Jani Guest: Independent, London

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Nothing fazes the Zen-like Jani Guest. The antithesis of the showy side of the production business, this Californian who arrived in London eight years ago with no experience or contacts has quietly gone about building an impeccable professional reputation for herself in this bitchiest of markets.

Independent, the company she set up with Richard Packer out of the ashes of Propaganda, has just joined the talent A-list with two deals: first, earlier this year, to rep David Fincher and the Anonymous roster, and then, last month, to handle Biscuit's Noam Murro and Jeffrey Fleisig for London.

Guest is used to star names. Having been a photo editor and having repped the late Herb Ritts for photography in California, she went to London where Julia Reed (now head of Harry Nash) gave her a job at Satellite Films repping the likes of Spike Jonze, Mark Romanek, Simon West and Josh Taft.

An American-style rep, when there was only Marina Usher in London for HKM doing the same thing, Guest found her feet after three years and was to stay within the Propaganda organization through all its various London incarnations (the deals with Federation and Academy) until the end. By that time, the new stars were Dante Ariola and Kuntz & Maguire.

Just before Propaganda closed there had been another deal with Italian production company BRW. Together, Guest, Packer and BRW then set up Independent, BRW being the majority shareowner. No star names back then, but director Daniel Levi has broken through over the past year with Xbox's "Senses," for BBH/London, the "Butterfly Caught" music video for Massive Attack, and now a new Levi's commercial. Meanwhile, Michael Patrick Jann, Mouldy, Maggie Zackheim, Us and Dominic Leung are all making strides with work for the likes of BBH, Mother, Saatchi & Saatchi and KesselsKramer.

Last year, Guest and Packer tried a short-lived affiliation with HKM and The Directors Bureau. But at roughly the same time, she brought in a major one-off project that really put Independent on the map: Michael Mann of Anonymous' much talked about Mercedes minifilm for Campbell Doyle Dye. This in turn led to the formal deal with Anonymous.

Although Guest says the real challenge is to break the younger directors, surprisingly, job No. 1 is Fincher's first U.K. commercial in years: Xelibri for Mother. London is in a curious place right now, she says. "Because the market has been so dry, some of the biggest directors are doing jobs they would normally not be available for, so either jobs are not there or unknowns have to pitch against very big names," Guest says. "It's just so unpredictable. Suddenly jobs disappear right at signoff. Now, you never know until you're on set." Nevertheless, Independent has not needed BRW's outside funding; both music video and commercials are doing well and there was no negativity surrounding the Propaganda fall out.

"Because Packer and I know so many people, everyone has been really supportive," says Guest. "There is a real community feeling in London. It's great if they like and support you, but it's impossible if they don't - look at Propaganda. Boutiques fit the climate here. Look at Gorgeous, the production company we all wish we had." And the personal factor is not to be underestimated. Anonymous' Dave Morrison says that in addition to Guest's obvious chops, her history with the company's roster and keen eye for European directing talent, the partnership with Guest also hinges on a strong personal connection. "In the end," says Morrison, "the two crucial things successful people and companies have to have in this business are being good at what they do - but just as important, be easy to be around, as the business is all about people."

And now, for Independent, there is the prospect of Murro: "The barriers between the U.K. and the U.S. have so fallen down here," says Guest. "There's no reason why he shouldn't clean up here. Noam is a true filmmaker. There is no genre that he cannot do to the best of that genre's standards. He has no category. He's very, very rare."

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