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22 February 2019

Object & Animal set out their stall.

by Jason Stone


When Dom Thomas and Morgan Clement turn up to be interviewed about Object & Animal - the trans-Atlantic film production company they co-founded with James Cunningham and Justin Benoliel - they arrive in a very different frame of mind from one another. Thomas is, by nature, a cautious individual and not one of life's showmen. In contrast, Clement speaks like someone who's been waiting to be heard for rather a long time.

Curiously, there's a winning chemistry in this unlikely double act and you can't help feeling charmed by both as they set out their vision for their fledgling company... often finishing each other's sentences as they go.

The two are both graduates of Academy Films and they express their gratitude to the company that nurtured them, calling it "the very best" of the companies they now need to consider as competition.

Before he worked at Academy, Morgan Clement worked at Mother where he was involved in some of the pioneering companies more esoteric projects such as Pot Noodle: The musical which was staged at the Edinburgh Fringe. And, prior to that, he had a stint with Crispin Porter Bogusky where he was involved an early piece of experiential advertising which involved getting a guy in a chicken suit to follow instructions sent by the online audience. He says that these strange baptisms help explain why his view of advertising "has always been slightly skewed."

Future production needs to be as versatile as possible.

Dom Thomas   


Given the pedigree and the approach of its founders, it's easy to think of Object & Animal as a company likely to concentrate on highly aesthetic projects but Thomas and Clement are keen to dispel this idea. They certainly want to be involved with the best work possible - who doesn't - but, Clement observes that "the highest calibre work doesn't always mean the most cinematic. I think it's easy to get into that trap."

To underline this point, they describe one of their first jobs which was a piece of content for Nike which entailed shooting seventeen separate films in six different countries over two-and-a-half weeks. By its nature, it was not a project where production values were a priority.

Dom Thomas says, "it's about versatility - future production needs to be as versatile as possible." It's another reason why he's so grateful for the time spent at Academy Films where he says they learned from "fantastic producers" as well as benefiting from Lizie Gower's experience and wisdom.

They're very open-minded when it comes to identifying new talent, sometimes reaching out to people with admirable Instagram accounts: "It's about enjoying content that's put out there. It doesn't have to be in a form that we recognise as being a traditional TV commercial. I think that that's kind of very narrow minded if that's the way that you're gonna go about things."

It's about enjoying content that's put out there. It doesn't have to be in a form that we recognise as being a traditional TV commercial.

Morgan Clement   


Their other motive for searching in the nooks and crannies of social media is a determination to eschew the poaching of directors from other production companies. They're confident they've no need to do this because of their ability to spot new talent and - judging by the roster they've built - they've every reason to. It reeks of coolness and while they're keen to disavoy the idea that they're building a house style, you nonetheless feel they're drawn towards the kind of director who appeals to the most forward-thinking creatives.

Without being explicitly critical of other start-ups, they identify a mistake which they feel is often made: "When a lot of companies start up - and this is not to say that it's the wrong way - they have a tent pole director, a named go-to director and they would act as a feeder for the other directors.

"I think for us it more of a case of wanting - from day one - to be as diverse as possible and try not to replicate any kind of given style and just be confident with the people that we have."

They're also keen to draw attention to their 'other' roster - as well as providing a film production service, they have a photography arm run by Millie Yoxen. They are really excited about this aspect of Object & Animal and were determined that it would be something they'd have up and running from day one.

The American operation is being co-run by James Cunningham , who used to be at Stink, and Justin Benovial, who they've known since 2014 when he worked on a World Cup project for Beats by Dre.

They highlight the role played by technology in allowing them to open with a offices on both sides of the Atlantic - constant communication via WhatsApp making the proposition much more practical than it would have been just a few years ago.

I think for us it more of a case of wanting - from day one - to be as diverse as possible and try not to replicate any kind of given style and just be confident with the people that we have.

Dom Thomas   


They are also connected to O Creative - Luis Cerveró's production company which has offices in both Madrid and Barcelona. They see Managing Director Zico Judge as a kindred spirit because of the way he's built his business as "a real family environment".

So much so that it meant an early u-turn for the fledgling business.

As Morgan Clement puts it, "when we started talking about Object & Animal we actively didn't want to partner with any companies. But then talking to O and really looking at how they operate, they were a bit of a kind of prototype for that kind of roster of creatives that maybe moved beyond the traditional director role and they have a great cross-pollination between their creatives and their directors, they'll work together on projects rather than constantly looking over their shoulder at who got what job."

Ultimately, the adoption of this model means that Object & Animal are better equipped for the future than companies still tethered to the idea that directorial talent alone is the reason people want to do business with them.

"I think the idea of the production is a destination rather than director per se, is much more appealing to us," says Thomas, "It's just the way that it's gonna go. More and more."

Object & Animal's DAVID REVIEWS profile is here - you'll find contact information and links to their directors and website there.

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.