“We’re always looking for exciting storytellers, people who capture our imagination.” So says boutique production company Rogue’s Head of Talent Charlie Roberson. “New talent is very important. It’s the future of any business. That said, an emerging talent is one we believe will be around long enough for us to develop and build that talent into a successful career.”
Based in Clerkenwell, and with five new director signings in 2021 alone, this year has seen them producing spots for major brands including Adidas, BBC, Ebay, Lexus and Sky, co-producing the Netflix documentary 11M: Terror in Madrid, and music videos for the likes of The Rolling Stones, Harry Styles and Adele.
But as MD/EP/Partner at Rogue Kate Taylor says: “Next year, we’ll have been making award-winning commercials for 25 years and I think the longevity of the company is a testament to that desire to constantly find and develop the best talent out there.” New talent, she says, is crucial to Rogue’s business and ethos, to bolster and freshen its roster. “Our very experienced production team then supports the directing talent and their creative vision,” she adds. “It’s an ongoing mission for the company to nurture and develop both these strands. Balance is key. A successful roster should ideally be a constantly developing combination of new talent and established, experienced directors.
For Charlie Roberson, signing new talent is not just a case of casting the nets wide and pulling up your catch, but taking a more curatorial approach. “We don’t collect talent. We grow talent. Therefore we are very selective with who is a Rogue. We have to be able to give the time, the resources and also the care that goes into collaboration on every project, at every stage, so that we can support the process,” he says. “We’re always looking for that next gem, that director that has that fresh angle, that sharper edge”
Both point to the trajectory of new Rogue-signed director, writer and producer Kimberly Stuckwisch. “She’s certainly exceptional in her drive – in 2020 she decided to become a director. That year she made 14 music videos. She shot a year’s worth of fashion campaigns when catwalks were closed, directed a one-shot performance for Olivia Rodrigo (50 million views on official channels and counting..), shot her first US TV commercial for SkinnyPop, and made a short film for Angel Olsen. She’s directing her first feature film this year.” A pause for breath. “All that and still an emerging talent. Remarkable!”
The industry, and the world, has experienced more turmoil and transition than seems fair in recent years, but, says Roberson, the pandemic, for one, was an opportunity for Rogue to reflect and reassess. “We rebranded. We built an intuitive modern website. We made signings – six new directors since 2020. All of them offer something different, something we didn’t, as a company, already have – and that we knew we could develop effectively.”
Four of those new directors were emerging, unsigned talent, and three of them female. “Currently our roster is a third female, but our goal is to be 50/50. Essentially diverse output is key,” he adds, “and that means different perspectives, different styles and also the TYPE of work we do. But our primary focus is and always will be the best talent.”
When it comes to the qualities and new approaches and executions that a new generation of talent is bringing with them as they enter the industry, Kate Taylor points to the widening of the entry points as a result of filmmaking’s accessibility in the age of affordable, high-end kit – even if it’s just a smartphone. “The process has become democratised,” she says. “Digital innovation has opened up the process like never before. It means that people have the potential to start honing their craft at a much younger age and making more sophisticated film than they ever could. All the software you can ever need is accessible at the click of a button. You might have an iPhone and not an Alexa, but with some ingenuity you can make pretty high-end output. However, beyond all that, the idea itself is still king.”
“Quite often it’s the restrictions that encourage creativity,” adds Roberson of the contemporary self-starting landscape for would-be directors. “All you have to do is go on TikTok and Instagram to find actors – your casting call has never been easier. Collaboration is happening all over the place and where once viewing figures counted, now it’s clicks that count– the internet can give you the stamp of approval and legitimacy quicker than any commissioner.”
Once enrolled into Rogue’s gallery of directors, new talent can completely depend on support from the company, not only through their first jobs but in those all-important periods between jobs. “It’s not a straightforward journey when laying down the building blocks of a new director’s career,” says Roberson. “Talent representation is as much about the next job as it is about helping directors flex their creative muscles. Building a reel, supporting promos, original pieces, the process in-between. For all directors there are moments of ‘what’s next? And we have to be part of that conversation every time.”
A boutique production house like Rogue has the leeway to support its signings through thick and thin. “Being an open-minded support network and being there when the chips are down, and evaluating and discussing and growing together, that’s the good stuff,” says Taylor. “It means you’re better equipped when going into the next battle, and it’s all the sweeter when you land the bigger, more creative jobs further down the line. Perseverance is key,” she concludes. “And that’s not hammering every job – it’s about nailing the right jobs. Curation is essential.”