Features: If I Knew Then: Christine Owen
Plimsoll Productions creates and produces non-scripted television shows from its offices in the UK and USA. The award winning creative team has produced some of the biggest factual hits of recent years – such as Life at the Extreme with Davina McCall, Rescue Dog to Super Dog, The Story of Cats and the Secret Life of the Family with Hugh Dennis – winning Emmy, BAFTA and RTS awards. The company has grown rapidly since its launch in September 2013, with more than 150 hours in production. It has control of its own distribution, with a significant stake in Magnify Media.
Plimsoll is now listed as the 16th largest indie in the UK and recently won the Chamber of Commerce National High Growth Business of the Year Award (2016).
Managing director Christine Owen oversees all the commercial, contractual and financial aspects of the business. Having been in the TV industry for her entire career, Christine has worked both at the BBC and at various independent production companies originally as head of production and latterly as managing director for other Bristol independents prior to founding Plimsoll Productions with Grant Mansfield.
How did you start Plimsoll?
Grant Mansfield (CEO) and I had worked together previously. Grant was working as CEO at Zodiak USA and I was running another small independent here in Bristol. He asked me if I’d like to set up a new independent production company with him. We were both really excited about starting an indie in Bristol and the rest, as they say, is history.
If you knew then what you know now, what mistakes might you have avoided?
Early on I think we may have spent too much time developing certain projects. It’s always good to realise when it’s time to move on from something. At the same time, sometimes you just need to go for things without worrying too much about the decision – if it feels right at the time, it usually is.
What advice would you have given yourself when starting out?
Think big from the get go and plan for that. You need the right people and systems in place to cope with growth. Make sure that all you’re set up to cope with 150 people from day one, even if there’s only 5 of you.
If you knew then what you know now would you still be sitting there?
Yes, absolutely. This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. I’m really proud of what Plimsoll has achieved in three years. We’ve grown tenfold and have created a sustainable business for the region. We plan on being here for many years to come.
What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
A lot. As the business has grown, I hope and think I’ve grown into my role too. Being brave and developing relationships with clients is key – whether that’s on the creative or business front, that’s what really matters.
What’s the best advice you’ve received so far?
Be straight with people in your business dealings and look after your staff – you’re nothing without them.
What is your business highlight?
There are a few. Growing so rapidly; creating a sustainable business for the region; opening our office in Los Angeles and winning the national Chamber of Commerce High Growth Business Award. Not bad for three years.
What is your business low point?
Not getting all our shows commissioned. It’s always disappointing when you really believe in something.
What keeps you awake?
Hoping the staff are happy and knowing that our crews are safe when out on the road.
What’s changed from when you started out?
The TV market is always changing – expansion of content platforms; changes in commissioning at broadcasters. Interesting times.
What’s still on your to do list?
Breaking into the Netflix and Amazons of this world. Oh, and not worrying about what’s on my daily to do list.
What’s next for Plimsoll?
Further growth both here and in the USA. Making shows we love to make and continuing to create a sustainable business that has longevity.