Grant Branton, prolific producer and first assistant director in music videos and commercials for nearly two decades, has passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 53.
Chris Massey: "a beautiful person through and through"
Christopher Massey, who has died after a short battle with cancer, commanded widespread respect, admiration and affection throughout his career as a producer and production manager of music videos and commercials.
His personable qualities, as well as his considerable organisational skills and resourcefulness, made him a very popular and important figure in the making of music videos at London production companies Academy Films, and of videos, ads and other content at Skin Flicks, and latterly as a commercials producer at Somesuch, where he produced a string of acclaimed ads in the past year.
Chris also had the rare distinction of being successful in two very different branches of filmmaking. Before he joined Academy’s production department in the mid-Noughties, he had been a prolific maker of skate videos, and directed the seminal British skateboard film Portraits, released in 2003. He maintained contacts with his old friends in the skateboarding community – and continued to make skate-orientated films – up until his tragic death earlier this month, at the age of 38.
Having grown up in Ampthill in Bedfordshire in the Eighties and early Nineties, Chris’s talent at skateboarding as a boy and teenager turned into a passion and talent for filming his fellow skaters. In his early twenties, he worked in Covent Garden-based skate shop Slam City Skates, longtime home to central London’s hardcore skate scene.
After contributing to other films, his first full-length skate film Portraits – featuring the skills and tricks of four skaters aligned with the Landscape brand – received immediate acclaim within the skating world. It also proved to be his route into a career within the commercial and music video production industry.
Chris was hired as a runner at Academy Films in 2004, quickly displaying both the acumen and affability that allowed him to quickly rise through the ranks. Over the next few years he was involved in the production of various significant music videos of the period, as PA, production manager and producer, including videos for The Horrors and The Prodigy directed by Corin Hardy, and Martin de Thurah’s unreleased video for Kanye West’s Flashing Light.
"Chris was an integral factor in Academy Video enjoying some of the most exciting and fruitful years of it’s history."
He established himself within British music video production as a resourceful filmmaker and a reassuring presence for up-and-coming directors, at a time when the industry was adjusting to a new reality of plunging production budgets. Liz Kessler, head of music video at Academy, says "Chris was an integral factor in Academy Video enjoying some of the most exciting and fruitful years of it’s history."
In 2010, Chris joined the new production company Skin Flicks, as head of production, producing some of the company’s best work, including early work by directing duo Tell No One, and videos and commercials by The General Assembly, Dan Henshaw, Ben Crook, and Aneil Karia. Skin Flicks founder Richard Skinner says: "Massey’s devotion, commitment and knowledge to the craft of filmmaking, and towards talent was second to none.”
John Hassay, then executive producer at Skin Flicks at the time, adds that his work on the Tell No One-directed film Metamorphosis for the National Gallery and Credit Suisse exemplified his ability as a producer.
“Massey was a key driver on that job,” says Hassay. “I’d never seen production like it in terms of marshalling resource, in turning something little into something very big. He delivered everything they wanted, turned a one day shoot into a four-day shoot – and he made the mark-up. Absolutely brilliant."
After leaving Skin Flicks in 2014, Chris went on to work as a freelance producer, before joining Somesuch – the production company established by his former Academy Films colleagues Sally Campbell and Tim Nash – as an on-staff producer in September 2014.
“I’d never seen production like it in terms of marshalling resource, in turning something little into something very big."
In the short period that followed Chris's output was prodigious. He produced commercials for several directors on the Somesuch roster, including Aoife McArdle's Samsung ad Feel More, Autumn De Wilde's Orangina commercial C'est Shook, McVities and Eblex spots by Sam Hibbard, and Bob Harlow (Honda), Rollo Jackson (HP), IFE (Absolut and Special K), and Daniel Wolfe (Saatchi showcase).
Chris's diagnosis with cancer this summer was followed by emergency treatment. He passed away on Saturday, November 7th. Chris leaves his wife, the producer Lucy Gossage, and Amelia, his and Lucy's young daughter.
• Christopher Massey’s funeral will be held at St Marylebone Crematorium, London, N2 0RZ on Wednesday 25th November at 1pm. All who knew Chris are invited to attend. I
Memories Of Chris Massey
by Liz Kessler, Ben Crook, Richard Skinner and Sally Campbell
"Chris began his career in production as a runner at Academy films before swiftly progressing to assisting in the music video department. Working on videos for everyone from Kanye to The Prodigy, Chris was an integral factor in Academy Video enjoying some of the most exciting and fruitful years of it’s history.
"After several years Chris was ’stolen' from music video by the commercials department where his production managing skills and enterprising personality made him an extremely popular colleague with even the most pernickity directors. He worked with most of the Academy roster and was a constant source of advice and information.
