Inner cogs of Culture Machine: A Q&A with Yasmin Suteja

You know those groups of people you see that have an effortless cool. One that you can’t put a finger on, but it’s there. And it’s real. Well that’s Culture Machine.

A Bali/Sydney-based group of young creatives, Culture Machine are a close group of friends who work together to create everything from funny memes to short films and brand campaigns. While they found fame through Instagram, it was through a recent gig with Factorie that saw them land on Husskie’s radar.

And this is one group that’s going places. Tapping into the creative energy that is currently buzzing across the globe – we decided to chat to Culture Machine creative director Yasmin Suteja to find out more about the inner workings of the group.

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What exactly is Culture Machine?
Culture Machine is a boutique creative services and talent agency. With roots in fashion photography and photoshoot production, we now work across art direction, branding and marketing.

Who is in the agency and what are each of their backgrounds?
I run the agency and have a background in photography and art direction. I did a BA in Communication (Media Arts and Production) at UTS. My partner @kaleneville is a cinematographer / editor and shoots 35mm photography. Luka @luka.r_films is one of the model / actors I represent. He is also a filmmaker himself and works closely with us in the conceptual stage of each project, as well as post-production video editing. Kath and Avalon are the faces the agency. I scouted and developed both girls and manage / represent them. Kai @urmumsyadad is my brother – he is a comedy writer and makes viral video memes.

Why did you all decide to form the group?
It all sort of just ‘fell together’. I met Kale while I was living in Bali. He was on holiday and extended his trip and ended up living there with me for 2 years and working with me as a filmmaker. We decided to do a trip to the U.S to shoot fashion content, and this is how Luka got involved. Luka is one of Kale’s best mates from home (Noosa) – I had always loved his work so naturally I was super excited to have him on board. I scouted Kath on Instagram and signed her straight away! I scouted Avalon buying a breakfast roll at Glebe Markets – shot her first ever fashion shoot and booked her first ever modeling job! Kai is my brother. He is a mining engineering graduate who started mucking around with Instagram when we all moved into a house in Bondi together in January of this year and discovered a passion for writing and content creation.

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How did you get started?
It’s a long story … but basically I started as a photographer, and was fortunate enough to meet and work with a team of incredibly inspiring people. We moved to Sydney this year and became identified as a group of content creators and social media influencers. And it all sort of escalated from there.

Are you all really friends?
We’re basically family haha.

What sort of work do you create?
Everything from funny videos to cinematic fashion films to nationwide window campaigns. Every brief is unique and every project is a unique opportunity for us to work right from the conceptual stage through pre production, filming and post-production.

How do you come up with campaign ideas?
I start by doing a lot of research into the brand – its aesthetic and audience. I then start drawing on films and basically everything I can dig through to come up with ideas that inform the brief delivered by the client. I then call on the team to start scripting and / or storyboarding and pre-production planning.

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You have a very quirky twist to most of your campaigns. Do you think that’s what sets you apart?
I think it’s definitely working for us at the moment. When I first started Culture Machine, clients were very safe. Instagram feeds have been oversaturated with this kind of safe and regurgitated content, making it harder to engage an audience. These days people just want to be entertained. And that’s what we hope to provide, along with high production value and a refined visual aesthetic. We’re stoked that companies are jumping on board and commissioning original content.

We absolutely love the recent Factorie campaign you did. What was the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! Factorie provided us with some key words ‘Laugh’ and ‘Play’ and asked us to make two 60 second videos with Luka and Avalon. We started brainstorming and wanted to make two different videos that showed off our different skills and aesthetics. We made one narrative based skit based on ‘missed moments’ that we hoped would make people ‘laugh’. And then made a cinematic fashion film that followed Luka and Avalon walking through the Jacaranda-lined streets of Paddington – almost as a dream sequence forecasting what would have happened if Luka had not missed those moments trying to talk to a pretty girl at the bus stop!

How long did it take to shoot?
It took us a day to shoot. We spent about a week in pre-production – choosing and styling outfits from Factorie as well as scripting and storyboarding the videos.

You have a strong following on social media. How did this gain traction?
Instagram is a great platform to get your work out there. The new algorithm favours ‘popular’ accounts, so now it’s less about prime time and best filters, and more about creating the most engaging content.

What has been your career highlight?
There have been so many highlights. But right now is pretty epic – I’m sitting here in Hawaii working for Billabong with the boys. It’s pretty surreal.

Have there been any tough times?
Absolutely. Anything great comes with its highs and lows. And I think that most creatives struggle with self doubt – we put a lot of pressure on ourselves but it’s part of what keeps us going.

Where do you hope to see Culture Machine in five years’ time?
I hope to see us continuing to create innovative and engaging content, pushing the boundaries and, of course, travelling!

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Main image: @YasminSuteja

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