Mary Crosse, Founder and Executive Producer of Derby, has leveraged her range of experience across agency, production, new business and strategy, to form herself into the quintessential modern EP. Crosse has a wealth of comprehensive industry experience creating notable advertising and branded content, from top ad agencies and production companies to creative production / post hybrids.
“For me, Derby was the opportunity to create something from scratch, beginning from the brand strategy and positioning, to the name and creative vision, to building the best team around me,” Crosse says. “I knew exactly how I wanted to do it to ensure success. Having held a variety of roles in production, project management and business development over my career has uniquely prepared me to run a modern production company.”
Derby is a production company representing storytellers and directing talent known for its collaborations with top ad agencies, brands and broadcast networks in executing flawless, full-service productions across all mediums.
Now in its second year, the company has steadily built a solid reputation for diverse creative work, thanks to a roster of uniquely talented, multi-hyphenate, contemporary directors whose skills extend to a variety of roles.
The Derby roster features beauty/fashion director John Poliquin, known for his striking visuals and styling and his ability to incorporate an extensive mix of graphics and visual effects with live action, as evidenced by his “Hydration Magic” spot for S’well; the sports documentary duo The Bozzwicks whose “More Than Just A Game” spot for Sports Illustrated perfectly captures the drama of competition; Catherine Orchard, known for her decidedly design-driven aesthetic across all of her work that recalls cinema auteurs like Wes Anderson, as in her “Required Reading” short; Nickolas Duarte whose best work employs an elegant cinema vérité lifestyle focus, as found in his SMP “In Between” spot; Lucas Borras, a stop motion prodigy whose best work reveals an eye-popping mix of live action and animation, as in his Erno Laszlo spot “Bespoke is Beautiful”; and Josh Hayward, the most recent addition to the Derby roster, who comes from a post and visual effects background and possesses the ability to tell honest human stories, both documentary and scripted, with a strong design eye that’s evidenced in his spot for HTC Mobile’s VR capabilities called “Places Beyond Reach.”
“My directors and my entire production team are some of the best creative problem solvers in the business,” Crosse says. “The more challenging the assignment, the greater the opportunity to showcase their creative genius with finding innovative solutions to complex production challenges.”
One such case was a recent project for client S’Well, which added the additional complexities of stunt-diving off cliffs, underwater filming, complex visual effects and shooting on location in a foreign country to the usual challenges of production, while continuing to push the creative as far as possible.
“Even though we’re still in post on this one, I can already tell it’s the project I’m most proud of,” she says.
From Production To Agency And Back:
Born in Los Angeles, and raised in Portland, OR, Crosse was always interested in the arts and in film, but focused her career ambitions on advertising early on.
“I was always interested in pursuing advertising and loved the intersection of arts and commerce,” she remembers.
That interest took her to New York for her first job as an assistant at noted production company One Such Films. She was quickly lured to the agency side of the business, and joined Publicis in New York in 2000, where her role crossed production and new business. The next opportunity was at Havas, New York (then known as MVBMS/Euro RSCG) and then at a still young and upcoming mcgarrybowen New
York. Her last agency gig in 2008 brought her back to the West Coast as New Business Director at FCB West, San Francisco.
Crosse returned to New York at a time of industry upheaval, due to a change in the way content creation was being approached. Many brands were eschewing traditional agency-production company roles in favor of boutique companies that could partner with brands on creative strategy and offer in-house production and post services.
She joined hybrid agency/production company Lucky Branded Entertainment, founded by Jonathan Rosen, who is now currently Derby’s Creative Director. “Lucky was a great learning experience for me – we were defining this new model and doing exciting work as both an agency and a production company. We had a small, nimble and creatively excellent team, and I learned how much I thrived on the excitement of the startup style. It was an exciting time because of the forward-thinking vision of the company and the opportunity for me to return to producing.” Rosen added, “It’s been great to re-connect the team from Lucky at Derby. We learned so much during that time and the production climate has continued to change to favor models like ours.”
Before launching Derby, Crosse founded the live action division and first directorial rosters at both Click 3X and Big Block – two companies that until then were known mostly for their traditional visual effects and post production work.
Crosse notes that she’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit, which explains her success launching new divisions for other companies and with her non-profit film festival, On My Block Films. And while she has seen first-hand the rise of women through the corporate ranks, especially in production, she still wishes she saw more women starting their own businesses.
“Women are great producers, and more and more producers are women, so you would think it would be natural for more women to start production companies,” Crosse notes. “But when you look at the number of female producers out there versus the number of female entrepreneurs, there is still a huge gap.”
Crosse also notes that while there will be those who will never accept your success at a certain level, she thinks most women are discriminated against in ways they don’t even realize -- small, unseen actions that add up over time.
Her advice to young female producers entering the business: be good to everyone you work with and strive to maintain each and every connection you make.
“You don’t realize it at first, but you will continue to see the same names and faces over and over again throughout your career,” she offers. “Not only will you need their help at some point, but you will also enjoy yourself a lot more in this business if you make genuine friends with them and maintain those friendships – after all, everyone enjoys working with friends.”