An interview with Digifish’ Creative Director, Paul Banks
1. What inspired you to start Digifish?
The truth is, I’ve always been interested in film right back from being a kid. I always thought I was going to be a cameraman… because my dad had one of those old 16mm cine-cameras! The grand plan was to go to university, study film and get a job at the BBC, and then what happened, as you may well know, I signed a record deal instead, which took me off course.
I was with Universal records from 1993 to 2000, and during that time my interest in film grew. Every time we used to do a TV programme like Top of the Pops or T.F.I Friday, I was always the one that would stay after the rehearsals and watch all the cameramen and directors do their jobs.
Once the band split up in the 2000’s, I wanted a job that was still creative. It just seemed logical that film was the way to go. I love creating something out of nothing. Having been quite fortunate with the band, I was able to pick and choose what I wanted to do for a while. I had a couple of friends in York that were working for charities with people with learning disabilities and homeless people, so to learn I started making little awareness documentaries. I spent 3 years working with homeless people, creating real stories of real people, and I won an award for that work. I felt a little bit like that was me giving something back as I enjoyed working with people to raise awareness.
As more and more work started to come through, I started to work with other freelancers and before I knew it, there would be three of us going out on a shoot, and the shoots were getting bigger. It was Laura that said one day, let’s turn this into a business, because that’s what it had become - we just needed a name.
2. What has been your most enjoyable film project to date?
There have been loads of enjoyable projects all for different reasons. I mean, obviously directing a TV commercial in New York, with a crew of 22 people, for Sony, featuring the Script, with a budget of £90K, clearly is a highlight of my career. But equally, having worked on a film for the National Army Museum, with actors dressed up in costume and filming them in a trench, with loads of dialogue. Okay, it’s maybe not as glamorous, but it was just as enjoyable.
3. What piece of advice would you give someone starting out in film?
I think it’s about finding your niche, and staying true to it. I once knew a filmmaker who was amazing but because the films that he was making didn't interest him he didn't put any effort into them. You have to have passion about what you're creating and the right attitude will get you far. It doesn't matter whether you’re making a Sony commercial or filming a talking head interview with a university, you have to give it the same amount of love. Its not about giving people more of your time; it’s about giving them more of your energy. That’s what we do time and time again at Digifish, which is why clients always come back and tell us that we did more than they had ever expected.
4. What is the most exciting part of your role?
Creatively working with my wonderful team on new projects.
I thrive on creating concepts, new opportunities, meeting people, seeing how far we can take things creatively. Also the not knowing what’s going to come next. Every time you think the work just plateau’s - the phone will ring and it will be something completely new, that we’ve never done before. It’s ever-evolving - and thats what’s exciting.
5. What challenges have you had to face setting up a film production company?
I think we’ve been incredibly fortunate in that we set this company up just before the whole YouTube revolution. Yes there have been challenges along the way but we’ve carefully managed our growth and constantly invested in our equipment. I think you need to get your foundations right first (which is what I learnt in the music industry), and although its tempting to say ‘oh we’ve had some success, let’s now recruit 10 staff’ and then the next month you can’t afford to pay them - I think it’s important to take it slowly so that your foundations are strong.
I think what’s a challenge now, is that there is a lot more people making films, with film-making becoming a lot more cost-effective for people, therefore the marketplace has become a lot more saturated.
6. Where do you see Digifish in 10 years time?
It’s an interesting question, because it’s not only about where I think Digifish will be in 10 years time, but more about how I think we will be consuming media in 10 years time.
Because if you had asked me 10 years ago, I never would have thought of talking about animation and that’s absolutely where it’s at hence our new venture Little Fish Animation. So I see us stronger and bigger than we already are but we’ll be doing something that none of us can even dare to be talking about at this point
7. How has the video industry changed since you first started?
Massively. Everything has got shorter. 10 years ago, we would have got emails that said ‘we would like to make a promotional film for our company, it needs to be 20 minutes long, and we need 500 DVD’s’. Then it went to 10 minutes.. and 50 DVD’s, and now we get enquiries for 10 second long social media films. It’s the digital era isn't it? It’s the technology that’s changed, but also the way weconsume media. Having said that though, film is now common place - which is a really good thing for us. There’s so many film makers because there is so much content that now needs making. It’s an exciting time!