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Production boxes and why ignoring the BBC is OK

What agencies and creatives should understand about convergence and the production world

Sometimes big industry announcements just get ignored. The crickets chirp. Tumbleweeds roll down the street. At our office we’ve been talking about one such announcement that staggered us, but no-one else seems to be much bothered about: The BBC has decided to axe its television, radio, and digital divisions.

Really? This could be the most far-reaching organisational overhaul in the BBC's history. OK, I admit that's a direct quote from their press release - but it does strike me as an extraordinary development that should have caused much more reaction.

Evidently over the next few weeks, Lord Hall the head-honcho of the venerable BBC will explain how the corporation’s channel-based structures will merge and be reshaped into one streamlined army of broadcasters all working across the various disciplines. The quickening pace of technological change, so the press release continues, means the boundaries between media such as television, radio, and online are blurring.

For us in the production world it's either a scary thought, or a confirmation that we are on the right track.

When things change in the media world, and clearly they already have, the shockwaves are felt in marketing and advertising, where we too have traditionally organised ourselves around a series of disciplines, each in its own box. One box was for radio, still another for digital, another for direct marketing, one for photography and print, and of course a very large one for television.

I’m no expert and certainly no futurist, but it does seem interesting that the walls of these boxes seem to be breaking down. Digital, direct, and brand agencies all seem to be merging into one.

As a film company, we’ve traditionally been focused on filling that very large box for the creation of television commercials.

There was a completely different box for broadcast and programme filmmaking, a box for feature filmmakers, and another for short films. Corporate video companies, photography companies, and audio visual companies all had their own box. But increasingly our clients (that’s you agency, PR and marketing people out there) were asking us to do things that were outside of the strict TV commercial box so we created a separate box to house this new thing called digital content. We didn't want to contaminate one discipline with the other since the approaches were often quite different and certainly the budgets were too.

But things kept changing and the opportunities kept piling up as we were being asked to do an even wider variety of work. Stills photography, events, we even ran a mini film competition for one client. And very soon we are about to announce a television series that we are making for another client.

So, if we were to follow the path we’d started down it would mean organising ourselves around more and more boxes.

So we decided to stop trying.

And like the BBC I made an announcement. It was at morning tea over cheese scones. And like the BBC most people ignored me.

The thinking went like this: we are commercial filmmakers and we like shooting and creating things for our clients. No matter what screen they end up on, we want to help tell your story, and for you to be delighted with the product. As filmmakers we are adept at solving a wide variety of thorny little tasks - a chicken suit? That unique location? An event at the waterfront, or in the middle of a forest? These are all things that filmmakers do every day.

We’ve started to call all our work "Brand Production". It could be a web film for Facebook, or a glossy 30” piece for cinema or television. Either way it’s for a brand, and it tells a story. And rather than ring fencing the content, photography, or journalism style work - or even worse apologising for it - we want to bring our same commitment of quality to everything we touch. Whenever possible we try and bring the disciplines of high end TVC filmmaking to the world of digital filmmaking.

That's our idea of what a modern film company should look like - diverse, exciting, and capable of handling a wide range of projects.

So Brand Production it is. That’s the best we can think of right now. But continuing to organise ourselves around more and more boxes (that are converging into one big box) seemed a little crazy.

Now that I’ve made the announcement, you can ignore me, and I’ll get back to my cheese scone.

Patrick McAteer, Executive Producer and coffee maker. A client recently scored his flat white 8/10 which he was rather happy with.

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