How do you cut through the noise in the overly-technological age of social media? How do you aim to be different when the barriers of entry to production stand lower than ever? If all this sounds discouraging, you should clearly read the story of Signal.
At a time when everyone in the world can have a camera in the palm of their hands, it is only by being different that production companies can hope to stand out. Signal works daily to be different, more creative, more inventive and more imaginative – so much that not even a pandemic could shake the solid foundations of the company.
For this Company Spotlight, we are learning more about what it takes to be a bold production company in this space and time.
How was your company born and where are you based?
signal produce award-winning high-quality, imaginative video, animation and digital content. We make bespoke, effective content that influences the behaviours of customers, employees and contractors. The company was founded in 2011, in Aberdeen Scotland. The idea to start the company came about on a plane with a former business partner en route to Oman. Later we sat in the Omani desert coming up with names.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
How do you stand out from the well-established local competition? That was one of our first questions. We believe that only truly creative thinking and high-quality technical execution lead to effective productions. That challenge never stands still.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
We had a very busy initial three years; and we doubled our team. We were literally travelling the world every month. It was a lot of fun and hugely exciting to be winning pitches and going to interesting and diverse parts of the world. The most exciting project was for a multi-national conglomerate which involved filming in the US, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore and the UK. We were exhausted after a month of filming!
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
We have a lot of satisfied clients, so continued repeat business from them. In the last year we have also secured ten new clients in several different sectors. We plan to continue on this path. We are going through an energy transition in the UK, and we aim to part of the solution, by helping educate audiences on the benefits and scale of work being done.
Can you explain your team’s creative process?
Our Creative Director is the driving force behind most of our projects, he has an idea for every challenge put in front of us! It starts there and develops across the team. Collaboration is key in any creative process. We all have our own personal perspectives and ideas, which is what makes our job interesting and so rewarding.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
Keeping an eye out for the latest works from talented people online, who continue to amaze and dazzle! We’re motivated to always keep improving and learning our skills.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
It’s had an impact, there’s no doubt there’s been a slow-down in work with clients postponing projects. In some cases, we have converted what was intended to be filmed projects into animations. In others we have done remote shoots via video links. We have still been able to operate by following UK government guidelines and practices whilst on location. During a year of lock down, video has become the most effective way for organisations to communicate internally and externally. Use of live video conferencing and social media has proliferated. But with proliferation it becomes harder to get noticed - especially if your audience is scrolling through their news feed on a phone. The way to stand out in the deluge of video content is to be brave! You have to get more creative, more eye-catching, and wittier.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
We are lucky that the UK is a world leader in all forms of creative discipline, so there’s an abundance of talented people here, and they are all inspiring in different ways.
Right now, the most interesting work is being done on TV rather than cinema, with the boldness of concepts and quality of technical execution.
What is one tip that you would give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
Creative people create things. So make something! The best creative ideas are often the simplest, and great ideas will transcend technology. So, don’t wait for a job before you start to make something. We have less interest in CVs than we do in your clever ideas, and your commitment to realise them, even if you have limited resources. As it happens, the technical barriers to entry are lower than they ever were. You have time, and you have a camera on your phone so, no excuses, just make something! Get in touch with like-minded people who may want to collaborate with you. Make connections. Have the right attitude and bundles of energy, but most importantly understand where your strengths are and how you could make yourself invaluable in a team. Then approach production companies and agencies, you never know, your timing could be just right.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
We work predominantly for the business world. Video is without doubt the most effective way for them to engage and influence an audience’s behaviour, but we want to see more authentic, compelling content being produced. There are a lot of interesting, automated filmmaking tools that claim to deliver professional results at low cost, but they are really just offering templates. As a result, social media is crammed with generic, repetitive, mediocre videos. To stand out you need to be prepared to be bold with your brand and take some risks. Our biggest successes have been when clients trusted us to take a risk. So, our ‘one big hope’ is that more clients start to see the value in tailoring their content with the help of companies like ours.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
We just did a quick straw poll for this question, and our team recommend these:
‘Repair Shop’ is perfect lockdown tv – heartfelt, transformative and emotional; David Attenborough’s ‘Perfect Planet’ is justification for preserving the BBC license fee; ‘Panorama’ for great investigative journalism; Channel 4’s ‘The Great’ redefines costume drama - visually sumptuous, very rude and very funny; and the cinematography on C4’s ‘Taskmaster’ has turned the gameshow into an artform.
As a resource, Creativepool is excellent for inspiration, and discovering great new artists. Behance, Vimeo for inspiring works from many disciplines and Colossal.com is a wonderful showcase for fine art of all types, and says something profound about humanity’s limitless capacity for creating beauty.