Creative Director of Wise Owl Films, Mark Robinson

Mark is proud to say that, for much of his career, he has been able to work so close to where he grew up in Leeds; spending 25 years at ITV Studios in both Leeds and Newcastle before founding Wise Owl Films, which is part of Lime Pictures, in 2018. We talked to him to find out more about his business and being located in Leeds City Region.

Could you tell us a bit about Wise Owl Films?

I called it Wise Owl Films because the Wise Owl was our local pub on the Ireland Wood estate in Leeds where I grew up; also, my grandad was part of the workforce that installed the golden owls at Leeds Civic Hall. The owl has become a much-loved symbol of Leeds and I wanted to reflect that – and our Yorkshire credibility - in the company name.

Our productions to date have included The Metro: A Rail Life Story (ITV), Guy Garvey: From The Vaults (Sky Arts), David Jason’s Great British Inventions (More4), When Bob Marley Came To Britain (BBC2), Rock On, Tommy: The Bobby Ball Story (ITV) and the upcoming; Firefighters series for BBC2 and Second Hand for 50 Grand for Channel 4.

How has your location in Leeds City Region informed or aided your business plans and development?

We are proud to be in Leeds, to be in Yorkshire. Many of us were born and bred here and are delighted that we have been able to pursue a career in television based in the city and county in which we grew up. Over three decades I have worked in an office less than a mile away from where I was born. Channel 4 coming to Leeds was an enormous boost – it was a big stamp of approval for Yorkshire and has created a real buzz around the place. It was a real shift of commissioning and production power, not just from London but from across the Pennines too.

How has the LEP helped in the past and how can it support in the future with your business’ objectives and ambitions?

We were delighted to be one of the companies who received a small grant award from the Creative Industries Opportunities Programme Fund [The Creative Catalyst] earlier this year, to help with developing ideas.

How has the business had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and both lockdowns?

As a team, we have barely spent a day in the office together since March. And yet we have probably seen more of each other than we normally would, as we have daily Teams and Zoom calls. Although we have not been able to go to London we have been pitching as much as ever, if not more so. By doing it via Zoom, it has brought the cost of pitching down – meaning we can involve more junior team members in the conversation with channels. It has been great for them to meet commissioning editors from across the broadcasters, and for them to meet more of our team than they usually would.

What kind of business support have you received? Either formally or otherwise.

Other than the LEP grant, we have not received business support, other than talking to our friends at other production companies in Leeds, sharing experiences and information as the pandemic has progressed.