Sponsored content (in association with Flying Start)

A pen is only as mighty as the writer

As the winds of change gust through the industry, Flying Start executive content producer Sam McCauley argues that it pays to hold onto some of the well-established truths that were shaped over the last three decades.

By StopPress Team | March 30, 2017 | Sponsored content

Sam McCauley

There’s a perception at the moment that an iPhone pointed in the right direction can take the place of the production companies and the fees that accompany them. It’s a belief largely driven by the explosion of user-generated content (often shot in amateurish conditions), which viewers chew on, insatiably, every day. In this new—and sometimes grainy—media context, brands have started to consider whether they need to invest in experienced production companies, sometimes opting for the cheapest option available instead. 

Flying Start executive content producer Sam McCauley understands the appeal of looking to cut costs at a time when budgets are spread thinner than ever, but advises marketers against casting aside experience in favour of shiny tech trinkets. 

“Owning a pen doesn’t make you a writer, in the same way that owning the latest HD camera, drone or 360 rig doesn’t make you an expert in film making," he says.

“An expert is someone who knows when to use these technologies and why it adds value to the overall piece.”

This expertise can’t be bought at the end of a long queue outside a department store; it’s built over years and honed in the editing suite. This development of production expertise has been a 27-year process for Flying Start, which started when the company first opened its doors in 1989.

More than ads

Advertising isn’t an industry known for standing still, which in turn has led to Flying Start evolving its remit well beyond the disciplines it was originally founded on. 

“Many of our retail clients moved their work in-house or into advertising agencies, but conversely other clients now want to simplify the layers and work directly with the makers,” McCauley says.

“We have always had agency partners who know our capability, and now we have great client partners who seek the same production efficiencies, but for different reasons.”

In a world driven by moving image a modern production company like Flying Start is asked to produce a very diverse range of video content.

“Most companies have multiple audiences so we might be asked to produce a video of a CEO speaking to shareholders or staff, film a community event, or be working with agency partners to create online branded content, right through to a full-service TV commercial.”

McCauley says the team is comfortable producing work for any distribution channel and always looks for the best possible solution.

A pragmatist, McCauley stresses that the “best solution” isn’t necessarily the most lavish one, but rather the one that best captures the brief and achieves the desired objectives for clients at a price they can afford.

“All businesses have limited marketing budgets and therefore when we are invited onto a project we have to use the funds allotted to video production with the utmost care,” McCauley says.          

Flying Start is adept at stretching budgets further and giving clients more than they originally expected. A recent example of this can be found in the work the production crew recently did for Haier. Asked to produce a series of clips for online use, Flying Start saw an opportunity to go a step further.     

“We saw an opportunity to deliver the project in a way that gave the client the potential for extended use over multiple media platforms, not just what had been briefed, and which maximised the investment made in the shoot.” 

From the bottom to the top

At a time when marketers often find themselves running from one supplier to the next and often onto another to get a job done, Flying Start offers a one-stop shop for your production needs.   

Corporate videos

The team at Flying Start believes brand-building starts within an organisation and therefore helps executives communicate the objectives of their business to key stakeholders through meaningful, well-produced videos

Branded Films

One of the standout examples in the Flying Start portfolio is the work the agency has done with ANZ and Bauer for the ‘Designs for Living’ video series. Shot in the style of a lifestyle show, these clips could easily have been broadcast on any of New Zealand’s mainstream TV channels.    

VFX + Motion Graphics 

Through its partnership with TOYBOX, Flying Start is equal to the challenge of delivering on sophisticated briefs even if they have an animation element.   

TV commercials

Flying Start has been making TVCs for decades,
and the company hasn’t lost its touch. In recent years, Haier, Finish, KiwiRail and Toyota are just some of the organisations Flying Start has worked with in this medium.

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A tailor at your service

To accommodate the flexibility demanded by the varying client briefs, McCauley keeps the Flying Start team lean.

“We like to tailor the particular people on the job to the client, so we shoulder tap directors and camera people specific to a project,” explains McCauley. “We don’t force a client to work with specific directors.”

McCauley argues that this model enables Flying Start to connect clients with specialists best suited to a specific brief, while simultaneously keeping costs down and flexibility high. 

Flying Start has a close partnership with its Freemans Bay neighbour Animation and Design company TOYBOX. This enables Flying Start to offer extended production solutions around animation and visual effects that a client may not have originally considered. 

The more things change 

For all the shifts happening in the industry and regardless of which tech fads are released each year, McCauley says that certain truths will always remain steadfast in the industry.      

“The core principles of craft still hold true,” he says. “Good work is always defined by a clear message and be well executed by experienced and talented people who care about their clients and their business.”

And as the last 27 years have shown, Flying Start certainly has all these bases well covered.

  • Contact: Sam McCauley,, +64 21 652 006
  • This story is part of a content partnership with Flying Start.

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