HOW TO GET EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL, DROP OUT OF UNIVERSITY, START YOUR OWN PRODUCTION COMPANY, THEN WIN AT CANNES, D&AD AND LOVVIE WITH YOUR FIRST EVER COMMERCIAL, with Alex Harman, CEO of Kode Media.
What’s your life story in three, 1-sentence bullet points.
-Went to school, hated it, got expelled
-Went to college, met some friends and started studying media
-Dropped out of uni after 8 months and started Kode with my best friends
Tell me about the first hour of your day, what does it usually look like?
Im an avid reader of the news so I spend the first moments of my day reading as much as i can from a few different platforms. Then onto emails!
Tell me what do you for a living, without using your job title?
I work for an incredibly talented bunch of directors/ producers/ editors.
I make sure the company is always growing and we have the best talent working here.
What did you do at work yesterday?
I actually spent my whole day building a new business plan and targeting for 2018.
Tell me your career story in three 1-stence bullet points.
- Lots of music videos
- Lots of corporate videos
- Lots of commercials, in that order.
Why do you do what you do? What need (other than paying bills etc.) does your job fulfil?
I personally do my job because I love it.
When i was at college (with 2 of my business partners) we sat there and dreamed of having a production company.
So, everyday, we go to work and work towards achieving that goal and sustaining it. No better feeling!
Tell me about a day in your career that you’ll never forget and why.
Winning our first major music video with a £20k budget.
I remember being told when we started that we have to wait a few years until we are trusted.
To then win that video within our first proper year was fun and gave us real belief.
What was your first real experience with what you do now for living? When you thought — I’d like to do something like that?
Remember this moment well, it was 2008 and we made a music video on a mini DV camera and it was the best week ever.
After then it was all about doing this for a career and learning from our mistakes.
Tell me the the journey from that moment to landing your first, paying job.
It wasn’t long after that we had a ‘paid’ gig, if you can call the £100 expenses as paying…
We made music videos for all the local bands in our area of Weymouth for 3 years.
So, that’s where we learned our real trade.
Made lots of mistakes and also made some great little films for what we had.
One summer we even built our own dolly and track!
Where did the drive or the confidence come from to do that? Who or what made you feel like you could do it? Or that you had nothing to lose by trying?
Our confidence was probably just naivety.
But it made us work hard, for sure.
We came from a small town full of very small-town-minded people who never want to see you succeed.
So that always made us want it more. Well, me, anyway.
We also saw so many amazing small companies pushing forward and making work we dreamed of. I guess that was a huge drive.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven 18-year old trying to get your job?
Just keep trying and don’t take no for an answer.
The more you try the better the results get. Especially when building a new company.
Be kind, funny and intelligent. But don’t annoy people.
#1 is just being a good person. Always.
What if they can’t afford higher education? What might a rough plan look like?
People in production always need help.
So if you carry yourself well and come across like you can help, that’s you in.
The big step is proving just how good you are once in the door. That’s down to you!
We have an internship programme at Kode.
In the last 2 years we have had the pleasure of working with so many amazing people.
Tell me about your first year of trying to get, or getting a job. What did you do right, wrong? What did you learn?
Probably thought we were better than we were and took things to heart too much. The first 12 months were a huge learning curve.
Describe the plan, dream or desire in your head at that time?
To pay our rent, that was the first task!
What’s your measure of if someone is going to be a good person to work with?
If they love film and want to be working with you. Everything is based on your manner. You can tell if someone gives a shit or not…
What three character traits do you think people who are good at what you do, have in common?
-they hate losing
Tell me about a mistake or an obstacle that you wish someone had warned you about?
People within the industry who are bullshitters. Keep your trusted circle close. I have come across a good few of these..
What is bad advice you hear being given about your job or your industry? What advice should people ignore?
That you need to buy all the equipment before you can make films. You can make a movie on your iPhone now!
Just get out and make stuff.
Tell me about a time in your career that you’ve struggled? Or felt lost?
Many times. But always because of my own demons. If we aren’t going at 1000mph the whole time I get itchy feet.
Some weeks can be slow for many reasons. I hate those.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?
Being expelled from school aged 15 woke me up massively to the real world.
I always reference that in my head for why I want to succeed so much now.
At school I was one of those misunderstood kids that hated Maths & science.
But loved art and building things.
Hopefully, our understanding of education can continue to improve the lives of kids going through the same problems now.
What irrational fears do you have about your job or your work?
Constantly waiting for replies to pitches! Up and down industry for sure.
What haven’t you achieved yet, that you’d like to?
Winning more awards but that will come….
If there had to be an enemy of your job, what would it be? What bugs you?
Seeing jobs that you pitch on come out looking terrible.
How do you stay disciplined in your work?
The drive to succeed keeps us all in tact.
What’s your personal approach for making proactive projects happen and choosing what to focus on?
We as a senior leadership team at Kode decide together on what direction & projects we should be taking on.
Balancing jobs for the reel and jobs for the meals!
What is your most treasured professional memory?
Winning at Cannes, D&AD & Lovvie with our first commercial ever.
Is there someone who has massively helped you, but perhaps has no idea?
We had a lecturer at Weymouth college called Justin Legg. He really did everything he could to help us succeed. We owe that man a lot.
What was the last thing you saw, heard or experienced that make you think or say “jesus… that’s clever”?
Nike LDNR campaign.
Tell me 3 things on your bucket list.
-Buy a very expensive sports car
If you could enter a time machine that guaranteed return and also made you invincible in the time period you’re visiting, where would you go?
If you could wake up tomorrow with one superpower, what would it be?
What’s your one paragraph idea for saving the world?
War is pointless. Stop killing and start spending military budgets on balancing the way people are treated and FREE healthcare for everyone.
Alex Harman is CEO of Kode Media.