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5 April 2019

JAM today, JAM tomorrow.

by Jason Stone

 
 

Jordan Andreopoulos and Mark Robinson met at Big Buoy where they worked as a team - producer and compositor - for several years. They formed a very harmonious working relationship, and in 2014 they took the bold step of going it alone by founding the company that for the first five years of its existence was known as JAM Films.

A recent name change to JAM VFX has made the proposition clearer and that move - coinciding with their fifth anniversary - provided a good moment to sit down with the two of them and reflect on where they're at... and where they hope to be.

Although you would never actually confuse the two of them, they look rather alike and when this is pointed out, they reveal they're occasionally known as The Mario Brothers to others who've noticed this and that they're "pretty interchangeable". It's more than just a physical similarity though, they speak in almost perfect harmony too.


Having found themselves working quite autonomously at Big Buoy by 2014, the pair knew they could set up their own company and the barriers to entry in terms of expensive software were falling away thanks to new subscription models. As Robinson points out: "There was an opportunity because we didn't need an enormous loan to set up our first flame suite. Still considerable, but you know, manageable."

It was a pattern repeated across the industry, and there have been a lot of post-production start-ups over the last decade which have taken advantage of this technology-driven price reduction.

It's a phenomenon which means they could - in theory - face competition from an operator working in their spare room but it's a not a prospect that greatly worries them. As Andreopoulos puts it, in that scenario: "You haven't got the stability in terms of archiving, in terms of backup and support," and that's an important part of the offer.


We maintain consistency throughout our jobs. We find that that builds a lot of trust with the clients that we work with, that's one point we definitely pride ourselves on.

Mark Robinson   

 


In practice, these skilled individuals are a useful resource which smaller companies like JAM can draw upon: "There's a lot more quality freelance staff out there, and it allows allows you bring in specialists for certain types of jobs. These are capabilities we can employ."


Given that Andreopoulos and Robinson feel that sole practitioners are unable to equal their service, what advantages do they think that JAM offers over the bigger companies in their realm?

Robinson says it all comes down to personal service and the "consistency of the people you're dealing with. We find a lot of our clients say that they're pushed around, pulled from pillar to post when it comes to operators and producers on jobs, particularly at the latter stages of a job when they're making changes... they'll have to re-explain the situation, the point of the job with a new team of people because the old team have been moved on. We maintain consistency throughout our jobs. We find that that builds a lot of trust with the clients that we work with, that's one point we definitely pride ourselves on."


Each company in London ends up doing roughly the same kind of work, culturally they're all very, very different.... each company attracts a certain type of personality.

Mark Robinson   

 


To that end, they make themselves extremely available: "A lot of the directors that we deal with have our mobile numbers... they call us directly."

According to Andreopoulos, they enable a concentration on the creative aspect of the work by asking themselves: "How do we make the job better? How do we push it to the next level? How do we get what the client wants to do in the time frame... and the budget?"


Five years on, what do they wish they'd known in 2014 that they know now? "I think it's about understanding that staff," says Andreopoulos, "understanding your strengths in terms of who can do what, and I think you never really know, you're never really going to know that until you start working with people... how those people are going to work and how they're going to fit in."

The experience of the company's growth has persuaded Andreopoulos and Robinson to try to limit themselves going forward, they are determined to cap the staff at twenty or twenty-five.

But, obviously it's about identifying the right people. Mark Robinson feels that although "each company in London ends up doing roughly the same kind of work, culturally they're all very, very different.... each company attracts a certain type of personality."


How do we make the job better? How do we push it to the next level? How do we get what the client wants to do in the time frame... and the budget?

Jordan Andreopoulos   

 


Recently they've moved into the TV realm, working on the 'The End of the Fucking World' with Channel 4 and Netflix.... work came to them when they were recommended by East London colour company Cheat. According to Robinson, it was an extremely enjoyable experience: "our operators enjoyed the difference in the work, the type, you know, the scale of the job they were doing."

As others have pointed out, you don't move into the TV ream for the financial rewards but as well as providing operators with something they can sink their teeth into, it enhances JAM's offer: "It's a great way of expanding your gamut of what you can offer," says Andreopoulos, "and what you're seen to be able to do.... the credibility that comes from doing a high end series like that and how that feeds back to our TVC clients is great. It's fantastic."

Throughout our conversation, both their faces light up with pride at the company's achievements, and as they talk about the transition to TV work, you can tell it means a lot to them.

JAM is not just named after Jordan and Mark, it's a reflection of their personalities and you sense that it will continue to thrive as long as it continues to reflect their personal values.


David Reviews is hand-crafted by Lovely Lenzie Ltd, 7 Seven Sisters, Lenzie, Glasgow, G66 3AW. Editor: Jason Stone. Phone: 0141 776 7766. E-mail: jason@davidreviews.com.