#GettingToKnow Mike Bell, Executive Producer @ FutureDeluxe

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Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?

Life as an EP means that no two days are the same - and for me that’s part of what makes it so compelling. My focus is on considering the needs of our client partners alongside our in-house creative and production teams, and helping to enhance collaboration and creativity wherever I can.

It’s therefore not unusual for me to go from helping to develop a treatment to discussing a production challenge, and from analysing a contract to meeting a new potential client - often all in one morning!

What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?


As it’s so multifaceted, every studio has a slightly different set of needs around the EP role. It can therefore take many conversations to ensure that your skills and values are the right fit for a particular team - but I think it’s super important to put in this work.

When it came to joining FutureDeluxe, I had known James, Andrew and the team for several years, and felt a real connection with the ‘people first’ creative culture they had built. So I knew we were aligned!

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

I have always seen my creative background - both in art and music - as key to my approach as an EP. Having graduated from art college, I went on to study classical animation.

I began my career as an animation director but gradually started taking more responsibility for creative development and client relationships. While ultimately pivoting to a career as an EP, I’ve retained a huge amount of empathy for everyone involved in the creative process.

What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?


It was an honour to be part of the team that won a BAFTA last year for the BBC’s Tokyo Olympics trailer. This was a complex project that was delayed due to the pandemic and required openness and lateral thinking amongst the team. There was a genuine sense of elation on awards night because I think everyone involved felt they had contributed their best work.

By contrast, I remember a large pitch that didn’t come my way around ten years ago. It was so disappointing at the time but shortly afterwards, I could see that I had formed several new and significant relationships during the pitch process, many of which have continued to this day. I can honestly say that the benefits were far greater than an immediate win.

Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

I’ve been very fortunate to have gained inspiration from many talented people in my career so far. One of the most inspiring has been my friend Fred Seibert, who has held diverse roles from jazz producer to advertising executive, and from MTV creative director to animation studio owner.

For me, the through-line of his career has been his enduring curiosity, his focus on the audience and his dedication to emerging talent.

If you could go back to your teenage years, would you have done things differently? Do you have any regrets?


I think the restless energy you feel as a teenager can help propel you forward in your career - but my only regret would be that I could have enjoyed the moment more and accepted what I had yet to achieve. Perhaps we all feel that way looking back!

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

It’s hard for me to imagine not being somewhere in the creative industries. Perhaps I’d be working in the music industry, and probably trying to find a way to collaborate with FutureDeluxe!

What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?

I’m excited by the emerging tech tools that offer new possibilities for creative experimentation. As we scale our use of them, I hope we can collectively remember that emotionally engaging creative work comes from human experience.

It’s not just about the finished piece but also the whole person, or group of people, behind how it was made.

What are your top tips for aspiring creative professionals?


I’ve always loved art that is deceptively simple, understated on the surface but with a sense that there is complexity and craft underneath. Broadly speaking, I think those qualities are really hard to achieve unless you work with others.

No matter how simple the intended outcome, I think you should always seek out opportunities for collaboration, however small - the results will be so much richer. 

What are your top tips for other creative leaders?

For me, one of the most important skills for any creative leader is active listening. It allows you to remain open to possibilities while also sharing your point of view, and models positive communication amongst your team.

Although it’s not always possible to put into practice, I think it’s really worth making it a habit.

When you think about your team, what is the thing that matters to you the most?


I think the best creative work - and work in general - happens in an atmosphere of calm, kindness and respect. Although creative production can sometimes be demanding, what matters most is that everyone feels they are contributing to that atmosphere.

I’m happy to say that this is an integral part of working at FutureDeluxe. 

Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

As someone who is interested in what makes creative people tick, I’ve recently discovered the excellent design-based website MadeByFolk.

Similarly I’ll go to the podcast Design Matters with Debbie Millman for a deeper understanding of interesting creatives.

Also I’m mid-way through the book No Rules Rules (by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer) about the evolution of Netflix - essential reading for anyone interested in the business of creative work.


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