As executive producer at Framestore, the largest visual effects and animation studio, James Razzall is responsible for day-to-day client communications and helps lead the New York office. He also serves as executive producer for the GEICO Gecko project and was a key member in the creation of the Gecko itself.
James has been at Framestore for over eleven years: From 2000 to 2004 he was the commercial producer for Framestore London and over the years he's played a significant role in the growth of Framestore and the development of its New York office by producing numerous high-end commercials like FedEx’s “Stick,” Snickers's “Focus Group” and Monster’s “Double Take.” Additionally, James has worked with several renowned directors like Daniel Kleinman, Tom Kuntz, Randy Krallman, Tom Hooper and Guy Shelmerdine. Prior to joining Framestore, he held several positions at small post-production shops throughout London.
Living in A Film Set
Do you have a degree and in what field is it in? I studied at the Chelsea School of Art & Design in London, but didn’t receive a degree. Similar to a lot of people, I started out making cups of tea as a runner and worked my way up.
Which designer/producer (or studio), other than yours, do you most admire? I was very impressed by Stefan Sagmeister’s business ideology when I saw him speak a few years ago; to completely close his design studio for one year to work on personal projects sounded amazing. I fear that it would be impossible to implement that ideology at Framestore, but it’s a wonderful pipe dream.
What’s the strangest request you've received from a client? There have been some very strange requests over the years, from a fiddling beaver to a man dressed as a giant tube sock—nothing surprises me anymore.
If you weren’t working as a producer what would you be doing? I was involved in the graffiti/street art scene back in the UK, so I’d most likely be doing something in that world.
What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? Everyone is rebranding themselves lately, I look forward to seeing the next big redesign.
From where do your best ideas originate? When a project comes into Framestore, we like to get all the departments together to brainstorm, then we all develop the thoughts individually before regrouping to present. But, a lot of the best ideas are hatched over a couple of pints.
How do you overcome a creative block? I find living in New York so inspiring! It still amazes me how, after almost eight years in the city, I really do see new things every day. It sounds a bit cliché, but it still feels like I’m living in a film set that triggers creative ideas on a daily basis. A nice cup of tea always helps too.
What’s your dream project (not client, but project) ? At Framestore, we’re gaining more and more creative control, whether it’s directing the live action or coming up with the creative for an innovative digital project; I suppose my dream project would be one where we lead the creative ideas and explore every platform possible. There’s something very rewarding about seeing our work in spaces different from the traditional film and television models.
Do you have creative outlets other than work? I used to paint a lot of murals and I still try to paint as often as I can.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? The New York way of life is perfect for me... working hard but still managing to keep a busy social life is key. My wife is in the business so it works very well; we often find ourselves invited to the same parties. However, getting out of town does help too. We got engaged in Costa Rica a few years ago and I was amazed by how a four-hour flight can take you to a completely different world.
What product/gadget can you not live without? It has to be my iPhone. I’m still getting over the awkwardness of talking to Siri in public but she’s working out well.
What’s your favorite quote? “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” —Abraham Lincoln
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession?
Always ask a question if you aren’t sure of something. It’s far better to admit that you don’t know something than to make the wrong assumption. And, never make the same mistake twice; the best lessons in life are born from failures.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? I wish I’d remember that every problem does have a solution. I’ve had many sleepless nights worrying about how on earth we’d deliver a project on time and on budget. We’ve always found a way to make it work and, more often than not, those projects became the most successful of the lot.