Bristol 24/7 If I Knew Then: Laura Marshall

How did you start Icon?

Harry and I decided that rather work for other production companies we would start our own – so we did, in the basement of our house.  We bought a company off the shelf, changed its name to Icon Films and set about developing projects to pitch to broadcasters.  As a start-up there were a few hurdles so we teamed up with a larger London-based company to work with to give us the infrastructure and gravitas to get the first few projects off the ground.  Having done two major projects with them, we were then confident enough to fly solo and the broadcasters could see our credentials and were prepared to commission Icon Films outright.

If you knew then what you know now, what mistakes might you have avoided?

Early on I think we spent too much time focussing on the projects in hand and not enough on looking up and forward which meant that we got to the end of big projects and didn’t have anything to move onto. 

What advice would you have given yourself when starting out?

I think that everyone starting a company should do the Boring but Important course, which shows you the importance of good record keeping, basic accountancy, payroll and VAT and clear marketing. It takes time sorting out mistakes so better to get it right first and use your time to win new contracts.

Some of the Icon Films team

If you knew then what you know now would you still be sitting there?

Yes, I love my job.  I am proud of what Icon Films has achieved in its 25 years, proud of the content we make and proud of the people I work with. We’ve built Icon Films with a brilliant strategic team, who are ambitious for the future of the company and themselves. 

What do you know now that you didn't know then?

So much. I think one of the things that strikes me is how every stage in your business life has an effect on where you end up, who you meet, who you work with and for, who you fall out with, the connections you make.  We are the sum total of our experiences, the good and the bad, and we need to know and use that in order to create the conditions for success.

What’s the best advice you've received so far?

Tell the truth and be authentic.

What is your business highlight?

The fact that Icon Films is growing year on year and that 2015, our 25th year, looks to be the best yet.

Icon Films has produced on BBC's The One Show

What is your business low point?

One Christmas Eve when we got a call from the States telling us that our show hadn’t made it through to greenlight – the pipeline looked empty and it felt like we would never sell a show again. 

What keeps you awake?

Sometimes it is the thought of all our crews in remote and sometimes dangerous places

What’s changed from when you started out?

The multiplicity of channels and funders for content – when we started it out it was the BBC, ITV and C4 plus the US cablenets, now we have on demand streaming platforms, hundreds of UK cable networks and media companies all hungry for content.  As content makers it’s an interesting place to be.

What’s still on your to-do list?

I want a BAFTA and a Netflix contract, oh and a feature film, our own channel, and a digital department, and to reinvent storytelling in natural history programming and a way of maintaining a to do list that works….. 

What’s next for Icon?

All the above.

First published on on 28th May 2015

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