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What you can learn from the success of Britain’s creative industries

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Despite being released at the end of last year, Gravity is still having a deep impact, with Channel 4 even launching a “Live from Space” season off the back of its interest.

More saliently for British business, the publicity generated around the movie’s haul of six BAFTAs and seven Oscars revealed this seminal film was not in fact the big Hollywood production we assumed it to be, but was instead a project born in the heart of London.

Although the two faces we see – George Clooney and Sandra Bullock – represent the epitome of Hollywood, Gravity’s awards triumph exposed a crucial supporting role for groundbreaking British visual effects trailblazer, Framestore, who computer-generated more than 90 per cent of the film from their Soho-based HQ. In fact, the whole film was made is the UK and relied heavily on British talent.

This is testament to the unprecedented success of British creative industries. According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the sector is worth a staggering £71.4bn each year. By contributing £8m an hour to the UK economy, creative industries are outperforming all other sectors.

As it’s easy to incorrectly assume that Gravity is a Hollywood blockbuster, perhaps we should also forgive the uninitiated for presuming Americanism icons like Grand Theft Auto and the iPod are the brainchildren of US creative talent. But GTA’s publisher, Rockstar Games, was started by a couple of native Scots and the iPod was co-designed by a Chingford lad called Jonathan Ive.

How to get a slice of the action

So it’s clear British creativity is something special and the industries springing up around it are on a roll. But why? And, more importantly, how can other sectors get a slice of the action?

Part of the answer lies deep in our historical and political roots. Although many feel ashamed of our colonialist past, by grabbing so many bits of different countries and bringing them back home we have created a melting pot that over time has transformed into a truly international and cosmopolitan country.

As a complex nation, we have a broad spectrum that creates a diverse output and gives us cultural insight into the rest of the world. What’s more, with creative types’ tendency for left-leaning sensibilities, the sector often has a more open-minded approach to business. It’s this powerful combination of open-mindedness and innate cultural understanding that is the precursor to effective creativity.

We are also a consumerist society. Consumers want to eat, chew and spit out audio-visual stimulus at breakneck speed. Brits have adapted to this consumption pattern by using the democratization of technology to satiate through high output.

Our embracing of technology is another key factor. From architecture to design, film, music, theatre and video gaming; creative businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on technology to plan and execute their inventive ideas.

This willingness to embrace technology signifies a progressive attitude that other sectors would do well to mimic. Without an experimental outlook, businesses get stuck in the past and risk mirroring the auto industry’s widely reported mistake of focusing on “next-generation” in-car entertainment systems, rather than beating Google in the race to invent a driverless car.

If the creative industries can be used as a paradigm for economic success, the takeout messages are this: learn how to maximize the history, multiculturalism and resources in front of you. Mix them to create a positive and diverse palette. Be more open-minded and don’t be defined by labels or territories.

Most of all, take your ideas out of this world. Directors like James Cameron said Gravity was impossible to film convincingly without hemorrhaging money or physically going into space. The technology just didn’t exist. But thanks to the tenacity, open-mindedness and experimentalism of creative British businesses like Framestore, Gravity has become a defining film of our times.

George Smart is the founder of integrated creative advertising agency Theobald Fox and brand/artist partnership agency CODA FOX.

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