Turning into a Shoreditch alley and climbing the rickety stairs to cult movie magazine Little White Lies you wouldn’t think you were meeting with a blue-chip darling – especially after tripping over the rucksacks and festival wellies in the doorway.
For the past five years, LWL readers have known that it is the coolest film magazine in the UK. It’s not a hard thing to be. LWL is the sole occupant of a roomy niche, being less academic than Sight & Sound, more highbrow than Empire and a hundred times more stylish than either. The magazine themes entire issues around a single film release, drawing on a pool of artists and photographers to illustrate each issue. ’Bespoke DVD packaging lavishes so much love and attention on a single movie, so one day it occurred to me that it was logical to do the same in a film magazine,’ says Miller.
But Miller is worried that LWL’s publisher and creative agency The Church of London is growing ’too fast’. As inevitably happens to all great cult brands, bigger brands are picking up the magazine for some reflected street cool. LWL now runs regular film nights for Grolsch and three weeks ago signed a deal with Volkswagen that will see it feature in the car brand’s ’see film differently’ campaign. These deals and its contract publishing activities for Curzon Cinemas and Coca-Cola’s energy drink Relentless, are propelling The Church of London’s expansion into design and branding.
’It is almost inevitable that we will become the sort of company that slightly annoys me,’ says LWL publisher and founder Danny Miller. ’We are calling ourselves a creative agency because we are getting so much work that we don’t want to turn down, but we really don’t want to be a jack of all trades. We rewrote our website copy so many times, because it was impossible to stop sounding like an arsehole when we were describing what we do. I think that companies should stick to what they are good at.’
Miller is good at conceiving and designing magazines. ’The only thing’ he was ever interested in was magazines. At school, he met LWL editor Matt Bochenski and became seduced by computer games titles Mean Machines and Omega Power for their ’energy and passion’.
At art college Miller was obsessed with The Face – ’the boldest magazine ever’, he says – and in his spare time he gorged on movies. At Northumbria University he studied graphic design, produced the college magazine and created LWL’s ’Issue 0’ for his degree show. Joining back up with Bochenski in 2005, they formulated LWL as it exists today.
But The Church of London’s design arm is also thriving, creating book jackets, record sleeves and posters for the likes of Sony, Canon, Honda and Artificial Eye. ’In the past six weeks we’ve reached a tipping point, realising we can make good money designing stuff,’ says Miller.
The group is also making its own uncommissioned TV programme, Truth & Movies, interviewing prominent independent film figures, which it hopes to sell by 2011. This sounds a trifle reckless, but overall Miller has his head screwed on. He has spent the past year preparing the business for its next stage of evolution, hiring account managers, administration staff and non-executive directors Jeremy Leslie and Duncan Swain, the former editorial and creative director of digital media for BBC Worldwide.
But The Church of London’s ambitions lie in fun as much as in business. LWL just got back from the End of the Road Festival in Dorset, where it runs a cinema tent (which explains the wellies). Since 2005, Miller and his crew have run 25 parties, the last of which celebrated their fifth birthday and attracted 500 people. The parties serve to keep the magazine’s many contributors feeling like part of the family.
’We have a huge network of people around us – writers, photographers and illustrators – who are the lifeblood of LWL,’ explains Miller. With characteristic modesty, he puts the magazine’s success down to its contributors and luck. ’At heart, it all comes down to people wanting to do stuff for us because they love the magazine. We are the quintessential example of “right place, right time”.’