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'Chucky' and 'Jurassic World' Are Using This Santa Monica-Based Platform to Tap Fans for Art and Ideas
06:00 AM | January 03, 2023
Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.
As a kid, Jeff Blackman loved to see the animated artwork that would air between shows on networks like MTV and Nickelodeon.
Now, as the senior vice president of creative, entertainment cable creative & marketing in NBCUniversal’s Television and Streaming Department, Blackman wants to make his own networks just as visually engaging. And he wants fans to be part of the creative team.
So far, they’ve delivered. Ahead of the second season of “Chucky,” a series that follows the character from the “Child’s Play” franchise, NBCUniversal’s cable channel SYFY tapped the film’s fans to make episodic posters for the show. Eight different artists received $2,000 for their work, which resulted in anime-esque reimaginings of the doll and a Christmas-themed animation.
“We had this idea that, if we're going to turn the brand of SYFY over to the fans, we would want them to create the experience on the TV channel—which, traditionally, only the people that make shows get to make the TV channel,” Blackman says.
To find enthusiastic artists, NBCUniversal turned to Tongal, a Santa Monica-based content creation platform. The way it works is simple. Artists use the platform to showcase their work and market themselves to people looking to hire creatives. Alternatively, companies provide information about specific projects, such as what fanbase they are looking for and digital size requirements. After reviewing artist submissions, the companies greenlight which artists will get funding to complete the project.
For founder and CEO James DeJulio, Tongal was born out of the frustration of seeing talented people be shut out of the entertainment industry, which is notoriously difficult to break into.
“I really wanted to build a system where creative people could begin to unlock their potential and where they would find the opportunity to work with people like [Blackman], who believed in them and who desperately needed to find a way to get closer to creators and their audience,” DeJulio says.
Tongal and NBCUniversal’s partnership has since expanded beyond logo art. For “Jurassic World Dominion,” fans were encouraged to animate dinosaurs in the modern world. The 35 year anniversary of “Back to the Future” was celebrated with people recreating their favorite scenes.
But the process can also get more in-depth. When SYFY wanted to make a documentary about the comic book writer Todd McFarlane, they offered artists on Tongal a budget ranging from $80,000 to $120,000. They also helped those artists coordinate large filming locations. In one case the artists filmed at San Diego Comic-Con and were granted access to McFarlane’s personal archive.
The idea for Blackman is to use Tongal’s network to find creators who have extensive knowledge of the comic book world instead of hiring from a more traditional pool of applicants.
“We need somebody who knows that stuff, maybe has some relationships and prior work in there and then can bring something interesting to the visual storytelling,” Blackman says.
While some companies, like Marvel, have been vocally hesitant to bring fans into their process, claiming that they are too attached to the original plotlines, others have embraced them. Last year, Lucasfilm hired a “Star Wars” fan who had previously made Luke Skywalker deepfakes to work on de-aging and facial visual effects.
For its part, SYFY wants to work with people who are passionate about their intellectual property. According to Blackman, doing so solves two problems: the company doesn’t have to spend time explaining the show to people who are unfamiliar with the universe, and it helps them feature a wide range of skill sets and artistic styles.
“This lets us go really deep with these subsets of fans and audiences and lets them go even deeper on their engagement with the show,” Blackman says.
From DeJulio’s perspective, that level of fan engagement is going to be the key to television marketing. He believes marketing methods that don’t actively engage fans are no longer an effective, long-term marketing model. Instead, bringing in people who want to channel their passion for a show into a creative outlet can become an active part of the marketing process.
“I think, in the future, there's no way for a show or movie to not get really close to the fan base,” DeJulio says. “The idea of that something just gets created in an ivory tower and then launched out into the world—I don't know if that's the long-term marketing model for entertainment.”
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03:49 PM | October 14, 2022
Thanks to a new bill passed on October 5, California drivers now have the choice to chuck their traditional metal license plates and replace them with digital ones.
The plates are referred to as “Rplate” and were developed by Sacramento-based Reviver. A news release on Reviver’s website that accompanied the bill’s passage states that there are “two device options enabling vehicle owners to connect their vehicle with a suite of services including in-app registration renewal, visual personalization, vehicle location services and security features such as easily reporting a vehicle as stolen.”
Reviver Auto Current and Future CapabilitiesFrom Youtube
There are wired (connected to and powered by a vehicle’s electrical system) and battery-powered options, and drivers can choose to pay for their plates monthly or annually. Four-year agreements for battery-powered plates begin at $19.95 a month or $215.40 yearly. Commercial vehicles will pay $275.40 each year for wired plates. A two-year agreement for wired plates costs $24.95 per month. Drivers can choose to install their plates, but on its website, Reviver offers professional installation for $150.
