INTERVIEW: Marie Owen, LS Productions
‘You can achieve great things through collaboration’
Painted sheep. A tame wolf. Rain on a bright sunny day. Fashion folk can be pretty demanding when it comes to getting the perfect shot.
Marie Owen’s company has been asked to find the lot, but nothing – or almost nothing – is too much of a challenge.
That includes dressing 100 sheep in cardboard costumes and hiring a rain machine for models sheltering under umbrellas in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square on a sweltering hot day. Putting a tiger and a deer in the same room was the one that got away.
“We could get them, but I thought the tiger might eat the deer,” she says.
Owen launched Location Scotland to seek out places and source material for fashion shoots. That was almost 10 years ago after the former air steward had given birth to twins and was looking for a new career.
Her photographer husband, then living in Manchester, came up with the idea for what is now LS Productions after seeing the range of possibilities in Scotland, from its landscape and castles to the variety of its architecture.
Now she heads up a business which counts Karl Lagerfeld, Vogue, Boden and Harper’s Bazaar among its clients. It is based in a former steelworks in Constitution Street, Leith and has offices in New York and – as of four weeks ago – London. Turnover this year should hit £2 million.
Owen whispers that she is a nominee for the female business leader of the year in next month’s Scottish Business Awards at the EICC.
“I’m looking forward to that,” she says, smiling. “Well, George [Clooney] will be there.”
Over the years the company has taken film and photographic crews to other parts of the world, including Spain and New York, prompting Owen to rebrand to more accurately reflect its global offering.
“We’re not lessening our commitment to Scotland,” she says, “but we spreading our wings and want clients to know we can be just about anywhere.”
She is working closely with a Chilean company which is sending a team over to Scotland to discuss projects. Los Angeles based NBC has asked to work with LS in Wales.
Scottish locations have included Linlithgow Palace and Easdale where the company filmed a music video for Florence and the Machine (left). It took a film crew to Glencoe for the current Bank of Scotland television advert featuring Game of Thrones actor James Cosmo.
“The location was chosen for the crossroads. What viewers don’t know is that it snowed heavily overnight and covered the road. We had to find someone with a snowplough who would work through the night. Honestly, the things we have to do…”
The opening of an office in London, opposite the Groucho Club in London, should introduce the company to more clients.
“Just in the last four weeks we have had doors opening for us,” says Owen.
LS Productions employs 16 staff, and recently became a Living Wage employer. She is a firm believer in teamwork and collaboration.
“You can get great ideas from all your people. I don’t ever believe that I know everything or that I know best,” she says.
“If you put heads together you can achieve great things together.”
Birthplace: Ipswich, 1975, moved to Scotland aged 3
Education: Beeslack High School, Penicuick
Career Highlights: Air steward, Air UK 1993-2001; launched Location Scotland in 2006
How do you see your role?
Keeping things together. Resolving what we do next and what we should not do.
Would you relocate the business from Scotland?
No. I love New York but we can get to where we want to be and who we need to meet just as easily from here.
What do you do to relax?
I have a caravan in Pease Bay. I love being by the sea and it’s a perfect escape from our busy day-to-day lives for me and the family. We try to spend as many weekends there as we can fit in; it’s so relaxing and we always have a memorable time there.
Are you still a runner? Leisure or competitive?
Yes, although I broke a bone in my foot recently so I’ve been on enforced rest. I mainly run for fun and of course health benefits, however I do some competitive runs to keep me focused.
What’s your business philosophy or motto?
You have to speculate to accumulate.