Q+A With Ray Sharp

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Born in the UK, Ray attended Harrow Art School, and The Royal College of Art London, graduating with an MA in Graphic Communication. He then entered advertising, and worked as a Senior Art Director in London, South Africa, and Australia for 35 years at a range of international advertising agencies. Leo Burnett, JWT, FCB etc. Ray worked as art / creative director on many of their major accounts including Woolworths, Subaru, P&G, and Kellogg’s. Leaving agency work 8 years ago, he joined the advertising service company that he and Penny had begun in 1995. Supplying information and material to the commercial film production industry.

What inspired you to start Portfolio and Reel?

Ray’s business partner, and wife, Penny Parker, had been working in the commercial industry for many years as a stylist and wardrobe person. She realized that if an agency producer needed to get any information on the production credits of a TV ad, they were forced to go through a time-consuming and extensive ‘ring-around’ to discover the agency, writer /AD, producer and film production company for the spot. Even then, information was hard to come by, as agencies were reluctant to reveal the information. Showreels for directors and cinematographers also had no central source for producers to view and select from.

Penny decided that the industry could do with a central database of credits and material, and started Portfolio and Reel. Ray, on the other hand had extensive experience on the agency side, and helped with the design of the website, communications, newsletter, video editing, and all graphic material.

How did you get your first break?

While Ray was working as and Art Director, Penny began the service by obtaining a few showreels and short staff lists from agencies and production companies, slowly building up a library and reputation as a source of industry advice and knowledge. Producers then realized that they could now obtain information on production from an unbiased source, and also could call on Penny for her expert advice. We then began to compile comprehensive staff lists of agency creative and production personnel for production companies, and a list of commercial directors ‘current place of abode’.

What paths have you taken to get to where you are today?

From a very ‘hardware’ dependent business, (storing thousands of Sony ‘Umatic’ 3/4in tapes!), we have become an entirely digital and internet-based business. Building relationships with agencies and production companies has taken a while, and now we are seen as ‘the place to go’ for commercial production info, and Penny as the information’ guru’. We used to store hundreds of showreels for directors and DOPs. Now they’re all online and updated by the owner.

What advice about the do's and don'ts would you give to someone wanting to get into the production industry?

Do extensive research into current trends and styles. Look up busy and popular production houses. (The Campaign Brief ‘League Tables’ are good for this).

Even if you’ve been to film school, and think you know how filmmaking works, don’t expect to start at the top (or even half way to the top!). Every production has its own unique difficulties and problems, and only by observation and experience will you learn the ropes, and learn from others who know the sequence of events in a production. Good commercials are expensive and time-consuming to make, and every production takes a unified and experienced team to be effective.

Tell us about what you're currently working on and what sets Portfolio and Reel apart from the rest of the industry?

Currently we are creating our bi-monthly DVD of commercials on-air in Australia, and compiling our staff lists of ad agencies and production companies. We update these online and also complete a twice-yearly phone check of companies confirming their staff contact details. Apart from the above, I am also currently working on material for a new feature film to be directed by New Zealand director Vincent Ward (What Dreams May Come, River Queen, Rain of the Children) compiling reference material for locations and atmosphere pictures / footage.

Check out the Portfolio and Reel website here.

Ricky Mutsaers