Image Credit: James Stewert
For Toronto-based James Stewart, producing is all about doing the impossible. At only 27, his career is a testament to this truth. From the childhood films crafted in his backyard to working on Academy Award-winning films, Stewart’s journey is a story of remarkable growth and success. Already, his portfolio includes producing star-studded films of his own and leading influential commercial campaigns for billion-dollar brands, each project showcasing his ability to turn visionary concepts into celebrated realities.
“You can achieve a lot if given the right resources or if you possess enough resourcefulness, but only one of those is actually in your control. The real magic happens when you get an opportunity to bring the two together, that’s when you can start doing the impossible.”
Stewart’s philosophy of merging resources and resourcefulness sets the stage for his unique approach in the industry. What truly distinguishes him, however, is his rich background in feature films. Transitioning from the narrative depths of cinema to the succinct, impactful world of commercials, Stewart brought with him an arsenal of skills honed in the trenches of feature filmmaking. The rigors of working alongside movie stars and Oscar winners, the art of capturing compelling stories within a limited timeframe, and the dexterity to handle large crews effortlessly – these attributes, rare in the commercial realm, are where Stewart truly shines.
The Choose Your Game Face campaign, a collaboration between Gillette and the Toronto Raptors stands as a testament to this. This venture, involving global icons in both sports and consumer products, epitomizes the blend of artistic vision and commercial success that Stewart consistently delivers.
This campaign, a symbiosis of sporting prowess and marketing genius, not only underlined Stewart’s exceptional ability to transcend genres but also showcased his knack for turning stringent limitations into avenues of creativity. The project was not just a commercial assignment; it was an artistic challenge, a tightrope walk over a chasm of high expectations and tight schedules.
NBA All-Star Fred VanVleet (now a max contract holder with the Houston Rockets) and OG Anunoby (a first-round pick and recent addition to the New York Knicks), were not just athletes in this campaign; they were icons of excellence. Stewart’s ability to manage these personalities and their schedules, alongside the expectations of Gillette – a billion-dollar brand – speaks volumes of his expertise and influence in the industry.
With only a five-hour window to execute what would typically span days, Stewart’s experience in feature films became the linchpin for the project’s success. The shoot involved not just a basketball court showdown but also two elaborate set builds, demanding a precision and efficiency often seen in feature film sets. Stewart’s leadership ensured that every moment was maximized, every scene executed with precision, and every team member empowered to perform at their best.
Under James’ leadership, the campaign not only met but exceeded expectations. Broadcast coast to coast across the nation, it was a resounding success, captivating millions of viewers on television during every Toronto Raptors game of the season. The campaign’s reach extended beyond TV, making a significant impact online where it garnered millions more impressions over the course of the campaign, leading Gillette to continue their collaboration with the Raptors for future installments in the Choose Your Game Face campaign.
Courtesy of James Stewert
For Stewart, this campaign held a personal significance that transcended professional achievements. “It was a bit surreal,” Stewart recalls. On the night the Raptors clinched the NBA Championship in 2019, he was on set for the film Big Gold Brick, filming near Dundas Square in Toronto. “There was a restaurant across the street from our set. I stood there, watching the final moments play out on their patio TV with dozens of others huddled around. The city was electric, and our set was right in the heart of it.” The clock ran out and celebration erupted across the city. The euphoria spilled over to their set, with fans cheering all around them. “Working with Fred and OG later on felt like a full circle moment, a surreal blend of my love for filmmaking and admiration for these athletes. The humble and stoic calm they exhibited in that championship run where they were absolutely the underdogs made such an impression on me. This industry has this unique way of bringing you close to those you admire, often when you least expect it. It’s an experience that feeds the soul,” Stewart reflects.
As James continues to make waves in both the commercial and feature film realms, his future in the industry looks exceptionally bright. With big plans to take his talents stateside, an eye for detail, a heart for storytelling, and a proven track record of success, Stewart is undoubtedly a producer whose career trajectory will continue to soar in the coming years.