London Calling

Professional growth happens when we are challenged. The key to success is embracing the thrill of the unknown and unexpected.

The Head of The Being Group’s London office, Ian Knighton, tells how he transformed from a “video guy” into the executive running an international team.

The entertainer

I started making videos when I was 13. I was obsessed with creating these Star Wars-inspired lightsaber videos on YouTube. Looking back at them now they’re cringy little time capsules, but they definitely sparked my interest in storytelling and entertaining. I was the guy at school who made these “cool videos” — which no doubt played a part in keeping me interested.

I have to admit I kind of live for entertaining people. As a kid I was obsessed with magic tricks and yo-yos. I was playing trumpet by the age of nine and took up my real passion, the guitar, in my early teens. I played in the Sydney pop-punk band, Molly and The Krells, for five years. I also really enjoyed drama as a subject and wanted to get involved in theatre and musicals outside of school, but by then I had enough on my plate.

Video was a natural extension of that and another platform to entertain people. (Or perhaps yet another cry for attention, to be honest!) In the end, it was a choice between video and music. I was simply realistic with myself. I saw more opportunities in being on the tools behind the camera and in post-production, rather than fully committing to a musical career. I get just as much enjoyment out of creating videos as I do performing. While I love music, I didn’t want to end up a starving artist.

When I finished my Higher School Certificate, I was accepted into the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), where I did a one-year diploma. I ended up one of the top performers in my cohort, and through that, was recommended to someone who would become my future employer.

In the zone

That job was in automotive, working with cars and mechanics for almost three years. I’m not a rev-head at all, so that was a fake-it-’til-you-make-it situation. I was on the cameras every single day and it was a brilliant learning experience.

My father, David, is a 3D animator. He was definitely a formative influence. It was amazing to have someone in the house I could just shout out to if I ran into a technical problem. YouTube didn’t have all the tutorial videos it does now!

My next gig was at CNET, a multinational online tech publication, then owned by CBS. We were shooting a lot of simple product reviews and I really wanted to up our game, so we were making these super stylistic videos that looked like commercials. It was a very different flavour to what they were doing in the United States and I’m proud of that work. I learned so much there and had some fabulous mentors.

I joined The Being Group as a videographer at the beginning of 2021. Even in the interview process, I got the feeling that it was an ego-free zone, dedicated to making great creative work.

Culturally, it is exactly as it was presented to me, which is extremely rare. Professionally, it’s been amazing. I love getting out of my comfort zone, so I made it clear from the start I wanted to grow as much as possible. I like to push myself to the point of being nervous. When there’s a project that makes you think, “How are we going to pull this off?” and then you do, it’s a fantastic feeling. It’s the same sensation as being up on stage.

A labour of love

My partner Maria is Bulgarian. She completed her PhD in molecular biology, focusing on longevity, but her Australian visa ran out in 2022 and she had to move back to Europe for work. I told our CEO Siebert that as much as I adored my job in the visual media team, I might have to follow love to London.

What happened next was extraordinary. Siebert saw an opportunity in my problem. The Being Group had a presence in London for a few years, but it was time to build on that. So, he asked if I’d like to move to England and become Head of our London office.

I got to stay with BEING, continue building a life with my partner, and found myself pushed as far out of my comfort zone as I’ve ever been.

I’m originally a video guy. I’ve never been the head of anything before, but this is the perfect chance for me to rise to an opportunity. It’s daunting and thrilling at the same time; the old feeling of being challenged that sets me alight.

Keeping it real

It’s only been a few months and we’ve already found a great office, there’s excellent people joining the team, and we’ve got amazing clients coming on board. I can safely say this is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, personally and professionally.

I’m going to make sure I see a lot of gigs, experience everything London has to offer, and try to join a band or find some mates to jam with. I know I need to keep a work-life balance happening as I tackle the biggest job of my career.

There’s a big responsibility to replicate the culture of the Sydney office, 17,000-odd kilometres away. It’s important we keep all the unique traditions and cultural signifiers that help make BEING what it is. That means I’m the one running out and getting cupcakes and gifts for new people when they start. It’s my job to make sure our one team, two time zones ethos is real.

My long-term goal is to make the London office a mirror of Sydney, with the same integrated functionality, standards of excellence, culture and brand awareness. It’s a huge task.

I never imagined in my wildest dreams that this is where a career in video would take me, but I’m thrilled it has.

If Ian wasn’t Head of our London office, he’d be trying his (sleight of) hand as a magician.

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