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April 10th, 2019
What do the ad industry’s big international VFX companies have in common? Businesses like Framestore, MPC, The Mill, Glassworks, Smoke & Mirrors and Electric Theatre Collective? While each of those brands feels and operates very differently – and they’d gladly talk you through their proprietary processes and the edge that differentiates them. But they all have one thing that ties them together – they may have a global footprint, but they started off life in London.

Over the course of the past few decades London’s once cottage industry of post production has looked outwards and persistently succeeded, gradually building itself into dominance. But it wasn’t destined for success from the start. The VFX industry’s story began in markets that made more sense - those with large filmmaking industries like the USA or pioneering technology companies like Japan at the dawn of the video age. But as the landscape shifted over the decades and many companies have collapsed under their own weight in the turmoil, a surprising number of British-born post houses have stood strong, expanding to continue leading the world with quality visual effects. “The world changed,” says Framestore CEO Sir William Sargent, an Irishman who set up a post production company in London that went on to span the globe. “The British companies evolved with it and have prospered. Whereas many [post houses] have come and gone in America, what’s emerged is that the British companies have ridden the globalisation of the industry.”

British VFX sprang from patch of fertile ground - that ancient, often overcast city that the British post production scene emerged from. London, and more specifically the square mile of Soho in its West End, is the most concentrated nexus for this global cultural relevance. When the first of today’s big VFX shops opened, they all did so within a 10 minute walk of each other, embedded in a neighbourhood that had been inspiring the world through art and creative commerce for decades. “You had the early music business in the late ‘50s and theatre before that, all in Soho. Advertising came into the same space. Film was being made in the same space,” says Sir William. “You were literally talking about a square mile in which the creative industries were concentrated for 75 years. When you were attracted to come into the creative industries for business or looking for a job, if you headed for Soho you had a pretty decent chance of being at the centre of world creativity. The British are naturally globalist in their horizons.”

The Mill London’s managing director, Sean Costelloe, calls his city’s soul “a pioneering and restless spirit to be the very best in the world at what we do.”

Read the full article here.