Interview with Framestore President James Razzall

James Razzall

James Razzall

“There are very few
companies that straddle
feature, VFX, television,
immersive entertainment
and brand work as
comprehensively as Framestore.”

James Razzall

James Razzall joined Framestore’s London office in 2000, helped found the New York office in 2004, and moved to LA in 2013 to start the office at the very heart of visual media itself. Previously an Executive Producer, Senior Executive Producer, and Managing Director, he was promoted to President of Advertising North America in April 2018.

Framestore is one of the most dynamic post-production and VFX companies in the film, advertising, and technology universes. Within the last year alone, the company earned its third Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for its work on Blade Runner 2049.

Other major awards include a 2018 Cannes Lions for its roles on HomePod – Welcome Home by Spike Jonze and #BloodNormal. Last month, it released the first augmented reality (AR) content for Magic Leap One.

Framestore began as a small shop in London in 1986 and has since branched out to New York, Los Angeles, Montréal, Chicago, and Pune.

Also Read: Framestore’s Chicago office, a year after the launch

You played a fundamental role in kick-starting Framestore’s dynamic presence in the United States, from New York to LA, as President, North America Advertising, what is the next step? Our goal has always been to work on the most exciting and groundbreaking projects. Our stellar team of artists are driven by this goal, I see finding those boundary-pushing opportunities as the company’s primary role. The expansion across the U.S. means that we can attract more talent and service our clients wherever suits them. We don’t have any immediate plans to open another U.S. location at this stage, but you never know.

Your new role places you in charge of Framestore NA’s advertising – what are some of the interesting things in development here? Staying at the forefront of creativity and technology is crucial for us. The speed that we can work and render huge projects advances year on year, so our tech teams work tirelessly to provide the robust infrastructure to make that possible. Framestore’s strength is our people; we are always working on developing our talent, both by supporting our current team members’ growth as well as bringing on new and unique individuals.

Can you discuss a few of your favorite case studies or projects? We worked on a number of projects promoting the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ film. It was a great example of the cross platform work that our team is capable of; the film team, worked on over 600 shots for the film, and led the work on Rocket and Baby Groot; our rides team developed the theme park ride ‘Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!’ at Disney’s California Adventure; and the advertising team brought together Baby Groot and the Gecko in a commercial for Geico. Each of these are stand out projects on their own, but when combined, they really showcase the power of Framestore. Another favorite is Lockheed Martin’s ‘Field Trip to Mars’, which still gets standing ovations when we screen the behind the scenes… The project pushed the boundaries of what can be done with technology and created opportunities to explore innovating new ways of viewing content. Throw in some charismatic little kids and you’ve got a winner. I love the character work in ‘Christopher Robin.” The film team brought to life photoreal, almost tactile, versions of the classic stuffed animals. The director, Marc Forster, has collaborated with our teams across many disciplines and he always pushes us to make something special.

Were you at Cannes Lions when Framestore received the Grand Prix and Glass lion awards, and how did it feel when you found out that Framestore won? Getting the news of the wins at Cannes made me so proud of the individuals who made these projects possible, and all of their hard work. It’s always a wonderful feeling to be recognized by our peers, and when you are in the South of France it seems even more special.

Having just won its third Oscar for Best Visual Effects, and now having won these awards at Cannes Lions, what are some of the plans you have for continuing to drive this incredible level of success at Framestore? We have some very exciting projects coming out of our global film department and have been lucky to work on some incredibly innovative brand work this year. There are very few companies that straddle feature, VFX, television, immersive entertainment and brand work as comprehensively as Framestore. The ability to work in such a fluid fashion across a range of expertise allows us to focus on providing creative solutions to our clients and collaborators so that we can continually build on the quality of work we deliver.

Where is Framestore headed in terms of technology and visual effects? Two of our large focuses at this time are pushing what can be done in real-time with various game engines as well as implementing artificial intelligence to further streamline our processes. There are so many opportunities in these spaces, and growth in these areas will certainly impact all of our departments.

Can you describe the benefit of investing in technology and a multi-platform approach? As technology advances, the software and hardware that we use becomes generally more accessible. What sets Framestore ahead of the rest is our continued investment in technology and infrastructure. We are being asked to handle amounts of data that even two years ago would have been impossible. With such rapid advances it is important for us to stay competitive, so we have to constantly push and push. Moore’s law is in full effect over here.

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