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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

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Yeah, so the agencies I used worked for can call and tell me to take the comps I did while I was there down from my website. Guess that's not a problem for Crew freelancers, but I'm keeping my website invitation only.

Don't be such a craven wuss, Joey D.

Sorry, I've got too much work already.

You think the carpet pissers did this?

AS A SOPHOMORE at Louisiana State University, Damon Wolf was already done with college. "My mother tells me that upon entry to kindergarten I was ready to graduate high school," says the 36-year-old advertising executive behind The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Lost in Translation. Itching to get on with life, Wolf and a friend hit the road for California with a couple hundred dollars between them. "I didn't know what I wanted to do," he remembers. "I mean, really, the weather took me here."

After sleeping on friends' couches in Los Angeles for a while, Wolf landed a job as the receptionist at Frankfurt Balkind advertising agency, a boutique firm (now called Bemis Balkind) specializing in print advertising for major motion picture studios. "l always assumed that the studios had done [the advertising] themselves," he says. "I didn't know there was a huge industry around it." Or that selling blockbusters would eventually become his multimillion-dollar future.

Wolf was no stranger to success (back in Louisiana his family owned Wolf Baking Co., which made Sunbeam bread), but he always knew he wasn't conventional. When he was 19 he came out to his family at a Christmas-party. Yet even as a Southern boy he says he never worried about being ostracized. "We're from Louisiana," Wolf explains. "We put our eccentricities out on the porch and we let everybody see them."

This may explain why as a receptionist Wolf was no small personality. At Frankfurt Balkind he quickly developed a strong rapport with the firm's clients. "In my opinion, the receptionist is the most important person in the company," he explains. "They know all the clients--they know everything--and they really are the face of the company. And let me tell you, I was the best receptionist ever--everybody in town knew me." It was while Wolf worked the desk that Randi Braun, an old Frankfurt employee who became MGM's senior vice president of creative advertising, called and offered the firm a campaign: the 1997 Richard Gere film Red Comer. With one stipulation: Braun said Wolf had to be her account executive. And just like that Wolf became an ad man.

After heading up his own accounts for a couple of years, Wolf decided--at age 27--to start his own company with his friends and coworkers Charles Reimers and Jack and Jennifer Cain. "Youth and stupidity will get you everywhere," Wolf says, laughing. "It just didn't seem like that big of a risk."

The four formed Crew Creative out of a small duplex in Los Angeles's Larchmont Village neighborhood in 1999. They worked on print campaigns for small independent and Canadian films with one overarching philosophy: "Our goal is to drive people into seats opening weekend," says Wolf. "That is it. That's what I do."

Then one day Warner Bros. came calling with a little movie called Eyes Wide Shut. It turned out to be the firm's big break. In eight years Crew Creative has gone from a shoestring operation, putting together their presentations at the Kinko's up the street, to a company that has a staff of about 175 and expects 2008 revenues to be $40 million.

Wolf built his empire while balancing a 10-year relationship to Ignacio Valdes, an ob-gyn at Glendale Memorial Hospital in California. The two broke up last fall and now share custody of their two sons, Maximilian, age 6, and Samuel, age 4. Wolf makes it all look easy but describes his success with characteristic Southern modesty: "If all this went away tomorrow," he says, "I can still bag groceries. I can get a job."

Next time I go to Ralph's and I'm asked paper or plastic I'm expecting a southern drawl.

As much as we would love to see him at Ralph's, it seems Damon is the only one of the bunch that saw the writing on the wall and bailed for the big bucks of Bob Farina. I hear is it's a million dollar$ a year. Lucky Bastard...more the Bastard part!

Why on earth would a "studio creep" want freelancer's websites? I don't know of any studio that works directly with designers. Although I'm sure they'd love to avoid the agency mark-up, there's no way they're going to forego the lavish agency gifts. Sounds more like a cheap and quick way for the legal department to track down on-line comps. Expect the "cease and desist" letters to hit the mail by the weekend.

Dear Mr./Ms. That,

We feel we must step in here and vouch for Mr. Studio Creep's bona fides. It is indeed an in-house department that hires freelancers from time to time. (Not to mention the fact that, thanks to Google Analytics, we know that this blog is read by many, if not most of the folks in entertainment advertising.) There is no monetary gain in this for us. It was merely suggested to us and so we are offering it. Big deal. You don’t want to participate? We understand. Now, move along, please, the days are growing shorter and there is still more poo to be flung.

Bob Farina's a fool.

I hear Bob is quite pleased with the work pouring in.

Bob makes me feel dirty.

Are you f***ing babies done crying about Crew yet? Grow up and get back to work or shut the f*** up and leave town.

I was introduced to Damon Wolf a couple years back at the Key Art Awards at Crew's after party. Pretty nice guy. The way you all describe him on this website make him seem like a total douche. My first impression of him was that he was a cool guy.

Damon is a cool guy. He was the best part of working at Crew. Funny, kept morale up and could stand in front of a crit and tell it like it was good or bad. could instantly tell you what was missing and make the presentation better. Good for him that he landed somewhere and with a nice fat paycheck.
Damon was Crew, and Crew was an amazing place to work. The other partners/players were just cast members in his show, he was the star. But more than that, he was respected. Nothing last forever, but Crew was one of the best places to work in this industry. I don't hear many people saying otherwise.

