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Read the Untold Story of One Company Changing the Definition of Creativity

Company Profiles 1.4k Add to collection

Two of the founders of Untold Studios, Darren O’Kelly and Rochelle Palmer, tell LBB how in just three years they turned a business of six people into 170, became partners with some of the most coveted names in music, opened a studio in LA, and picked up Emmy and BAFTA nominations along the way

Read the Untold Story of One Company Changing the Definition of Creativity

If you’ve come across Untold Studios before, there is one thing that stands out about it - everything. It doesn’t hustle the same zany play on words for ‘disruption’ or ‘outside of the box thinking’ we often see in the creative industries. It doesn’t need to. It has grasped cultural relevance so well its brand wouldn’t feel out of place on the front of a coffee table book in a New York hotel, emblazoned on the chest of Gen-Z models or on the back of a hip hop record. But in parallel, it has effortlessly carved out an outstanding portfolio in the advertising world. It is one of the very rare companies that seem to have no trouble existing in and outside of advertising. And until now, it's quite remarkable story is completely Untold. Today, LBB speaks to Darren O’Kelly and Rochelle Palmer (two of the business's co-founders) to find out, how in just three years, they turned a business of six people into 170, became partners with some of the most coveted names in music, opened a studio in LA, and picked up Emmy and BAFTA nominations along the way...

An untold story with unforgettable work

Founded in 2018, the business is just over three years old and its set up is intriguing. The studio produces work in TV, Music and Advertising. And the reason it has done so with such success, is really down to the mindset of its founders that threads throughout its entire business: creativity and creating a culture of collaboration. 

“With everybody talking about what a new model could look like, we decided not to get too tied up in what all that meant. We knew we wanted to be involved in music, advertising and creating original content so we used a loose and relatively ambiguous descriptor for what the company is: a creative studio and community,” explains CEO Darren O’Kelly: “That allowed us to exercise ourselves creatively in lots of different spaces, and not to be typecast as only doing one thing.”

And in just three years this has seen them work with exceptional talent in every field:

In the music world, the studio has worked with everyone from recent Brit winners Adele, Little Simz, Dave and Sam Fender to Kylie, Placebo and Kojey Radical - and the list goes on. But as well as producing the content, the talent at Untold Studios is often working in creative direction and commissioning too. A notable recent project includes the creative direction and commissioning of Adele’s latest album, ‘30’, by Phil Lee. 

With a fresh and diverse roster of directors, Untold is also working with brands such as Adidas, New Balance, Guinness, MoneySuperMarket, Copper, Beats and Pokerstars, to name a few. And it is the nature of this talent and its universal appeal that has sown the seed for strong brand partnerships and interesting longer format productions. For Beats by Dr. Dre, Untold Studios developed and produced ‘Informal’ - an original series hosted by Dotty which brought together the likes of Wretch 32, Mo Gilligan, MNEK, Eva Apio, and Munroe Bergdorf to discuss the challenges and issues faced by the Black community. The series has had over two million views on YouTube so far.



When it comes to straight up entertainment, the originals team is also behind the recent E4 mini series, “Once Upon a What?!” and have a string of projects in development with the likes of Channel 4, Netflix and HBO.

All of this is then backed by a world-class VFX offering. The Untold Studios VFX team has already been BAFTA and Emmy nominated for its work on The Crown (they were the lead studio on the heartbreakingly realistic episode that covered the Aberfan disaster of 1966).



One notable recent VFX project in advertising includes the widely celebrated Super Bowl hit ‘Push It’ for Frito-Lay.  Other recent projects you may recognise from the studio include PlayStation 'Play Has No Limits', Avanti 'Feel Good Travel', MoneySuperMarket 'Monster', 'Amp' and 'Money Calm Bull', Churchill 'Slide', Deliveroo 'A New World' and 'Garlic Vs. Lemon', Virgin Media 'Skater Girl' and more.

Wanting to know how the studio marries the creative outputs so seamlessly in advertising and entertainment, Rochelle tells us, “Untold Studios was set up with a simple belief: we wanted to create a studio that does the best creative and interesting work with the best creative and interesting people and seeing that actually playing out is really exciting.” 


Untold Studios provided creature VFX for this year's Frito-Lay Super Bowl spot, 'Push It'

Unconventional talent

So what does Untold Studios’ creative studio and collaborative community look like?

Well, there isn’t a single answer - that’s the key to how they’ve been able to produce such incredible work: “There are no creative boundaries at Untold,” says Darren. 

