LBB speaks to Karen Andre, director of sales and marketing, about managing huge growth and launching new services while retaining the core five values the company has held since the very start
Pinning Karen Andre down for a sit-down interview was a tough challenge. The LS Productions’ sales and marketing director seemed to always be in a state of motion whenever emails reached her – usually on a train – travelling from meeting to meeting. When the interview finally happens, Karen is all smiles and apologies about her availability. There’s hardly anything to apologise for, however, as Karen’s full schedule is the perfect representation of the flurry of activity that goes on every hour of every day at the LS offices where she (along with a team of almost 50!) make the kind of creative work that enters into, and stays, people’s imaginations.
Above: Album artwork for 'Harry's House'
LS Productions started out in Edinburgh back in 2006 by Marie Owen, who’s still at the helm as CEO. Today, LS is the UK's largest production service company with additional offices in London and Manchester, and the capability to cover not only the whole of the UK but any location in the world. The global service offering builds and expands on the company’s commercial knowhow, and “We’re now taking our service worldwide, adding the film and TV sectors too,” Karen says.
The busy team is unusually large for a production company yet it’s exactly its size (steadily growing too), coupled with discipline and craft expertise, that gives it the ability to manage and coordinate large high-budget productions without breaking a sweat.
Actually, that’s not exactly how Karen Andre, LS Productions’ director or sales and marketing would put it: “We sweat all the small stuff!”, she laughs, “So our clients don’t have to.” Listing all of LS Productions' clients would be a futile endeavour; it’s worked with the world’s biggest and best - MJZ, Framestore, Pulse Films, Rogue, Disney, HBO, Netflix, Burberry, Valentino, Barbour, Chanel - and the list keeps growing too. Along the way, the company has scooped BRIT and BAFTA awards for its productions, plus a Grammy nomination for best music video for Harry Styles’ ‘Adore You’. The relationship with Harry Styles’ team started around the time of his first album when LS brought its creative expertise to his debut video, 'Sign of the Times', and was subsequently asked to collaborate on the promo artwork for his third (now multi-award winning) album, 'Harry’s House'.
Most striking is the sheer range of productions that the company works on. What ties them all together is professionalism and the high-calibre results LS achieves for each and every one.
Starting small and taking the time to thoughtfully grow over the course of 17 years means that LS Productions has crystalised what’s important to it, its people, and its clients. With Marie Owen as CEO, Sarah Drummond as EP and MD, and Karen Andre as director of sales and marketing, the company is woman-founded and led, with a set of strong yet simple values for everyone at the company to live by and to bring to clients.
Of which, two stand out the most. ‘Don’t be a dick’ is about respect - giving it, receiving it, and ensuring that it’s present in all interactions. Then there’s ‘We are shit hot’ which has nothing to do with bragging, but rather a determination to strive for ‘shithotness’ by making the extra effort on every production. “We like to work with clients that hold similar values to us and we will turn down work if we feel we won’t align in the best way,” adds Karen.
LS Productions knows that attention to the smallest details adds up to a successful, well-managed production. “Every possible touchpoint, scenario, and problem are considered ahead of time, we like to practise “the art of the possible”. The advantage of having a bigger in-house team is that we have the time to get to know our clients, understand their business and the pressures they’re under. We take all the pressure off and present the right creative and logistical solutions, making great things happen,” Karen explains. It’s then easy to see why the company has so many returning clients.
Above: Zendaya in Valentino's 'Pink Dreams' campaign
For example, its relationship with Barbour spans many years now with LS producing around eight shoots across each year. It shot with Valentino last year for the first time and the brand came back asking LS to produce a shoot starring Zendaya with involvement from multiple 'Euphoria' creatives on Warner Brothers’ backlot. The ‘Pink Dreams’ video is contemporary and sleek per the desire of Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli’s vision to build on the brand’s codes with the injection of his signature shocking pink.
Digging deeper into why clients turn and return to LS, Karen says: “We have built great systems that mean we’re able to provide a high standard of onset experience, which is maybe not the sexiest answer.” In production - where budgets have to be maximised and time is quite literally money in an environment that’s akin to extreme plate spinning - surely there’s nothing sexier than the assurance that everything is going according to a meticulous plan. LS has been entrusted with some of the most prestigious and biggest productions in the UK to date. For Prettybird x Alexander McQueen, LS service produced the cinematic concept video, ‘The Jewelled Satchel’, starring the musician, Lucia Fairfull; the resulting video (appearing sensual and eerie) is akin to an arthouse short, hinting at the brand’s further on-screen experiments.
Above: 'The Jewelled Satchel' by Alexander McQueen
“Last year we managed production service on a 10-part TV series with a multi-million pound budget. That took a lot of trust and we had the right people and all the access to make this happen,” Karen says. For Nike, LS were the service production partners for the sleek ‘You’re Up’ spot, featuring Christiano Ronaldo which was shot at the company’s studio complex close to its Manchester offices and Bentley’s location-heavy luxury ad for the 'Continental GT Speed' wouldn’t be possible without its location and production expertise. Clearly, when clients have big ambitions and the budgets to realise them, they all turn to LS.
Above: Bentley, 'Continental GT Speed'
Standout work is the standard by which the company measures itself. It’s also highly attuned to the fact that it’s the people who make it happen. Positive, nurturing, authentic company culture is the backbone of LS’s success. “We have a head of culture. Our director of operations is also the head of HR. We’ve actively implemented policies and initiatives to help our employees' well-being.” Recognising that production can feel and be a relentless environment, LS has instigated a ‘right to disconnect’ policy to help people feel like they can and should switch off properly. “It’s really important for us to make sure we’re a good employer and to encourage people to build their careers with us,” says Karen.
There’s no guessing what's next for LS Productions - it’s approaching the future with the same creativity, care and planning that extends to every one of its clients. “Film and TV are the big focus for us this year, which includes original content. But really it’s about continuing to create great work across each of our focus streams and keeping the outlook global too.”