Film Director & Co-Founder Filmmakers Ranch
Richard Janes is a British born storyteller driven by a trio of guiding forces: passion, purpose, and an unwavering dedication to authenticity. His journey through the realm of filmmaking has been a dynamic blend of directing acclaimed commercials, penning scripts for Walt Disney, and pioneering the entertainment industries adoption of social media as a storytelling tool via his fan focused ad agency Fanology. In 2019, his guiding forces sent him a clear message; It was time for something different... a time to return to a 20 year old dream.
In an audacious move, Richard and his documentary filmmaker wife, decided to risk everything and set their sights on establishing a filmmaker community that defied convention and ventured beyond the traditional confines of Hollywood,. The fruition of this vision emerged as Filmmakers Ranch, a bustling sanctuary where Richard not only crafts his own cinematic tales but fosters an environment for fellow filmmakers and crew to push their boundaries, take creative risks, and attempt to make a difference through motion pictures.
Read his full story below...
(warning it's a long one...)
Richard grew up in a small village approximately 50 miles south of London. He was a rather sickly kid suffering from Allergies to everything from dairy and apples, to dust and pollen. He struggled at school thanks, in-part, due to his Dyslexia, which would have him second guess any writing or reading out loud. He was a C student at best and most of the time he wasn't at his best.
His mom and dad ran their own catering company and sandwich shop in Wimbledon, a few miles east of the world renowned Wimbledon Tennis with its champaign, strawberry's and cream, and laps of luxury. In the world, but not of the world, the Janes were in this in between space where they were not blue collar and not really white collar. Trade's folk whom worked their way up, still struggling financially at every step of the way with no generational wealth to fall back on, and yet somewhat embraced and yet at the same time kept at arms length by a new class.
They never felt they belonged, either because that's how this new class wanted it, or because the Janes interpreted that way because there was always a request of service attached to an invitation: "would you do the food..."
Richard's parents certainly worked hard to give their children everything they had not. His mother left school at 15, and his father, whom also suffered with Dyslexia, only found his life path when he started working in kitchens and started to travel Europe working in some of the oldest culinary houses eager to pick up on the generational knowledge that would later inform his own menus.
When Richard was 13 his father did get that contract that would change lives only not in the way anyone could have predicted.
Wimbledon Theater, a goegous grade II listed Edwardian theater that premiered the very first production of musical Oliver!, was looking for a local catering company to run the bar at it's summer open air theater program in the Italian walled garden of Cannizzaro Park in Wimbledon Village.
Richard's parents realized this could be a way for the family to pay down debt after their business had hit the rocks after the 1992 sterling crisis and catering jobs, and the luxury of buying sandwiches in a cafe vs making them at home, had reduced the steady flow of pound coins in the cash register to a small trickle.
Wanting to help as much as he could, Richard would be dropped off in the Italian Walled garden early in the morning as his dad went off to run the cafe. Richard would spend the first few hours cleaning and restocking the bar before treating himself to a can of coke and heading down to the stage area to watch rehearsals before the front of house opened at 6pm.
Romeo and Juliet, Midsimmer NightsDream, Don Giovani and The Marriage of Figueroa, became his summer entertainment and he fell head over heals in love with the act of play, make believe, and taking an audience on a journey. The technicalities of set design, lighting, power distribution in an open park, why an audience laughed when they did, and how two actors could look into each others eyes and convince 1200 people they were meeting for the first time and falling in love night after night, became all Richard could think of. He became obsessed. This was where he was meant to be.
This was Richard’s summer heaven from the age of 13-17.
In his second year as the unofficial landlord of the open air theater bar, a chance meeting with an agent, together with Richard’s persistent questioning night after night, lead to an introduction to a children’s agency where, unbeknownst to his parents, Richard set himself up with an audition. When he got the offer of representation his parents were aghast as they’d seen how much the actors struggled and that struggle was exactly what they were working so hard for their children to avoid.
But Richard being Richard, he struck a deal.
If his grades improved he’d be allowed to take auditions. It’s amazing what a little incentive can do to a person. Richard’s grades quickly rose and the acting jobs came flooding in; CBBC series and ITV children’s dramas, the obligatory parts in British staples such as the Bill and Kavanagh QC with Jon Thaw, all the way through to a crazy number of Commericals for products as far ranging as Aspirin tablets to dodgy new energy drinks. At 18 he had two jobs back to back - the first was playing Professor Aronex in a test for a children’s version of 20,000 leagues under the sea with Kera Knightly playing his sister, and the other was Longitude with Jeremy Irons where Richard played a young government assistant before the start of World War II. He looked around him and realized that he was now competing with graduates from the top drama schools in the world. He also realized that his actors chair, off to the side with a bottle of water and a PA on hand to cater to your every need, wasn’t actually the chair he wanted. He wanted another. One that simply read: Director.
After some advice from Giles Ridge, a young BBC associate producer who had taken Richard under his wing and introduced him to the ins and outs of production, Richard enrolled himself in a two year accelerated bachelor program at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication. The threats of expulsion were two many to count as Richard spent most of his time in London’s soho picking up PA jobs at commercial houses such as @Radical working for esteemed directors such as Terry Gilliam (Fischer King) and Tarsem (The Fall) or creeping around the BBC’s Broadcasting House watching friends who were members of the BBC Radio Repertory Company work their vocal magic. At the end of his two years, Richard brought together friends from the commercial production houses with actors from the radio drama rep and produced his graduation film “Representative Radio” which was nominated for a Student Royal Television Society Award.
