The greatest gift to receive… is to be given a chance.
Clayton Hemmert had no experience, no reel, no connections. But one editor saw he had a passion for storytelling, music, photography and performance, and gave him that first chance.
Freelance and staff positions followed. Clayton built a reputation, cutting documentaries, television programs, and commercials. Drawn to his sense for story, pace, visuals and soundscapes, clients took chances on Clayton as well, giving him even bigger projects.
So Clayton took a chance on himself and his partners, co-founding Crew Cuts in 1986. Soon he and his team were cutting legendary work for HBO, Pepsi, National Geographic, Frito Lay, AT&T, VISA, FedEx, MTV and countless others. Stories that touched hearts, tickled funny bones and won every award in sight.
Believing great sound and visual effects were integral to those stories, Clayton collaborated with talented artists to co-found the sound studio Buzz, the visual effects company Quiet Man, and a string of other post companies in NY, LA and SF, some of which flourish to this day.
While best known for his work in commercials, Clayton and his colleagues also cut television, short films, and features including Kissing Jessica Stein and the Academy Award winning Monster’s Ball. For over two decades he and his Crew Cuts team collaborated on SNL’s legendary commercial parodies. He cut music videos for Bob Dylan, Huey Lewis, The Cure, and others. The experimental documentary short titled 2+2, which he edited and co-directed with Benita Raphan, was accepted by the Sundance Film Festival, then became the first short film acquired by HBO in over a decade. And across the decades, Clayton successfully adapted and thrived as ever faster waves of technological changes swept through the filmmaking, post, network and agency worlds.
Clayton served on various boards of AICE (AICP Post’s predecessor), and became president of its international board with chapters throughout the US, Canada, and Great Britain. His passion for alternative storytelling formats also inspired him to join the board of the Thomas Edison Film Festival, now in its 42nd season. In association with Princeton University, this international festival screens short films in the narrative, documentary, animation, and experimental genres.
Yet beyond the business success, accolades, service and awards, Clayton’s most enduring legacy is not as a cutter of film, but as a builder of culture, creating environments in which he and his colleagues gave countless novices their first chance, nurturing their talents, supporting their aspirations, honing their skills and firing their passions. Those who stayed helped build Crew Cuts into a cohesive company with remarkable endurance in a notoriously fickle industry. Those who moved on carried Clayton’s lessons – and his blessings – with them as they built successful companies and cultures of their own, across New York and beyond.
At Crew Cuts, everyone who stepped off the elevators – art directors, writers, producers, directors, network executives and agency clients – felt instantly embraced as part of Clayton’s collaborative team, inspired by his belief that all projects, and all people, can achieve some level of greatness.
If only you give them a chance.