Gang of Four

With its concentration of top talent, Rattling Stick is the new supergroup of the production business. But will it turn out to be Cream or Tin Machine?

If Rattling Stick were a band, they’d be a 70s supergroup. The production company, whose name is derived from George Orwell’s famous description of advertising, was founded in May 2006 in a coming together of directing heavyweights Daniel Kleinman and Ringan Ledwidge. The duo were quickly joined by Tom Vaughan and US-based director Lenny Dorfman (although the latter has since been lured back to his former home, MJZ). The current roster is completed by the recent addition of Andy McLeod, a newcomer to directing, but well-known and highly regarded for his work as executive creative director at Fallon.

The company ethos is simple. “It just seems a really great chance to start afresh from the ground up and to build something where everyone gets on with each other. We have the same ideals about what we want to do, and our work compliments each other,” explains Kleinman. “We want to keep it a small, tight, focused company, with the emphasis on quality, to make sure we’re proud of everything that goes out the door. It’s not a couple of bigwig directors at the top who are doing the snazzy stuff and then 200 galley slaves doing the run of the mill stuff to keep everybody in fur coats and jewels.”

Both Kleinman and Ledwidge are well-versed in the difficulties of working at larger companies – Kleinman was a “bigwig” director at Large and Ledwidge at Harry Nash before they went solo – and they are keen to avoid these pitfalls within Rattling Stick. “We want to create a place that’s quite inspiring,” continues Ledwidge. “I’ve had experience of a big company that went horribly wrong and it’s not a very good environment to be in; people get very protective of themselves and don’t really share that much. It’s good just to talk to each other and hopefully inspire each other.”

Looking at the work already produced by the company, it would seem that the plan is working well. Recent spots include Ledwidge’s TV campaign for Orange, featuring a wind-up toy of two conjoined plastic friends, and his new campaign for Levi’s, which marks a return to the brand’s classic era of advertising. McLeod has got off to an impressive start, with his first official job for the company the Skoda Giggle ad, a charming spot illustrating the “happy” factory that produces Skoda’s cars (See I Was The… in CR Feb 07). Vaughan continues to demonstrate his skills as a strong narrative director in his cheeky Harpic Potty ad and in a more serious spot for the COI highlighting benefit fraud. And Kleinman continues his virtually unblemished ad career by recently bringing back the infamous ITV Digital Monkey in a witty new spot for PG Tips, which also stars Johnny Vegas.

Alongside his ad work, Kleinman has also directed the title sequence for the latest Bond movie, his fifth for the franchise. Using a simple, graphic-led look, the sequence is beautifully designed, echoing the classic film credits of Saul Bass (CR Dec 07). This diversity of work is something the company is keen to promote, with all the directors also hoping to work in features as well as ads – both Vaughan and Ledwidge have already made their movie debuts, directing Starter For Ten and the soon-to-be-released Gone respectively.

To help expand the company into even more diverse terrain is Kirsty Burns, who joined from Fallon at the same time as McLeod, and will be promoting Rattling Stick’s capabilities in the now ubiquitous genre of branded content. “It’s an exciting time to be in our business,” explains Burns. “Nobody seems to know exactly where it’s going… I think the word ‘viral’ has been mis-used terribly in the last year. It’s made creatives lazy. They’re using it as a medium to get TV scripts made that clients either don’t have the budget to support or can’t get through the BACC. My issue with this isn’t financial, it’s that a true viral should be just that – something that people want to spread around and share. There are very few that stand up to that criteria or even have that intention. It’s not only about the ‘big idea’ but also about how/where it’s going to be used. Creatives need to be thinking about this aspect as well as just the script. We want to produce high-end content internally and nurture relationships with like-minded partners who want to explore this area with us.”

With so much going on, it would be easy to assume that Rattling Stick is poised for rapid growth, but while they acknowledge that they are regularly approached by young directors looking for a break, they are keen to stay small for the time being. “If you look at any really good companies within advertising,” says Ledwidge. “If you look at Mother, if you look at Fallon, they are almost like gangs and that’s what makes it – it’s like a Sunday football team, they all know each other, they have a laugh. And I think having that strong identity is really important. Keeping it smaller for now is about fostering that and making sure that the people here belong and that it works. There’s a strength of unity in the place, it’s not just a disparate bunch of people that work out of a space.”

 

 

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Graphic Designer

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
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