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The skills a British Oscar-winning creative studio looks for in employees

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Real Business went on tour in the first week of February as part of a preview of the UKTI’s upcoming GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai which takes place in March to showcase Britain’s innovative edge to China.

Read more on what we discovered from the event preview here:

While on the road, one of our stops included visiting prime minister David Cameron’s residence, 10 Downing Street, before moving on to the Soho office of Oscar-winning visual effects studio Framestore.

Upon arrival at number 10, we were greeted by GREAT Britain campaign director Conrad Bird, who detailed the breadth of the scheme which runs across 17 government departments, “inspiring the world to think and feel differently about visits and investments into the UK.”

Bird highlighted James Bond as an example of British creativity and indeed the wider national film industry, as the recent Paddington movie became the highest-grossing independent UK film of 2014 with £34m.

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With the film industry in mind, the next visit on the trip was to the office of Framestore – the creative studio that won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for its work on sci-fi film Gravity, which starred Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Not bad for a UK firm that started with four people in 1986.

The company has achieved enormous growth, with more than 1,000 employees globally in London, Montreal, LA and New York offices, supporting developments in film, TV, virtual reality and, really, any creative technologies the company can get its hands on.

If ever there was a case of running before you can walk, Framestore is it. The company has worked on countless productions including Harry Potter, Guardians of the Galaxy and, of course, Paddington – despite not always knowing what it was doing along the way.

“A few years ago, I’d have described Framestore as a company that does visual effects for feature films and television. We now have lots of new platforms that we have to provide content for, including exhibitions, real worlds, virtual worlds, installations, image projection for outdoor experiences – anywhere that needs a high content image, we’ll work,” co-founder and creative director Mike McGee explained.

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“In the late nineties Jurassic Park had just come out, but there’s only six minutes of actual dinosaurs in that film. Immediately after its release, the BBC approached us to make a series called Walking With Dinosaurs for which we created three hours of film-quality CGI characters. At the time we thought it was impossible, but we agreed to take it on because we enjoy a challenge and we believed that we could find a solution and deliver on budget and on time. We signed the contract without knowing how we were going to achieve the end results, and we did a similar thing with Gravity – we agreed to do it and then worked out how.”

Walking with Dinosaurs went on to achieve international coverage with Time magazine, be crowned the most-watched documentary on American TV and secured an average viewing audience of 17m in the UK.

They’re impressive accomplishments by anyone’s standards, and even more so when you consider that the team didn’t know how to get the job done at the time of the initial agreement. So do small businesses and startups need to gamble in order to achieve the scale and success of Framestore?

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