This week, we chat to The Big RD’s head, Ryan Dean, about switching careers to join the world of telly, running his own production company and balancing the creative side with the endless admin.
What made you want to pursue a career within this industry?
I always wanted to be a writer. I started my professional career as a journalist but got tired by the demand to constantly churn out news when sometimes there was none. I moved across into film production as it offered a great opportunity to continue being creative but without the daily grind of writing vapid news stories.
The Big RD was founded quite early on into your career, how did this come about?
I worked as part of the client facing team at my first production company. I was successful at winning contracts but felt sometimes that the production model that company was using was out of date. I felt there was an opportunity to setup a new type of company that could respond to the problems of the day in a more creative and cost effective manner. Within a year we had opened our studio in Shoreditch and a couple of years later we moved across to Covent Garden.
What would you say is a typical day for you?
A typical day involves responding to a creative brief, speaking to agencies or clients about current jobs, overseeing an edit or animation or dealing with some yawn enduring financial piece of administration!
What have you learnt most about running a company?
That growing a business during a recession is tough and that to succeed you need to work a lot of hours and sacrifice a lot of other things. That running a business is one of the most rewarding things you can do with you life. That partnerships are key to any success, find people who complement your skills.
Were there any new skills you needed to learn?
Learning about how to run the financial side is one of the biggest challenges for anyone setting up a company. How to handle contracts, PAYE, invoicing and the like takes time and energy and is a huge contrast to the creative side of what we do. I was fortunate enough to find an excellent accountant which is absolutely critical when it comes to advice on how to pay your taxes correctly. Keeping abreast of camera and post production technology is a huge advantage to running a production company as it means that you have a good idea of how long and how expensive a task might be for a client.
You recently worked on the Virgin Money commercial for sponsorship of the ITV 1 television show Harry’s South Pole Heroes . How did this project come about?
We work closely with a number of advertising agencies of which BMB is one. We teamed up with a talented Director, Jason Smith, to pitch for the work. We beat off a number of established commercial production companies by taking the original creative and making it a little more ambitious. It was a fun job that was incredibly challenging. Recreating an Arctic scene in the snow dome in Milton Keynes on a night shoot is not an easy task!
What key attributes do you look for in a freelancer?
Cost and reliability are the key factors. We are constantly under cost pressure from clients. Despite this they still want the same results and so we need people who can be as flexible as possible with their costs whilst ensuring quality.
Are there any exciting new projects that you have on the go that you can tell us about?
We have a number of exciting projects going on at the moment. We are due to be launching a couple of new companies that will sit underneath The Big RD which will hopefully allow us to collaborate and work with a lot more people than we currently do. We have a very exciting short documentary about deer stalking that we have just released and will be showing on the festival circuit. We have plans to develop this with a channel into a longer documentary, and we’re currently talking with the BBC and Channel 4).
What advice would you give to people thinking about setting up on their own?
Ask yourself what is your USP and why you offer something different to what is a crowded market place. If the answer is that you can just do it cheaper then that is not going to stand you or the industry in good stead in the long run. Make sure you have a good group of people to partner with and that, most importantly, you hire someone who is good with clients and winning business!
Ryan Dean is the owner of production company The Big RD.