Gunpowder & Sky is a recently established independent studio creating and distributing content at the intersection of traditional and online media. Its goals are to reach millennials through experimentation with new forms of storytelling across multiple genres and platforms.
According to Van Toffler, Founder & CEO:
“G&S is 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.” (Emily Steel, International New York Times, 1/13/16)
Peter Chernin, CEO, The Chernin Group:
“G&S is the next great opportunity in content production: premium video with both up-and-coming and established writers, directors and talent for distribution on emerging platforms.” (Joan Solsman, The Wrap, 1/13/16)
And, Floris Bauer, Co-founder & President:
G&S will develop and distribute “its own original content as well as support other creators with quality storytelling and unique visual aesthetics that appeal to the global connected generation.” (David Lieberman, Deadline Hollywood, 1/13/16)
The new studio is backed to the tune of $500m by Otter Media, Peter Chernin’s joint venture with AT&T. G&S Execs, Van Toffler and Floris Bauer, both have long track records spearheading innovation within traditional media businesses. Toffler spent twenty-eight years at Viacom, ultimately running MTV’s Music and Logo Group there. Bauer was previously the Global Head of Corporate Development and Strategy for Endemol.
By definition, G&S straddles “a divide between traditional TV and film content and the online content found on sites like Google’s YouTube …‘The big media companies maybe are just taking too long… because they’re tied to the traditional business, and the traditional business worked well for a long time,’ [Van Toffler] … The problems, he said, are that those standard formats aren’t attracting young audiences anymore and they’re rife with imperfection. He pointed to the flaws of allocating advertising dollars based on faulty viewership-measuring systems like the Nielsen ratings.” (Joan Solsman, The Wrap, 1/13/16)
Gunpowder & Sky is seeking digital-first talent to create the kinds of new narrative forms and genres it believes will work best with Millennials online. Given the current plethora of emerging digital video platforms, they think it’s finally the right time to do this.
“Eighteen to 24 months ago, if you were going to distribute digital-first content, probably the only place you could monetize it was YouTube,” [Jesse Jacobs, President of the Chernin Group] said. “Now you’ve got YouTube, you’ve got Vimeo, you’ve got Facebook, you’ve got Snapchat,” not to mention … services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon … That has also brought more creative independence. Not long ago, the only way to make digital video profitable was to work with an advertiser, he said. Today, emerging platforms are paying licensing fees for digital content … “The model is finally starting to work.” (Keach Hagey, WSJ, 1/13/16)
The new studio has several projects in the pipeline, including:
… a film called “DC Trip” [based on the book by Sara Benincasa] with producers Bona Fide Productions and Adaptive Studios about misadventures on a high-school trip to the White House, as well as a short-form animated series and several digital movies. The company is developing projects with the U.K.’s Realm Pictures and direct‐to-consumer studio Supergravity Pictures. “For me, its about working with the people behind the camera,” Toffler said. “I’m going to be out looking for those freaks of nature.” (Joan Solsman, The Wrap, 1/13/16)
With other recent announcements, such as the launch of RevelMode by PewDiePie (with his 40 plus million YouTube subscribers) and Disney’s Maker Studios, one thing’s for sure. Gunpowder & Sky will not be alone.