It’s Untold Studios’ collaborative ethos that has seen it create strong connections with talent and creatives alike. Nathan James Tettey, one of the studio’s directors and creative directors, has longstanding relationships with artists such as Dave, Stormzy, and Ghetts. Last year saw Nathan and Untold work with Dave on his ‘Verdansk’ video: “it was an epic collaboration, with a bold and meaningful vision, it was a great one to be a part of” says Rochelle. Untold have worked with the winners of BBC’s Sound Of the Year for the last three years: Celeste, Pa Salieu, and Pink Pantheress, proving them to be a home for some of the most exciting voices in music. 


Untold Studios produced Little Simz' NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

The music partnerships don’t end there - as mentioned earlier Untold Studios’ creative director Phil Lee is a long-time collaborator with Adele. Phil has worked with Adele on all her visual output since her first album and most recently her 2021 release ‘30’: “She’s an icon. Phil has a long-standing relationship with her and we’re really proud to be a part of that,” says Darren. 

A clear thread at Untold Studios is its ability to nurture creative relationships while building new ones. “We talk a lot about the combination of youth and experience: the experienced have got the opportunity to share it with others, but they also have a lot to learn from people who are in their 20s, who are experiencing the world in a different way,” says Rochelle. 

It’s widely reported that there’s an industry-wide problem with talent, from recruiting to maintaining, to supporting creativity. “Right now, it’s more important than ever that we create the conditions for creativity to thrive’. Darren continues: “People want to be able to express themselves creatively in more than one application, and perhaps being unconventional has allowed us to be a safe harbour for this next generation of creative talent.” 



Untold Studios' Phil Lee commissioned Adele's music video 'Oh My God' for her latest album, '30'

Undeniable artistic influence, unprecedented tech


Untold Studios'  London office

Untold Studios is likened to ‘the Warhol Factory scene or Factory Records MCR, an open door to individuals and collectives fuelled by the innate desire to be independently creative.’ And stepping into their Shoreditch-based space it’s easy to see why.

Untold Studios’ London space is as broad as it is welcoming: breath-taking views of the city fall through the two storey windows and bathe the open-plan space with a sense of uninhibited creativity. But they have pulled the Warhol Factory set up bang into the future by making their business 100% cloud-based. Tucked away at the back of the studios is some of the best technology in London. The business launched in 2018 as the first studio in the world to be 100% cloud-based, pioneering a new way of working and giving the business a supercharged rendering and processing capability with cloud workflows for visual effects, animation, and 2D and 3D design. For those less versed in the tech side of this, essentially it means all of their work can be accessed remotely, with a super fast system, and they can increase digital storage capacity without the need for physical equipment and space. 

For Darren and Rochelle, the tech set-up comes back to collaboration. Being 100% cloud-based means the Untold team can be situated anywhere around the world - but as they tell us, the team, the community, their clients, and creative partners are of course welcome in the London studio any time.  

The team chose its expansive Old Street based studio in many ways for the community. “We built our studio space so that it would be open for collaborators to come and hang out in it, whether they were working with us or not,” says Rochelle, who tells us that on an average day there could be anyone from Brian Molko from Placebo coming in, to Dave, to Francis Bourgeois the Trainspotter from TikTok.

“Untold Studios is made up of a network of people who are interconnected, who collaborate lots of the time but not necessarily all of the time, who know one another’s skillsets and experiences and can amplify the work that they’re able to do by meeting other interesting people.” says Darren. 

Untold Studios provided VFX for John Lewis/Waitrose & Partners' 2019 Christmas ad starring Edgar the Excitable Dragon

An uninhibited future

It’s undoubtedly been a busy three years for Untold Studios, but this isn’t a company that rests on its successes: “We don’t set boundaries on the work, and we can’t be prescient about the future either,” says Darren. “We try to be alert and aware of the conversations that are happening, and driven by passions of the people that are inside the Untold community.”

Untold Studios attracts attention worldwide, and with the recent launch of its LA studio, we’re about to see a broadening of its scope, talent, and creative offering. 

And what’s been their favourite project to date? “At the end of day, there's no single piece of work that would ever define what we are, or capture it all. We always think our best work is in front of us. We're constantly looking at what we can do next, how we can make it more interesting, and how we can push ourselves. And the journey is where the fun is. We've had enormous fun in the last three years, and we intend to have a lot of fun over the next three years, without trying to map out exactly what it’ll look like. We’re excited for tomorrow. We’re just getting started.”



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Untold Studios, Mon, 28 Feb 2022 15:44:00 GMT