Flashworks is the only B-Corp media company in the country, which defines not only how they do business but what kind of business they do.
Screen CanterburyNZ got the chance to sit down with Flashworks founder John-Jo Ritson to discuss it.
What is a B Corp and how did you secure this status as a film company?
John-Jo: B Corps and B Corporations originated in the USA where the normal company model is called an A Corp or an A Corporation. Those companies are legally required to maximize returns to their shareholders. Business in the States thought that maybe there was a better way of doing work, so they put people and environment and social good in front of profits in terms of what they focused on.
What they found was that by having a decent sense of purpose and looking over their staff and the environment, they actually became much more profitable as a by-product. So B Corps are legally obligated to consider the impact of their actions on their staff, their customers, their community, and the environment. It's a legal requirement to consider all of those things.
So that was something that I agreed with and thought was very important. The application process is not the easiest. It’s not a tickbox and done kinda thing. For a service-based company, such as ourselves, essentially we had to develop lots of policies and procedures.
That sounds easy but the good thing was it actually made us really think about how we wanted to run as an organisation. It brought up situations we'd not encountered as yet, but now when we do, we know exactly what the policy is. It was a long process and it wasn't the easiest thing in the world, but I'm really pleased that we did it.
What does this mean for your company? How do you approach filming differently as a result of your B Corp status?
John-Jo: The B Corp status means a hell of a lot for our company because our mission is to positively impact communities through the power of video. And so communities, people, and the environment are at the forefront of what we want to do. Having a B-Corp status raises a flag, draws a line in the sand and says "this is what we stand for.” Anyone who knows what B Corp is, knows it's difficult to get and this immediately signals to the companies we want to work with that we are the film company that they should probably work with as well.
John-Jo Ritson - Flashworks
Having a B-Corp status raises a flag, draws a line in the sand and says "this is what we stand for.” Anyone who knows what B Corp is, knows it's difficult to get and this immediately signals to the companies we want to work with that we are the film company that they should probably work with as well."
In terms of approaching filming differently, I try to find projects that can improve society in some way. And if someone came to us with a project that I didn't believe would improve society, we would pass. We would turn it down. We'd say no. If someone wanted to promote burning fossil fuels, even if they wanted to pay us a lot of money, we just wouldn't do it because it's not what we stand for. We've been paying for native tree plantings since 2016, through local native tree planting initiatives, and try to offset our carbon as much as we can. We looked at getting certified as carbon neutral, but the cost of the certification was much higher than the cost of off-setting the carbon itself. Still on the list though.
Where are you heading as a production company? What's next? What's the ultimate goal?
John-Jo: I've always had the dream of building an organisation of highly skilled, engaged people with a commitment to improving the world around them. This can be through stories, products and services - as long as it’s having a positive impact. I'd certainly like to continue the growth we've had, so taking on more staff, bigger premises etc... as long as it’s stable. Slowly but surely.
We're continually improving our processes all the way from onboarding, pre-production, filming and into the edit. Our goal is to continue improving and to be able to serve larger clients with more complex projects & long form stories. While storytelling is our niche we will be doing more in the ad, TVC, and brand space in the future.
Recently, we've done a 90 minute documentary about mental health and one man's attempt at running 50 marathons over 50 mountains over 50 consecutive days. This ended up being selected for the Banff Mountain Film Festival. It was then further selected for the Banff World Tour and was shown at about 28 sold-out cinemas around New Zealand. That was great because it had a huge impact, and we had letters to say that the film saved some people's lives, which was humbling beyond words, and if we could do more to positively impact local communities, I'd be really happy.
So yeah, the sky's the limit and I'm looking forward to growing.