In March 2023, GC Business Growth Hub will be heading to South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, an essential destination for global professionals in creative industries. The annual March event features sessions, music and comedy showcases, film screenings, exhibitions, professional development, and a variety of networking opportunities.
For the first time, GC Business Growth Hub will be joined by the community of Greater Manchester creative businesses to travel and attend the conference, to immerse themselves in discussions and performances, get inspiration for innovative ideas and establish new connections through various networking events.
We had the chance to chat with Bryony Simcox, Head of Production, Broaden, who will accompany us at SXSW, about her motivations and expectations for joining the event.
Can you tell us about your journey in cinematography and filmmaking?
George Webster, the Director of Photography and I, the Head of Production, co-founded Broaden in 2020. We’re a video production company based in Greater Manchester interested in empowering audiences and normalising conversations towards a more equitable and sustainable future.
The kind of work that Broaden does is multidisciplinary, including art and culture, commercial, and focused on collective behaviour change too. I suppose the underlying thread in all the work that we do is we are interested in telling stories that deserve to be told.
We make anything from documentaries to short films to music videos. We try to bridge the world between commercial videography and documentary filmmaking, and our main interests are sustainability and creativity.
Starting a new business during the pandemic must be very challenging. How has the pandemic impacted your business in the past 3 years?
Compared to other traditional studios in film and video making, the evolution of Broaden has not been traditional. With the pandemic, we started the business while living in a campervan in Spain and working with Spanish clients. Their approach to culture in Spain during the pandemic was quite different from that in the UK. They were still commissioning live streaming, events and music, and they understood that culture has a valuable role in ensuring the mental health of everyone in society.
We used the pandemic to our advantage, and even though it has not been easy, that period of innovation taught us a lot about finding work and developing a business in a different way.
Although every society handled the pandemic differently, fundamentally, the main thing that people realised during the pandemic period is that humans need arts and culture. They need film. They need music. Those things are, in many ways, essential.
What motivated you to seek the opportunity to join the event at SXSW?
Broaden has known about SXSW for a long time. We work for record labels, musicians and filmmakers who have talked about the prestige of this event. Sometimes you just need to have something that opens your mind, opens your brain, exposes you to the world, and exposes the world to you. For me, SXSW is an opportunity to jump headfirst into a boiling pot of other creative thinkers. That will inevitably spark something; I just don’t know what it is yet!
As my focus within the business is production, I often think about whom we want to work with as creative partners. What stories do we want to be telling?
Going to the conference and hearing from the world’s thought-leaders on health, technology, culture, transport, food, music, etc., is a producer’s dream, hoovering up all these ideas that could become great films.
What other support have you had from the Growth Company?
Broaden received mentoring via the BGH programme “enterprising you” in 2022. We learned a lot of business skills, and I’ve kept the BGH on my radar. Also, compared to going to the event individually, going together with other creative businesses from this delegation makes it much more powerful. I believe Britain’s small and medium-sized enterprises are often overlooked. There’s so much innovation happening at the small business scale, but they often need a leg up. This opportunity is that leg up. I think government is starting to recognise that so much innovation is happening at the grassroots scale, which is why funding to organisations like the Business Growth Hub is so essential.
What do you expect from this world-renowned event celebrating the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture?
It is tough to understand what you will get from an event like this when you know it’s so divergent.
The first ingredient is to balance having an agenda with an open mind. There is a temptation to see networking when attending a world-renowned event as a very one-way exchange, where everything is about you as a business, grabbing all you need, but forgetting that you also want to give back to the community. How can Broaden help other people rather than seeing networking as just us being helped? Whom might Broaden meet that has a story that needs to be told?
We are also looking for people who may be interested in supporting the development of our upcoming documentary, whether that be refining the script, helping with casting, and navigating the funding and film festival worlds too. Having help in these complex worlds, which can often have a lot of gatekeeping, is amazing for us as an independent studio.
Concerning music and culture, I am interested in talking to policymakers about protecting small music venues and funding musicians of all sizes, especially in a city like Manchester. The main goal of this delegation is to promote Manchester as a world leader in music and culture, so I’m looking for insights that I can take back to the city.
We are a studio based in Greater Manchester, in a somewhat deprived fringe part of the city, and I would love to see our business become an economic driver within this part of Greater Manchester. Learning how to grow so that we can employ more local people and make films for local people is in some ways more interesting than developing market opportunities in the US. 2023, for us, is about not necessarily turning your back on the global economy, but at the same time, understanding that purpose-driven business is about nurturing what you have here. We must keep it in mind when we go to this big, exciting event where it is easy to get distracted by all the opportunities.
Any chance for collaboration with your counterpart in the US?
Definitely, I am more interested in creative collaborations. There will inevitably be people in the US who share common interests and goals with us in making films and telling stories. We do not care where they are from, we just want to work with those people.
Sometimes, we might think these kinds of events are a business platform and it's all about competition because we are driven by market economics. However, what something like SXSW does is throw that idea out, and it says, 'you are not all here to compete, we are here to celebrate with each other’. It is less about competition and more about celebrating what all these creative players including Broaden are doing. That is what makes South by Southwest unique.
With the right support and funding, there is no boundary for Greater Manchester’s DCT businesses to collaborate with their counterpart around the globe, and the sky is the only limit for your company to grow and expand.
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