The third in my business start-ups series is from Quirky Motion, a film production company based in South London. Here’s an interview about their experience of a partnership with the two lead directors Simeon & John:
What made you guys partner up to become Quirky Motion?
Simeon: If only it were that simple! This partnership has been 16 years in the making and come through many different guises along the way. For me it started after a long stint of freelance roles, a boring day job and several film festival submissions for my own short film projects. My first main independent project was for an IDEO documentary in 2006 but John and I joined forces with a third partner, Colin Munro later that year when we made a music video for the Flaming Monkeys. They needed us to have a registered company name so we went with Quirky Motion, a name John had been using since 2001.
John: At university I worked with two other guys, we worked out we could do better work together because of our complementary skills and so started a team under the name of Quirky Motion, we did quite a few projects over the years like this. Even from the very beginning we built the company on a philosophy of working in whatever creative partnerships we wanted for each project, and just have the people that clicked. So in a way it’s never really been about ‘us’.
Simeon: When we did finally become ‘Quirky Motion’ as it is today there were many reasons to partner-up. We were all living in the same house so the commute was short!
John: We had a similar vision for what we wanted to achieve, we shared similar creative interests and influences. We didn’t have a great education but had quickly learnt that you just have to do things outside of the system because the system is never going to give you anything. We had an independent spirit; wanting to tell our own stories rather than being a cog in someone else’s machine. Some of the reasons were probably a bit foolhardy – wanting to cut corners and do interesting projects, which can prove difficult without a large network of contacts as we soon found out!
“Even from the very beginning we built the company on a philosophy of working in whatever creative partnerships we wanted for each project.” John Lumgair, Quirky Motion.
What frightened you the most about doing this?
John: We didn’t start with fears, we only had fears later on.
Simeon: Yes, once reality slapped us in the face!
So, what was hard and what did you do about it?
John: We had energy at the beginning, jobs were coming in and we assumed that is how it would continue and then when it didn’t come in we were like Ahh! But when we hit that point we started asking people for advice. Everyone is the expert when it comes to growing a business and we really struggled for a long time listening to the wrong sorts of advice. You don’t grow a business by writing theories down like business plans, you grow by meeting people and doing good work.
Simeon: Amongst that there was some really good advice, even though at the time is didn’t feel like it, negativity was actually very helpful, time after time hearing people say that starting your own business was nearly impossible, it made us want to prove them wrong. We had a couple of brilliant mentors, all from the industry, they saw our potential, they offered us opportunities, asked us insightful questions.
John: We generally found the good guys were the ones working in the industry itself and we found that the people that were there with ‘business’ experience just didn’t understand our industry and how it operates.
Now you are doing this what do you enjoy most?
Simeon: We both love working on our own projects when we get the time – these can also bring in work so it’s great to do them when we can. Mainly I enjoy working in collaboration with different types of creatives who all want to add to the project to make it better.
John: Yes, The network is beyond us, there is always collaboration: It is arrogant to think you can do anything on your own.
Simeon: The contacts we have we share very openly between us.
John: We generally are very open with all our contacts, even with our wider network. That’s one thing we noticed about being in LA, people are much more open with their contacts than in the UK.
Simeon: They are much more open generally!
Is there anything you miss about being employed?
John: Not having to do my tax return! And if we have no clients we don’t get paid.
Simeon: Back in the early days we didn’t have the structures in place, we should have sorted that a lot earlier, that was really hard, and months would go by without getting paid.
What advice would you give for people wanting to start up a partnership with a friend or family member?
John: Work leads to work, there’s a proverb that says ‘Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow’: you can’t cut corners. And have a laugh, it makes the whole thing a lot easier.
Thank you Simeon and John for your insights, As John mentioned, industry experience is key for helping out those getting started, with 10 years’ experience in the creative industry, there’s a chance I could help you with your start up and would be keen to hear about your plans, just get in touch.
And if you are interested in finding out more about Quirky Motion, here’s a trailer to their latest movie, out soon: