Ben & Matt at The Progress Film Company

Introduce yourselves…

We are Ben Lankester and Matt Hopkins, directors and founders at The Progress Film Company in Brighton.
What brought you into the film industry?
We first met at the University of Bournemouth in 2003. Both Bournemouth Media School and Bournemouth Arts Institute are renowned places for practical film studies in the UK and many of our current and former staff members have graduated from courses there.
How did you decide to create The Progress Film Company?
Upon graduating from Bournemouth, we both took jobs as freelance shooters and editors and decided to come together to form Progress, pooling our various clients under one roof. We took the name Progress from the original Progress Film Company, which formed in Shoreham-by-Sea a hundred years ago. We continued to service our respective clients, essentially as freelancers, slowly working on bigger jobs where we employed both full time and freelance crew members, and the Progress name gradually begun to spread beyond just ‘Matt and Ben’. The Progress team grew quite organically from there into the 18-strong company we are today.
What does Progress do?
We call ourselves a contemporary film studio because we are exactly that. We make everything from commercials, digital content, branded entertainment, animation and feature-length cinema under one roof, with a two-tiered management structure servicing both agency and direct-to-client needs worldwide. What makes us different is that we are a company created by filmmakers for filmmakers, and we are proud to build the nurturing and development of directors, producers and animators into our company DNA. Our team comprises everyone from recent film school graduates to experienced heads of department, but what brings us all together is the desire to tell stories. Independent filmmaking is at the heart of everything we do, with our films, shorts and series the work we remain most proud of.
Why did you choose Brighton?
We are both from the seaside – Ben from Bognor Regis and Matt from Worthing – so Brighton felt like the natural place to build our home. Over eight and a half years we’ve moved between several offices across town, and a few years ago set up shop at New England House where we are proud to inhabit the largest film and photography studio in Brighton alongside our partners The Brighton Studio. We’ve always been proud to call ourselves a Brighton company, especially when pitching ourselves against the various London film companies of which there are so many.
How do you see the film industry in Brighton and surrounding areas?
Since we started, we’ve always tried to tie the Brighton creative and filmmaking community into our identity as a company, and nothing makes us more happy than building new relationships with Brighton-based clients and agencies. Five years ago we set up The David Thomas Awards, a collection of prizes, events and workshops supporting young filmmakers in Brighton, and we are currently exploring new event ideas to be held at our studio, where Brighton-based filmmakers come in to discuss their process. Our studio has edit and colour suites, meeting rooms and photography spaces, which we hire out to Brighton filmmakers and creatives, and this has been a great way to connect with the wider Brighton community.
What would you like to see more of in the Greater Brighton Film scene?
We’d like to see more communication and a stronger sense of community within the Brighton film scene, which is why we’re looking at creating new events to bring like-minded people together. The creative scene in Brighton is so strong and so identifiable to people outside of Brighton, but we feel that as a city we’re still not tapping into the true potential of collaboration that’s available to us, and this is something we’re looking to address with these new events.