Phil Hunt is the founder and managing director of London-based film, TV and video games financier Head Gear Films and the co-managing director of international sales outfit Bankside Films.
Head Gear provides finance for producers as well as executive producing and international distribution through Bankside.
Most recently, Head Gear has backed John Michael McDonagh’s The Forgiven, starring Jessica Chastain and Raph Fiennes, which had the Morocco portion of its shoot abruptly curtailed following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hunt has just unveiled a $25m credit facility to back TV series and features shooting in Serbia with Belgrade-based Balkanic Media. The fund will cashflow the country’s 25%-30% cash rebate, as well as offering debt and gap financing for Balkanic’s service productions and its own original content.
Is it business as usual for you and your team as you all work remotely home?
Yup, we always get together and discuss talk nonsense and rate each other’s backgrounds on video. Actually, we do. There are eight of us in Head Gear, then various hangers on like my five-year old daughter who often joins my calls.
How are you maintaining an office routine? Video on or off?
Video ON! There’s nothing quite like face to face interaction. Especially if you have an Andy like we do at Head Gear who keeps us amused with his jokes for most of our session. I also have other a number of other businesses so most of the morning is taken up with other team calls.
Which systems are you using to talk to one another and clients?
Being a Luddite I prefer the two cans attached by string form of comms, but I realise in this new(ish) era of not needing to go out for anything, I’m using Zoom, although I’m keen to try a British video tech company – if anyone knows of any that work let me know.
Although the good thing about phone conference calls rather than video is that at least I could go for a pee when I was on back to back calls. (Thank god for ‘mute’).
In what ways are you and your colleagues keeping up team morale?
See above – Andy’s daily joshing. Also I would say Head Gear is a non-stop comedy show. Seriously though – the one amazing thing about Head Gear has always been how great we all get on together. For me the goal in business is to ensure people close to me are happy in what they do. Second close goal is happy customers.
What advice would you give to people in the business who are worried about the future?
The future never changes – it’s always something we haven’t got a clue what it is going to be. We have a choice in life – to be embrace life and all that comes with it, or be scared of it. It’s often how someone approaches things that determines the outcome. Since I was a kid and got into punk – I’ve always done my own thing, I’ve been the person that goes left when the crowds are going right. Make your problems your assets – enjoy innovating and you’ll get on in life just fine.
What contingency plans are you making for the next few months?
Do more of the same, being quick and efficient in adding to our business plan. We are already seeing new opportunities and still investing.
Head Gear has always been very flexible in the deal structure, but also in what it invests and lends in. Within months of the UK tax credit being in place for the games industry, it took us five days from meeting our first games developer to drawing down on the loan. We also operate in theatre, corporate lending in production, post, sales, graphic novels.
Cash is ALWAYS king. Not very punk I admit but I did that from the start. If you haven’t protected cashflow then you’re in for a bumpy ride.
If you have young children, how are you managing keeping them entertained and educated while you work?
I’ve always had a day or two a week working from home so my almost five-year old Colette has always been part of my calls. The only change is that she now joins the video meetings. And I work flexi-hours – I stop work between 10pm and 7am.
What advice do you have for home working?
It’s the one time that in all your life that you can do what you want – I suggest don’t dress (or just put on a top for those darn video calls), don’t wash, don’t use headphones – so you can shout as loud as you want and annoy your family, and most importantly do something to your hair.
It’s been 36 years since I last had a mohawk, so I got my partner Lucy to shave me one in the garden the other weekend.
I then posted on Facebook for all to join me, so far two others have … so I go down on my knees and implore all those that read this article to do the same and let’s (re)create the mohawk movement. Part 2.
What are you watching and reading and listening to through this period?
Video calls and emails. Looooong days. Although I did watch Contagion recently and even back in 2011 they were talking about “social distancing”. Who knew! Reading socially unacceptable Viz and Elfquest.
What positive change might this bring to the industry?
I love change, there’s always good to come out of any situation, no matter how difficult that change has been. My hope is that we will all be kinder to each other in every way, not just across the industry, but in all areas of life.