Damon is a sweet guy. But when the ship started sinking, he scampered off like a diseased rat. AND it was HE who was responsible for NOT paying their debt to freelancers. He made the wise business move of ditching the joint and leaving his other partners to fend for themselves. A real stand-up guy.

A lot of criminals are "cool guys". If any freelancer went unpaid, it's the same as theft.

As someone who knows intimate details of the situation Randi Bland, you are WRONG on so many levels. But it really doesn't matter what anyone says. people like you with only half the information will continue to spread the false information.

Snoozeroni, Other half. I wonder if you would have felt the same had you been one of the partners. Probably not.

If it weren't for Crew dramatics to pipe in about, most of you would have nothing to do at work. Keep up the good work!

Hey, Charles (I mean "Fenton Hardy"). Go fuck yourself, you little turd.

Hey, where's this year's Crew Xmas card? http://tinyurl.com/7w53rm

Are there any good old honest, down to earth agency's in this town? Name your preference.

Hey MyOhMy..
go fuck yourself. I'm back at Bemis, where I started.
-Charles

Anybody can be anything at Bemis Balkind. No talent needed. Ask Steve - V.P. creative director? Impressive.

To all of the angry freelancers out there I have some friendly career advice: Get over it. Yesterday.

I've been a freelancer, an owner, a creative director, a producer. The anger and bitterness that I see from some of the posts - whether justified or not - is quite simply counter-productive and it's rotting your career from the inside out. If you were my own kid I would tell you that.

This industry is extremely small and really simple. It's about you and your client. That's it. Screw Crew. Studios don't hire logos, individuals at studios hire individuals that they have relationships with. Those individuals hire you. It isn't any bigger than that and the sooner you understand that the better. Find people you like working with and find ways to make yourself indispensable to them. If you can't find people in this business that you like to work with - go away.

People always need to get paid for the work they do. I've always been paid and I've paid everybody I've ever owed money to, but if you think this industry isn't going through a major upheaval right now you're not paying attention. All of the comments about lavish gifts and over-paid executives and owners are SO early 2008. It's an unprecedentedly bad time to own an agency right now. All of the thinking that lumps studio executives into one kind of camp and agencies into one kind of person is hurting your ability to see what's going on. Studio executives are very different - one to the next. Sure, they can be stereotyped in some ways but I've worked with a lot and, believe it or not, they are actual human beings. Just like the freelancers I work with. The real reality is that there's way less money being thrown around in this industry than there was even a year ago. Companies are going to close. Companies are going to merge. Talented people are going to make less money. So-so talents are going to make even less. The collapsing pay scales are going to make it easier for studio in-house departments to compete on price for talent. It's happening right this second. So, you should be worried about how you're going to compete, how you're going to maintain your relationships, and how you're going to solve problems and bring value to your clients.

By all means, punch the wall, write an angry letter and don't mail it. But get over it. I've had a real bad year too. I have a lot to be angry about. But if you look around this country right now it's tough all over. I've made the decision to focus on what it is that got me excited about this business in the first place. And re-focus my efforts and discover ways to enjoy the work. Because how sad is it to spend your life working with people you hate and hating what you do?

Oh, and it still beats coal mining.

Myohmy,

Quit your bitching. Your pussy is showing. I'm not Charles, but I'll tell you he's a good guy. Bet he's got a lot more money than you.

Sincerely,
Fenton Hardy

Bald Kind,
Steve was fired just for that reason. He’s not there anymore. your info is old and weak, someone is taking you for a ride.

Steve has been a fraud since Drissi and Vox.

And MyOhMy,
What are you gonna say now? Charles called you out, and signed his REAL name.

will you do the same?

Felton Hardy is right, your pussy is showing.

Grey,

Thank you for the update. He might want to update his Linkedin. What a hack.

I may be a douche, but For What It's Worth, so are you.

What happened at Crew cannot be explained. It was in part due to incredibly shortsighted business practices that started in 2006-2007, right about when they were scrambling to maintain their clients/workload while also expanding the company. They started losing clients, withholding names from Key Art submissions to stem the yearly talent-poaching, all while their best clients were triple and quadruple bidding out their jobs to agencies staffed with former Crewmembers and undercut their rates. They also promoted all the wrong people, Wall & Johnson were particularly unpresidential in the end. Blame all 3 partners equally - they were partners after all - and they sCrewed up royally, mostly because their egos kept them from adapting with the economic times and industry changes. iPhones for every employee in 2007... questionable. The new offices on Wilshire... truly the most ridiculous endeavor in the company's history and the true reason they went under. That place was a sinkhole for Crew's cashflow. Some of the priciest square footage in L.A. County - we'll take twice what we need, and tear down everything inside of it, rebuild everything brand new from scratch, and build a cafeteria/kitchen instead of ordering 3 thousand dollar meals every day. Whomever signed off on that move and build-out, well, they are the ones responsible for the death of the company. Damon, Jack, Charles... ship of fools. Didn't have to happen, never should have happened, learn from these idiots.

BTW, Crew was a shitty place to work. Cimarron's got a curse on it now. How many owners offer $1k to employees to drink full glasses of tequila at their holiday parties? How many (honest) agencies out there actually have employees that would take up that offer? Ha ha ha...

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