Five years ago, 42, the British production and management company, which included Nicolas Hoult and Ralph Fiennes among its clients, made its way across the pond. Modeled after U.S. outfits like Entertainment 360 and Anonymous Content, 42 has jumped into the crowded territory of American managers-producers, with a Beverly Hills office run by people. co-founder and manager Josh Varney and producer Ben Pugh lead.
Netflix early adopters, 42’s media already includes streaming features like the much-watched vampire movie night teeth and sci-fi movies outside the wire, starring Damson Idris and Anthony Mackie. Theatrically, there was the Cuban Missile Crisis Carrierstarring Benedict Cumberbatch, and Focus Features’ Silent Twinspremiered at Cannes in 2022. In terms of M&A, in 2020, 42 sold a minority stake to Lionsgate and earlier this year the company acquired OB, a music video and promotional apparel. fox.
This year 42 is at the Cannes market with an adaptation of the book by Tom Michell Penguin lessons starring Steve Coogan. Before landing in the Riviera, Varney and Pugh talked to CHEAP on US-UK manufacturing relations, the WGA strike and what’s next for 42.
What is the thinking behind launching an LA outpost?
VARNEY The aim has always been to build in two of the key markets in which our clients operate. We started sales in London 10 years ago — Ben was an advertising and music video producer, then film — and I was an agent at ICM in London and Independent Talent. We have always admired the management and production company model, that representatives and producers can coexist peacefully. We started this business really with one core goal: to build a global footprint — although it makes me laugh when I say “global” because it’s really just London and Los Angeles. We adore companies like Anonymous Content and 3 Arts and Management 360, so we set up that version in London first. It has become a truly competitive environment – production management – in a way that it was not when we first started. Once the agencies have merged, we have many opportunities to attract talented people.
PUGH From a production perspective, by the time I moved here, we started with production and then built up the management. We want to be in the US market in both film and television, and maintain our foothold in the international market. Now, those two markets are more interconnected than ever. Although the buyers are separate, they are often the same buyers in different markets. For those we are producing or we represent, understanding what one of those buyers may be doing in the domestic market versus what they may be doing in the UK or The pan-European market is really interesting. can provide. The management-production space is extremely cramped.
What was your yard in Hollywood when you came out and set up shop?
VARNEY I have never been characterized in the way that the UK has historically thought, which is ‘I don’t trust the American system’. I have always been a very different representative because I have always wanted to work with my American colleagues. It has certainly changed. When I was an assistant at ICM in London, it was definitely pre-internet, pre-email, and there was an hour in any day where you could talk on the phone with your American colleagues. What I saw as a young person starting a business was a kind of distrust. I never understood it well. Now, there are more trusting relationships on the pond. I think it’s really a generational change. This generation really wants to work globally because they only know global.
PUGH When I moved to Los Angeles, we started production first. We did not provide management services at that time. In the beginning, it was about understanding how to produce in North America with everything that comes with co-production and studio production. At the time, there were partnership-managed hybrid projects coming up. We have a core facility in London to then travel to all territories in Europe and encouraged territories, as well as sell to those buyers and shoot in North America, if needed. That led to us getting our first Netflix contract at the time. Netflix is a big movie studio right now, but at the time, people still held out hope that they would make all of their movies with the studios in theaters.
It was five years ago when we opened our office here and it has changed very quickly. What did it look like working with Netflix in the early days?
PUGH I remember being in our office in the UK before I moved in and someone told us about one of the deals that was done at Netflix. Then moved here and got to know Matt Brodley [former Netflix director of original film] and get insight from him. I mentioned to someone, a colleague of ours who isn’t 42, “It would be great if we could strike a deal with Netflix.” The person said, “Nobody would want to do that because the movie isn’t in theaters.” And I was like, well, we want to do that. Within a few months, that mindset changed because the rate of change was so high. In them buy Sand castle [the 2017 British war drama starring Hoult and Henry Cavill], which was a prime example of how they needed the content at the time. By the time they gave the green light outside the wire, we’ve worked with brilliant Netflix executives who take a relatively light-hearted approach. The lobby of the building was completely noisy. You will get there and find 45 people waiting.
What makes up a 42 project?
PUGH We discussed this a lot and thought a lot about it because we have so many different manufacturers in the business. Just absolute quality and the fact that they are commercialized in one way or another. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are widely commercial, but they always need to know what their audience is and know what they are doing for the financier or buyer who is giving us the opportunity to create them.
How will the WGA strike affect the Cannes market?
VARNEY It’s still early, isn’t it? I’m in the middle of a lot of conversations, with people still trying to figure out what the impact is. I think the WGA was really clear in its guidelines, but besides that, there’s always going to be a gray area around things that exist – what can be sold, what can’t. I know all the agencies and management companies are at the center of all those conversations. How do we make sure we don’t accidentally enter an environment that could derail a project? We fully support the writers and fully support the strike action.
Studios and distributors seem to change their strategies with each quarterly earnings report. Is this what you’re thinking of when packaging or selling a project?
PUGH The only way to think about it is to work with great talent that you truly believe in. And second, really understand who the audience of the film is. And hopefully the partners you’re working with can also adjust to any changing markets. I don’t think you can try to guess how those changes might happen any other way, you just have to be prepared by creating something that people want to come to, whether it’s in cinema or on a streamer.
In which space do you want 42 to grow?
VARNEY I think if you ever step out of a space where you feel like you’re in startup mode, you’re in trouble in this business. You must stay constantly curious and hungry. Business is changing very quickly. Who knows where AI will lead us in the next three days let alone three years? Even after the business has been around for 10 years – we are 10 this year – we are still extremely excited for the future.