NYC/London-based production company Casual Films believes we have entered “a new era in branded communications.” As Managing Director Barnaby Cook asserts in a video on the company’s website: “In the future, all successful businesses will have to be sustainable.” Not only does the award-winning company help organizations tell their sustainability stories, Casual’s got one of its own, and Cook recently told us more about how his company aims to use the power of video to help responsible companies influence society and change the world.
Tell us a bit about Casual — how did you come to focus on sustainability?
My business partner and I set up Casual in 2006 following a mad-dash trip from London to Mongolia, creating video diaries for the travel company Expedia along the way. In the early years we grew really quickly - doubled in size every year for 6 years, so that time was spent managing that growth and focusing on the quality of our work.
When we finally had time to step back from the madness a little bit and think about what direction we wanted to take the company in, both of us agreed that we should be using the power of film to do good in the world. Film has a tremendous ability to make people think differently, to feel an emotional connection to a cause or change the way they behave. Building on our experience in making films to help companies recruit the best talent, and the work we had done in employee engagement, sustainability and CSR seemed a natural progression. There are so many companies out there doing amazing things, but who don't necessarily have the tools to be able to communicate that effectively to their customers, staff and other stakeholders.
While we were thinking about this, it became clear to us that we should also do our best to behave in the most sustainable way possible, and for us there we two areas we wanted to focus on — our impact on the environment, and our social impact. From an environmental perspective we started using Albert, the carbon calculator for the film production industry developed by the BBC on our productions when clients requested it, allowing us to create zero-carbon films. In 2014 we achieved Planet Mark accreditation, which means we've made a commitment to reduce our carbon emissions company wide by 5 percent year on year.
From a social perspective, we set up a free filmmaking course called the Casual Academy, which takes kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and teaches them the process of filmmaking, while creating a free film for a charity that wouldn't otherwise be able to afford one.
What do you feel is Casual’s role in helping organizations understand, achieve and/or communicate sustainability?
Our focus on finding and telling stories as an engaging way for companies to communicate with their employees puts us in a great position to tell those stories about the great work that many companies are doing to reduce their impact on the environment. If you're going to do that, then it makes sense to use a vendor that shares your vision and behaves in a responsible way themselves. There is some really interesting potential for the Academy students to work on films for our clients, or for finding closer ways to partner. One of our professional services clients is looking for a way to use the hours they have ring-fenced for volunteering to run the Academy internally, which we're really excited about.
Your rapid-fire production of video content really gave SB ’14 and ‘15 San Diego and SB ’14 London a dynamic, live-blogging feel — how does your team pull quality content together so quickly?
Having sponsored SB last year in San Diego and in London, we were able to take a lot of the learning from those events to have an efficient work flow and to be able to turn around video edits within hours. It was great having our daily round-up being streamed into the plenary room every day. We love being involved with SB and particularly enjoy the San Diego one - don't tell the other conferences, but SB is the best one!
What are some projects in the pipeline that you’re excited about?
We're really pleased to announce that we have now been set up as a Community Interest Company (UK equivalent of a B Corp) social enterprise which means that we'll now be able to apply for funding to grow it. We're currently recruiting for a part-time Academy Director to help us take the Casual Academy to the next level. Having developed a comprehensive curriculum and having the experience of having run the course several times, we're really excited by the potential we have to expand it out so we can help more young people and charities.