In the Spotlight - Factory

With Lou Allen, Group Managing Director, Factory

27 January 2023

Lou has been group MD for the Factory family since June 2021, where her focus is on nurturing talent and drawing new talents into the Factory family constellation that encompasses sound designers, composers, technicians and producers. She has worked as an audio producer in post-production for more than 20 years, while Factory itself recently marked 25 years since it opened its doors, growing from start-up to a multi-award-winning sound design and audio facility that has been an integral part of some of the most applauded and awarded commercial work of recent times. With six Pro Tools HD studios, another eight remote studios, and the UK's first Dolby Atmos licensed suite for commercials and trailers, Factory designs the sound worlds we all immerse ourselves in, for not only commercials but TV and film, as well as the immersive and experiential.

Lou Allen, Group Managing Director, Factory

So, Lou, how has the past year been for you?

It’s been interesting, challenging and extremely rewarding. Alongside making a whole bunch of brilliant ads, we worked on two feature films, a Netflix special and an amazing trip into immersive audio with The Science Museum.

And of course, I’m immensely proud of Mark Hills [a new joiner back in 2017] for winning a British Arrows Gold Award for Sound Design with his brilliant BT We Are Hope United spot.

I have such a lovely memory of the team sharing that moment with Mark, it brings a tear to my eye.

What’s the big takeaway you’d carry over to 2023?

Face-to-face communication. And I mean that in every respect, from your team to the people you collaborate with, to buying something in a shop. Nothing beats that real-life human connection when discussing projects or problems or just a chit chat with strangers.

What’s the best idea you had in 2022 and how did it work out?

For me, going into 2022 was all about our team.

I wanted to focus on the strengths of our hugely talented team and ensure that we continue to create the best work in a happy, healthy and supportive environment. I’d say it’s working out pretty well – the calibre of projects we’ve been involved in this year speaks for itself.

Every single person at Factory cares massively about what they do and, most importantly, they care for each other. That makes me very proud

What were the change-making developments in Craft and Tech?

As we expand beyond Film and TV and look towards more interactive mediums, the development and relationship between Craft and Tech is more important than ever.

We took a huge step forward in 2022 at hiring and upskilling our staff to ensure we stay ahead of the curve and can offer our clients the most comprehensive audio service.

Whether it’s applying our sound expertise to an immersive museum exhibition or getting to grips within Unity to help develop a cutting-edge mobile AR app, the variety and creative possibility within this new type of work is incredibly exciting for us.

How has ideation and creativity evolved and responded to the real-world challenges of a very challenging 2022?

I think in the earlier part of 2022 we were all still recovering from the pandemic, so just being able to go out and spend money was very appealing. However, once the energy prices kicked in in the latter part of the year, reality hit us all and I think that shows in this year’s Christmas ads, which were all very scaled back and in good taste, in the face of real-life financial worries. There certainly wasn’t any of the ‘all singing, all dancing’ Christmas ads of the past.

Will remote and hybrid ways of working continue to be the industry norm, and how may that impact the work, how it’s done and who’s doing it?

It certainly will for us and I do hope it does for everyone in the industry. I feel like this can only be a good thing, right?

For us, having the flexibility of home systems for our sound designers means budgets and schedules can work more efficiently for our clients.

It’s all about balance isn’t it? As I mentioned before, nothing beats IRL collaboration, being in a room together, bouncing around ideas – that’s where the magic happens.

It just all comes down to good old communication, discussing your clients’ needs and the clients trusting in us to deliver.

What would you choose as the year’s best campaigns or pieces of work, and why?

I just LOVE all the recent work by Megaforce for Burberry. It’s so magical, I can watch them again and again and see something different every time. Beautiful.

Which Christmas campaign in 2022 won you over?

John Lewis The Beginner, because of the story and beautifully executed. Heartwarming.

What was the biggest surprise of 2022?

That Love Island is still a thing...I’ve never watched it, I’ve only had to endure a 10-second trailer for it but I’m horrified that our youngsters are growing up thinking that’s what love is. Frightening.

What trends do you see emerging as we focus on the coming year?

We’ve just worked on a fantastic sonic re-brand for Channel 4 with SIREN and I feel brands are now beginning to recognise the power of sound and how it can help enhance their brand across many touch points.

What do the British Arrows mean to you, what’s their role in the industry and what’s the impetus behind becoming a sponsor?

I’m lucky enough to have been working in this industry for about 25 years and I always remember the British Arrows event being the one to watch. That’s where you’d see all the best work. However, it’s much more than that. It not only celebrates the work but celebrates the craft behind the work while spotlighting the amazingly talented people involved.

From a company that loves to nurture its talent it’s also wonderful to see the launch of the Young Arrows last year.

What do you think will win commercial of the year?!

This is a very difficult question as I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen every single ad from 2022 so I’ll go back to my favourite Burberry Open Spaces.

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