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Experiment to Empire: The Unconventional Rise of Covert

Originally published on Little Black Book 25/03/2024.

LBB’s Tará McKerr meets Covert - the remote, full service creative studio specialising in VFX, design, animation, colour, and finish, who are changing the work as we know it

For most of the world, remote work only became a reality out of necessity. Businesses fighting for an attempt at survival were coerced into building a living room-based, tracksuit bottom-wearing, Zoom-quizzing, workforce. However, whilst the industry found its feet and got to grips with walking, there was a particular studio that was already sprinting. 

Enter Covert - the full service creative studio that’s set to become a menace for the post production industry. 

Company origin stories are a funny thing – often, they’re long and winding; usually involving some kind of ‘flash’ moment of recognition, of knowing, of all the stars aligning and a symphony of birds singing in the background as two friends ‘cheers’ together and *POW* a successful business is born. 

That wasn’t quite the case here. 

Covert actually began when its founders were freelancing and started a remote working ‘experiment’, before deciding to form a company under that model. This was a time long before there were ever any unanimous whispers of this kind of thing. 

Speaking to Covert’s managing director and executive producer, Max Murphy, about the rise of the company, we’re told, “What’s so funny and weird about the whole thing, is that it just happened.” When they’re speaking candidly, the team admit that it began with a bunch of nerds pursuing passion, who one day looked up and realised they had morphed into a highly regarded, well-established, sought after studio. “It wasn’t this offspring from a larger company that splintered off – it was just us doing our thing,” he says. The more you get to know them, the clearer the happy accident of it all becomes; just some people geeking out on the work they love, then ending up with a payroll and repeat business.

The studio started as a white label service provider. The name came from the fact they’d act as a kind of plug-in support extension of larger companies and studios -– normally under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Their offering was different than the norm, more nimble, but so was the kind of work they were doing. Back in the early days of social media when it was made up of those weird little motion graphics and the likes, Covert took care of it. It had a digital development arm which they flexed to build websites with games – heck, they even built a custom app so professional pianists could play the piano on 17 phones. 

After time spent exercising creative problem solving, the team began finding its niche in VFX  – suddenly, things were beginning to take flight. It was time to strap up the boots and get organised – swap out the militia, and build an army instead. 

The Work Talks

In the mix was ‘JUNGLE’ - the six part Amazon Prime Original which explores the incredible creativity of the UK’s drill, grime and rap scenes. Covert worked in synergy with creative duo, Chas Appeti and Junior Okoli, known as ‘Nothing Lost’, to develop a distinct visual language for the series through VFX and CG (computer graphics) that ensured the ‘JUNGLE universe’ aligned with their vision. This experience represents the studio’s first – but certainly not last – long-form expedition.

You’re wondering how the hell they can deliver these scales of work while being fully remote, aren’t you? But seeing is believing. And I mean… it won a BAFTA.

If recent work is anything you go by, Covert is certainly carving out its own creative signature. When tasked with creating a whimsical utopia for wireless company Boost Infinite (showcasing the iPhone 15 Pro), the team knew it would be a challenge. In a tight four weeks, they utilised their skills in animation and VFX to breathe life into a celestial garden, ‘where flora responds to human presence’. 

LEGO, Ferrari, Samsung, Just Eat, Pepsi, FIFA, Nike and Guinness are also among the legendary brands whose spots Covert has worked magic on. But, something the team is most excited about is amongst its latest releases: a campaign for Alienware, the gaming hardware subsidiary of giant tech company Dell. In this partnership they crafted three exhilarating commercials that pay homage to the diverse realms of gaming. Committing to pushing the limits of visual storytelling resulted in something truly remarkable, that did justice to the superhuman artistry of the gaming world, whilst inviting players to ‘Be More Alien’. The success of the project was about more than the visual outcome, for Dan Andrews, VFX veteran and Covert’s creative director. “The artists loved working on it, especially some of the younger ones who love gaming. They couldn’t quite believe they were working for Alienware while actually making aliens,” he beams. 

Fuck the Rat Race 

The way Covert’s team is built means tearing away the chokehold that London monopolises on creativity. And more simply, the roster “really fucking hated the commute”, so the shop was spurred on by a deep-routed reluctance to commit to the rat race. Its team now spreads from Bucharest to Vienna, Boston to Copenhagen and far, far beyond. I’m told, however, the studio hasn’t sacrificed culture and the good stuff that comes with having colleagues you actually like, though. The entire company also enjoys a spanking two weeks off over Christmas, and a thick, juicy, 38 day holiday allowance on top.


If you’ve had your ear to the ground lately, you’ll know how quickly this gang is growing. It feels like every time I blink, a new hire is being announced. With Alex Menace as head of marketing, Ivan Hryhorjuk as art director, and Margaux Baruch joining this week as senior producer – the team is expanding rapidly. I wanted to know why people who have spent their careers at some of the most esteemed names in the industry were leaving to join Covert.  

For it’s head of production, Anna Williamson, the decision came after 10 years working at The Mill. “It was a complete wildcard. I knew I needed to do it, mainly for my own sanity. After speaking to the team, I felt like I would actually be part of something; something that was growing, and that felt truly exciting,” she tells us.

Since joining, she’s spent the last few months making the role her own, and thriving in the freedom it offers. “Throughout my career, sometimes it has felt like if you wanted to implement change, it was like turning the Titanic,” she explains. “But at Covert, we’re agile enough to move swiftly and adjust, and there's trust there. In the industry that needs to be nimble and address things quickly, this puts us in better stead than some of the larger companies.”

Dan admits the fully-remote-thing took a bit of getting used to – but he wouldn’t change a thing. It helps that they’ve made a bit of a playground out of it. “There’s a software we use called Gather. It’s like a Mario game where you build your own desk, space, and characters. We have our studio there,” he explains. “Although it sounds ridiculous, gamifying the process actually creates that sense of community.” 

While the UK folks are able to meet up for a few sips regularly, they make sure the worldwide team isn’t left out. Every year, Covert hosts a company-wide retreat somewhere in the world (last year’s destination was Seville, Spain). “There are no long PowerPoint presentations to sit through, or team-building exercises to take part in. Just time to relax, enjoy good food, and have a few drinks together,” we’re told. This bullshit-free mentality is a far cry from the corporate cladding and jargon smothered reality of many. 

Now What?

There’s something that speaks louder than the names on the roster - that is, the smiles on their faces. These are people completely in love with the situation they’ve found themselves in, or built for themselves, rather.

See, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of the Covert team over the last while, many of them out in the wild (pubs). They all couldn’t be more different. But they have the important stuff in common: a real sense of decency, a bit of cheek, an obsession with the work, all cemented by a true belief in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Nowadays, it is no longer this small, covert operation, nipping in under the cover of night and disguise of white labels, to whip work into shape. They’re coming out of the shadows, proudly stepping into the light, with their full service offering. This is Covert. It’s set to be a wild ride. 


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