Fulfilling a dream to live and work in Australia, UK-based director Barney Howells moved to Melbourne in early May last year. He teamed up with executive producer Nik Round to create production company gods&monsters, which has been working on TVCs with agencies including BMF, DDB Sydney, M&C Saatchi Melbourne, and Sapient Nitro. CREATIVE gets an invite to enter the dungeon.
When and where did you first meet? How did you start working together?
Nik Round: I first met Barney through a mutual friend about five years ago. We stayed in contact before finally working together. I’m quick to make my mind up about people and decided I wanted to work with him before even looking at his work. Sometimes you just know when you’re onto a winner.
Barney Howells: When I moved out to Australia, Nik was the first guy I consulted about who I should meet here regarding representation. He played it cool like Columbo (even though physically he is more like Kojak). His “one more thing…” was gods&monsters.
How do you approach the task of collaborating jointly?
NR: Trusting in your partner’s ability I think is key. We both have very high work ethics and are probably our own biggest critics. I’m continually amazed by Barney’s creativity and that makes me want to step up and become an even better producer. It’s always a game of give and take, however this is the most successful producer/director relationship I’ve been in.
BH: I have never had a partnership work as well as the one I have with Nik. I put this down to us having a matched and miss-matched set of personality traits. We share common goals and aspirations.
We are both very vocal. We talk through problems; we listen to each other’s points of view, even when we don’t necessarily agree with them. But we are inherently different enough to bring more than one viewpoint to the party. Communication is the cornerstone of a creative partnership.
What were your first impressions of each other?
BH: When I first met Nik at Exit Films it was around lunchtime and he had just finished making a massive pot of soup for his comrades. My first impression was this was a guy that I could spend time with. Thankfully his producing is as good as his minestrone.
NR: I remember thinking that he’d be good to work with, if only he wasn’t so bloody tall. Now five years on he’s still tall and turns out I was right though: he is good to work with.
Does the other person have any annoying habits?
BH: Nik’s dress code fluctuates massively. He has been known to dress inappropriately for a workday. I have had to send him home to change out of his teeny black shorts into something more befitting our serious work. Then, annoyingly, he’ll turn up to meetings looking like the most dapper man alive making me feel like a right scrag-end. I wish he were more consistent.
NR: Barney has one incredibly long eyebrow hair, it’s like an antennae! He says it gives him his superhuman powers, but I don’t believe him.
Do you ever fight?
BH: I wouldn’t say fight – we have a healthy amount of conflict and we handle it in a very professional manner. We would never squabble in front of anyone else. We tend to hold our tongues until we get ‘home’ then we air our grievances.
Sometimes with a few swears. I think a director/producer relationship will always be fraught with a bit of friction, and it is very normal. It’s like those couples that say they never row. Well, believe me, they will.... and when they do!
NR: I love to wrestle – Greco-Roman and mud are my favourites – closely followed by bare-knuckle boxing, but Barney never lets me hit him in the face.
What are your respective strengths/weaknesses?
NR: I like to think my biggest strength is putting the right teams together for the right jobs. On the downside my attention span is very short. I often joke that I could never produce a feature film; I just can’t sit still that long.
BH: My strengths and weaknesses are completely intertwined. I have an unwavering belief in my viewpoint and vision. I am verbose and passionate. I make quick decisions. I expect the best from the people I work with. Luckily for me, Nik tempers the negative manifestation of these idiosyncrasies.
How do you stay sane?
BH: By listening to the voices in my head.
NR: I’ve given up trying. It’s far more fun being mad.
NR: I would have to credit Henrik Dannerfjord of Exit Films as being the most positive influence in my producing career. Whilst working as his producer I learned not only the basic skills of producing but also that there’s always a solution to every problem. I also learnt how not to do a few things too!
BH: Too many mentors to mention but the biggest influences have been Mehdi Norowzian and Desley Gregory, which was the first director/producer team I worked with. They nurtured me from a little acorn. Then latterly the Traktor boys I worked with through Partizan, who were an incredible inspiration.
My mum read the last interview I gave and took umbrage at the fact I hadn’t mentioned her as an influence. She taught me to circumvent the brain-to-mouth filter. Something that sits in the strength/weakness pile!