After graduation things moved quickly Directing a play off West End and raising the money to shoot his first feature film “Fakers” starring Mathew Rhys and Art Malik. It was this film that had him fly half way across the world to show the movie at the Writer's Guild of America screening room courtesy of BAFTA LA, and where Richard was introduced to a young woman with sparkly eyes, a Gorgeous smile, and a recently acquired motorbike license.
Richard and Amy, always know they would work together. But as both their careers were taking off independently, Richard having received his first big commission co-writing a superhero movie for Walt Disney, and Amy rising up the ranks of the International Documentary Association, the entertainment industry went into lockdown with the 2008 Writer’s Strike.
Now with two young children living in a one bedroom apartment trying to make ends meet in the overpricing city of angeles, Amy and Richard had had faced one too many ‘almosts’. Independent films almost starting pre-production only to have financing pulled away at the last minute, ‘almost’ getting hired to direct or produce the next big Hollywood feature but a bigger name expressing interest at the last minute. Big breaks always in sight but the finish line always moving. Hollywood sidewalks are littered with immensely talented people’s dreams and Richard and Amy, with two kids to support, and no financial stability, began to think this was their path too.
But then Amy’s High Kicking UCLA producing partner invited Amy and Richard to work on a music documentary series he was producing for television. A.J. Lewis led production, Richard directed, and Amy supported with editing. Together they took away a Los Angeles Area Emmy and they realized that perhaps there was an alternative path to their dreams. One less travelled - or perhaps one so new that nobody had travelled.
Hulu had just been launched as a platform to carry Disney, Fox, and NBC content to compete with Netflix. They weren’t yet producing original content. But that was about to change as Richard, and the team at a newly formed short form content studio, persuaded them to distribute their first exclusive show backed by Carl’s Jr. called ‘Dorm Life’. Looking at alternative ways to promote the show they set up online profiles for all the cast on a growing social network called Facebook. Seeing the traction and eyeballs, Richard and Amy began to think these new platforms could be used to build powerful audiences that could drive ticket sales and ratings. Within months they’d raise venture capital to launch a new form of talent representation: online fan management of actors social media.
Through their company, Fanology, they pioneered online chats around television driving day and date TV tune in for shows such as Glee, Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars, they headed up online campaigns for studios such as Relativity Media, and grew tens of millions of fans for actors, musicians, and athletes. At the same time brands started to take notice and Fanology launched a brand division delivering fan building social media strategy and execution for traditional brands such as Toyota and Lifetime Fitness. These brands needed new online commercials for social media (made for cents on the dollar compared to their broadcast counterpart) and Fanology was quickly tasked with filming them.
At last Richard was back in the directors seat albeit with 30 second spots, but being social media they were given total freedom to build and deliver stories that would stop people from scrolling the feed. 100s of commercials and a bunch of awards later and a small but crack team emerged flying off around the US to capture content around the Olympics, Extreme Sports, Product Reveals, and events. Telling authentic stories with fans and spokespeople that were more about impact than direct sales.
The core of the business was still with celebrities, but as social media sites began to test out how to maximize monetization for their eventual floatation on the stock exchange, they were embracing the Fanology team in one month; calling on them to advise how to launch a celebrity focused mobile app, and then restricting their ability to do business the next month, ultimately culminating in Twitter cutting off the data hose for all its largest partners and demanding millions of dollars for renewed access.
At a cross roads and without the massive capital to meet Twitter’s demands - something which very few companies were able to do and turned out to be the first in a great many miss steps from Twitter that restricted the social network to a smaller player in the ecosphere, Richard and Amy were stuck.
They had built a business that had yet to pay them out, they felt enormous responsibility for a large staff that now, with little to do given Twitters abrupt about turn, faced redundancy, and they had unwittingly found themselves moving further and further away from creating narrative features and documentaries which would change the world.
On top of this, Richard had become sick. Really sick. From the age of 17, Richard had battled with Ulcerative Colitis, an auto immune disease that breaks down your large intestine. Short periods on steroids would usually re-patch the underlying problem and he’d get back to work.
But this time it was different.
Under the stress of the struggling business, Richard had not been able to achieve a quick recovery and as doctors introduced new treatment after new treatment, Richard’s body began to give up. At 110lbs he had no choice but to step back from the business placing all the responsibility on Amy’s shoulders and focus on his health.
Questions around why we were still doing what we were doing, how we somehow needed to find new dreams, and how we needed to just get out of Los Angeles rose nightly. Amy focused Fanology on big brands, and Richard focused his energy on getting better.
Those nightly conversations lead to two years of weekend visits to the coolest and hippest cities around the country looking for a new place to move to, a better quality of life, and an attempt to leave the rat race of Hollywood. Austin, Portland, Atlanta, Boulder... they visited them all but nothing felt right. That was until a chance visit to Oklahoma City changed everything and Filmmakers Ranch was in sight.
Richard has shot hundred's of commericals for leading brands. His longest running client has been Toyota where he has helping to tell mini stories around their sponsored athletes, and highlighting the powerful stories of Toyota customers. With hundred's of branded stories in the bank, here's a small selection.
AT WORK AND PLAY
(These images maybe used for editorial purposes with credit to the appropriate photographer)
Richard has always been captivated by stories of individuals discovering their passion and purpose. A few years back, amid his various projects, he immersed himself in the realm of podcasting. His goal was to interview people about their unique journeys toward finding passion and purpose. Richard's interviews ranged from Hollywood screenwriters to animal rights activists, and he meticulously crafted each narrative with a blend of sound effects and music, creating a captivating audio experience.
However, due to the high production values involved, these podcasts demanded an immense amount of time and effort. Consequently, Richard decided to put the project on indefinite hold. Nonetheless, you can still explore the engaging first 13-episode season below.