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Founder, James Hazlett-Beard, brings a 360 approach to production. Having started his career as an artist, going on to produce editorial, content & global multi-channel campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands. Honing his craft within; creative agencies, service production, In-brand & post houses. His clients have included; adidas, Bjork, De Beers, H&M, Tom Ford & Vogue France.

Given the continuously changing creative and consumer environments, our clients might find it challenging or confusing to determine the right starting point and approach for tackling the complexities of their projects. This also extends to the selection of tools we utilise for the creative process.

ART ENGINE can be used to power and support our clients to enable them to realise their visions. Using our proactive, reactive & intuitive solutions to optimise workflows, find innovation within our work & produce budget conscious solutions.

With our agency and brand understanding, we can work independently, or as an extension of an existing team, to help our clients – creative agency or brand – take the now, into the next.

James, congratulations on launching ART ENGINE, can you talk us through the company’s ethos and the services it will provide? 

Thanks so much, the launch feels like it’s been a long time coming. 

ART ENGINE is a non-traditional production partner with an intuitive approach to production. We were born from a passion for diverse talent and the innovative tools we use to create. We chose to use the refractive colours in our brand because it represents the diverse talent that fuels our industry and powers creative ideas. As a queer owned business, this was very important for us to have this as a part of our brand DNA. 

We offer full production support from inception to delivery, across stills, motion, CGI & special projects. Our goal as a company is to support creative teams, agencies and brands to achieve their visions, facilitating a safe space for everyone, including members of the queer community to feel safe and supported on or off set. I started the company as I knew I could make a positive change within the industry and bring innovation to processes that needed updating.

One thing that is very important to us is to create opportunities for those who may have been previously overlooked. Breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for those from marginalised groups, even outside the queer community.

Tell us more about you, your background and your experience working within the creative industry.

My career hasn’t always been a linear journey to where I am today: It’s gone through many evolutions, as I’ve gained insights and understandings through the many roles I’ve taken. Where I am now encompasses all of those learnings, affording me a greater understanding of people’s roles, and how they behave on set, which further strengthens the 360 approach we have on projects.

I always knew I wanted to be a creative. I spent most of my childhood on the Isle of Wight, with just my imagination and the countryside to entertain myself. Back then, these places weren’t always the most kind to queer people, and I was constantly singled out inside and outside of school just for being me. I knew I had to leave in order to find myself, my people, and to fulfill my career as a creative. 

I didn’t go to uni. After interviewing for multiple photography courses, they all told me that going out and getting real life experience would be the best route for me. I was shattered. I had no means to pay for living in London; no contacts to start assisting, and no idea where to start. 

I got a job at a department store in Oxford Circus, and began engaging with creatives on social media. After time, model agencies let me test some of their talent and build my portfolio. This caught the eye of queer artist Daniel Lismore, which led me to trek two hours in the snow to shoot them on the banks of Bermondsey. It’s still one of my favorite shoots to date. It reminded me that photography allows me to explore parts of myself I once rejected, then went on to reclaim.

I then went on to produce, and have been fortunate enough to gain experience across all different areas of production: multiple agencies, brands, post houses, and production companies. This experience has given me a broad overview and allowed me to collaborate with so many amazing crews, creatives, and clients from all around the world.  

We‘ve come a long way from when I first started in the industry, but we still have such a long way to go in terms of real inclusivity. I acknowledge my privilege as a CIS white male, and I hope I can continue to help bridge the gap in creating opportunities for queer, and other marginalised, communities. 

What makes queer communities and creatives so exciting to collaborate with?

In my experience, as queer people, we face many different challenges and experiences, both internally and externally, in order to become our authentic selves. 

We bring such a rich perspective to the creative industry, and are so fortunate to be a part of such a vibrant community. Our art can be both an extension of our expression but also a means to tell our story. 

In order to become who we are, we work so hard to unlearn what society tells us to be. As someone who has also been on this journey, I really connect with other queer creatives as we all have a mutual understanding of what it has taken to be who we are today.