"Chris may have had a laidback and charming persona, but it belied a fierce and relentless passion for production."
"Not only did Chris bring his own skills but was an excellent talent spotter, introducing crew and creatives who have since become solid Academy regulars. Directors trusted his judgement, producers relied on his resourcefulness, crew enjoyed his spirit and performers were charmed and soothed onto the set by his easy friendly manners. Chris was the consummate team player and a crucial central member of the Academy family.
"Chris may have had a laidback and charming persona, but it belied a fierce and relentless passion for production. He truly cared that all his shoots were the best shoots from the call sheet to the craic." Liz Kessler
"Chris approached me not long after I joined Academy to see if we needed any runners. I knew him from skateboarding (at which he was very good indeed), and therefore I also knew of the incredible film he had made for Landscape Skateboards. Portraits is a phenomenal film, a personal and poetic study of four skaters and England at the time, and it’s legacy extends today over a decade later – it’s influence on Palace is undebateable in my opinion. I recall Chris sweating to finish the film on time for its premiere at the Prince Charles cinema, hammering away on his ancient Apple laptop and a primeval copy of Final Cut Pro. But against all the odds, he finished it. More than that, he smashed it out of the park. It’s a classic.
"So… no brainer – my friend would be an excellent addition to the brilliant team at Academy so I bothered Lizie Gower and Sally Campbell to take him on. His infectious personality, non stop laughs, loyalty, joy for living, his perhaps unorthodox professional approach, quick wittedness, fairness, dedication and charm made him an office favourite. Unsurprisingly, he quickly made his way up to PA. Having come from making films with zero budgets and no formal training or film education, Chris and I were from the same mould; I think that inherent necessary ingenuity and passion that came from skate film making, and also his huge personality and value of friendship defined Chris, and his subsequent career as a producer. Quite simply, he was hands down no bullshit, one of the best producers I have ever worked with. The other being his soul mate and future wife, Lucy Gossage.
"It's been quite amazing how many people have been saying that it was Chris who gave them their first breaks in production."
"It was at Academy that Chris also gave breaks to other friends from skateboarding - Stu Bentley, Dan McGee and Percy Dean and many others. This continued at his subsequent production companies – it's been quite amazing how many people (across the globe) have been telling me that it was Chris who gave them their first breaks in production. He always gave new talent a chance.
"After I left Academy, I started to work with Richard Skinner on his new project. Massey was now also freelancing and we needed a producer. Again, no brainer – the first person I called was Mass. We took the name Skin Flicks and made out first promo.
"Probably the only video I made whilst repped as a director that I genuinely still feel very proud and fond of, was for The Kills' Baby Says. Chris was of course my producer. I couldn’t have made it without him, it’s as simple as that. I wanted to make a real, gentle study of a transvestite, about transformation and fleeting moments of freedom and peacefulness. Chris believed in it too, so he threw an Alexa and lenses on an Easyjet flight to Barcelona. Sorry Arri.
"Chris, Zico our incredible Spanish producer, Stu Bentley and I then followed Baby around the roughest, strangest and scariest parts of town, making it up as went, no script, no contingency, no idea if I’m honest. We shot on the fly for 22 hours until the next morning. Stu and I crashed, Massey stayed up to watch and transfer the rushes. He woke me up every 15 mins to let me know if a shot was any good. He couldn’t contain his enthusiasm. An unforgettable surreal few days with my producer, my friend. So many good times, great memories and constant laughs. I miss you Massey." Ben Crook
“Massey’s devotion, commitment and knowledge to the craft of filmmaking, and towards talent was second to none. Massey was simply one of the finest humans I’ve known. Having the pleasure to work with him on a daily basis was a genuine joy and a pleasure.
"Apart from when he was late to almost everything! But that was forgotten once he starting pulling the usual production rabbits out of hats on a daily basis.
“The number of people who have been in touch with me since his passing from all corners of the globe, however deep their relationship or fleeting his contact with them, is proof of how much he was loved, respected and liked. He will be missed. None more so than by me, and all the people he touched.” Richard Skinner
“Massey’s devotion, commitment and knowledge to the craft of filmmaking, and towards talent was second to none."
"Why is it always the best ones?
"Chris Massey was not only a very good producer, he was also a very good friend. To those of us that had known him a very long time, and to those that had only known him a minute, there was no difference.
"He was thoughtful, generous, and very bloody funny. A beautiful person through and through. His absence has left a huge hole in the lives of all of those that knew him. We at Somesuch miss him every single day and are still struggling to believe it." Sally Campbell
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