The X Gene’s Simon Green on disrupting the film industry

Kelly Inglis

Simon Green is out to change the Australian film industry, one digital short at a time. After attending film school and realizing his love for big-time movie greats, he knew there was room for disruption in the land down under. Since then, he has worked hard to build his own video agency, in the hopes of gaining the skills and connections necessary to make his dream of creating an epic blockbuster a reality.

We had the opportunity to chat with Simon to find out just how poppin’ the film biz is and how his company, The X Gene, fits into the bigger picture.

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– What’s the inspiration behind The X Gene? How did the company get its start? The X Gene is a video agency, named after the mutation that turns you into a Marvel superhero and a member of The X-Men. We at X Gene have a common goal: we want commercially successful, broad audience films, TV and digital content made in Australia to build a stronger, outward facing industry.

We love Aliens, Shaun of the Dead, Indiana Jones and Bridesmaids; those are the films we wanted to make. Of course you can’t just start, and we were never arrogant enough to immediately make features. Instead, we’ve spent our years making TV commercials, web videos, online series and short films. We’ve built up connections in the private sector, networks of international sales and distribution and, most importantly, gotten good at making content.

What started in a cardboard hut inside Shed 4 at Docklands is now in a big giant studio in Yarraville and as we expand, we’re launching the creative goals we set for ourselves seven years ago.

– Sounds like an exciting journey so far! Where do you see the company in five years from now? It’s not sexy, but financial sustainability is crucial to our vision. For a lot of businesses that might be obvious, but in our creative world, it could be said that passion is the fuel and money the occasional result. We’d like very much for passion and money to get equal billing.

Our company has two arms, Digital and Creative. Digital is stuff like commercials, intro videos, training, events, interactive and web video, or what’s commonly called “corporate.” Creative is film, TV, and narrative web. Neither is more important, and both rely on the other.

A combination of Creative and Digital is what we’ve been building towards. So in five years we’ll have a team working full time on the digital work, taking over a few more offices here in Kindred Studios, while at the same time we’ll be developing and selling audience and market tested TV and film internationally – finding opportunities for our Digital clients to be a part of the glamour of the industry.

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– Big things to come! Tell us a bit about your client base. Do you have a variety of clients or are they typically specific to a certain industry? We prefer rebels, disruptors and early adopters. That tends to mean one or two organizations that stand out within their industry or location.

Those people, they are who we want to know and meet. Their conversations are fascinating, they get energized by the research we’ve been doing in new techniques, and vice versa. Australia has some incredible minds, they just need to be part of brave, bold organizations.

– Did you learn anything about branding, or your vision for the company, while running your logo contest? I discovered the most about branding and my company by defining what I did not want to be. In aiming to be different, I examined what was current and on trend, and what portrayed cheap looking production companies as cheap. I then thought about what we were and what we stood for, away from all of that. I’m sure some elements of trend played a part, but what was most important was that the result was obviously The X Gene. It’s great when people look at your design and say, “That’s so you,” regardless of what’s happening everywhere else.

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Logo design by sansujana; check out the contest here.

– Video is becoming an increasingly popular digital medium, and it seems that companies are really starting to utilize it in their marketing efforts. Have you seen a shift in interest to the services you offer customers? Oh yes. We started business during the depths of the GFC, and actually found ourselves doing well! My wife, who is an excellent digital marketing nerd, said, “Tell clients now is the time they should be doing the most marketing. With so little money in people’s pockets, companies need to be the most attractive, useful, best option!”

She was right. More clients are aware of the power of video, but a great deal of them have no idea how to use it. I always show new clients the incredible range of what can be done with this aural, visual, timed medium. We’re turning video into non-linear experiences by using HTML5 and lots of little clips to create choose-your-own-adventure style videos, all encased within the player. The X Gene is about innovation and we’re finding exciting new ways to make videos not just look good, but actually function as powerful conversion tools.

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– What’s your advice for others looking to start a business? Know yourself. Everything you do will come back to who you are and just how well you know yourself. The answer to every standard business question comes back to the founder and why he or she set it up.

If you aren’t sure about yourself, you’ll make choices that don’t sit well with you, and eventually it will all crumble. The business has to match what you want from life, then you can put everything of yourself into it to make sure it reaches those goals.

The author

Kelly Inglis
Kelly Inglis

Kelly works for the marketing team at 99designs. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Kelly lives in San Francisco where she can often be found eating cheetos, playing ping pong or frequenting one of the Bay Area's many parks and cafes with a good book.

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