Metro Bank: 7 Lessons For Filmmakers

Charles Bensley I had to open a new bank account and yesterday (on a Saturday of all things) was able to go to the local branch of my chosen new brand of bank: Metro Bank.There I was welcomed and ushered into the manager’s office, by the bank manager himself, a very charming American Charles “Charlie” Bensley.

Charlie sat me down, offered me a hot drink, and then launched into a short, passionate history of the Metro Bank. I point out that the reason I had chosen the Metro Bank brand had more to do with their stylish shop fronts than anyhting else.

For Londoners bemused by bright blue hoardings surrounding yet another Metro Bank opening with the slogans “Love Your Bank” splashed over them, watch out. This finance minnow has taken on the staid and conservative British banking system full force.

Wait a minute. Aren’t filmmakers supposed to make passersby sit up and take notice? This morning I awoke and realised that there are many key points that filmmakers can takeaway from the success of Metro Bank.

1. Challenge the establishment

Vernon W. Hill IIMetro Bank co-founder Vernon W. Hill is a gregarious big thinker from New Jersey. He started Commerce Bank as a single site in 1973. Hill’s business model was simple:  he applied his knowledge of fast food outlets (he was a Burger King franchise holder) to banking and he set out to develop a chain of 470 branches of banks modelled on fast food franchise retail site.

When Commerce Bank was sold for £8.5 billion in 2007, Hill turned his eyes to the UK where no high street bank had opened for over 100 years. When he applied he was told there weren’t any “Open A High St Bank forms” – as it had been over 100 years since anyone had asked.

He finally was approved, and Hill brings the concept of fast food to British banking.

Metro Bank’s lesson for filmmakers is simple: Re-invent the distribution model.

2. Re-invent yourself

Walk through New York City as I did a few weeks ago, and you onder how the Commerce Bank affords all those free ball point pens and dog biscuits for pet owners in their branches. Commerce, like Metro Bank is open on weekends, and here’s a great addition to the banking scene – toilets for the customers.

Traditional British banking wisdom explains that British banks can’t offer toilet facilties to customers, “because it’s against government policy.” Ditto for opening on the weekends. Bensley also proudly points out that there is no plexiglass between the tellers and customers.

Metro Bank’s 2nd lesson for filmmakers is simple:
Like banking, The film industry needs to re-invent itself too. Don’t follow the tradional Hollywood paradigm.

3. No stupid rules

No two industries have become more entrenched in siully rules than the banking and film industries. Metro Bank proudly proclaims in each and every branch huge neon signs sayoing “No Silly Rules”

Filmmakers too can often fall into silly rules, often invented by misguided business people to protect their own terrain.

Metro Bank’s 3rd lesson for filmmakers is simple:
Rules are made to be broken. But first you need to understand the rules before you break them. Challenge any existing rule, and do it from a position of knowledge of how they were meant to work.

4. Be organised

Any business, be it banking or filmmaking needs to be grounded and organised. The entire UK launch ewas delayed for several years when founder Vernon was delayed wrapping up the sale of the hugeley successful Commerce Bank to the Canadian outfit TD Bank. The UK launch required a detailed plan, a budget and a marketing strategy – just like your movie does. In the case of Metro Bank they were also able to secure the services of some highly motivated and well trained ex Commerce Bank staff, like Charlie Bensley.

Metro Bank’s 4th lesson for filmmakers:
Filmmakers too rely on expert opinion advice from cinematographers, production designers, editors and actors.

5. Collaborate

Metro Bank didn’t set up here in Britain without an entire string of collaborators. Marketing and design staff created a distinctive and memorable offering. Business experts developed and wrote a viable business plan, and oh yes – Metro Bank needed investors as well.

Metro Bank’s 5th lesson for filmmakers is straight forward:
The film business is a collaborative artform. It’s not what you know it’s whom. Network. Expand your circle of influence, and collaborate.

6. Sassy can work

When Hill and co took on the British banking establishment, they did it sassily, almost with two fat fingers straight up. Sassy can backfire unless you have your entire gameplan worked out. Nothing will make you look more like an idiot if you stumble with a sassy campaign.

Metro Bank’s 6th lesson for filmmakers:
Sassy only works with slick.

7. Take the best of tradition

There is much good to be taken from tradition. Metro Bank has used sound principals. Their business model is based on the fact that customers effectively loan the bank their money when they make a deposit. This new bank’s business model is based on the old banking tradition of good service. Thus they make opening an account as easy as possible.

Metro Bank’s 7th lesson for filmmakers:
Use the very best of the filmmaking and storytelling traditions, but blend and bend them with your own new and fresh ideas.

Fade Out

While it might seem unusual to compare filmmaking to the banking industry, I remind you that the film industry is, like Metro Bank, a business and a service industry. We supply entertainment.

Yours in filmmaking

Elliot Grove









Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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