David Reviews

 Biting the hand that feeds us since 2002.

SKUNK STRENGTHENS LONDON TEAM WITH HOLLY ABEY

Holly Abey has joined Kate Taylor at Skunk London to help promote their fine array of directing talent. Abey has experience working on both sides of the divide, having come into the industry agency-side before switching to production a few years ago.

David Reviews' Jason Stone spoke to her last week and found out more about where she's been; what she's up to and what she hopes will happen next.

The first thing you have to establish with Holly Abey is how you pronounce her surname. It's not 'Abbey', as many think - and occasionally earning her the nickname Holy Abbey. It's actually pronounced A,B... like someone reciting the alphabet who can't remember the third letter.

She first worked with Kate Taylor at The Sweet Shop: "I always had a really good relationship with her, we've enjoyed a few lunches together... had a few drinks. That always helps you bond. So it was an easy choice... working with someone like Kate and coming here to help a company like Skunk get off the ground in London."


Kate's done an amazing job so far and I'm excited to get stuck in with her.

 ”

Does she think her experience helping The Sweet Shop emerge from the shadow of its antipodean offices will prove useful for Skunk? "Yeah, definitely. When I joined The Sweet Shop, Spencer [Dodd] had been there a couple of years and the task was well under way. Before that it hadn't really taken off in London, and it was a case of building the brand, and gaining a reputation for for being a very lovely company to work for... always being approachable and helpful.

"The challenge is similar here and Kate and Matt [Factor] in the US already have that reputation for being people who others want to work with."

But Abey recognises that you can't necessarily import an approach that works in the US: "We need to create a personality for ourselves that fits into the space over here. Partly it's about signing local directors... which is already happening."


We need to make Skunk London a distinctive entity. That is definitely something Kate and I are talking about constantly.

 ”

Abey's agency-side experience gives her an excellent understanding of what London agencies expect from a film production company.

She began her career at Wieden+Kennedy, covering reception briefly. She had been warned off advertising by her parents but after several thankless years working in TV, she was ready for a change.

Liking the vibe at W+K, she approached Julia Methold about the possibility of a job in TV there and, luckily, one was available. After a stint co-ordinating their in-house editing team, she became PA to Jon Chads before going on to work with Dannie Stewart.


Her time at W+K coincided with the agency's immensely busy phase, just after they won the Nokia worldwide account (for the benefit of younger readers - Nokia was a Finnish company that made most of the world's mobile phones for a few years).

"We were really busy, really really busy. Jon and I were looking after Nokia - with something like three hundred play outs at the same time that he was doing the Honda skydive ad.

"It was definitely a sink or swim sort of challenge, and it was too busy for there to be much guidance... I very much had to learn on the job."


I'm not suggesting everybody should have a tough time to be able to be good or to succeed, but it does help you understand and appreciate the junior people you work with.

 ”

Even so, it wasn't as tough as it had been when she worked in TV when she was "in Bradford every weekend, filming at night" and it gave her a terrific perspective when she was busy later in her career.

Does she feel a brief period of slavery would put people in the right frame of mind to work in advertising? "I'm not suggesting everybody should have a tough time to be able to be good or to succeed, but it does help you understand and appreciate the junior people you work with."


From W+K, she went to Media Arts Lab which she can't talk about because of their tight NDA regime.

Asked if she'll be in trouble for acknowledging the existence of the NDAs she signed, she says: "If you don't see me again, you know who it is!"

Her two years there were followed by a brief stint at the Red Brick Road before she was introduced to VCCP's Olly Calverley whom she describes as someone as: "brilliant, fun and impossible not to get on with."

For the third time in her career, she joined a TV department just before it doubled in size and the work was unrelenting. Needing a break after a good couple of years at VCCP, she headed off to Brazil for a few months.

When she returned, she was invited to join The Sweetshop and she immediately realised she'd found her metier: "I loved it. I felt like I was suddenly at home."

Out of respect for everyone who works agency-side, she's reluctant to admit that production-side is more fun but she's not fooling anyone: "Working with directors is what I always wanted to do. You don't really have any say on a script as an agency producer, whereas here - with sales - I help with treatments and ideas, and that I really love."


I loved it. I felt like I was suddenly at home.

 ”

Bringing all this valuable experience to Skunk London's quietly ambitious set-up sounds like a recipe for success and we're looking forward to hearing more from Holly Abey, Kate Taylor and their merry roster of directors.

Skunk London are on 020 3176 7720. Holly can be reached via email on holly@skunklondon.com.

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David Reviews - Lovely Lenzie Ltd, Woodbourne House, Seven Sisters, Lenzie, G66 3AW. Telephone: +44 141 776 7766. Editor: Jason Stone.