Gary Ward is the cortado sipping, pistachio munching Executive Producer out of our west coast office. He is a maverick in work and spirit. At first he was hard to pin down for an interview; but we eventually connected over the phone. Whether you are curious about the growing disparity between the east and west coast advertising markets, or just seeking a good laugh, check out our interview below!
Q: Let’s start off with history. Where are you from?
A: I was born in Encino, at the West Valley Medical Center on Ventura Blvd. (in the San Fernando Valley) I think they currently have a few people quarantined in there from the Coronavirus. And then I grew up in Westlake Village. So I was born here (Los Angeles), grew up here, and then I went to USC.
Q: Have you ever lived outside of California?
A: No. My range is about 25 miles. You can see anything you need to see between downtown Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks. There’s no more interesting part of the world than the valley.
Q: What did you study at USC?
A: I was a Broadcast Journalism major. I also studied film but not as a double major.
Q: How did you get into the entertainment industry?
A: I was going to be in radio, but they shut the radio station down during the first semester of my freshman year. So that was out. My mom gave me a suit and a briefcase for graduation so I could go get a job. I never got past any of the guard gates on any studio lot, but a friend of mine had a car detail shop and he detailed the car of a director. He set me up with an interview and I went in with my suit and tie and my resumé. They asked me if I could read a Thomas Guide and I said yes. They gave me a job as a PA.
Q: What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on?
A: I worked on Where’s the Beef?, I blew up the Jack in the Box clown, worked on the Apple and PC spots for about five years…tons of things. Working with Hank you work on a wide variety of spots with a wide variety of clients. In my first few months we had Michael Mann in, Terrance Malick, Spike Lee, Adam McKay….it’s a pretty amazing list…
The west coast has evolved in a different way in the last few years. I think the east coast still is doing a more traditional brand of advertising with agency and broadcast work with clients like Amex, Delta, and Cadillac. The west coast evolved into having more in-house creative and direct-to-client work. We’ve done great projects for Airbnb, Google, Twitter, and Facebook with their in house creative agencies. We’ve expanded into some feature work with a couple of indie features. We do a lot of very interesting creative work with Neil Young on all of his projects, both documentary projects and for his archives. Hank just finished an HBO pilot for Adam McKay. Nicholas Brittell, the composer from Moonlight, does all his work here. It’s pretty diverse.
Q: What snacks and drinks are typically on your desk?
A: Werther’s. I’m like an elderly grandfather. I like those butterscotch things. I have pistachios; there’s constantly shells on my desk, in my lap, or on the floor. I always have a coffee. I like a cortado or a gibraltar. I only go to snobby places where they don’t allow you to put anything in your coffee. If you ask for sugar, you’re asked to leave. I want the barista to be as rude and condescending as possible.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
A: I’m very self centered so I don’t listen to advice. But my grandmother once told me to wear clean drawers because you never know if you’re going to get into a car accident. I try to live by that.
Q: Whose career do you admire and why?
A: I’ve always liked people who are defiant in their belief in what they’re doing and who do it for themselves. I’ve been a long time fan of Neil Young and now to be working with him is pretty surreal. He’s always followed a path of his own and is true to that. Hank is very similar in that way. He has a very specific approach to his work and is unwavering in that. He’s fearless.
In the art world I always liked Rauschenberg, Pettibon, Basquiat. I respond to people who remain true to their passion. Even if it’s a mistake, I think sometimes that can turn out to be the best part of something when it’s sort of unpolished and rough and has its own personality. I think that’s the problem with a lot of what we have in our current popular culture. Everything is refined to the point where it’s no longer interesting.
Q: What do you like to do when you aren’t at work?
A: I like to draw. I have a studio at home and I try to draw something or make something every night if I can. I did an art show a few years ago called The Midnight Drawings. I did a piece every day for a year. I’m also trying to recapture my golf game.
Q: If you were stuck in a remote location for the rest of time with only one DVD to watch, what would you pick?
A: The Royal Tenenbaums. Gene Hackman reminds me of my Uncle Tony.