A Reflection on Heritage

It’s been yet another outstanding year for Tilling Creative.

Since our establishment in 1991, we’ve gone steadily from strength to strength, cutting our teeth on televised sport and evolving into an award winning production company.  Over 25 years we’ve worked with major companies and brands producing award-winning projects for our clients such as They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, a heritage film for Castrol that explored record breaking and pioneering achievements. You can watch this landmark film below and after that read our feature on the value of technology, knowledge, and heritage.

The Essence of Storytelling

OUR BEGINNINGS

The idea of having a clear vision with every film has been deeply rooted in Tilling Creative from the start. Before you were able to mastermind the process from a single, sleek desktop computer, when home production demanded a whole room filled with hardware and just one mistake could irrevocably affect the quality of the final product, you quickly learned that an absolute understanding of the story is crucial.

After establishing as a production company in 1991, Tilling tackled this steep learning curve and demonstrated adept ability, securing major contracts in the sports broadcasting arena and working with Channel 4, Sky Sports, and BBC Worldwide, as well as official sports unions like the Professional Golfer’s Association, Rugby Football Union, and British Gymnastics. Director and co-founder Nick Tilling explains that two key things were learned from these early formative experiences.

“Firstly, we were able to familiarize ourselves with the methods of enabling a brand to promote and associate themselves with high performance and advanced technology. Secondly, sport is a classic example of three-act storytelling. You have the setup of the protagonists, the unfolding event, and the climax with celebrations.”

We weren't constrained...we could react to last minute requests and changes.

Ultimately the aim of Tilling is to create ‘moving media’, films that people will enjoy watching and remember for some time to come. Whatever the purpose, the end product has to be something that gets an affirmative response from the viewer. One fundamental principle is the essence of this: Telling a good story, the right story, one that connects with its audience.

Early investments in those early days also exemplified the company’s work ethic. “We grew the business by building in-house production facilities, which gave us more flexibility in how we went about producing our clients work.” Nick says. “We weren’t constrained by having to use expensive facility houses and we could react to last minute requests and changes. If we wanted to work all night to make something better, we could!”

However, what the Director is also keen to point out is how top-of-the-range technology was combined with an essential theoretical understanding of good filmmaking. “It’s quite like baking a cake: anyone can buy the ingredients, but in order to make something that has you reaching for another slice you need a cook who knows exactly how to use those ingredients and what subtle touches will make it taste incredible”.

THE NEXT STEP

When the foundations had been established, moving forward the aim was to nurture professional relationships in order to gain a real depth of understanding of the complex issues behind the brief of a film. It’s an attitude that has led to current client BP describing Tilling as an “extension” of their business.

Many memorable years have been the product of this ethos. Prospective clients are immediately attracted by what’s put on the table from the word go, including first-rate facilities, creative process transparency, and remarkable flexibility. Those with an established relationship turn to Tilling time and again because, quite simply, they know the company can deliver.

The first work made in a sports broadcasting capacity was Pro-Celebrity Golf for Channel 4. In addition to this, SportNation on Sky Sports was a weekly ten part series that showcased sports and events within the UK. Universal praise came in for this work and Tilling became known as a trusted and reliable production partner for sport governing bodies, corporate sponsors and broadcasters.

Tilling became known as a trusted, reliable supplier of sports programming.

When making the transition to internal and external corporate communications, it was crucial to take everything that had been learned from those early projects and apply it moving forward. Capitalising on the investments in production facilities to make the process as adaptable as possible and with the knowledge of those formative years to rely on, those all-important first contracts were secured.

A key step in this direction came when BP Lubricants commissioned Tilling in 2002, asking for a video that would engage and inspire their employees. This was a major success and regarded as highly innovative, helping the relationship between the two companies to grow. After taking on the task of producing content and coverage for key conferences, collaborations with other areas of BP soon followed including Refining & Marketing, Financial Control, and Aromatics & Acetyls. With every single one of these jobs shooting, editing, and delivery was handled in-house, and there was quick access to international filming where necessary.

HERITAGE

Meanwhile, the partnership with Castrol began with filming of their sponsored motorsport teams, which in 1991 lead to them contracting Tilling to produce a brand identity film. In that respect, it almost embodies the progression of this company as a whole, evolving and adapting to shift from the sports market to corporate video. The progression since ultimately culminated in this year’s multi-award winning production They Said It Couldn’t Be Done. Why’s it been such a success? Quite simply, it’s all about one word: heritage.

“Understanding how a brand was conceived, evolved and modernised is to understand its story”, says Creative Director Philip Walsh. “Stories are what we’re all drawn to, whether we’re aware of it or not. Buried within our emotional psyche, a decision is influenced in part by what we know (or think we know) about a brand’s story and underlying personality”. This is the secret, hidden power at the heart of a story.

Understanding how a brand was conceived, evolved, and modernised is to understand its story.

“Heritage is an advocate for a brand with powerful potential and can be very relevant to the modern”, Phil says. “But a heritage story needs to have a thread that’s simple, bold and attractive. While the story may track through time, trends and world events, this thread needs to have been a constant that dictates a sense of purpose and personality. It can be as simple as a word or maxim but must express an identity that gets people emotionally connected.”

For the Castrol heritage film, a single phrase became the thread around which the story was spun. Most importantly, it harnessed the theme of using past knowledge to benefit future experiences. It’s this idea that resonated most with the team at Tilling because in an age when possibly everything can be done on a smartphone, a proven understanding of a film’s heart is vital. A proven ability to draw a viewer in, to make them intrigued to see just what is at the core of the message, is indispensable. That is what leaves the audience with a lasting impression. That is the essence of storytelling.