- LOS ANGELES
Robin Shenfield, co-founder of The Mill, has decided to step down as CEO at the end of the year. He will move into an advisory role at Technicolor, the company that acquired The Mill in 2015. Shenfield’s advisory capacity will be centered on The Mill’s ad industry strategy as he continues to work closely with two Technicolor execs, CEO Frederic Rose and global president of customer experience and advertising, David Patton.
According to a company email memo obtained by SHOOT through the industry grapevine, Shenfield’s operational responsibilities will begin to transition to Patton, and the overall organization and management structure for The Mill will remain intact.
Shenfield feels The Mill is poised to continue its growth, build on its success, and keep on meaningfully adapting to an ever changing industry landscape. He’s confident that Technicolor and the expert people he has in place at The Mill are well positioned to be responsive to customer needs and to stay ahead of the curve as opportunities for diversification and the like emerge.
Shenfield, who’s based in London, said that shedding day-to-day operational duties and other myriad responsibilities will free him to fully focus on strategy for The Mill. Thus he will continue to help shape the future for the company he co-founded some 30 years ago. And while he doesn’t immediately have an extensive to-do list outside of The Mill, Shenfield can pay some more attention to other areas he’s been involved in professionally, including Monterosa, an audience interaction tech company, for which he serves as chairman. Monterosa’s fast cloud-based platform is used for sporting and entertainment events, providing an interactive dynamic to consumers. Monterosa’s clients include ITV, Viacom, EA Sports and CBS.
Change, growth and accomplishment
During his long tenure at the company helm, Shenfield has navigated a course marked by change, growth and accomplishment. Starting with a 30-person core as a start-up in 1990, The Mill now encompasses a team of more than 1,100 across studios in London, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Bangalore and Berlin. Meanwhile its sister company, Mill Film, maintains studios in Montreal and Adelaide.
Among the memorable achievements and landmarks for The Mill under Shenfield’s aegis have been: winning the Visual Effects Oscar for director Ridley Scott's Gladiator in 2001; moving beyond its London headquarters the following year to set up shop in the U.S.; garnering numerous accolades over time ranging from Cannes Lions to AICP Show honors for its high-profile ad endeavors; and creating breakthrough IP, a prime example being Blackbird, a toolkit for automotive ad production that earned a Cannes Innovation Gold Lion in 2016, and the development of Mill Mascot, a social media tool which uses Unreal game engine technology with motion sensors to realize real-time animated content in final pixel quality.
At the time that The Mill opened stateside, some 20 percent of its bread-and-butter advertising industry business was already coming from the American market, according to Shenfield. Fast forward to today and now U.S. agency and client fare accounts, he said, for some 80 percent of The Mill’s volume. And while craft and execution in visual effects represent a longstanding foundation of The Mill’s business, the company has diversified significantly into varied areas, including IP as well as significant directorial work via Mill+, an integrated team of helmers and designers frequently engaged in concept-to-delivery creative partnerships.
Shenfield observed that The Mill’s relationship with Technicolor has proven fruitful as the parent company is committed for the long haul, seeing the challenge of tumultuous industry change as a catalyst for new opportunities. Conventional wisdom may generally raise a red flag when a creative business is sold to a larger entity but in the case of Technicolor, said Shenfield, it has stayed true to its word that The Mill would continue to maintain its own identity, staying nimble and entrepreneurial in the way it responds to and addresses marketplace needs. The financial wherewithal provided by Technicolor provides a best of both worlds scenario, facilitating such developments as the return of Mill Film, provider of VFX solutions to the feature community as well as streaming and episodic content. Years ago The Mill moved away from feature VFX given the volatility of that business at the time, choosing to instead focus on its core commercials/ad industry biz. But as feature prospects became more appealing, Mill Film re-emerged under the Technicolor regime, a development that Shenfield hadn’t foreseen when the agreement was reached for Technicolor to acquire The Mill. Again, it’s a development that underscores the mantra of being willing to adapt--and having the resources to do so--based on how the industry evolves.
Shenfield’s integral contributions to The Mill also include his skill and affinity for making the right match in terms of investors. The Mill was initially backed by iconic rock band U2 and its management, then later by private equity partners Candover Investments, 3i, The Carlyle Group and Equistone before Technicolor entered the picture. The Technicolor deal was nurtured over time as initial exploratory talks took place five years prior to a deal eventually being reached. The timing wasn’t right when those discussions began but they bred a familiarity between the two companies and its key players, as well as a mutual understanding of the company cultures involved. So when they came together again down the road, in 2015 to be exact, the foundation was in place for a viable, informed marriage.
Also marking Shenfield’s tenure at The Mill has been his broad-based industry involvement on varied fronts. He served as chairman of the AICP Show in 2018, making him the first member of the VFX/post community--and one of, if not the first from outside the U.S.--to oversee that competition. Shenfield has also been a longstanding member on the board of directors for the advertising awards body The British Arrows. Additionally Shenfield and The Mill have been major supporters of the Fireflies Tour and FireFlies West Tour, which raise money for life-saving research into the causes and treatment of blood cancers. Shenfield is a Firefly as well, having clocked in hundreds of miles bicycle riding down the California coast for the annual fundraiser.