From an award winning animation to travelling the world, Neil Baker and Steve Hatton have achieved a lot since 2005. Their successful careers started at The University of Lincoln- it’s has been an upward rocket from that moment! The unstoppable media duo explain their greatest achievements, humble beginnings and their advice on winning the world of media.
Chloe: How was Electric Egg founded?
Neil: So, we started in 2005 and the company was started by myself and my colleague Steve Patten. I did Media Production at the University of Lincoln from 2002 to 2005 and Steve did, what became contemporary length media, in the same period. We didn’t actually know each other at University, so a mutual friend introduced us and we used each other for ideas. He didn’t come with the baggage of what the course required, so it was a case of “here is my idea for a film, what do you think?” He would give me feedback, without the worry of offending your friend by saying “that shot is rubbish.” So that is our background I suppose. I started freelance work straight out of University with different elements of camera work, editorial, graphics, 3D production… but I don’t really do that anymore! All the freelance work was too much for me in the end.
N: There is an organisation called Arts MK, and they are the arts development team for the district of Lincolnshire. They were piecing together a large project, like a big arts fair, which they required a video instillation piece. They contacted Steve through one of his University tutors who have done work for them before, but he wasn’t available at the time, so they recommended us. It was a large job, a 14-screen piece with dancers and interaction between screens. Of the success of that film, called Roots Roots, we were offered more and more work. Electric Egg was a name we initially gave to the collaboration, but it became evident that there was an appetite for more video in this area, our clients had more connections who were recommending people to work with and it made sense to set up a business. There was funding available at the time, especially European funding, for start-up businesses so we tapped into that. We started working in 2005 from Steve’s bedroom until we got an offer to move into Sparkhouse in 2006. We all need to start somewhere!
C: What are your inspirations as a company?
Steve: Both of us wanted to make Independent films. My original idea was to get a job somewhere, work for ten to fifteen years, then set up my own company. So, I basically skipped to the end of my own life plan! We both have our different passions whether its photography or graphics, but somehow, we made it work to our advantage. We want to be the masters of our own destiny.
C: As a former media production student, did you find it hard to break into the profession?
N: Personally, I struggled to get a job. I applied for a lot of jobs and, sadly, most of them did not work to my advantage. Granted, there is a few media jobs in the Lincolnshire area. I desperately wanted to stay in this area, not only for personal reasons but I quite liked it here. That is why I tried to grab some freelance work. There are a few fledgling media companies in Lincolnshire at the time; some more established than others. When I started to put my work out there, I got a very rapid response. The first emailed I sent to Hotwire media, they got back to me within an hour. I had a meeting two days later, which led to a job. So, in that sense it wasn’t too difficult from my point of view. I was proactive though; I had my own website, a portfolio and everything ready for a potential job interview. I felt ready. All you need is the confidence to put yourself out there. Luckily, the company I applied for had an opportunity to collaborate with me. Hotwire was also starting to go their separate ways; the editor moved to Manchester for personal reasons and his college moved to London to work for a big productions company- so we inherited a lot of their work. I felt I was extremely lucky to get the contract in the first place. That freelance job got me another freelance job and, like a domino effect, it all just fell into place. If you try your hardest and make a good job, then anything is possible. You make your own luck.
C: What is Electric Egg’s proudest achievement?
Steve: That is a tough question!
C: You can create your own top three achievements of all time.
N: My first film created after university won the best British animation at an Independent film festival. It premiered in Cornwall; and the judges were Brothers McCloud who were two animators that I absolutely adore. It was phenomenal that two people who are an inspiration voted for my work- I still cannot believe it now. The fact it got into London International Animation Festival was a huge achievement. The film also got into Necal, which is a festival in Barcelona. The film ended up screening all around the world in countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, and New Zealand. I always find it very surreal standing on a stage and introducing my work to a massive audience; having my voice heard.
S: Another achievement of ours is producing a feature length documentary called “Into The Wind” which we filmed in places like Canada, Germany and New Zealand. We went around film festivals, arranged meetings with mission editors, executives of British film and received some amazing feedback. The BBC said, “they love the film, but we already have a similar documentary in the autumn which features Ewan McGregor.” They passed in onto the Yesterday Channel who eventually took our documentary on for four years. Even though I hate the Daily Mail, our documentary made the pick of the day. The fact we can give an opportunity to young film makers for an internship or start creating their own material is possibly our greatest achievement.
C: How important is it to inspire young film makers in the Lincolnshire area?
N: I think it’s important because the difference between university and the real job world is massive. It was a real learning curb from finishing university to proactively finding a job- it can be daunting. We do lectures for the University of Lincoln, we have helped the DMI film academy in the Lincolnshire and East Midlands area and the Lincolnshire award since its conception. We view any opportunities for young people as important because people may think the Lincolnshire area is difficult to gain a film career. We need to raise aspirations from an early age and make people realise that you can follow your dreams. Hard work, a bit of perseverance and a thick skin can get you anywhere.
S: The transition from university to the commercial world is a big jump in terms of the amount of time you spend on projects, the idea of budgeting and working to a deadline. We take on a fair number of interns for various jobs, which gives them the chance to see how our company works. So, we say things such as: “have a complex shot- we can only spend three days on it” or “we can only afford this certain budget.” Getting exposure to time management is important for any graduate, especially with bigger companies who have a tight deadline, large projects and multiple people working on the same project. If they slip up on a deadline, then it effects people down the line like a chain reaction. The earlier people can be subjected to that, the better.
C: How difficult is financing a media company in terms of equipment, production, and editing?
N: Because we started off freelancing with other companies, we used their equipment. However, as we started earning more money, we started buying our own equipment. When I received my first freelance wage packet, I bought a MAC computer with all the extras I needed so I could do projects at home. My university laptop was on the verge of exploding into a million pieces; smoke was seeping out and it was basically ready to crash and burn. When we started, all we had was an editing screen and a camera that Steve provided. We got some funding from a European charity, which enabled us to buy more equipment. In an area like Lincolnshire where they need to increase the creative economy, there is a need to stimulate media companies.
S: Our philosophy from the early days was to put all the profits we make from different projects back into the business- so to build up our kit. “In to The Wind” cost a massive amount of money to create, which didn’t just include our own time. So, we tried to plough as much money back into the business which meant we took very small wages for the next few years. If you’re happy to go along with that method, then great! Nevertheless, if you want a big wage then you may struggle. Be resource efficient and, for god’s sake, do not spend unnecessarily! Buy if you need it, when you need it.
C: If you can see a carbon copy of a young aspiring film maker with all the hopes and aspirations you had, what would you tell them?
N: It depends what they want to do! I think it is all about the research and pushing yourself to success. Whatever it is you want to do, you need to know the job forwards, backwards, left and right- research is essential. You need to know what is required from that job, you need an emasculate portfolio and you cannot rely on the material you shoot purely at university. You need to be doing more. Show your future employer your passions, interests and what makes you tick. If you cannot get a job straight away, then make loads of films. If you have a passion to create material, then use your skills to achieve that. Try anything to build up your CV!
Written by Chloe Marwood