The Truth Will Come Out

We had heard, for some time, the story that the great film director Steven Spielberg, having seen a Kinsale Shark Award on a shelf next to Oscars and BAFTA’s at a vfx studio in London, enquired ‘how can I get my hands on one’? “You’ll have to make an ad first’ was the alleged reply.

 We sure did like that story, but was it; dare one say it, fake news?

 Would we need Robert Muller 111 to get to the truth?

 Nope.

 Just The Irish Times. The nation’s paper of record.

 Enjoy the article.

 You’ll find the story of Framestore's CEO Sir William Sargent a very interesting one too. And its true.

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Public and private sector award winner

Wild Geese: Sir William Sargent, founder and CEO of Framestore, London

Fri, Sep 26, 2014, 01:00

Caroline Madden

Sir William Sargent: “The Irish are unbelievably well-regarded overseas for our work ethic, our integrity, our drive, our good nature . . . there is tremendous goodwill towards anyone who is Irish.”

On a shelf in Framestore’s London office stand two golden statues – Oscars awarded for the company’s work on Hollywood blockbusters The Golden Compass and Gravity. However, it is the shelf full of awards won at the Kinsale Sharks advertising festival that Framestore’s founder, Dublin-born William Sargent, is more interested in talking about. The awards are “wonderful” shark’s head paperweights. When Jaws director Steven Spielbergvisited the office, he was struck by their appearance and asked how he could get his hands on one. Sargent joked that Spielberg would have to do some advertising first.

By his own admission, Sargent is extremely uncomfortable receiving awards that he believes were earned by the hard work and late nights put in by other people. So much so that, in 2008, when he found out he was to be knighted for his work on behalf of the British government, which included a stint at the top of the civil service as a permanent secretary, he didn’t tell anyone. “I felt unbelievably awkward about it, not because of the idea of it, but because what I did there in the cabinet office – as was the case with Framestore [and the Oscars] – was down to thousands of people.” However, he got so many touching letters of congratulations that he managed to make peace with his title.

“It was ironic because my grandfather was one of the men buried alongside Michael Collins, but my mother said her father would have been unbelievably proud.”

Sargent’s Irish heritage remains very important to him, though his upbringing was more peripatetic than most.

Born in Dublin, he moved to Brazil as a toddler where his father oversaw the building of a shipyard outside Rio de Janeiro. He grew up bilingual, speaking English and Portuguese, and was schooled by American nuns.

However, his parents realised that while he knew all about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, he didn’t know who De Valera was.

It was decided that boarding at Clongowes was the solution. He vividly remembers going from 40-degree heat at his family’s home in Copacabana overlooking the beach to Kildare and “this concept of snow and cold and big eiderdowns and being freezing”.

Nonetheless, he enjoyed his time at secondary school and says the Jesuits were an “amazing bunch of people” who taught him to think.

He went on to study business at Trinity during the Seventies, which was “fabulous”. He earned his crust by lugging sound systems to gigs for bands including Thin Lizzy and the Boomtown Rats, and doing a slot on Dublin’s first pirate radio station, Radio Dublin.

However, when he graduated in 1978, there were no jobs. “Virtually everyone in my class had to go overseas, except those who got a job in a family business.”

He moved to England and found work with a sound equipment manufacturing company in Cambridge, but it wasn’t until 1986 that his eureka moment came at a dinner party with friends.

“It was a typical Sunday night – a bunch of people sitting around moaning about their jobs. I said: ‘Guys, let’s do something about it’.”

They put together a business plan, raised funds and, 17 weeks later, Framestore was launched. They began applying computer technology to the making of TV images for music videos and commercials.

“If you really knew how hard it was going to be, you’d never start,” Sargent says, but the hard work has paid off.

Twenty-eight years later, Framestore is now a world-renowned special effects house, providing visual effects and computer animation services to the advertising, entertainment and film industry.

Projects in recent years have included Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsAvatar and War Horse.

Somehow, while running his Oscar-winning company, Sargent has also managed to fit in extensive high-level public sector work. How did that come about?

“Like everything, it was just evolution,” he says.

In 2000, he was asked to chair Britain’s Small Business Council. “Being Irish, I was very good at telling everyone else how to run their business. I’ve no shortage of opinions.”

He went on to head up the British government’s Better Regulation Executive and was appointed a board director of the Treasury.

Although he was asked to stay on, he is now focusing all his energies on Framestore once more. He believes there are very exciting times ahead.

He says too that there are great opportunities in his industry for the current generation of Irish people facing emigration.

“The Irish are unbelievably well-regarded overseas for our work ethic, our integrity, our drive, our good nature . . . there is tremendous goodwill towards anyone who is Irish.”

Framestore itself, which employs more than 900 people across its offices in London, New York, Montreal and Los Angeles, is expanding rapidly, and currently has more than 75 new positions available.

The company hires a lot of animators and computer scientists on the technology side, but on the production side, graduates can learn the craft on the job.

One of the big advantages of this industry is that it can take you anywhere. “Once you’ve cracked it, then actually you’re very valuable to people around the world, not just in England.”

Sharks World Cup

by Gerry Kennedy

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Россия [Russia] 2018 is well upon us; Now that we are at the ‘end game’ stages as it were, one tends to reflect on World Cups past.

In Ireland, the tournament we always look to is Italia ’90 – our very first World Cup finals.

The nation literally came to a standstill and those who couldn’t make it to Genoa, Cagliari or Rome were in the alehouses of every city, town and village at home singing Ole Ole Ole.

We were led by ‘wor Jack’, the 1966 England World Cup winner – now, of course, an honorary Irishman.

So who better to manage the 1990 Irish Advertising team in their game against the rest of the Rest of the World side at the Sharks Festival in Kinsale.

On the morning of the game Jack was flown in by helicopter and had a Garda escort to the Spinnaker pub where he held a pre-match press conference. [By now Mister Charlton had reached ‘Bono’ like status in Ireland, so rumours spread that he walked across the sea on the final part of the journey to the pub.]

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Jack was fantastic fun, and it has to said, he took the job seriously. When Ireland captain Peter Brady announced that he wanted to exit the International scene during the game by being substituted in the 11th minute – just like namesake Liam did when he retired before the World Cup the previous May. Well, Jack gave Peter the once over and asked “Do you think you will last 11 minutes, Son?”

The game took place on pitch at the Elanco Plant just outside the town of Kinsale. Like the national team the advertising side employed the grandparent rule, which allowed the diaspora to wear the green shirt – so Mark Hanrahan, complete with a London accent lined out for the side. And while Jack and the boys put the rest of the world ‘under pressure’ – they were beaten 3-2 on that September afternoon.

When the ref blew the final whistle, the new Irish Advertising team manager was only too willing to stay and chat, sign autographs and pose for snaps with all and sundry. He could talk football all day – and he sure did that day.

Edited highlights of the game were shown at the awards ceremony later that night – and if there was a category for ‘football matches played earlier in the day’, it would have won 2 Sharks; Gold for best use of Big Jack, and Gold for best use of Creative Editing! (the edit included the omission of one of the ROTW goals and, along with the duplication of one of Ireland's goals the final result was altered to show Ireland as the winning team - Ireland 3 ROTW 2)

Indeed, so impressive was the Irish performance in that edit, there was serious talk that the Advertising team was going to be asked to represent the country at the 1994 World Cup in the USA!