As digital and traditional Hollywood businesses collide, a unique breed of production companies have emerged — the digitally savvy, but Hollywood-grounded kind. Lifeboat Productions, founded by TV vets Amy Kim and Jaime Burke is one of these hybrid companies. They’ve produced shows and feature length projects for Crackle, Netflix, Fullscreen, Black Box TV, and Geek&Sundry, among others. Companies like Lifeboat are sought for their ability to produce high quality projects that translate to digital viewing environments or can travel between both digital and TV. We caught up with the founders to get a sense on the landscape for production, given the area that was once black and white between linear and digital has now become 50 shades of grey.
VIDEOINK: There’s a belief that producing for digital is vastly different than for linear or theatrical. Would you agree or disagree?
Amy Kim: We would wholeheartedly disagree. Digital has evolved over the past 10 years so much that the definition of “digital” has become more of a distribution outlet instead of genre or niche of entertainment. More than ever before, producing content has been homogenized throughout the formats. Networks and cable companies are looking to spend less money while traditional funding is flowing into formerly lower budget “internet content”. We find ourselves cross-boarding traditional series like a feature, and delivering features with act breaks in order to broaden the market potential overseas. Also, whether you have $300 or $3,000,000 the process is still the same. No matter the budget of a project, it never feels like enough money. You just have to be able to have the passion, drive and vision to make it work on the scale for which it is intended, and to bring the right mix of talent and personality of crew that makes sense for the content and distributor.
VI: It seems there’s almost no difference if you look at the titles that are being licensed and funded by Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc? Is there still a home for “digital” series? Where if so?
Jaime Burke: These days there are endless possibilities on how and where you may distribute your content. Yes there are the Netflix, Amazon and Hulus of the world who for all intent and purposes are the same as distributing on a traditional platform, but depending on your talent, genre and budget, there are a host of new SVOD’s, MCN’s, and financing partners who are looking to break into the digital space that are willing to take risks with emerging talent and edgier content.
Platforms such as Youtube Red, Fullscreen, Verizon Go90, Vimeo are all making original content and are very much in the digital series arena. YouTube is still a place where up-and- comers can curate their own content and post segments or series.
VI: Vessel has recently had trouble getting windowing to happen. Another Hollywood production friend has said that windows no longer matter to her. Do you think the day of the “window” is dying?
Burke: Honestly, it depends on how you look at it. In general it depends on the type of content, but we’d say windows are actually evolving as opposed to dying. For example, traditional networks will still window content exclusively on linear via their cable affiliates and potentially day/date via their O&O digital properties (e.g. online, over-the- top apps, etc.). They will likely keep in-season content to a select number of destinations/partners rather than allowing that content to go everywhere (e.g. older seasons on Netflix). Even Netflix is windowing older seasons of its content elsewhere. So windows still exist, they’re just changing.
VI: What excites you about the digital space right now? Anything that freaks you out?
Kim: We recently read that there will be over 500 narrative series airing this fall. That statistic is staggering, but also thrilling. There are more opportunities to produce content than ever before. The most daunting thing now is getting your content to break through all of the noise, but the potential is incredibly exciting.
VI: Are there any particular trends you’re keeping your eye on in the space that impact your biz?
Kim: Having been the producers on Quantum Break we are always interested in marrying content with emerging technology. We love the idea of working on more interactive projects that intertwine entertainment mediums. We also are interested in watching the latest hardware (VR/AR interfaces, OTT devices, gaming systems), become more integrated into our lives, and then making stories that enhance the user’s experience. That being said, our focus will always be grounded in storytelling. For us it’s not about chasing a trend, it’s about being an integral part of the emerging future.