We may have different experiences, needs and journeys, but this is exactly what excites me both on a personal and professional level. Not one person is the same and with the infinite possibilities within the gender, sexuality and identity spectrum, we continue to push the boundaries and challenge perspectives inside and outside creative the community.

Who were some of your mentors that inspired you and what type of mentor do you hope to be?

There have been a couple of mentors that have inspired me throughout my journey, one being Fabian Hirose, a management consultant working within luxury fashion with groups such as LVMH, and brands including Valentino. Fabian started me on my personal development journey, inspiring me to look inwards so I could better understand myself, others, and the outside world.

By working through this, I was able to start changing my internal narrative, so my external become aligned with my desired goals and experience. Personal development is a journey that never ends but I am forever very thankful for Fabian giving me the tools to start this journey.

Another huge influence is Claire Ramasamy, Head of Production at the creative agency U DOX. Claire’s kindness and empathy for others showed me that it’s ok to have compassion in the workplace. The industry can be a hard place both physically and mentally. Claire’s actions continue to inspire me every day. 

It can sometimes be hard or overwhelming to even begin to understand where to start on your personal development journey. As a mentor, I hope by listening, having empathy and patience, I can guide mentees onto or as a part of this journey. 

What advice would you give to queer creatives who want to pursue a career within production or the creative industries?

Our industry thrives from the diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives it attracts, including those of the LGBTQIA+ community. Be proud of who you are and see the value that you bring as a queer person. People like you are exactly what inspires me and gets me up in the morning. Being queer is your superpower, so own it.

It can be a challenging time when first starting out in any industry. Like anything, you only win opportunities you put yourself forward for. I know for me when I first started out, it sometimes felt like I was sending endless emails, cold calls, job applications and receiving nothing but radio silence whilst working a job I had no interest in.

But I promise you, if you want it badly enough, keep trying, think outside the box, go around the agencies or creatives a few times over and at some point, someone is going to need the help. 

Just make sure you are ready, remain humble and remember that no one owes you anything. When given the opportunity, give it your all and dont be afraid to get your hands dirty. Even to this day I will be sweeping the floors with the runners. Nobody is above any task.

Do you have an advice for facilitating a inclusive and diverse production

Inclusive productions aren’t just for those in front of the camera, it’s also behind. By adding everyone’s pronouns to the call sheet, learning to say people’s names correctly, understanding individual personalities and needs, can make a huge difference to people’s experience in the workplace. This extends far beyond the queer community and includes the BAME, neurodiverse and those with disabilities.

We are still pushing for more female representation leading our projects even as photographers and directors. Let alone roles on set that have been previously filled traditionally by CIS men. We work a lot with neurodiverse talent here at ART ENGINE. Their superpower allows them to be some of the best within the CGI and digital art space. Everyone’s needs are so different and it’s for us to make sure that we make sure everyone feels supported so they can perform at their best. A group of people that feels safe and empowered, will only deliver the best possible outcome.

There really isn’t an excuse anymore not to be pushing for more diversity within our teams. I can sometimes feel like it isn’t always the easiest task to undertake, however, if we all continue to try to push hard every day, one day, we will have achieved our goal to bridge that gap. 

What are your biggest hopes and plans for ART ENGINE for the year to come?

I think the first step is to just introduce ourselves to the world, showing the industry what we do and our ways of working. So far our clients and teams have come back to say they have all felt heard and supported when partnering with us. This kind of feedback is what really excites us.

We see this as a year of growth, innovation, and positive impact for ART ENGINE as we strive to push boundaries, inspire creativity, and make a meaningful contribution to the creative industry.

We have also founded an extension of ART ENGINE called FUEL. Here we are looking to grow this into a space for creatives in the industry to come together. We are also in the early stages of planning our first event, which we hope to launch later this year to platform up-and-coming queer talent. 

This really is just the beginning for us, and I’m so thankful for the support and opportunities we’ve received so far. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.

To learn more about ART ENGINE, click here.