A View From Tom George, MD at Happy Hour
Tom is founder, creative director and MD at Happy Hour, a creative production agency in Bristol – producing everything from TV campaigns, to marketing films, to online content. Happy Hour works with many market leading advertisers on their TV campaigns, such as Toolstation, Animal Friends Insurance, Sunlife Insurance, among others. Happy Hour also produces feature films, having produced and coproduced seven films to date.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always enjoyed anything creative when I was growing up – writing stories, sketching. Once I got into my teens I think I wanted to be an actor. I didn’t really do the school theatre groups, but I was having acting tuition outside of school, and was in a semi pro theatre company from 13-18. Of course, then I went to Uni, on a creative writing & theatre/film studies course, and realised there were plenty of better actors out there than me…luckily at that point I realised I preferred being behind the scenes, producing/directing, and being over a project from start to finish.
If you weren’t doing this job now, what would you be doing?
I’ve always joked if I wasn’t doing this, I’d be running a cocktail bar in the Caribbean somewhere...in fact…why am I doing this…?!
Who do you most admire in business and why?
The guys at Aardman – Nick, Pete, Dave and co. They’ve built an amazing company that has put Bristol on the map and made it the home of animation. As a Bristolian I’m proud of them, and as a business owner I’ve wanted to emulate that structure of having a commercials division that sits alongside producing film & tv content.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
Keeping active is important, I’d go mad if I didn’t exercise. I try to get to the gym a few times a week, I play tennis for a club too. Then the rest of my time is spent with family. Having two young children pretty much uses up the rest of the time…which is no bad thing. I’m rediscovering my childhood through them, and they are a great excuse to re-watch superhero films again and again and again!
What’s your favourite ad campaign/TV programme of the year so far and why?
Favourite ad campaign – probably Lidl ‘Surprises’, it’s interesting to see a campaign that successfully challenges audiences preconceptions and educates about the source of its product in an engaging or surprising way.
TV programme – I’ve been binge-watching and am always a little behind – but Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, Walking Dead, have all been filling our evenings.
What music are you listening to (on your phone/ipod)?
I’m not good at discovering new music, I instead have playlists of favourite tracks depending on the season or my mood. Right now it’s sunny, so there’s a summer playlist with everything from California Dreaming to Ruby Tuesday to Perfect Day on it.
What’s your tipple?
Red Wine…or Rose on a hot summers day…or Champagne if I’m in Cannes and it’s free.
Tell us one highlight of your career so far
Winning Best British Feature Film at Raindance a couple of years ago with KICKING OFF. We’ve won some of the top awards for our TV commercials and corporate film work over the years which have been great too, although I’ve always felt those pieces of work were not designed to win awards. They were commissioned to communicate a message, on brief, to an audience that was provided, either by purchase of airtime or internal distribution.
With a feature film, you never know if there is going to be an audience or not! So to get this level of recognition made the whole project worthwhile, and it triggered distribution deals and more festival screenings both here and internationally.
And one highlight of your life so far
Becoming a dad. I think up to that point I’d been working and running a business for my future…after having children, it dawned on me that priority had changed, and now everything is about giving them the best opportunities in the future.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest and why?
OK, I may go a little geeky and say George Lucas. I could talk Star Wars all night, so quizzing him on all the backstories that didn’t make it into Canon, or subplots they dropped, it would be fascinating…for me at least…he’d probably be bored sick.
What programme on TV/online do you try not to miss?
Game of Thrones. Probably the best TV I’ve ever seen.
Anything Marvel universe – I’ve liked the Netflix shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage…larger universes where there are crossovers and references always feel more expanded in storytelling terms.
Apart from your phone, what’s the gadget you can’t live without?
Ipad for news, games, social media, reading.
Small Laptop goes everywhere with me when on business too – as there are limits to the ipad usability.