Casual Films go west

Co-founder Nick Francis is moving to the Bay area


Casual Films have been building their business in the UK market for a few years now, gaining recognition with a friendly and effective style. Five years after opening up shop in New York, they are expanding to the West coast. Not Cornwall, but the Bay area.

Nick Francis will follow co-founder Barnaby Cook across the Atlantic this week. Olly Atkinson is promoted from Head of Production in London to UK Managing Director.

We caught up with Nick before he headed west.

Nick, why are you moving to the Bay area? Is Casual Films going global?

I’m not sure it’s Casual going global – more that we’re now established transatlantically. I am moving to the Bay Area to capitalise on relationships we have built from our office in New York. We’ve moved Lydia Chan, an excellent EP from New York to run the business there. After 11 years in our UK office, it’s great to have the opportunity to spread my wings. We have a fantastic team in London and I think it’s time I got out of the way.

As a company you have experience of the East Coast. How does it differ from the UK for branded video?

The East Coast has been a very successful market for us. The core elements are all the same but there are a few differences. The client’s attitude to risk – as most people working in our industry in the UK will know – can make it very challenging for them to sign off projects, particularly over the last few years. In the US, they are more likely to say: “I like you guys, let’s go for it”.

The UK is a highly competitive market. Using the Televisual Corporate 50 as a guide, you, Barnaby and the Casual team have made your mark by rising through the rankings. What’s the secret?

I’m not sure about a secret – we’ve always tried to be open – that might have something to do with it. We’re not war fighting or trying to cure cancer, so we may as well enjoy what we’re doing. We’re extremely lucky to have the jobs that we do. I think our positive attitude to the work, our clients, staff and world strike a chord with people. We try to take our work seriously while not taking ourselves too seriously.

Are US clients better qualified than their UK counterparts?

In a word no. We have fantastic clients on both sides of the Atlantic, who work extremely hard at getting results through film. The main difference (beyond the attitude to risk ) is the audience’s outlook in the two countries are different. This leads to a necessary difference in the way communicators need to work to reach them.

The US is very marketing-rich so the viewer is more open to messaging of this type, as a result the content can be more direct. In the UK/Europe we are more suspicious of marketing and so communicators need to be more creative to get around people’s defences and land their point.

Running a creative business isn’t always a smooth upwards trajectory and Casual has no doubt hit bumps in the road. What’s the one thing you’ve learnt from that to take across the ocean?

I love filmmaking so it pains me to say it, but the most important thing for anyone to learn in this industry is that their success is not determined by their films, but by their ability to sell. There are so many great filmmakers out there now, well shot, well cut films are a given. They’re no longer the defining factor. You need to treat your clients amazingly and constantly look at ways of building your business to succeed.

Is branded video booming as brands, governments and charities pour budget into social and mobile video? Or sagging under the strain of increased output, tight budgets and new competitors?

There is every reason for branded video producers to be positive. We’re working in a massive growth area, but we need to think about the audience. We all have the experience as brand storytellers to smash it. But too many companies make the films they want to make and not necessarily the films that drive the results the client wants. We can beat our major competitors – ad agencies, digital agencies and increased internalisation of the video function – if we focus on the things we do really well.

Casual Films are listed in Moving Image Directory, the unique invitation-only list of verified brand video specialists. Video partner search, made easy.