The films that inspire us

Explanatory Articles | News 11 MIN READ

At SXS we do a lot of creative collaboration sessions. This is where we take an initial idea for a project and make something incredible from it. Often the initial ideas are a brief, an RFP, or we are working from scratch. Sometimes we need to challenge them, look at them differently or even challenge our clients on their approach.

This is one of the best parts of creative production and I love it!

In 2019 I found something interesting happening though.  It seemed that it became more and more about ideas from movies.

Traditionally we would absorb ideas from books, tv shows, art exhibitions, our travels, the events we go to ourselves, our past work and the work of others in our industry.  While we still do all of this, it feels like movies are becoming an increasingly prime source of creative juice.  And it is working!

Rather than over-think this I thought it would be fun to ask the SXS team what films inspire them the most as creatives, producers, technicians, inventors, story-tellers and designers.   Here is the list of films from the SXS team, who each do at least one of these roles!


Back to the future (1985) - loved the believable imaginative scientific excitement. Made you believe that the impossible might be possible and helped develop the geek in me at an early age.  Alex Thompson, Head of Audio Design




Chef (2014) – taught me that things don’t need to be overly complex, flashy, or shocking to evoke emotion. A simple story told well can be just as effective. Also has a great soundtrack!  Jordan Tomkins, Project Director




Baby Driver (2017) – Shows how audio and sound can subconsciously influence an audience and tie in with visual cues whilst not being at the forefront.  Jordan Tomkins, Project Director




Labyrinth (1986) –  a true piece of art! The maze elements blew my mind as a kid (particularly the one at the end when Sarah is running around what looks like a roman palace full of stairs which change on every turn). The story takes you on a journey to basically another realm. The music is catchy, and the tricks, imagination and pure skill required to make this film were just phenomenal – in my mind anyway!  

The use of fusing people and puppetry together would have been a technical nightmare but this (in my mind) was created brilliantly. Every inch of each scene had to be choregraphed in order for it to work which must have taken ages to rehearse. The creativity of this film was just brilliant. It is totally dated now – you can see this because one of the scenes used black velvet (which is what you used before green screen was introduced) which created a purple colour to the film which makes this look very out of date, but for it’s time, it was genius!   Anika Zold, Logistics Manager




Titanic (1997) – Everything about this film captured my imagination. The story, the era, the history, the cinematography, the acting, the music, the love story, everything. This film still makes me cry at the end and gives me “all the feels” along the way. It is pure cinema gold.   Anika Zold, Logistics Manager




Neon Demon (2016) – the lighting style taught me about how the absence of light is part of lighting and how darkness can be a key visual element to a show design.   But go easy on the strobes!  Johnny Palmer, SXS Founder




The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – this is the ultimate in amazing non-CGI set.   In several scenes I feel that the set defines the story more than the acting and dialogue.   This taught me that creating a context and universe at events is central to telling a story or sharing a message.  Johnny Palmer, SXS Founder




Nosferatu (1922) – a chilling story about a vampire. Not going to lie, this film freaked me out. The story was weak, but the visual element was not. This was one of the first films I studied when at school. I learned about chiaroscuro lighting techniques and the lingo used in film such as “protagonists”  and “meet cute”. This taught me to analyse a film when you watch it and depict why it is being told and from what perspective. Anika Zold, Logistics Manager




Apollo 13 (1995) – The characters demonstrate brilliant team leadership and communication in a high-pressured situation. I really admire the team work displayed throughout the film, and try to remember these good leadership techniques when running a job.   Lucy Payne




Jurassic Park (1993) – The first film to really deliver on the blend of digital and traditional special effects. To a degree it still holds up today. You could even draw a parallel to the events industry there! They also created some interesting technologies to allow the  traditional puppet animators to control an armature which then fed into the computer driving the digital animations.   Dan Giddings, Head of Lighting




The Prestige (2006) – This early Nolan film may have one of the greatest twists of all time. Beyond that it also demonstrates creating drama and tension, on the stage and on the screen.   Dan Giddings, Head of Lighting




Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008) – The other side of the events touring industry. It’s funny, almost unbelievable, watch it.   Dan Giddings, Head of Lighting