As part of an ongoing series exploring digital business growth in the North East, we talk to Matt McGough, MD at Ithica Films. Matt launched the Middlesbrough-based film production company in early 2014 after what he describes as ‘a spell of frustration’.
“I’d gone as far as I could at a company I’d been at for a real long time”, explains Matt.
“My wife, and now my business partner, grew tired of my moaning and asked me what I would do if I had the money to start a company.”
Within half an hour of the conversation, Matt says he had a business plan and a spark that fed his enthusiasm. He was ready to make the jump and go alone.
“It was a shock to the system but it was very liberating. I knew that this was the only path I wanted to take.”
Matt quickly began to deliver his first films and took up office space, whilst wife Paula left her job to join the company on a daily basis. With staff shortly following, bigger office space was soon needed to accommodate growth.
It was then that Matt realised he had a fully fledged business on his hands, with expansion planning becoming a necessity.
“One of the biggest changes to the business was moving into Boho One in Middlesbrough, that was when we first realised that things were really beginning to happen”, says Matt.
More bodies were a necessity to help the business’ growing needs although as many specialist firms often cite, the region’s skills gap didn’t make things easy.
“It’s been a challenge to find each member of the team, with no real production line of talent available to us we’ve explored colleges, universities, apprenticeships, work placements and Interns”, explains Matt.
“The three members of the team have come through the least obvious routes, with two becoming known to us through our work with the High Tide Foundation and our Senior Filmmaker only becoming known to me in the final days of a recruitment search when someone shared his work on Facebook.”
With new faces introduced to the business, Matt says he had to adapt on a personal level to maintain the business’ upward trajectory.
“The complexity around growth is something that’s been a big challenge for me, it took a lot for me to let go of particular parts of the production process as I’d gotten used to having personal control of everything for the six months or so that it was just me in the business.
“I realised that I get more satisfaction from seeing someone else develop their filmmaking skills and surprising me than the knowledge that I made every cut on a film.
“It’s not something that I’m perfect at yet and I don’t see me moving completely away from the craft but my time is definitely needed in other parts of the business, it’s amazing to see the team more than fill my place.”
Today, Matt believes the business is in a more exciting place than ever as Ithica expands its offering and looks to extend its influence in growing digital markets.
“We’re creative filmmakers who together create content that stirs emotions and captures imaginations. For this we’ve got a wealth of experience for the different demand in different sectors and a host of techniques to play with such as timelapse, aerials & slow motion.
“But new technologies are absolutely important to what we do and the people we work with”, he explains.
For instance, Ithica is one of few firms in the region attracting clients through its implementation and knowledge of drone technology.
“It was important to make sure we were able to legally fly drones, for instance, as the ability to put a camera in the sky is an incredibly powerful storytelling technique – it’s not something that I’d only want to be known for but to have that up your sleeve is awesome and everyone asks about it.
“New technologies have to be explored, even if it’s to say no, or to advise a client that it’s not right for them.
“360 video is a great example of this, we invested two years ago in 360 tech – it was functional but not upto an acceptable quality level. However with Facebook and the new generation of cameras – it’s something that we’ll be revisiting.”
And it seems for Ithica, now an established business firmly lodged in Middlesbrough’s burgeoning tech and creative scene, the ambition and pursuit of growth synonymous with the company’s journey to date is far from over.
“The next milestone is to move for the fourth time in two and a half years years to a much larger space in Boho One, this will give us the base for the next three years and is a real plan for the future”, Matt adds.
Original article appears here.