Home Hackney Downs Studios Discover Hackney Downs Studios

Essay 03: Corporate Affairs

Corporate Affairs - The third of a series of essays by Harry Hitchens, with illustrations by Laina Deene

I have a confession to make. It’s something I’ve been bottling up, information I bring to you with my head hung in shame, for I am not worthy of your readership. My name’s Harry Hitchens, I’m 26 and I make corporate films sometimes… and I secretly love it. As secretively as I can be whilst writing it into a column that anyone with an internet connection can read.
If I hear one more buzzword-filled keynote speech or careers-fair-address about the “tricky balance” between making art and commercial work I might have a minor breakdown. We all know, as rational, creative working people, that you gotta make some buck somehow. The more privileged amongst us, those mentioned in my first essay of this series, don’t have so much of a task on their hands. But us, the working people of the British creative industry, may find it difficult to turn down a piece of online content for Shell Oil… and that’s ok.
Scrolling through Instagram can be a daunting thing. Unless you’re like me and you use your Instagram as a free alternative to therapy, most people post exclusively about the best things that happen to them. It’s rare that someone posts about the job they pitched for and didn’t get. Everyone’s doing so bloody well! Everyone’s succeeding! I call bullshit (very radical opinion that no one has ever had before). They all doth protest too much, me thinks. I mean they definitely are all doing cool things, as far as I know no-one is deep-faking their successes just yet. But it’s important to remember that the not-so-cool bits usually stay offline.
And once more, the not-so-cool bits can actually be really fun and rewarding. I’m fortunate enough to have an amazing corporate client which has commissioned me to make doco-style films with them for over three years now. Without them, I literally wouldn’t be here. And although I don’t think I’m particularly enriching my artistic skills in the work I do with them, they respect who I am and the experience I’ve built up over the years perhaps more than even my most creative of clients. Due to their services being SO far removed from the film work that I make, they try to trust I know what I’m talking about. Which they do for the most part and I feel very lucky for that.

Corporate Affairs

I find it kind of strange how shameful some people find corporate work to be. It’s like your typical Saturday night out. Sure, I’d love to pop along to Corsica and be a cool-kid amongst the lasers but sometimes randomly bumping into your mate from college and heading to a Prysm can result in a corker of a night. Would I post to my Instagram about a night out at Pryzm? No. Could it be the best night of my life? Probably also a no… but it’d be a lot of fun and a whole lot cheaper.
I moved to East London in March 2021 after spending 6 years in West. They say there’s a big divide, they say that West London is full of snobs and East offers something different. And although there are several things I prefer over here, the snobbery is potentially worse. Especially when it comes to creative work. The pressure I feel to perform and make cool work has never been higher, and that might be a good thing. But it’s also a drag.
The work you choose to spend your time making should be impacted by you and you alone. It’s your career! So do what you want and forget whether some moustache-donned hetty cis boy in Birkenstocks approves of it. Everyone has their limits and it’s ok to set boundaries but only as long as you’re setting them yourself because of your own values. Making decisions based on another person’s preference goes against the ethos of making art to begin with.
The more I read back this essay, the more I realise I’m starting to sound like one of those god-awful think-pieces about balancing art with work. This was not my intention. I just feel like the loneliness of our industry can become deafening at times and so I decided to write about it. It can feel like you’re the only one in the world making sacrifices to your creative integrity whilst everyone else is out there killing it without compromise. I can assure you… they’re not. They’re either tapping into Mummy and Daddy’s trust fund or hiding the cash-cow commercial work.
My first feature film was picked up last year. My first big-boy, grown-up film is going to shoot this coming Winter. It’s a huge moment for me and you bet I’ll be posting about it on Instagram until the cows come home. But rest assured, if you ever see a ‘Story’ of me looking all cool on set, it was made possible by the film I directed about tax insurance the month before.

Read Essay 02: "Social Meedz" here.

Hear about studios, news & events