Blue Monday

Good friends Chris Cove and Rory Barber turned their passion for inventive video and film into a production company that’s going places – just ask John Lewis!

When retail giant John Lewis wanted a film made to celebrate coming to Birmingham, it turned to a highly creative and young local independent production company to deliver the goods. Blue Monday TV, video and film was set up just a couple of years ago my close friends Chris Cove and Rory Barber. The pair’s initial mission statement was pretty loose and laid back – to be their own bosses, to enjoy creating the kind films they are passionate about and believe in… and to have a decent space they could relax in with their friends and have lots of parties! While that doesn’t sound like the greatest business plan for success, the opposite is true as the duo’s undoubted talent and creativity has been spotted by a number of leading clients, including JL. Recommendation and word of mouth is what it’s all about!


“When we were invited to pitch for John Lewis they said they wanted a top-notch video produced ahead of the launch of their new store in Grand Central,” said Rory, 27. “We told them that it had to reflect the city and its community. If you want to place yourself in Birmingham, you have to really engage with the people here.” Rory and Chris had definite and distinct ideas about how that should be achieved on film which impressed the store’s hierarchy, which was just as well as they are adamant that they would rather walk away from a project than compromise their beliefs. They have their own values on the kind of productions they make – it’s about telling the story of community and people. As Rory put it: “Say, just for argument’s sake, John Lewis had offered us the contract to make their glitzy TV ads for Christmas, we wouldn’t do it – even though it would mean turning down a lot of money. It’s not what we are about.” The final video, entitled Forward Birmingham, features an array of people who live and work in Birmingham – medics, musicians, artists, and entrepreneurs – as they go about their daily lives, capturing their passion and pride in the city that they call home.

Chris and Rory are both proud Brumnmies born and bred. They came together through a chance encounter when Chris came for an interview at the company where Rory was working. Both were freelancers – Rory had made lots of documentaries around the world while Chris was a photographer who wanted to become an editor. “I came in off the streets, completely unqualified for the role,” Chris, 25, remembers. “Rory helped show me the ropes of what it was all about.” The pair quickly found they had a lot in common. Both had dropped out of uni for a start – Rob claims that he pretty much had dropped out of school before that! They were also on the same page when it came to a passion for the kind of films they wanted to produce. “All the people we work with have degrees and stuff,” said Chris. “We are the least qualified of everyone, but we think our passion has had real benefits in helping to make us unique and successful. “The normal route into what we do is to come from uni and then try and get a job at the BBC. That’s what most people do. But we wanted to be in complete control of what we are doing and do things we believe in our way.”


The pair started up the business in one of their apartment before moving to a studio ‘the size of a shoebox’ in the Jewellery Quarter. Six months ago they moved to their current home ¬– ‘a massive space’ – in Jubilee Centre, Pershore Street which allows them to shoot and produce their own in-house work, while also letting friends use the space too. “We got our break in business, so it’s nice to be able to help them get theirs too,” said Rory. “It’s also a great place to relax with friends – it’s got its own bar!” Current projects include working with the council on the Big City Plan, the project which aims to revitalise the heart of Birmingham over the next 20 years. Over the next couple of months Blue Monday will be producing the first of a series of docu-videos about the scheme. Chris and Rory have drawn up a 12-month production plan for the city council which features blogs, news, publications and more on BCP. “It will be very much all about the community and people,” said Rory. “It’s a perfect example of what we do and what we love doing.”

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Rory and Chris based the name of their company on the book Goodbye Blue Monday by American author Kurt Vonnegut, one of their favourite writers. The title reflects their ethos that work shouldn’t be a grind. “We truly believe life is what you make it and coming into work on a Monday morning should be exciting and a joy,” said Chris.