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Meet the… managing director

Ben Stallard, managing director at Hotspring, tells TVBEurope how he learned through interacting with industry people

Talk us through an average day in your role

The first thing I do is check up on what has happened overnight from US/Canada and any other international clients – I like the idea that work carries on after I log off for the day. I then connect with the production team about any ongoing projects or clients that need attention and offer advice where I can. I may have a client call about a new project or get involved in a bid/negotiation depending on what is going on. Then it is a mix of everything – there is always new business  to think about, marketing and PR updates with the team, strategic meetings or sales calls or maybe a review meeting. I try not to have more than six Zoom calls a day and have started using a timer when I need to concentrate on one thing without distraction. My days are varied and never the same, which is how I like it.

Ben Stallard, MD at Hotspring
How did you get started in the industry?

I started as a runner in the mid 1990’s at MPC in Noel Street. It was so much fun, I just loved it. I was quickly pulled into the bookings/scheduling/production route as I was a people person and not into sitting in front of a computer all day. Interacting with agency producers, directors and creatives, problem solving, hitting deadlines, making sure everyone was enjoying the process and then delivering great work was just a brilliant experience. Big budget projects, big personalities and long hours – but working in Soho in the 1990’s with that group of people during what was a cultural high point is something I will never forget.

What training did you have before entering the industry?

None. Apart from having a big interest in TV and being interested in people, music and  culture. I was trained on the job – at the time most people were, although there were some great courses like at Ravensbourne. I did a degree in Environmental Biology at Oxford Brookes, so not related to VFX at all. One of the great things about VFX is that, in my opinion, the best way to learn is directly from others whose work you admire and who are willing to share knowledge. Courses and theory are all very well but personally, I respond better to live environments and thankfully, that’s how it worked back then

Why do you enjoy working in the industry?

Being involved in the creation of something is very rewarding. Some projects can be incredibly demanding but at the end when it’s all over, there is a feeling of satisfaction. I have always enjoyed working alongside some great people – the camaraderie and sense of teamwork is huge in VFX. The industry is not without its challenges but I would suggest most people get into it and stick with it because they love the creativitu and they enjoy working with likeminded people. The industry is rapidly evolving and that keeps everyone on their toes, for example we have just released a new ML roto product called Slapshot and it’s been great developing it and seeing it released and used on real world projects.

What piece of advice would you offer someone looking to explore a role similar to yours?

Although I am now the Managing Director, I consider myself a producer before anything else. Production requires many skills – the obvious ones include being organised and managing a budget. The not so obvious ones include being a good listener and really hearing what people are asking for, being inquisitive and spotting a problem before it happens. A good producer will also be confident to speak up and have a reassuring calmness when everyone else is freaking out and is also thoughtful and considerate to everyone involved in the project. It’s a difficult and demanding job and I have huge respect for producers in all areas of content creation.