CHICAGO – Cutters Studios’ founder and CEO Tim McGuire recently announced his retirement. Founded 43 years ago, Cutters Studios (www.cuttersstudios.com) is an international creative company that provides top-tier production, post production and creative development services for causes, brands, studios, networks and agencies. Since launching in Chicago in 1980, Cutters has gone on to operate in top US advertising markets, as well as in Tokyo. Through partner companies Cutters, Dictionary Films, Flavor and Another Country, Cutters Studios is able to provide a range of capabilities.
McGuire began his career as an assistant editor and working his way up to the editor position, ultimately making the leap to open his own shop. Cutters was born in 1980, and over the next 20 years, McGuire edited numerous award-winning campaigns as a key part of Chicago’s advertising community.
In 2001, he moved into full-time management, facilitating the growth of the company’s Cutters Editorial, Another Country, Flavor and Dictionary Films divisions. He recently took part in a Q&A, sharing insight into his career and business success.
Tim, what was Cutters like in the very beginning?
“It was a very basic start to Cutters. After hearing that the company I worked for was closing, a decision had to be made. Do I look for a job or go out on my own? I spoke to several of my clients to gauge whether they’d support me if I opened my own shop, and it was a unanimous ‘Yes.’ I started to run some numbers, took a home-equity loan, hired my assistant Reggie Phillips, and found a small two-room office in the back of an old office building at 230 N. Michigan Ave. I rented a Kem and a Moviola from my old boss and boom, I was in business overnight! I had great support from producer Helmut Dorger and creatives Suzanne Emerson, Judith Werme, Julie Strom, Christie McMahon, and Dale Landsman.”
Was there a first big project that made you think things might work out?
“Two come to mind, the ‘I Wanna Pop’ campaign for Shasta was a big industry success story, followed closely by Wheaties’ ‘What the Big Boys Eat.’”
Can you share a few highlights from your experiences on the Shasta campaign?
“It was an opportunity to use editing that excited me with a fast-paced, unexpected editing style. Suzanne Emerson and Judith Werme, two great creatives that I loved working with for many different projects and clients, brought me onboard. Judith would walk into my edit room with a bag of music tracks from different music houses and tell me that the answer is in there, and then leave. I’d stay up all night listening to different tracks playing against footage I assembled until one clicked. A challenge, but so much fun!”
What were some of your other memorable projects?
“Two others come to mind. The first is Michelob ‘Light Up The Night’ — a fast-paced music-montage campaign with beautiful footage. The other was a campaign for Discover Card, ‘It Pays To Discover.’ In addition, I had such great experiences with so many campaigns I worked on. Budweiser, Busch beer, McDonald’s, State Farm, Helene Curtis and Maybelline, to name a few. Also, the variety of work that included dialogue, montage, non-scripted dialogue, beauty, sports and causes.”
When you look over the Cutters Studios constellation now, what are you most proud of?
“Our culture and the drive to be the best. We have never stopped striving to improve our standing in the ad community. Our current ownership, management and creative group are as strong as any in the industry, and will continue to push the company to new heights.”
You and Cutters were actively involved with the Association of Independent Commercial Editors (AICE) from the very beginning. Can you talk about that?
“In the late ‘80s, New York, Chicago and LA editors got together at the NAB Show in Las Vegas to discuss the possible start of a national organization to represent the interests of commercial film editors. I was part of the group representing Chicago. We needed a strong organization for editors nationally, with an executive director, an industry standard bid form, legal representation and so much more. I really enjoyed the negotiations and getting to know the owners and editors in other markets. Soon, most of the ad markets were represented by AICE: Toronto, Detroit, Minneapolis, San Francisco, just to name a few.”
What is something that most people don’t know about you and/or Cutters?
“I’m relatively reserved, but competitive as hell. I hate to lose. Also, the strength of the partnership and how we go about pursuing opportunities and solving problems is important to us all. In our meetings, there are different approaches bandied about, but when that’s over, all the owners always pull the rope in the same direction. We have always supported each other.”
What advice would you share with the next generation?
“Bring on people that are smarter than you, who are experts within their own discipline, and then let them do their job. I’ve never been a micro-manager, maybe to a fault at times.
“As an editor, I always looked at who was doing the best work and challenged myself to get better. The same for is true for the company — to be great you have to think great!”