Van Toffler, former head of MTV’s Music & Logo Group and co-founder of Gunpowder & Sky, describes the company formed just over a year ago with Floris Bauer as the defiant love child of YouTube, Netflix and other digital content networks, fueled by the subversive and creative spirit of misfits working out of their garages … “There is a content renaissance going on … I wanted to go back to making stuff and finding new, young, innovative and edgy creators.” (Emily Steel, nytimes.com, January 2016).
So, what is Gunpowder & Sky exactly?
In brief, it’s …
– an independent digital production studio
– and distributor (formerly FilmBuff)
– named after lyrics from Aimee Mann’s “4th of July”
– working with emerging and established talent
– to create cutting edge video entertainment
– across all genes
– in short to medium to feature-length & innovative forms
– across multiple platforms
– for connected global millennial consumers
– founded in 2016 by Van Toffler (MTV) and Floris Bauer (Endemol)
– with financing from Otter Media (AT&T + Chernin Group)
– leveraging the production and marketing capability of recently acquired
According to Van Toffler …
“It felt like there was a moment to create more premium content that lives on all platforms,” Toffler said … “You can tell a great story in seven minutes. Music videos were three-four minutes. They told great stories … Think about the attention span of young people” … Toffler intends for Gunpowder & Sky to produce content along the lines of five minute talk shows, three minute animated histories of music … and two minute micro-movies for mobile. “That’s the way this stuff is being consumed,” he said … “In our effort to be a genuine 21st-century studio we’re not tethered to a certain platform or format. We’re going to try to … sell stuff that may be 10 minutes long or movies that are produced for digital first that cost a million and a half.” (Ed Martin, mediavillage.com, July 2016).
According to Floris Bauer …
Underlying Gunpowder & Sky is a bedrock belief: that a digital player can maneuver into spaces traditional players have left vacant. And, maybe even more important, that it can do so with greater efficiency, targeting people in a way conglomerate marketing departments only dream of … “You can spend a lot of money not knowing who you’re reaching with a show. Or you can spend 20 bucks and know exactly whether the people in Silver Lake that go to ice cream shops liked it,” said Bauer [G&S President and former global head of strategy for Endemol] … there is personalized information the company uses to fine-tune its targeting — responses given in surveys, preferences expressed on social-media — and that they’re getting better at it all the time. “The cost for subscribers is just going to keep going down,” he said. (Steven Zeitchik, latimes.com, March 2017).
According to the Chernin Group …
“Over the last few years, you’ve seen this great explosion of all this talent in front of the screen — in particular on YouTube and the digital space. All of them are looking for a place to produce and create their work.” [Jesse Jacobs, president of the Chernin Group] … Chernin and AT&T are part of a broader arms race in online video … from the newcomers of Vice and BuzzFeed to the stalwarts of Disney and Comcast. The market is less than a decade old but already the subjects of billions of dollars in investments from companies that are desperate to appeal to young people that just aren’t watching TV … “Gunpowder & Sky is a bold move for us into what we think is the next great opportunity in content production … Between Van’s incredible track record producing content with emerging innovative talent for young audiences on new platforms and Floris’ strategy and deal-making experience across the global content landscape, this is the perfect team to build the next great independent studio.” (Saba Hamedy, mashable.com, January 20160)
Gunpowder & Sky is on an acquisition and investment spree … [in addition to FilmBuff and Supergravity Pictures, the company has made] investments in Cut, Shareability, and Realm Pictures [three viral video producers]. Other projects on tap at the studio include the launch of a multi-platform sci-fi brand called DUST, a new comedic brand in partnership with Caviar called WEATHERFROM, and the development of three films: EAT, BRAINS, LOVE; DC TRIP; and PAPERCHASE. (Geoff Weiss, tubefilter.com, January 2017).
In line with it’s stated mission of distributing cutting edge video content across all platforms, including the most traditional, Gunpowder & Sky has begun its venture into theatrical distribution with LITTLE HOURS, which was acquired at Sundance 2017. “I wasn’t sure it would be possible, but we managed to find the most outrageous and irreverent film at Sundance, which happens to be written and directed by an amazing talent in Jeff, with killer performances by some of the most hilarious established and up-and-coming film actors,” Toffler said … “I was blown away by the Gunpowder & Sky team’s infectious passion and unique vision for how to unleash this film,” said [director] Baena. “It’s refreshing to find a distribution partner on the same wavelength and exciting to explore a legitimate theatrical model. I am truly honored to have our film represent Gunpowder & Sky on their maiden voyage.” (Natalie Jarvey & Ashley Lee, hollywoodreporter.com, January 2017)
Definitely looking forward to seeing what comes next!