Five students left university in 2012 to found their own production company. Naive? Yes. Ambitious? Definitely. However, this year KODE celebrates its tenth year in the industry. Still run by the five founding members who have “never not worked together”, the production studio now has a staff of 40 plus and a roster of award-winning talent.
The original fivesome of friends began as a production house - and now, the collective of filmmakers produces commercials and music promos for some of the world’s hottest musicians and biggest brands, whilst 2022 has seen the business metamorphose into a multifaceted studio. Consolidating its different departments into one homogenous offering, KODE now produces commercials, branded content, music videos, immersive technology and photography.
The company’s impressive brand list includes Oppo, EA Sports, TUI and Monster, and through partnerships, Nike, Adidas, the BBC, Aston Martin, Formula, OVO Energy and Disney. They’ve even captured the attention of musical artists Skepta, Mabel, Gregory Porter, Ed Sheeran, Nick Jonas, Bastille, and Tom Jones, to name a few.
Led by CEO Alex Harman, COO Elliott Williams and executive producers Jack Goodwin, Nathan Killham and Matt Fleming, KODE’s journey has seen them push through periods of hardship, enjoy moments of pure joy and garner a wealth of experience that far outstretches many in their field.
KODE’s CEO Alex Harman spoke to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about the last decade and what’s to come in the future.
LBB> Congratulations on your 10th anniversary! Can you tell us what the goal was when you first started?
Alex> At the start, our goal was to learn and survive. The long-term goal was to build our own company, our own way. We aspired to be great, but to be honest for the first few years we just had to learn how to do it! We’d never worked at other production companies, we’d never represented a roster etc. But we had a belief that we could build something different to others and remain five friends whilst doing it.
LBB> In the next decade, what are you anticipating from the company? What are some of the goals you have going forward?
Alex> We want KODE to be the best company our staff and directors have ever worked at. We hope to do this by having a company culture where people can enjoy the every day - and not just because of the work. We have plans to launch new divisions, bring in more of the best people in our industry, and we would like to - in time - be seen as one of the top production studios in the world.
LBB> Can you tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced as a production company over the years and how you have overcome those?
Alex> In the first few years, we had to build a portfolio and earn respect. It took longer than we anticipated, and that was hard at times. We overcame it by finding alternative ways into making work - be that direct to clients or with smaller agencies. We also maintained a collaborative and can-do attitude that we felt some of the competition didn’t have, and over time the portfolio and roster grew.
LBB> What have been some of the pivotal moments over the last few years? Does it include any pieces of work which you can share with us?
Alex> When you start a company from complete obscurity, every year is full of pivotal moments.
In terms of work and the effect it had on our company, Formula E ‘Street Level’ was a huge moment for us. It came out in early 2019, and the rest of that year blew up for us. This project changed everything; we were trusted with something of scale, with an incredible production team behind it and the creative legends at Iris
. From there, that’s where our serious growth began.
This year has been really pivotal for us too, we’ve made it to 10 years which is pretty cool, but during this year we’ve been working with agencies and clients we’d always dreamed of working with. We’ve grown our team and we’ve signed some super exciting talent. So, we can’t wait for the next 12 months.
LBB> Is there any new technology you are currently working with? Or any that you think you’ll be incorporating into your process soon?
Alex> Elliott Williams, our COO, is a tech wizard. Therefore, I feel the way in which our company operates has always had a great fluidity to it, thanks to tech. In terms of being creative with new and emerging technologies, we’re playing with Unreal Engine’s volumetric capture, and encouraging our directors to write ideas that can blow people’s minds thanks to new technology.
LBB> What’s it like starting a company with your friends and what makes it work so well in your case?
Alex> It works because we care about each other as much as we care about the work we make. We’ve never not worked together, and I can’t imagine it any other way. We are lucky to all have interests and skill sets that complement each other and every time we share ideas or make decisions, we always do it together and listen to each other.
LBB> What do you think the future of production holds? How do you envision the landscape of advertising changing?
Alex> What we have seen change over the course of the last 10 years is where the work comes from. When we started out, it was major labels and advertising agencies that had most of the work, but now those same sources still exist but it’s expanded to direct to client relationships, small independent agencies, creative companies, and the list goes on. It's an exciting time!