I was shocked and chastened when I first saw Hal Riney’s work because he solved problems that I had been wrestling with, with minimal success. The problems were simple, bring truthful performances and situations into commercials. This idea was based on my experience making documentaries. Ironically, Hal had seen some of my work that addressed these issues and was interested but he was working with his good friend, Dick Snider.
Riney and I kept in touch for a number of years but nothing ever happened. Then Snider, sadly, passed away and eventually Hal and I began to work together. After each job we vowed never to speak to each other again, let alone work together, but somehow, we would resolve the problems and do the next job.
The work started with the Blitz-Weinhard campaign, moved to the Henry’s stuff, Gallo, and then Bartles and Jaymes, with a few interim things (Perrier) thrown in. During the process Hal asked me to work on the (in)famous Reagan campaign and I refused. He used my brother, John, instead. We drifted apart when the agency got the Saturn account and Hal had to staff up and lose his personal involvement in the work.
The work was defined in many ways by Hal’s voice. In fact, the creative team on Perrier (that Hal didn’t write) was concerned that Hal’s voiceover would stamp it as his work. It did.
Hal is missed as an inspiration, a colleague, and a friend. His work was unique, cynical, and funny. I can’t help but think that the Bartles and Jaymes characters represented Ernest and Julio Gallo, and I think Ernest knew.