Indigenous Media is an award-winning next generation studio, creating transcendent content for every screen, from native digital content to film and television. As Chief Operating Officer of Indigenous Media, Jake Avnet (pictured) manages the day-to- day operations of the company and oversees original content development for digital and emerging platforms as well as marketing, partnerships and distribution strategy.
Avnet and the company have produced such groundbreaking programming as “Five Points,” an upcoming original scripted drama series for Facebook Watch; “60 Second Docs,” a top social publisher of exclusively original content on Facebook; “Sickhouse,” the first scripted feature film released in real-time on Snapchat; and WIGS, one of the first YouTube-funded channels, featuring female-centric scripted series.
Jake has always been an early adopter in the digital content space, producing 100s of hours of viral web content, music videos, linear and digital series as well as films that have generated hundreds of millions of impressions for companies such as Warner Brothers, FOX and the Sundance Film Festival. He has also produced television pilots for TNT, Warner Horizon Television, FOX and 20th Century Fox Television.
In this week’s ‘5 Questions With…,’ Avnet discusses creating programming for Facebook Watch, the success behind “60 Second Docs, ” and the key takeaways from working on “Sickhouse.”
VideoInk: Indigenous recently announced a drama series on Facebook’s Watch. When creating content for the new platform (especially drama, which isn’t common for FB Watch) what steps do you take that might be different from creating content on other platforms?
Jake Avnet: When producing for a new platform, just making something good is not good enough — it needs to be produced in a thoughtful manner in regards to how audiences will engage and ultimately consume the content. We always start with a deep dive to truly understand how to use the unique language of the platform to our advantage. With Five Points, starting from the writing stage, we’ve been very deliberate in how we approach the storytelling, the format, the look, feel and direction. Ultimately, we hope the series will be seen as a powerful drama with some unique elements that can really resonate in a new environment.
What is the driving success behind 60 Second Docs and what has led Indigenous to the conclusion that the format is more effective than traditional advertising?
We’ve found that telling a compelling, surprising, and short narrative is the perfect format for connecting with audiences on social media, particularly Facebook. Relatability is a major drive for our success. It is not just the heartwarming or inspiring videos that do well – telling the unusual and untold stories of individuals and groups in a humanizing way also leads to engagement and shares.
From an advertising perspective, we are offering brands the opportunity to speak authentically to our audience, in our voice, across all of the platforms where they’re spending all of their time. It’s not that all traditional advertising is bad or ineffective, but we believe that we’re particularly well positioned to help young audiences understand why your brand is relevant to them. Part of that responsibility means us turning down opportunities that we don’t believe our audience will connect with.
What are some of the challenges in creating an engaging story in 60 seconds and how do you go about deciding on the subject for the short-form doc?
We have a talented team that spends their time combing the globe for interesting stories worth sharing. We always start with what is exciting to us, and then we dive into the data. Now that we’ve produced close to 200 episodes we have a pretty good sense of what works, and why. That said, we have no interest in doing the same thing repeatedly, so we are constantly looking for new trends, unusual characters, and new format opportunities.
Throughout all this, the challenge will always be holding ourselves to our own high standards. We strive to make every episode of 60 Second Docs our best and most engaging ever. We are always looking to improve on our own content.
Indigenous was the production company behind Sickhouse, a film that was released via Snapchat in 10-sec increments. What were the key takeaways learned from working on a Snapchat-first film. What were the obstacles that were most challenging to overcome?
“Sickhouse” was an insane project. We produced, marketed and distributed the film in real-time over five days. There was no blueprint for a project like this, because it had never been done before, so we really had to put our heads together and make up the strategy as we went along. There were a ton of naysayers that said a project like this could never work for myriad reasons, and we were thrilled to prove them wrong.
I believe that one of the most important takeaways we got from the project is that good stories can work at any length. Whether 10 seconds, 60 seconds or two hours – if you have a compelling idea, then the rest will fall into place.
What do you see as the biggest challenge Indigenous will face in the upcoming year and how is the company preparing for it?
We have always worked in a very competitive, ever-changing landscape, so challenge is something we deal with on a daily basis. Critical to our success is staying true to our roots as storytellers while constantly evolving to address the demands of our audience, whether that be new distribution platforms or new generations who engage with content differently than those past.