Media production company defies the challenges of lockdown to record its best quarterly results in two years.
Manchester-based video production company Eight Engines faced the same problems from COVID-19 as many in the multimedia industry.
However, with specialist support from our Digital, Creative and Tech team, Eight Engines made adjustments to its processes and business model and managed to not only avoid furloughing staff but actually thrive through the lockdowns.
Director Jack Leigh tells us how the Hub’s Greater Connected programme helped his business bounce back from the early shocks of 2020 to be in an even stronger position going into 2021.
You need to be flexible with your business plan
We started out as a TV production company because that was our background. Our broadcast projects have won three Royal Television Society Awards, been nominated for BAFTAs and Broadcast Awards, and have been honoured with awards from festivals around the world.
More recently, though, we’ve been shifting our focus towards creating marketing videos. We still create broadcast content, but we’ve been working with the likes of Help for Heroes, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Tangerine PR and a wide range of clients.
We span TV, marketing and commercial work and also events and theatre production. Our focus in TV was creating content when there wasn’t a traditional budget for a drama to be made, so we brought those lessons into our marketing work. We already had the experience of creating high-end content without the high-end price points.
It’s important to keep learning
We have always been filmmakers and had the background of working in the production world, but what we didn’t know was how to run a business. We stumbled our way through it at first and, of course, we’ve got better as we’ve gained experience. But we went to the Hub to see if there was any low-hanging fruit that we were missing, anything that we could improve on.
That was just before the impact of COVID. The Hub suggested that we should try the Greater Connected programme, which I then went on in July 2020. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. We’ve obviously done a lot of different training courses, but this was the first one I’ve been on where I really learned a lot. We’ve taken the learnings and used them in many ways across our business.
Being flexible with our services has enabled us to grow
We launched a new project in 2020 called Cut Through the Noise with Conspicuous Marketing in Manchester, which was a way to further reduce the costs of video content for SMEs without reducing the quality of the end product.
When you make films and videos for TV, everything is charged by the day – the kit, the crew, etc – that’s just how it works, and it has translated over to all kinds of video production. However, quite frequently we can have a job where you only shoot for five hours and there is time left at the end of the day.
With Cut Through the Noise, we rent out beautiful locations around Manchester and invite clients to come in and only pay for the time they need, instead of us coming to their office. Once everything is set up, we can actually shoot many pieces to camera in just an hour – and we can run workshops with them beforehand to make sure they can get the most out of the experience.
Since Greater Connected, we have also implemented more processes into the business, which have been really helpful. The Hub has also helped us to get a grant for some much-needed IT equipment. The support we’ve had from them has been absolutely fantastic.
We’ve found it brilliant working alongside other creative agencies in Manchester, like Tangerine, who have been incredibly supportive. Working with them and other businesses in the area have really helped us get through all of the turbulence of this year.
Our way of working helped us get through the COVID impact
The initial impact of COVID was massive for us. When it all really started to hit everywhere in March 2020, we lost a lot of work and a lot of projects that we’d spent time developing fell through. So, it took a few weeks to for the dust to settle and work out a way to get through it.
But now, we’ve adapted the company and changed the way we work to deliver a COVID-safe workflow. Because our background has been working on projects that didn’t have big budgets, we’re used to working with less crew – so we were well-positioned to adapt to how things are at the moment. And that has helped us avoid needing to use furlough, even when things were looking tough earlier in the year.
Now, we’re getting new clients, Cut Through the Noise is going well and some of the bigger projects that were paused are now coming back. We’ve been producing great content and I’m really happy with how things are going. Looking forward, I’m hoping to keep on with what we’re doing, so we’re looking to launch Cut Through the Noise in a few different cities.
Greater Connected is a fully-funded programme tailored for Digital, Creative and Tech businesses in Greater Manchester. Spread over six to eight weeks, it helps ambitious companies grow in their own way. Find out more: Greater Connected