A couple of weeks ago, I came across Paper Boat Documentaries on Instagram. Founded by Martha & Simon in 2016, they create and produce video content for
businesses, brands, good causes, or simply individuals with a story to tell. Their tagline ”Short films inspired by passionate lives” really captures the essence of their company – I was touched by how genuine and passionate they both are. They quit their job back in 2016 to create their company. They are such good examples that with hard work, ambition and commitment we can live off our passion and by doing so, we inspire people to do the same. I’m so excited to reveal my interview with my Change-Makers of the week Paper Boat Documentaries below!
Hi Martha & Simon, you are the founders of Paper Boat Documentaries. Could you please tell us a bit more about what you do?
We produce and create video content for passionate businesses, brands, creatives, good causes, or individuals with a story to tell. There is a documentary style to our work, hence the name! We love to tell real stories, focusing on people’s passions and what drives them to do what they do.
You shine a light on businesses and people who have a story to tell and who are making a positive change in the world, what sparked your interest in taking that path?
Prior to Paper Boat Documentaries, the two of us worked in London, in television production (Martha) and post-production & advertising (Simon). These career paths taught us a lot – without them, we both agree that we wouldn’t have learnt the skills to be doing what we do now, so we’re really grateful! Nevertheless, eventually, we both felt frustrated by the lack of creativity in our respective roles. As a way of tapping into what we felt was missing, we began making short documentary films about passionate people we knew – juggling these projects on the side of our full-time jobs. Naturally, spending time with people who loved what they were doing rubbed off on us! The more we worked on these independent projects, the more we realised how much happier we were for doing them. Those feelings kept growing, which led us to the realisation that we needed to quit the jobs we were doing and find a way to pursue Paper Boat Documentaries full time.
In 2016, you embarked on an European road trip (Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Belgium) with the goal to make short documentaries about the passionate people you met along the way. How did it go and what lessons have you learned from this experience?
After deciding that we wanted to leave our London careers, we continued working for a few months so that we could save up as much money as possible to cover our road trip, but also to have a little left to come back to. We set off on our trip in Autumn 2016, driving around Europe in an old Volvo for several weeks. To minimise the costs, a close friend of ours custom built us a bed that fit in the back of the car – which we often slept in on the road. Fortunately, we also had some kind people let us crash on their floors or sofas, because sleeping in a car in November can get quite chilly! The trip was so much fun, we met some amazing people who let us into their lives and allowed us to create films about their passions. Looking back, the trip taught us how important it is to live for yourself and by your own standards of happiness. We had taken a pretty big risk by quitting our jobs – at the time, perhaps some people thought what we were doing was a little crazy! However, we strongly felt that the bigger risk was to stay in the life we were living and damage our happiness, sanity and health. A quote we are very fond of is, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ – ultimately, if you don’t try, you’ll never know! We both really wanted to give it a shot and we’re very glad we did. When we returned to the UK after our trip, we decided to turn our passion into a business. We’ve been running it for over two years now and every day we feel grateful that we do what we love for a living. It’s a feeling that has yet to get old!
If you could pick one unforgettable filming experience, which one would it be?
It’s hard to choose as there have been so many, but most likely it would be the experience we had filming with Stuart Macfarlane, the Chief Photographer at Arsenal Football Club. This was a passion project of ours in late 2017. When we met with Stuart, he had been doing the job for 28 years! We were given the opportunity to film pitch-side with him at the Emirates Stadium, on a match day, which was a real pinch-ourselves moment. Something we will never forget during our interview with Stuart was when he referred to his job as ‘the dream’… 28 years in! To us, Stuart’s story demonstrates the good things that can come out of pursuing what you are truly passionate about. We learnt a lot from meeting Stuart and we hope to share the same love for our job in 28 years time as he did for his!
In your opinion, what can we do to lift others up?
From our own experience, we believe that by doing what you love, you can help inspire other people to do what they love. This is exactly what happened to us when we started creating films about people who loved their work, it really motivated us to seek out the same sense of fulfillment and passion in our own lives. Pursuing what makes you happy or what gets you excited can trigger other people to realise that they can do their things – and that ripple effect can go very far!