Evolve Spotlight: Peggy Pictures Founders Ida Bruusgaard and Danni Davis on the untapped potential of putting creators first

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Words and interview by Simon Bland 

The way we digest content has changed. Gone are the gatekeepers that traditionally cherry-picked who and what we saw and with them the people that typically fronted such projects. With video sharing platform TikTok recently overtaking tech-giant Facebook as the world’s most downloaded social app, the power has been placed firmly in the hands of creators – and they’re more than ready to rise to the challenge. It’s a shift that will undoubtedly have knock-on effects within the wider production sector, an industry that’s long been set in its ways – for better and for worse. However as companies strive to adapt and survive, one budding team has embraced this table-turn narrative and are seeking investment to position this at the heart of their business. 

Founded by Ida Bruusgaard and Danni Davis, Peggy Pictures is a production company with joy at its core. According to their website, this female-led organisation is instilled with a “passion to create content that makes the world a more understanding and tolerant place” – and with a strong emphasis on diversity and working with under-represented talent with under-represented stories to tell, they’re doing exactly that. It’s a founding principle that’s even inspired their company name (a nod to Elisabeth Moss’s glass-ceiling-shattering Mad Men heroine Peggy Olson) and as a member of our new 21/22 Creative Enterprise Evolve cohort, it’s something we can expect to see them do more of in the coming years.  

Having our perspective changed from freelancer to company founder building a growing business has been eye opening,”  reveals Bruusgaard, speaking during her time on Enterprise Evolve, a scheme designed to help screen-based story telling emerging businesses become investor-ready. Having met her co-founder Davis whilst studying Broadcasting Studies at the University of Leeds, the pair soon began their careers in TV before noticing some ways the industry could be improved. “We started thinking: ‘How do you build a viable business and make it into a place where great freelancers want to come and work and return – or even amazing directors want to come with their stories – because they want you to make them happen?’” Davis explains. ‘We both not only had a passion for TV and storytelling but also wanted to help grow the next generation talent, off and on screen’  

It was these combined elements that led Bruusgaard and Davis to set up their own company – one which put creators, storytellers and talent in the driver’s seat. “The reason we wanted to start our own business was two-fold,” suggests Bruusgaard. “Firstly, we knew we had really great, complimentary skills and interests that were aligned. We could continue working for other people or we could try and build something ourselves,” she reasons. “Secondly, it’s quite a crazy world out there being freelance. You get to dip into all these different companies and see different cultures and atmospheres. We’ve been left quite inspired working at really lovely places but have also had negative experiences and heard plenty of horror stories about how other freelancers are treated.” 

Using these observations as creative fuel, Peggy Pictures was formed: “We wanted to build our own company culture and vibe that was inclusive and supportive – and particularly supportive of women in the industry, which can be really brutal.” With one of TV’s most fearlessly creative women inspiring their name, Bruusgaard and Davis strived to ensure Olson’s defiant sensibilities could be felt in everything they created. “When we started, we had conversations with senior people in the industry whose opinions and advice we really valued and it was always pointed out how great it was that we were two women setting this up,” recalls Davis. “We were like ‘Really? Is that news?’ But they said: ‘Well, just think about all the companies you’ve worked for and respect. How many of those are run by two women?’ We were happy to emphasise that – and it’s turned out to be a big thing that people respond to.”  

While Peggy Pictures has worked with plenty of male talent on and off screen, Bruusgaard continues to be taken aback by how their female-led mindset connects with clients. “Having that little extra bit of awareness in how we recruit and what stories we tell and why – and having people get in touch to say how it really resonates with them and how they’d love to get involved – that’s really blown me away. I wasn’t expecting that.” The company’s youthful outlook has also struck a chord: “A lot of people who start production companies are more senior than us,” says Davis, “so I think we do have a little bit of the Peggy Olson about us. We’re working our way up, trying to be unafraid and believing in ourselves; all the things we want people working on our shows to do: progress in their careers, be ambitious and dare to do things in an industry that can be quite hierarchical and rigid.”  

So far, the duo’s company has found great success with a range of emerging talent – from BBC iPlayer’s Mimi on a Mission, starring influencer Mimi Missfit, to working with some of TikTok’s most viral break-out stars on BBC Three’s Laugh Lessons. With the help of Creative England’s Creative Enterprise Evolve scheme, Bruusgaard and Davis hope to add to the company’s growing portfolio, shining a light on more underrepresented talent in the process.  

“Our aim with Evolve is to evolve,” chuckles Bruusgaard, detailing the reasons why she and Davis chose to take part in the programme. “It’s no secret that young people don’t watch TV in the way we did or indeed our parents did – and the viewing figures are plummeting with regards to traditional public service broadcasting. Danni and I are incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved in that traditional TV space – but we want to broaden our offering to reflect that mixed media diet that the under 30s audience now has,” she explains. “We’d like to work on our on-screen talents’ output in lots more places than just TV or streaming to help plug the gaps in their social media. Many creators are stuck in a chicken and egg scenario where they don’t have the earnings to justify hiring a production team to ramp up their content and so struggle to grow their following and earnings because they’re doing everything themselves,” says Davis. “There’s a very interesting space there.”  

By working with carefully selected creators on new content for new platforms – and with Evolve’s mentoring help – there’s a good chance we’ll soon see Peggy Pictures’ output in some new and unlikely places. “Our offering will be bespoke and personal but also with a view to develop new IP alongside creators,” continues Bruusgaard. “We could be working with somebody on maximising the gaps in their socials, while at the same time using that material to work on TV and streamer ideas, podcasts, books, live shows – or content for platforms that might not even exist yet. We’d like to be a company that’s great at creating purposeful content for an under-30s audience, one that understands how and where that audience exists and is at the leading edge of where it’s going” she adds. “Change is so rapid now. We want to be at the forefront with the people that we put on screen and make content for.” 

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