As a relatively young boutique film studio, electriclimefilms was founded in 2010 and has since expanded globally, with offices in Singapore, Dubai and Sydney.
11 years later (no, we're not old – you are), they are still working with brands and agency partners globally to execute a range of incredibly inspiring creative projects every year, with a special focus on the beauty of storytelling. The folks at electriclimefilms have come far in the past decade, and there certainly are more stories in there for us all to experience.
For this Company Spotlight, we had a chat with Michael Ahmadzadeh, Partner/Executive Producer at electriclimefilms, to learn more about the story behind his beloved studio.
How was your company born and where are you based?
The electriclimefilms journey really started in 2014, when both my brother, Pabz Alexander and I decided to take the plunge, quit our jobs (in my brother’s case a band), and fully commit to building electriclimefilms. The strategy of the company was always with a focus on the quality of the product - film everything to the highest standard, irrelevant of the budget, carried with a strong brand identity and online presence. After a lot of research and learning, we invested in a RED Camera with all the money we had, we watched the biggest budget TVCs and emulated them as much as we could. Any opportunity we had, we tried to make it look like a million dollar budget. Eventually after each win and each milestone, we got bigger and better opportunities, clients were impressed with our approach and slowly grew our network, portfolio and capital.
We learnt through trial and error and constant self evaluation, we did make some mistakes, however we learnt from them, and we are still learning. Financially our growth plan was organic, although a longer journey, we felt a pragmatic approach allowed us to evolve and adapt in a natural manner, and suited our knowledge of the industry and our characteristics.
Both our backgrounds complemented one another, Pabz in music and film, and myself in marketing. We both shared the same drive and passion for excellence and constant learning and self critique. Our upbringing was loving but our parents pushed an element of independence on us, particularly from a financial perspective, we always had to hustle from a young age.
We originally set up in Dubai, due to its business friendly environment, opportunity to network, and it acting as a hub for the MENA region. We later replicated the business model in Singapore, targeting regional work for APAC, and slowly started investing in people with the likes of Rory Cavanagh (Head of Production, based in Singapore) and Chaza Said (Senior Producer, based in Dubai). The people really make a difference to our business, it's the foundation of our success and growth and we are thankful to have recruited such amazing talent.
I am currently based in Sydney, Australia - which I came to in March 2020, just before the pandemic put a halt on all global travel. I arrived to set up the office here and build the team and business here in Australia, which has been a refreshing and exciting challenge. My brother Pabz is still based in Singapore.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
The journey has been thrilling, and to be honest, this is why Pabz and I do this. Each win was a milestone to further build the business. Before electriclimefilms, I was at Bacardi-Martini, I luckily established and maintained a strong network, and had the opportunity to pitch on work with them. Networking and relationships are vital for success, and we were lucky to have built an initial foundation. We managed to secure some big projects with them, filming in New York twice, New Orleans, Dubai, London, San Francisco and Sydney. For us this was success in 3 parts:
- The emotional win of being able to travel and work on such an amazing brand, meet amazing people and do what we always wanted to do, tell cinematic stories.
- We now had a product to go to agencies with, to gain further business.
- It attracted talent to come and work with us, and we were able to invest in people to help us grow the team and business.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
In terms of product, we are excited to start travelling again, we are big on location filming, it’s almost another character in the film and we go to all efforts to find the most suitable location, from Eagle hunters in Mongolia to Rainforests in Borneo. We are also excited to bring our international director roster to the Middle East, Asia and to our newest market, Australia. electriclimefilms will also continue its expansion plan with the opening of further offices.
Can you explain your team's creative process?
Creativity is a day to day aspect of our work, from brainstorming with agencies on concepts to running colour grading sessions in the studio, the teams are active in most internal initiatives too from apparel designs, to working on sustainability solutions to how we execute our productions.
In terms of the process from paper to film: we receive a brief from our agency partners, the producer arranges a quick initial call with the agency to ensure they fully understand the Scope of Work. Subsequent to that the producer leads a creative meet with their team. In that discussion the team explores possible location options, best casting options, look and feel, and research most suitable directors and DoPs for the specific project. This digestion of the brief is all put into the Pre-Bid deck, and sent to the agency the following day.
Once the agency selects the preferred director, there is a call, then a director treatment, along with costs.
The electriclimefilms team have director assistants in-house, who support the director in bringing his/her vision to life, through suitable music, sound, cinematography and image references. Once the job is awarded the team go into Pre-Production and all elements of the film: locations, art, wardrobe, storyboards, casting, music, logistics and schedule are all worked on, and compiled into one document. This document is then presented at the Pre-Production Meeting where the director, production house, agency and client all align on the specifics of the film. Once aligned - the shoot is executed as per the agreed elements. At the next stage editors cut together the film, this is called the offline stage, it is presented and worked collaboratively with the agency team. Once the picture is locked, we move onto the online stage, this involves music, Sound design, VoiceOver, online/touch ups, any VFX, colour grading, and finishing. Depending on the usage, and country of usage, there are often various exports, cut-downs, language adaptations, ratios and formats.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
Over some snacks and drinks, the teams have a sharing session at the end of the working week. Everyone shares advertisements or anything else that relates to the industry. From colourists they like, or new directors, pieces of news, or even new camera equipment and post production software. It's really important to keep getting inspired, we are in an industry that's constantly evolving, we see new cinematic techniques, new methods of storytelling, we talk about trends in other markets, it motivates us to keep on getting better and better.
In an industry that is constantly evolving, one of our biggest challenges is complacency, looking externally for inspiration helps us tackle that threat. As well as doing this in each market, once a month we have a global call with the other offices, it's an opportunity to share best practises and key learnings, and inspire one another as a cohesive team.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
Initially it was a really tough period for the business, however the team reacted well, worked together and found solutions to film and continue creating content. By doing this, there were no wage reductions, nor did we have to reduce the headcount of any of the teams. This essence of solidarity really strengthened the team bond across the business, culturally it has made us even stronger. A Lot of our meetings are now over Zoom - personally I'm an advocate of face to face meetings, there’s a big difference in being in a room with someone compared to meeting virtually.
International travel bans have brought a challenge to our international director roster, and bringing them to the markets we are in, some of these directors have been able to direct remotely, but it's just not the same. Travel bans have also made it challenging to film on location, again, we’ve been able to do this remotely but it's taken the fun out of filming a little. It has really helped us work collaboratively with other markets, clients are much more inclined to remote filming, recently we shot a couple of scenes in Sydney for a project in Singapore, same was done in Dubai. Overall it made us stronger as a team, and more inclined to work.
What is one tip that you would give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
Attitude is so important in this industry, it's a highly competitive industry, at all levels. You
have to be willing to work hard, put the graft in and not to give up when someone tries to put you down.
There's so much to learn in the industry - try to learn something new each day and never get complacent. I’m constantly encouraging my team to have this mindset, as personal growth is a continuous one.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
We’ve recently seen a resurgence of smaller independent agencies, clients and partners are working directly with the decision makers, which makes it more efficient and qualitative focused. Smaller agencies mean less overheads, more agile business, less stress, less pressure and stronger relationships with partners. Subsequently all equates to happier clients and better quality work, I’d like to see more of this moving forward.