Cracking the KODE: how to break into production
A decade on from launching production studio KODE with four friends, CEO Alex Harman looks back on the knowledge gathered over the past 3650 days and shares his insights with shots.
If you have something that you truly believe in, surround yourself with others that have the same faith, and run at it together.
It's been a decade since five friends, fresh out of university, with zero experience, but plenty of ambition and optimism decided to launch their own production studio. Looking back, it’s incredible to think how much work needed to be done, and how little we knew.
Here's a brief snapshot of some of the knowledge we’ve gathered:
Being young is seen by many as a weakness in business, but it’s the opposite. Your fearlessness is your strength. If you can house, feed and clothe yourself, without the commitment of a mortgage, family, appetite for the nicer things in life; then you have freedom, which gives you the ability to try, and trying; that’s your superpower.
Above: KODE in 2012.
Shop around. What works for you, academically, financially, emotionally? There is no one route into the production industry. You could study film at university, make cups of tea on set, participate in an apprenticeship - these are just some of the many ways you can begin your career. Not everyone is going to be able to do what we at KODE did, but now as the owners of a successful production studio, we want to support young people into the workplace. Our way of doing this, as a business, is through internships and mentoring. When done correctly, this can offer young creatives the chance to try out many facets of production; from dealing with clients, strategising, pitching to creative development and being on set creating, it allows people to find their own passion and follow it.
Know your shit. Any chance you have to learn, learn. Be that running on a production set, to being aware of the ads and promos the industry is talking about. Who is the hot new talent, which production company has the best reputation, what makes a producer the best in their field? Do your research; this should come easily, because it interests you. Don’t be limited by subscription walls; the news isn’t limited to one channel, there are so many outlets where you can keep an overview of the who, what, where, why and how of the industry.
Any chance you have to learn, learn.
Be social. The production industry is a social environment and a friendly one. Find out about the industry events and award shows; if you can’t buy a ticket, find out about the after party, the pubs/bars where attendees will be hanging out after. Get yourself onto guest lists, be cheeky and ask for tickets. Take in the people around you, hear what they’re saying, listen and engage. Because you know your shit, you’ll know what’s being discussed around you and you’ll naturally be able to join conversations.
Reach out. Don’t be scared of rejection. As we experienced 10 years ago and still experience today, people invariably want to share. If you want to talk to someone, ask them. If you want to show your work to the masses, put it out there. Harness the power of the internet. For KODE, we’ve always seen it as an invaluable marketing tool. We learnt the power of LinkedIN very early on; it provided us with a database of all the people who were the brains behind the best work. As time has moved on, we’ve found Instagram has become our go-to platform to promote our new work and find and grow our directorial roster. Utilise what already exists. Reach out, forge connections, find the people that inspire you; use this to drive you forward.
Above: KODE in 2022.
What makes you so special? Muttered by many across the world, but a life lesson that resonates throughout business. From the beginning, before you send your first email or make your first big decision, establish your Who?, What?, Why?. Affirm your principles, decide on the kind of work that you want to create and how you want to be recognised. Set your boundaries, decide if there are certain things that you don’t want to do. Make the work that you believe in, so that at the end of the day, you can look back and be proud of everything you have done. That’s not to say that there won’t be mistakes along the way, but own your mistakes, learn from them and grow.
Don’t be a snob. Your first job doesn't have to be, and probably won’t be your best work ever. Corporate and wedding videos weren’t what we wanted to work on in the beginning, but they paid the bills, and they allowed us to gain experience. Your first steps are just that, the beginning of a long and hopefully fruitful path, full of amazing, exciting and award-winning work.
The production industry is always changing, evolving - there is something new to learn every day, no matter what point of your career you are. Starting your pathway as a runner will give you an access-only insight into the many facets of production, allowing you to better understand the numerous job roles and responsibilities that it includes. Coming into a role like this with an openness and willingness to jump-in will open doors to future work opportunities, connections and knowledge.
Your first job doesn't have to be, and probably won’t be your best work ever.
No, no, yes. In every job, in any industry, hearing ‘no’ is always hard, it makes you question your capabilities, knocks your confidence and it’s hard to find the motivation to try again. However, as cliché as it sounds, the ‘no’s’ make you stronger. Each ‘no’, is leading the way towards ‘yes’, a ‘yes’ that could be the defining moment of your career, and your company.
Don’t follow others. Look inwards and share ideas with your peers, but above all, always think about how you can be doing things differently. You always learn year-on-year what’s important to you and what ethos you want to stick by. Sometimes you will make mistakes, sometimes you’ll get things right, but always be your true self; remember your core.
It’s ten years since we five sat and planned KODE, and here we sit, a decade later, still together, still friends, our dream has adapted and shifted with time, but we’ve remained true to ourselves, our ambition and who we are.
Unswayed, unapologetic, honest, true, (and with unrestricted LinkedIN profiles); we're happy to connect with anyone who wants to enter this brilliant world of production.