Specialising in high-end creative and corporate film production, music management and through their partnership with Klee Music, record production, Culture City celebrate their third birthday this month. We spoke to Director, Joe Campbell to find out more about their journey.
Liverpool Noise: February 19, 2021 is a big date for you, as it signifies Culture City’s third birthday! How did it all start?
Joe Campbell: Well, the first ideas of Culture City started way back 2012. I started uni on a Film Media course and discovered that there wasn’t actually a lot of filming/practical projects. Pretty quickly I found out there were a handful of students feeling as frustrated as I was and we wanted to start something that would help us gain some experience. At that point it was called Culture City TV (CCTV). The idea was to film music, fashion and theatre. We wanted to showcase the culture in the city whilst also gaining the skills we needed through learning on the job. It was the perfect fit, reaching two different audiences and we ended up inundated with 500+ emails from bands and artists wanting to work with us. For the first year we worked for free working with people like Miles Kane, Mic Lowry, CAST and The Christians. It was a really exciting time!
We were soon approached by the Anfield Wrap to create content for their online magazine, and then we started working with people like Steve Levine (Grammy award winning producer), LIMF and the smaller corporate clients. Again this was a really exciting time, we finally started to feel like a production company and I had the pleasure of interviewing and working with some of my heroes (Lamont Dozier, Boy George, Noddy Holder, Chris Difford, Robbie Fowler etc).
But February 2018 was the point when we dropped the TV part of the name and formed Culture City as a limited company. The reason being we were more of an agency now and this allowed us opportunity to grow and expand the team. As the company grew so did the clients and the equipment. We outgrew the space and needed a much bigger office. The opportunity came up to take a space on the Mezzanine of a new section of the Royal Liver Building. Six times bigger than our previous space and it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We now had a viewing area for clients, a kit space, a podcast area, a space for us to work and room to grow further.
I don’t think I was an entrepreneur, I’m not sure I am now but I think the first time I thought of the company as a business was taking the first office space. It was an actual business decision.
Culture City 3rd Birthday Film
LN: Describe to those that haven’t heard of Culture City, what exactly is its business mission statement?
JC: Culture City is a content creation house based in the heart of the city. We help scaling businesses who want to build a brand profile and increase customer engagement by finding new ways of creating premium content. In a nutshell we create all forms of content for a range of clients from music videos to big corporate films.
LN: What was your first commissioned project? How did you feel being a young entrepreneur stepping out into the business world?
JC: I think the first ever commission would have been a project from LIMF. Yaw Owusu and Steve Levine approached me to make films for the LIMF academy. In all honesty I look up to both of them massively. Yaw supports talent and gave me a series of opportunities that helped lead to where we are now. I think there’s a lot of people in this city who Yaw has helped in a similar way and I’ll always be thankful for that. Steve Levine is a genius and I just wanted to be around him to learn from him. Weirdly enough the whole journey started when I was talking about Culture City to Dave Monks on Radio Merseyside and Steve was listening. He called me after the show and said he’s setting up a studio in Liverpool and asked if I wanted to work with him. Madness looking back but so exciting!
LN: How are you surviving covid, from both a professional and personal view?
JC: Personally it’s driving me mad, totally crazy and I just want it to be over so I can put on a gig of my favourite bands and see everyone. Hopefully we’re not waiting too much longer for that. As a business, the first few months were the worst. We lost everything, the diary went from full to empty and we had two offices to pay for but bizarrely we got through it and although there have been quiet times we’ve created some phenomenal content. We’ve worked with Nike, Levi’s, created content for Soccer AM and CBRE. Hopefully things are looking up now!
LN: Looking back to when Liverpool enjoyed its year as European Capital of Culture, can you still see the legacy of that year now in 2021?
JC: I was 14 in 2008. I remember the city being really vibrant. I went to two big shows in the arena at the start of it. That was great. I was talking to my mate Jon Turton (who is an unbelievable photographer) about this recently. Liverpool is full of Culture in a similar way to New York. Everyone is doing something. We worked in Toxteth TV recently for a few projects. The whole area has talent running through it, stories, projects. It’s boss. From the diverse music scene to indie films and theatre productions. Liverpool is full of Culture that isn’t forced, it’s authentic.
LN: Best piece of equipment you ever bought for the company?
JC: Sounds stupid this but the biggest investment in any business is the team. We put in some crazy hours, we have difficult days and making sure you can all work together is better than any camera purchase.
LN: Worst piece of kit?
JC: Touch wood we’ve never invested in anything that hasn’t helped grow the company. We’ve just bought an 8K camera for a lot of money. Maybe I’ll look back and think that was stupid purchase during a pandemic but we’ll see.
LN: Best piece of advice for somebody starting off a career in the Arts in Liverpool?
JC: Get out and do it. Start now. Make mistakes. Everyone says working for free is a bad thing. I don’t think it is at all, I did it for 12 months. Went to uni five days a week, worked in a supermarket to earn a living and started Culture City with a £300 camera that I worked really hard for. The first year was more valuable than money. So don’t wait for that big client just get out there and they’ll come when the time is right.
LN: Hopes for 2021?
JC: Grow. Learn. Build extra sections of the business and get the music side of what we do up and running again. I miss that…..
To find out more about Culture City visit https://www.culturecity.co.uk/