Is it possible to run a creative business with a sibling?

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Sam and I are brothers. We have grown up together, fought together, and now we work together. Often called the Skillington brothers, we run a video and animation company in Sheffield called Whistle Video.

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I founded Whistle Video in 2013 after I returned from a year in New Zealand. It is now a brotherly duo. Promotional and website videos are something we specialise in and we love what we do. I think to work in a creative industry you have to, otherwise it would have a negative effect on your work.

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Working so closely with your sibling has its advantages

We obviously have creative differences, I’m more of a ‘Mark’ and Sam is more of a ‘Jez’, if you know Channel 4’s Peep Show. But, unlike when you are working with colleagues and have to carefully word your ‘disagreements’, with your brother you just tell it as it is. There is no treading on eggs shells; it’s just straight to the point and move on. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t horrible to each other, just direct.

The pre-production stage of every project is one of the favourite parts for us. Bouncing ideas off of each other really gets the ideas flowing.Having grown up together, we pretty much know how each other thinks now. We often find that we come up with very similar ideas and end up verbalising them in unison, like a really dark romantic comedy.

Sam’s the illustrator. He has always been brilliant at drawing and this has never left him. I remember finding reams of paper around the house with doodles of the family. Not always complimentary, in fact never, but always fantastic.

I deal with the animation and camera work. Together it works well. Recently we worked on an animation for ‘The Yorkshire Man of Steel’ Project (a 30m steel figure that will overlook the M1 motorway as you enter Sheffield). I met the client and went through some initial ideas. It took a brief explanation to Sam and he understood me instantly. Within a matter of hours illustrations started appearing and they were pretty much identical to the ones I had in my head.

Obviously we disagree from time to time (no matter what Sam says, tea is definitely better than coffee) but that’s all part of the creative process. Having different perspectives on things makes you think in an alternative way and that only helps when it comes to creating new content. We are never ‘precious’ about our ideas and being dynamic is essential when creating anything. It keeps ideas fresh and new. Essentially and most importantly we both have the common goal of wanting the best for the project and the client.

People often question how we can work with a family member. We can’t imagine not working with each other now, apart from when we disagree!


Joe Skillington

Author: Joe Skillington

Joe Skillington is passionate about video production and animation. He has worked with an extensive amount of clients and likes to share his experiences with anyone who wants to listen.