Creatives In Residence #10: Scott Bradley - Northern Heart Films
11 June 2020 by Ed
In the latest kitchen table story of Lancashire's creative community in lockdown Scott Bradley describes how this has become a transformative time for Northern Heart, the film company he launched with Natasha Hawthornthwaite following their return to the county three years ago.
"...in these last ten weeks we’ve probably completed about ten months worth of work on our business. It’s been quite transformative"
"How’s everyone doing? The last ten weeks or so have felt vaguely reminiscent of the time between Christmas and New Years where the days of the week just blur together and we experience a sort of temporal jetlag. Joking aside, we do hope everyone reading is staying safe and keeping their loved ones close.
I imagine many small business owners have the same problem as us at Northern Heart Films, the problem of time and never having enough of it. We focus so much on the commission that all the essential ‘business’ jobs fall by the wayside. The website can wait, social media can wait, our new branding is left in limbo only half complete. If only we could just hit pause, for say… ten weeks? Then we’d be able to get all that stuff done!
With the cloud of financial ruin floating above our heads we’ve had no choice but to take this as an opportunity to slow down, reflect, take a step back, observe the bigger picture and develop the areas of our business that have been long neglected. Sadly, we’ve even had to leave our home at Make North Studios. The odd thing is however by slowing down we seem to have gotten ourselves ahead. Even winning our first BBC broadcast commission which screened on CBBC / CBeebies mid May.
It’s not an exaggeration when I say that in these last ten weeks we’ve probably completed about ten months worth of work on our business. It’s been quite transformative. When things finally start moving again Northern Heart Films will now have a much stronger identity, a more focused direction and much clearer goals.
Of course we do not wish for a yearly pandemic, none of us want this to happen again in our lifetime or the lifetime of future generations, but it has in it’s own way demonstrated the positive impact taking some time out, or at least slowing down, for a few weeks can have on our business practices. I know we are only a small team so we can remain agile, I can’t imagine the difficulties faced by much larger organisations with many employees, I can only comment on how we have handled this situation. Touch wood we’ve survived and will be OK.
I want to take this opportunity as well to give ourselves a little pat on the back for winning the BBC commission, if I may? It’s not often a BBC commission drops into your inbox, even with the added difficulty of producing moving image content in isolation we were never going to turn down the chance to pitch for the job!
Back at the very start of lockdown Natasha and I began thinking of a way to communicate our thanks and appreciation to the front line workers but with social distancing it was impossible to go out and shoot anything. So we put our heads together and started developing a short poem with Wigan based poet Carla Mellor whilst also collecting archive photography from Mirror Pix, a long time collaborator.
Within about seven days we had put together ‘A Kingdom United’ a short poetry film that conveys our thanks to those front line workers, using only photography and Carla’s performance. When we made the film public our social media absolutely exploded with thousands of views, likes and comments. Natasha and Carla even appeared via Zoom on BBC Breakfast to chat a little about the film.
Soon afterwards an executive producer from the BBC got in contact with us asking if we’d like to propose a couple of similar films for CBBC and CBeeBies, within a few emails and budget outlines we won the commission! It was a hugely new experience producing for broadcast, certainly not easy in places, but we’re so proud of the finished films. Both films are now in the running for the PRIX JEUNESSE INTERNATIONAL Special Achievement Award, just the nomination is the icing on the cake really!
On a more personal note, as a creative stuck in lockdown, I’ve actually found it really tough. I’m the sort of person that enjoys visiting galleries, museums, cinemas and rambling about getting lost in new places to help me stay connected to the more creative part of my brain. None of which I’ve been able to do during lockdown. At first it was easy enough but as time has gone on it’s clear it’s affected my motivation and creativity. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.
It’s been wonderful that a mini digital revolution has taken place during lockdown with us all discovering ZOOM, video conferencing, online film festivals, video poetry nights, etc. It shines a positive light on our determination to connect and share. There’s just been a burst of ingenuity and imagination, fair play to all of those involved in creating these online spaces. You’ve made lockdown life much more bearable!
I do hope however that when we finally do step foot into the world of the ‘new normal’ we will feel just as compelled to visit galleries, museums, cinemas and hold a much deeper appreciation for them. There’s something truly unique about experiencing art and culture together in a physical space. I’ve desperately missed being at the cinema in particular and having that shared collective experience. An experience we cannot yet replicate digitally.
Or, it could just be me, as I approach my mid 30s I may just be turning into a technophobe. Either way, when it’s safe to go out again you’ll be able to find me in line at the local cinema with a big bag of popcorn.
Stay safe everyone and see you all soon!
P.S We’re now on the look out for a new home for our business so if anyone has any ideas or suggestions we’d love to hear from you!
Scott Bradley, ½ of Northern Heart Films (June 2020)
Northern Heart Films (Scott Bradley & Natasha Hawthornthwaite), are an award-winning broadcasting & media production company creating heart warming films that help businesses, brands and charities connect with their audiences on an emotional level.
Creatives in Residence
Look out for more features from those working across the spectrum of creative occupations over the forthcoming weeks including designers, artists, film makers and more to share tales and tips for how they are working and coping while we adapt to the conditions created by the Covid-19 crisis and consider readiness for times ahead.
If you want to share how you and those in your organisations or networks are navigating these unusual and unprecedented times please get in-touch: firstname.lastname@example.org