We Find out What South America has to Offer
Company Profile…Vagabond Films
Lorenzo Benedick, EP/MD and Gabriel Carratu, EP South America
LBB > Tell us a bit about your company and what makes it unique?
LB > I set up Vagabond in 1999 to provide the best customer production services possible in the USA. I thought with my background, being Italian, French and Spanish speaking that I could connect better with the European clients coming to the States. This we have achieved and it has worked to our advantage.
Primarily, we wanted to offer a truly personal service and to be able to answer any brief. Taking into account the budget, the weather, different locations, requirements, logistics, specialised crews, equipment. We always provide the best solution across the board, not just for the client. In 2002, I met my business partner Gabriel, he was an assistant director that I worked with in NYC and he invited me to check out his home town of Uruguay– I was looking for production services that would provide me with great weather, amazing locations and would provide competitive cost solutions. I came back, offered the services to our European clients and shortly after we began working on a production for a Danish bank for a client from Denmark.
Because we always search for the greatest location, Uruguay was great for locations but we needed more, so we went to Buenos Aires where we opened an office. Following this trend of finding solutions, we are able to cover all kind of locations, we can respond to the needs of any boards that come our way. We gradually found partners in Chile, Brazil, in Venezuela and in Costa Rica. So today, the way we are set up we are very small and flexible in structure – we are personal. We have a producer in every country. We do not have offices so that we can keep overheads low – today, with advertising budgets being cut, this works to lower our costs and ensure funds are spent on the work.
What is important too is that I’ve had the same partners and producers for the last ten years – we have been evolving, learning together.
I’m now based in Switzerland, which means I am in the same time zone as most of our clients. This means I can react very fast, especially with locations, presentations, restrictions – any issues - which is a unique selling point for us and our clients. We are up when are clients are up. I receive all requests, which I then send to Gabriel and we begin work. Our clients only ever deal with us during the pitch and during production we are physically with them on location.
What is unique is that we are all about the quality and not about the quantity. Because we have a light structure we do not have to do a lot of jobs, which means we can really concentrate on the work, building relationships with our clients and maintaining our high standards throughout.
GC > To be honest, we feel like we are unique because of the way we work. You contact one person (us) and we open the door for the whole of Latin America. We have ten years of experience working with big companies. We can tell you right away which country will be the best option for the work according to the location, casting and budget. We are funny; friendly guys who are responsible and have a reputation for delivering great work. We like to help our clients. The solution is important, and as such, we’ll move numbers around if we have to. I worked for ten years as a director and as such I know how to run a set – where to spend money and where we can economise.
LBB > Briefly, which other cities do you cover and why should people come to shoot in them?
LB > San Jose, Costa Rica, which is not great for urban locations but fantastic for natural landscapes within driving distance such as beaches and rainforest, with the lowest production costs in our network.
Santiago, Chile the best value for your money; a first world infrastructure in a third world country.
LBB > What are the financial benefits and incentives of working in South American cities?
LB > Obviously, more value for your dollar is a main pull. But on an emotional level it’s a wonderful continent. Full of many differences, people are warm, the locations are breathtaking, the weather is ideal for shooting – there is a beautiful culture; warm, open hearted.
LBB > How did you get into advertising?
GC > To be honest, I got into advertising to try and catch girls… A friend of mine, a cameraman invited me to a concert and I started to help him and the camera department in his production company. I found it fun and the work was interesting. That was 23 years ago… I started to work as an assistant director, which is when I met Lorenzo in NYC. Every job is totally different, that’s what I love… it’s why we are called Vagabond because we are always on the move. We have to be very creative, very smart all the time, its what I love about this industry.
LB > I was a production assistant and then I was a VTR operator in NYC. I was building my directors reel in my twenties, and, while I was shooting some short films in Milan, Italy (where I stayed for two years), I worked on some advertising and music videos and made friends with fellow directors. So, once I got back to NYC, they asked me for production services for their musc videos – really small budgets. After a while, some of them became more successful and started to direct commercials and I provided production services. I was trying to find a way to break into the business. I love to be on set and I like to gather people, to connect people. So to be a Producer came very naturally to me
LBB > Do you still enjoy advertising and if so, why?
LB > I enjoy advertising, but I don’t enjoy the way clients are running it. I enjoy the business, the people, the work. But expectations have not changed over the last several years and the budgets have become smaller. Sometimes it is impossible to find solutions on a restricted budget, which is deeply frustrating as it’s about the work, not necessarily about the money.
GC > Yes I really love advertising because every project is a new challenge.
We have to be executive and fast, do the job no matter what - and do it on time, always reaching the best result.
LBB > What do you think are the challenges that production service companies currently face?
LB > To remain competitive, to maintain a high-end service as budgets are becoming tighter. The challenges arise from tight schedules, so the process makes it harder to deliver a good service.
GC > We face all kind of challenges. Every project is a challenge in itself and a new story to tell. As I said before, this is one of the reasons why I love this job!
LBB > How do you clients find you?
LB > They find out about us through word-of-mouth or through our sales trips. We plan two trips a year and we visit clients in their offices. Our reputation - we have a few clients that we’ve worked with for years. We are not a large, corporate production service company, we are small and as such we create relationships with our clients that are personal. After all, this is a personal industry.
GC > Most of our clients have been working with us since we started Vagabond Films, ten years ago and they are friends by now. And we have a great reputation, so our work speaks for itself. Besides, we like to visit our clients once a year and work on new pitches too.
LBB > What has been favourite job in last 12 months?
LB > My favourite would have to be a German job we did in October, in Buenos Aires. It was for the German beer company BitBurger who are the sponsors of the German football team. It was a big job as it is the campaign for Euro 2012. It was a real challenge, very short turn around, short prep time, a very ambitious client and director, multiple locations, lots of talent, lots of equipment and we delivered - which was amazing. We were very happy, the director was happy and, most importantly, so was the client. It was the kind of job that we initially thought ‘wow’, such a challenge but it ended up being very successful.
GC > Belgium Lotto
LBB > Where is your favourite location to shoot and why?
LB > For production it has to be Chile because of the variety of locations that you can find within a small geographical area. For the food, the wine, the weather…Buenos Aires. The best technical crews are in Buenos Aires.
GC > South America, in general. We have all kinds of weather and locations to offer. At the same time, we can shoot a Caribbean beach (Venezuela), a jungle (Costa Rica), or an ice skating race (south of Chile or Argentina), for example.
LBB > Where is your favourite location to escape to and why?
LB > I love to go to Rio de Janeiro, because my girlfriend is from there and I love to go to Uruguay because I have lots of dear friends there.
GC > I do not have a favourite. I like to find new places all the time.