Just One Question: Gavin Poolman

Just One Question: Gavin Poolman

Editor’s Note: The Media C-Suite discusses the future of the industry with senior media execs, creatives, entrepreneurs and professional investors around the world.  The dialogue always seems to converge on how things have changed, where the industry is heading and what is being done to adapt.  The perspectives are diverse, the topics are numerous and the experience behind those who have found success in this industry is invaluable. 

Universities offer degree programmes. Storied producers and directors offer Master Classes. The amount of information available on how to achieve in our industry can be over-whelming.

So, we thought it would be useful to seek out a select few experienced industry professionals who have achieved success in Media & Entertainment and then boil it all down to just one question:  How would you do it today?

We are pleased to start this series with rock musician, film producer and financier …

Gavin Poolman

Profile in Brief:

Gavin Poolman is an eclectic media entrepreneur with the credits to prove it. Best known at the moment for his finance activity, Gavin has arranged over US$500 million in finance for dozens of independent films as both Producer and Executive Producer. He is CEO of Apollo Media, a production and finance company based in London. Gavin served on the British Screen Advisory Council as a full member from 2015 to 2017 and is a member of BAFTA.

Biography:

Born in Canada, Gavin Poolman graduated from Trinity College, University of Toronto in 1982 with an Honours B.A. in French Language and Literature and a double minor in Computer Science and Philosophy. After graduating, it took him a few years of working as a software developer on government and private sector contracts before the artist bug forced him to the UK and into the London Film School, graduating in 1986.

To make ends meet in London, Gavin played lead guitar for a variety of indie Rock Bands and worked as crew on film and television productions while building connections in the industry. In 1990, his financial spreadsheet skills, which at that time were rare, landed him a job the Glinwood Films as an acquisitions and finance executive. At Glinwood, Gavin was involved in the financing and licensing of The Sheltering Sky, Naked Lunch, A Rage in Harlem, etc., and the structuring of Japanese tax-shelter finance for Howard’s End and The Crying Game.

In 1994, Gavin was appointed Head of Development at sales agency Mayfair Entertainment International (Jefferson in Paris, Vanya on 42nd Street, Richard III).

In 1996, together with investment banker Mark Beilby, he co-founded Apollo Media, a production and strategic advisory company.  Apollo’s first film, The Zookeeper (2001), starring Sam Neill, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won Grand Prize at the Taos Film Festival 2002. Apollo’s second film, Festival Express (2003) followed Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and The Band on their 1970 Rock Festival train tour across Canada and was released in the USA in July 2005 to combined critical acclaim and commercial success. In 2006 – 2008, working together with LA-based Grand Army Entertainment, Apollo was involved in the financing of 11 independent US feature films and 18 TV movies, financed by Bank of America and Wachovia Bank.

In 2012, together with Ingenious Media, Apollo developed and launched the Ingenious Senior Film Fund, a data-driven investment fund that finances independent films with budgets over $10M.  That fund wrapped up in 2019.

Today, Apollo Media advises on the structuring and finance of larger independent films in the UK and international co-productions.

The Big Question:

If you were to start from scratch right now, what is the one thing you would do differently in building a new career in today’s Media & Entertainment industry?

Gavin Poolman:

The world has changed dramatically since I started my film career.  Back then, not only were there no mobile phones, there was no internet.

If I was starting again, with the benefit of what I know now and all the advantages of modern technology, the biggest thing I would do differently is practice.  Film-making is a lot like playing a musical instrument; it’s both an art and a skill. And the ability of the film-maker to master their art, just like in music, requires practice.

Instead of worrying about how to raise lots of money for dream projects, I would focus on getting my own content made any way I could. It doesn’t take millions of dollars to shoot a great film. What it does take is lots of practice to develop the technique needed to do it well.

When I finished film school, a filmmaker needed a massive amount of very expensive equipment, thousands of feet of very expensive film stock, and very expensive, highly-trained crew. I was fortunate that film school allowed me to work on 14 films in 2 years in pretty much every crew position, but I didn’t get much practice producing or directing, as at that time it was almost prohibitively expensive to shoot even a short film.

Nowadays, you can shoot a feature film with an iPhone, edit it with inexpensive software at home on your laptop, and upload it onto the internet for free to show it to audiences. All you need is a script, some actors, and time. Time is of course the one thing that young people have in abundance but don’t realise the value of; it doesn’t matter how rich you are, you can’t buy more time. 

New filmmakers should spend this time learning to tell stories with moving pictures; the camera is their paintbrush, the script is their easel, and the actors are their paint.  There’s a much lower cost and tech barrier to entry now. Take advantage of this, shoot films, upload them, and practice your art!!

Gavin Poolman in Rock Star pose.
Gavin Poolman outside the office, sans guitar. Approach with caution! (image courtesy of Gavin Poolman)
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