Jake McGowan
What’s Your Story?

What’s Your Story? is a monthly series in which we find and talk to interesting people in our local community, whether they run a business, have an interesting job or do something else that we think is worthy of wider attention.

Jake McGowan is a Creative Director, Content Strategist and Film Director based in Brighton. We spoke to him about his work, processes and what the future holds for him.

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TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF 

I am a Brightonian, born here and lived till I started to get a bit agitated, as you do in your home town. I  took the logical path and moved to South London in the early 2000’s to educate and experience, although it became more experience then education if I am honest. I had smaller stints in NYC, Berlin and Ireland and finally returned home to Brighton with my wife and two boys a few years ago. As far as a profession, I am still working it out, although I mainly consult for various brands and agencies on creative approach and more specifically culture related strategies. I am also a film director represented by Pundersons Gardens

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WHAT WORK ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

I try to adopt an approach to my work that has a basis of purpose, beyond a traditional marketing or sales incentives for clients. I want to produce work that ‘gives’ a little more, wether that is in the form of opportunity,  or to facilitate creative culture in some way, rather than take massive corporate size bites out of it.

I worked as senior creative strategist at youth-led communication agency Livity  based in Brixton a few years ago where the doors are flung open to the local youngsters to come and be involved with commercial and public sector projects, helping brands and charities find their place within youth-culture whilst we offered mentorship and experience in all aspects of the project and production to the young people. I developed Open Shoot for Topman there, a kind of crowd sourced campaign, where the creative process of producing an official music videos for well known UK artists was opened up to aspiring young creatives. The image stimulus was submited publicly by fans, which then guided the direction of the film. We held workshops with the artist and established directors and creative experts. Friendships were formed and continued beyond the project, and ultimately the finished film had input from thousands of people. The project was a heart warming experience, despite the corporate fire fighting that went with it. It survived past my initial inception for another two seasons and I have seen similar projects executed for other brands in reaction to this.

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HOW DOES YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS WORK?

It differs dramatically whilst not changing at all. I like to build creative parameters with enough space within them to be able to throw in some off the cuff on the spot creativity. I co directed with Chris Read a short 8MM film for an industry film competition for Cannes Lions. The competitions parameters were the kind of fun rules I like in order to create. We had one Super 8 Cartridge and a camera to create the film shot by shot, no editing, no post work and the first time you see it matched with your separately recorded audio is on the big screen at the premiere. We won first prize at Cannes Lions, beating industry giants Mother, Droga5, Iris etc and were quite smug about it. This precarious nature of dancing on the edge between success and disaster is the kind of process I like.

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WHAT AGENCIES OR WORK DO YOU ADMIRE AT THE MOMENT AND WHY?

I will always have deep respect for Livity and what they have tried to do, opening up CSR to brands, trying to guide their responsibility initiatives for the right reasons and not solely for ego or PR. I am mostly taken by individuals for their creativity, one of my best mates Dave Lane has continuously impressed me over the years, his magazine The Gourmand that he makes with his partner Marina is a modern classic in terms of an aesthetic. I also like to see how smaller younger more dynamic agencies are shoving, lazy, insane process-driven agencies and brands out the way with fluid design first mentalities, Superimpose Studios being one.

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WHAT’S THE NEXT BIG THING IN ONLINE?

Offline!

Despite digital being my world in a lot of ways, I really feel there has to be a tipping point with peoples attention. We are continuously using that scroll thumb for a split-second engagement with things, it sometimes feels like the wool is being tightly pulled over our eyes. The more bombardment of information and ’content’ the less anything means. Political disasters become hilarious memes. We are all cackling away at nonsense while the world disintegrates around us. Purpose driven creativity, small scale nurturing and an expression of compassion needs to be a focus whatever the platform or context.

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WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

I have recently started Playing Field  with some good pals. I think we were all a little jaded from the traditional agency set up and wanted to create a more streamlined approach which maximises creativity. Effectively it is a consortium and collective of all the amazing creative talent we know creating cultural things that we like together, for enjoyment or pay. Our first project was with Gestalt sound designers for London Design Festival producing a film and sound experience across all four floors of an ancient windmill in Brixton. Some exciting fields of play lined up here.

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