A pilot digital plate program was launched in 2018, and according to the Los Angeles Times, there were 175,000 participants. The new bill ensures all 27 million California drivers can elect to get a digital plate of their own.
California is the third state after Arizona and Michigan to offer digital plates to all drivers, while Texas currently only provides the digital option for commercial vehicles. In July 2022, Deseret News reported that Colorado might also offer the option. They have several advantages over the classic metal plates as well—as the L.A. Times notes, digital plates will streamline registration renewals and reduce time spent at the DMV. They also have light and dark modes, according to Reviver’s website. Thanks to an accompanying app, they act as additional vehicle security, alerting drivers to unexpected vehicle movements and providing a method to report stolen vehicles.
As part of the new digital plate program, Reviver touts its products’ connectivity, stating that in addition to Bluetooth capabilities, digital plates have “national 5G network connectivity and stability.” But don’t worry—the same plates purportedly protect owner privacy with cloud support and encrypted software updates.
5 Reasons to avoid the digital license plate | Ride TechFrom Youtube
After the Rplate pilot program was announced four years ago, some raised questions about just how good an idea digital plates might be. Reviver and others who support switching to digital emphasize personalization, efficient DMV operations and connectivity. However, a 2018 post published by Sophos’s Naked Security blog pointed out that “the plates could be as susceptible to hacking as other wireless and IoT technologies,” noting that everyday “objects – things like kettles, TVs, and baby monitors – are getting connected to the internet with elementary security flaws still in place.”
To that end, a May 2018 syndicated New York Times news service article about digital plates quoted the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which warned that such a device could be a “‘honeypot of data,’ recording the drivers’ trips to the grocery store, or to a protest, or to an abortion clinic.”
For now, Rplates are another option in addition to old-fashioned metal, and many are likely to opt out due to cost alone. If you decide to go the digital route, however, it helps if you know what you could be getting yourself into.
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Steve Huff is an Editor and Reporter at dot.LA. Steve was previously managing editor for The Metaverse Post and before that deputy digital editor for Maxim magazine. He has written for Inside Hook, Observer and New York Mag. Steve is the author of two official tie-ins books for AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad” prequel, “Better Call Saul.” He’s also a classically-trained tenor and has performed with opera companies and orchestras all over the Eastern U.S. He lives in the greater Boston metro area with his wife, educator Dr. Dana Huff.
03:24 PM | May 18, 2020
Kevin Mayer, once widely considered Bob Iger's heir apparent at The Walt Disney company, will become chief executive of TikTok and chief operating officer of ByteDance, TikTok's Beijing-based parent company.
Rebecca Campbell, a 23-year Disney veteran who was most recently president of Disneyland Resort, will replace Mayer as chairman of direct-to-consumer and international, the company reported. Disney also announced that Josh D'Amaro, previously president of Walt Disney World Resort, will become chairman of Disney's parks, experiences and product – the role formerly held by Bob Chapek, who succeeded Iger as Disney chief executive in February.
That selection of Chapek precipitated expectations around Hollywood that Mayer – who had overseen a successful launch of Disney's streaming service, Disney Plus, and had previously helped orchestrate Disney's acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox – would likely look elsewhere for his next move.
More surprising than Mayer's exit is the appointment of Campbell to fill his shoes. The coronavirus crisis has clobbered Disney, but the company's prior decision to invest heavily in tech – epitomized by its acquisition of BAMTech, subsequently spun off into Disney Streaming Services, which powers Disney Plus – has been a relative saving grace. While Campbell oversaw the launch of Disney Plus in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the majority of her experience has been in the legacy business of Disney's ABC television unit. Campbell now helms the most future-oriented piece of the conglomerate, which despite its strong start must contend with fierce competition from tech giants like Netflix, Apple and Amazon. With Cambell and D'Amaro moving up the ranks, Chapek appears to be installing a new regime of executives whom he has worked with before; both will report directly to the new CEO.
Mayer, meanwhile, goes onto one of the hottest media companies around. His experience with M&A should serve him well as COO of ByteDance, and his Disney Plus reign should prove useful for capitalizing on the momentum of the social media app that has reportedly been downloaded over two billion times. Mayer is also inheriting a company, however, that has been under increased scrutiny, including a complaint filed last week to the U.S. FTC that it is openly flouting child privacy protections.
Sam Blake covers media and entertainment for dot.LA. Find him on Twitter @hisamblake and email him at sam.blake@dot.LA
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Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake
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