Hitting the US production market can be daunting affair, as there are approximately ONE BILLION companies vying for attention (citation: figure made up, but can’t be far wrong) and some of the best work in the world being pumped out regularly. However, starts don’t really get much better than that of StrangeLove.
Formed in partnership with renowned production outfit Passion Pictures, StrangeLove – a company that canvasses the creative spectrum from commercials to film and music videos – is the brainchild of former LEGS Media New York Executive Producer Tom Berendsen and features a top-notch roster of proven talent and emerging stars.
For their expansion and creative production in the US, they’ve drafted in the expertise of former 1stAveMachine vet Melinda Nugent, Berendsen and former LEGS colleague Sara Greco, who’ll each play a pivotal role in establishing the company’s bi-coastal presence as executive producers in the Los Angeles and New York offices, respectively.
We caught up with Tom to chat building a creative army and invading the States.
How did StrangeLove come about?
StrangeLove came about very organically. Andrew Ruhemann and I always stayed in touch after a brief stint at Passion Pictures in 2012 and he happened to be in NY the day I was thinking about moving back to London. He asked what my plans were and it took all of five minutes for us to decide we wanted to work together. It was a no-brainer given what Passion has built over the last 30 years and I’ve always been very fond of that place.
Was the expansion into the US market always a goal?
Definitely, but maybe not quite as swiftly as we did! Again, it happened more by circumstance than a master plan. With LEGS @ Milk Studios deciding to close up shop after 8 years, it was a very easy decision to continue working with all the people and Directors I had been for the last three years.
How did you put together your roster? What do you guys look for in directors?
I was never in the position of setting up shop by partnering with a top well-established director. On the whole, I’ve always signed and developed directors from the earlier stages of their career for example Ben Liam Jones & Andrew Thomas Huang who I signed at LEGS both had had work screened at the Saatchi and Saatchi New Directors Showcase (not the same year) and I was blown away - Ben with ‘Childline – It Follows Me Around’ and Andrew with ‘Solipsist’. Also BRTHR, whose music video for I-O called ‘Wasted my Time’ I saw on 1.4 and again loved, they have such unique style. So as a rule, I just look for something that feels creatively unique and genuinely interesting and then put everything behind that person. It’s worked well so far and to be honest, finding and develop new talent is the best part of this job!
You’re opening up in both New York and Los Angeles. Do you think a bi-coastal presence is important? Do you have a ‘base’ office or do all of the offices work on an equal level.
For us being bi-coastal was really important. It’s so important for Directors to have a base / office culture in the city that they are represented (unless they live in Delaware). We have very close relationships with all of our directors and so having someone available face to face on a daily basis is really important to us. I would actually say that all offices work on an equal level. When a pitch comes in, we all discuss it decide who’s best suited to develop a project, even if that means someone in London working on a US pitch. We each have different strengths and try to play to those as often as we can.
Tell us about the team that make up your US offices.
A big part of our strategy for the US was to compete with the big guns in terms of production expertise and executuion. So heading up the US we have Melinda Nugent in the LA office, operating bicoastally. After 20 years as a line producer and the last five as an EP at 1st Av, she’s by far the safest pair of hands I’ve ever come across, not to mention an incredible talent creatively and rapidly a close confidant to all the directors.
We have Sara Greco as EP in NY, whom I worked with for three years at LEGS. She knows all the Directors back to front and is a HUGE talent without whom I would have been lost at LEGS! She’s incredibly creative and is a big part of identifying new emerging talent.
Sophia Rothbart is another LEGS alumnae, who will be heading up our content division ‘Spindle’. She’s a vital part of the future and developing new ways to work with agencies, brands and media partnerships.
Tell us about the roster launching in the US? What can these guys add to the market?
Well, these guys have all been working in the US already, so the transition is fairly easy. They just keep doing what they’re doing, but with more support, infrastructure and opportunities.
What’s the relationship with Passion Pictures?
It’s pretty hard (foolish?) to start a new production company these days without the proper support and resources. I’ve worked all over and Passion is just one of those places I always knew I’d return to in some capacity or another. The relationship is also a complimentary one in the sense that they are; Experts in animation, which means we are perfectly suited to develop mixed media projects together and they are also experts in features & docs, which is a great resource for directors and perfect for branded content also.
What can we look forward to in 2017?
We’re working on some really interesting / ground-breaking projects at the moment, so keep your eye out for those. We’re really excited to start working with our new directors we’ve signed like Greg Hackett, Tubby Brothers & Marco Prestini. And of course there will be more new talent on the way!! Also Geremy (from Geremy and Georgie) has his first feature film premiering at Sundance (PattyCakes), which is a masterpiece!