Breaking The Status Quo: Thibaut Estellon, Founder/Executive Producer at REVERSE

To me, the shoot is like choreography in that it will succeed only if we prepare and rehearse properly.

REVERSE
New York, United States
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Thibaut Estellon
Executive Producer/Founder REVERSE
 


Tell us about your position; what are your leading responsibilities?

I’m the Founder and Executive Producer (EP) at REVERSE, a bi-coastal production company, focusing on the next generation of groundbreaking directors. My primary role is to keep the company and our roster of talent growing, exploring new opportunities for content development and creation, creating new partnerships with agencies and direct clients, and EP’ing productions.

 

What made you want to go into the production field: What did you do before your current position?

Growing up in France, I was an A-student who loved to mingle with creative and cool kids. So I went to business school with aspirations of being a music band manager. Working in the music industry, I gained valuable experience, handling sales and advertising for record labels, and curating and promoting concerts and events. I went on to develop similar events that brought together music, art, movies, and performances. During this time, I also got to train under a pioneer for the Parisian LGBTQ arts and nightlife community. She was one of the first to launch events blending different artistic genres, crowds, and vibes in the late ‘90s, which no one was really doing back then. It opened my horizons and honed my abilities to gather people around a project and support creatives in the process. Along the way, between stints in the US and France, I gained a broader understanding of and exposure to other artistic fields, including the contemporary art scene in Chelsea (NYC) and high-end luxury in Paris.
 
Somewhere in the middle of all this, my wife, an artist who was working in the NYC production industry, introduced me to the field. I realized it combined all my skills. To this day, my unique path to production allows me to have a different eye and approach to the industry. At REVERSE, we’re not afraid of bringing an unconventional perspective. We get excited about breaking the status quo.

 

Is there an aspect of production you enjoy most? What keeps you inspired?

I love the early stages: concepting, bidding, and strategizing with our directors. It’s a bit like cracking a code, collaborating with our directors to find the magic sauce that will elevate the boards and find the best production approaches to execute the vision of our directors and agency clients. To me, the shoot is like choreography in that it will succeed only if we prepare and rehearse properly. But for the magic to happen, it’s good to have breathing room for improvisation on-set as well.

 

Besides that, I love discovering talent, helping them grow, supporting them, and finding them opportunities to develop their careers. It can be a long game, but I really believe that hard work and efforts pay off as long as true talent is there.

 

What do you look for in young individuals trying to get their start? What sets an individual apart from their peers?

To succeed in the production industry, I think it takes a combination of education, passion, hard work, talent, creativity, and intelligence. Our industry is unique in the sense that there isn’t just one way to gain real training or schooling for producing commercials or branded content. My best advice for those starting out is to hustle, but also take the time to think and breathe. Listen and learn. Be respectful and ethical. Be committed. We’re part of a small world, and if you work hard and have talent, you’ll get noticed.

 

What are the most important qualities you look for when it comes to signing a director? Is there a particular kind of director you think Reverse attracts?

First and foremost, I need to feel a spark and see a unique vision. The work has to really stand out and resonate strongly. I’ve trained my eye for years across multiple artistic disciplines and fields, and I’m really drawn to directors who bring something special, whether it’s their background story, what they do outside of directing, or whatever makes their life unique and enriching, which will translate into their vision of the world and approach to directing. At the end of the day, we’re way too involved in supporting our directors to sign talent who don't ignite that fire. We truly believe in accompanying directors in the long run. I used to play competitive chess when I was younger, and I like that analogy: it’s about positioning the directors on the right jobs, getting them proper exposure, and finding the opportunities that will open more doors down the line. Overall, I think our roster conveys a certain tone and cohesion without having overlaps. We also approach this as a team; if a director is successful, it will benefit the entire roster and makes us all stronger.

 

In your opinion, what’s been the most important shift in the production industry in the last few years?

We’re a fairly young shop, having started to represent directors about three years ago, so we didn’t really experience a shift or evolution in the way we do things. Of course, we’re noticing a bigger demand for more content across a variety of platforms, a demand for smarter production approaches, and more collaboration between all the actors involved – from clients to directors. Production companies need to be seen as partners. Collaboration and communication need to flow more seamlessly, and the antiquated boundaries between producers and creatives need to be loosened up for better results.

  

Are there any major misconceptions about the producers you think need to be cleared up?

I mostly EP and have a tremendous respect for my line producers. They’re key to the success of a project, and I always learn so much from them. It requires a lot of skills, patience, and an understanding of not only numbers, but also creativity and artistry. It’s a combination of human and business acumen, in addition to reacting well under stress and pressure. 

Oftentimes, there’s a separation between creatives/directors and producers, which feels very outdated to me. It’s not a recipe for success and I hope this will evolve.

 

Is there a piece of work you’re most proud of? What about it is special to you?

I’m mostly proud of the development of our roster. Directors such as Romain Quirot and Johan Stahl, who were unknown in the US market before signing with REVERSE, are now in the A-list pool of directors, competing and winning against the best, and working with top agencies, such as VMLY&R, Team One, McGarryBowen, and more.