At the close of 2012, the aftermath of Emmy-winning digital studio Fourth Wall Studios shuttering operations rippled through the industry as dozens of “transmedia” creators found themselves on the hunt for new gigs. Unfortunately, Larry Shapiro, former Executive Vice President of Business Development was also collateral damage of Fourth Wall’s devastating news.
Fourth Wall’s loss has now become Fullscreen’s important gain as they now welcome Shapiro as Head of Talent to manage the network’s talent including Devin Super Tramp, MisterEpicMann, MirandaSings, Scottdw, Michael Buckley, Tyler Ward, among others.
No doubt his seven year run at Hollywood talent agency CAA coupled with his tenure in the online video and new media industries can take Fullscreen’s talent to the next level.
On that note, we asked Larry about the new role, his vision for the position and thoughts on the business overall.
1. Why did you join Fullscreen?
Larry Shapiro: I always enjoyed working at cutting-edge companies breeding next-generation talent, and I believe the next generation of talent in entertainment is coming from the digital world. Fullscreen has the strongest talent pool in the online space right now, with emerging producers, filmmakers, performers, writers and directors in their network. And not only does Fullscreen represent the top YouTube talent, but they’re supporting their talent with the perfect blend of proprietary technology and content solutions.
2. As Head of Talent, what are your day-to-day as well as big picture responsibilities?
My big picture goal is to help our talent to grow powerful, multi-platform businesses. There are so many opportunities to do that with our talent. Take a look at Devin Super Tramp and Scottdw. These are the next-generation directors. MirandaSings is the next Gilda Radner. But what’s unique about our talent is the direct connection they have to their audience. They’ve grown and fostered actively engaged fan bases via online social platforms. That’s a very powerful thing, and entertainment companies are starting to realize the influencer power of these digital creatives.
On a day-to-day basis, my team will literally function in a 360-management capacity. We will be helping our talent develop their YouTube and online strategies and build their business to interact with all other areas of entertainment — music, television, motion picture, etc.
3. In March 2011, Fourth Wall receives a $15 million investment to create original transmedia content, with a promise for a lot more. In September 2012, you win an Emmy for Dirty Work. Two months later, the decision is made to gut the production side of Fourth Wall Studios. In your own words, what happened?
When I was at Fourth Wall Studios, we created great content and we paid a lot of money for it. However there wasn’t a big audience around that content. When you’re looking to create content and draw an audience online, it’s important that there’s an authenticity in the content and connection to the audience. That is when I started crossing paths with Fullscreen’s creators who have already built such deep connections with their passionate audiences. Eventually Fourth Wall changed their business strategy and decided to focus on technology.
4. What’s your take on all the money — some even coming from “old media” — that’s being invested in multi-channel networks on YouTube?
It’s an exciting time. The entertainment industry is gradually recognizing where influencers are being created and how entertainment is being consumed. Money coming in is evidence that this digital space is truly starting to mature.
Of course Hollywood and “old media” are going to invest in new areas from where emerging talent is coming from. The millennial generation is consuming entertainment online, so traditional media companies have to be invested in digital as well in order to stay relevant and continue growing.
5. What’s the biggest obstacle right now to succeeding on YouTube? How necessary is it for content creators as well as MCNs to have an off-YouTube presence?
A major obstacle for top talent on YouTube is to keep the momentum of consistently and frequently delivering content. Content creators who are endemic to the platform usually start off as one-man teams — they write, produce, direct, act as talent, distribute and manage their business all by themselves. As their audiences grow, so does the demand for quality and frequency of content, and suddenly these creators used to working solo start needing to build out teams. I think this is a special opportunity for traditional creatives, especially writers, to get involved in this space.
As a former agent at CAA, it was very important to find new markets for our clients. Diversification — that’s just basic business. You can’t just put all your eggs in one basket. It’s absolutely important for YouTubers to understand different markets, and it’s my job to find those areas that our talent need to explore. This can mean VOD platforms, theatrical releases, ebooks, mobile apps and games and live events. A lot of our talent are already successfully crossing over with absolutely no problem. Take for example MirandaSings who recently sold out 400-seat clubs and often has to add dates to her appearances. The audiences and fans these digital stars are building are real and engaged.
6. Are there any differences to a successful YouTube content strategy and a successful non-YouTube online video programming strategy? In other words, are there specific things about YouTube that come into play when programming content for the site, that might not exist elsewhere?
YouTube is by nature a social platform. As opposed the typical lean-back experience of television, online entertainment is driven by user experience and an actively engaged audience. Succeeding on YouTube not only requires knowing how to create compelling content, but knowing how to provide social interaction and connection with your audience.
The social component of online video is also essential because your audience will be marketers of your content for you. Every viewer who watches your content has the potential to comment on it and share it with their entire social network, or create their own rendition or parody of it.
The Internet has opened infinite options for consumers to choose how they want to be entertained and decreased the audience’s attention span. So in order to stay competitive, you need to truly understand what your online audience wants and how they discover content. And because of the innovative technology on which content distribution platforms are built, deep analytics are available so online content strategy and programming decisions can be extremely data-driven.
7. Which YouTube content creators excite you the most? Which YouTube programmers do you think are killing it?
Devin Super Tramp, Scottdw, 5-Second Films and WhatsUpELLE. These are amazing filmmakers and I believe that they have long careers ahead of them. I’m also loving comedians like MirandaSings, MisterEpicMann, David So, Michelle Glavan…the list goes on.
8. What’s one show (or type of show) that you want to see made for the web that hasn’t been yet? Why? Who would (or could) make this show?
Today’s audience is a bunch of connected tech hipsters. I would love to help build the next “Swingers”. I also grew up on John Hughes films so it would also be great to identify a version of “The Breakfast Club”. I think Shane Dawson’s “Draw My Life” is an outline for what that project could be.