of three into one singular Producer position. In the intervening time I had stepped though enough daily rings of fire to emerge a capable –if still green– professional. It would still take me a while to truly fill out the title of 'Producer' with the knowledge base and experience to back that up. Fortunately, we began doing so much work so quickly that several years of experience were summarily and tidily compressed into a soul shattering but otherwise exciting half year or so.

As there was no senior role model forthcoming, I relied on my advertising and film industry clients to explain to me what their expectations of my role were, and then I strived to meet or exceed them. It is one thing to make a mistake as a coordinator or as an assistant, when only one’s pride is on the line –quite another when an international campaign for a Fortune 500 company looms in the balance. For essential production and talent management skills, I am especially indebted to Keith Dezen and Margie Sullivan from what was then a pre-Volkswagen Arnold Fortuna Lawner Cabot. Their demands of excellence from me framed my early professional education and my evolution from studio assistant to executive producer.

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