Thomas C. Grane, founder and chief executive of entertainment marketing agency Mob Scene, was probably not the only 6th grader who switched his career aspirations from professional baseball to the movie biz after seeing “Jaws” in a sold-out theater when the blockbuster opened in 1975.
If then-27-year-old wunderkind Steven Spielberg could make it in Hollywood, why couldn’t Grane? His next step after high school seemed obvious: Film school at USC.
“Seeing ‘Jaws’ for the first time was the catalyst,” Grane said. “This company can be attributed to the movie.”
A scale model of the famous “Jaws” boat being turned into a shark snack sits atop a table in Grane’s office. In fact, Mob Scene’s expansive mid-Wilshire workspace is filled with memorabilia and artworks that pay homage to favorite films and entertainers, including Grane’s idol, Bruce Springsteen. Grane confirmed he’s seen The Boss perform 80 times.
Many items represent movies Grane helped promote in various entertainment industry marketing jobs before founding Mob Scene in 2006. Others come from more recent work at Mob Scene.
A long professional relationship with film director James Cameron explains the Avatar doll, as well as a wall-sized black-and-white image of “Titanic” stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet locked in a windswept kiss. Grane said the relationship with Cameron started during his 16 years as senior vice president of creative content and creative advertising at Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
“When I first started (at Fox) in 1989, one of the first movies I worked on was ‘The Abyss,’” Grane said. “After that we did ‘True Lies’ and part of ‘Titanic.’”
Titanic was co-produced by Fox and Paramount Pictures and the companies also shared the marketing.
Ten years later, Grane got a call from “Titanic” producer Jon Landau inviting him to helm the marketing campaign for another Cameron-directed film, “Avatar.”
“It was the year anniversary of opening Mob Scene,” Grane said. “And it changed the company.”
Grane also is especially proud of videos on climate change and environmental issues that Mob Scene has produced for Cameron’s Avatar Alliance Foundation.
Grane said he left Fox when he began to find big studio corporate culture oppressive. Endless meetings during business hours shoved the creative work into the evening hours.
“I wanted a (different) culture. I didn’t want people to dread ever coming in here,” Grane said. “We’re Hollywood, we’re creative, and it’s fortunate that we can create that casualness, but it goes beyond just allowing people to wear what they are comfortable with…we have to be extra careful with our employees so we don’t put added pressure on them.”
That means fostering an atmosphere where a staffer can create a playful wall hanging, or you may find the chief executive striking a restorative yoga pose in his office. Mob Scene’s staffers may start a meeting in a conference room, but end it in the company’s speakeasy lounge, hidden behind the broom closet.
“We’ve had opportunities to bring in people who will bring in a lot more revenue, but we don’t want them to mess with our culture,” Grane said.