Do The Right(s) Thing – By Cheryl Clarke

 

The TV distribution market is a complex beast and a valuable one at that – worth £20bn annually, notably it lacks automation. And that’s been for good reason, the human factor of doing commercial business in a creative world is a prized asset and the people with most expertise in deal making and spotting a hit are not from an era of warp speed technological change – and prefer it that way. On a more cynical note, keeping it personal preserves the ability for people to make their cut out of the lack of transparency. But here we are, and if we don’t keep up with the advances technology brings, it will sprint right past us. So in a time of information overload and overkill, the need for transparency — along with communication, humanity and honesty — across all sectors and businesses has never been greater.

 

The globalisation of the content industry has been taking place at an alarming rate. In a mere 15 years, we’ve moved from a nice comfy linear world and a nice easy model — ‘get show, sell show, report, repeat’ — to a multi-layered, digital, cross-territory universe of ludicrous complexity. Managing contracts these days entails juggling up to 50 sets of interlinking rights. What people want in a world that’s difficult to understand is simplicity.

 

Currently it works like this; buyer and seller make contact, sometimes on the phone and sometimes in person using many wo(man) hours and resources to make that contact. They talk about a deal, go back to the office and try to articulate what they think was discussed or agreed in contract form. The seller manually checks availability of rights that a buyer wants (this can take some time, even with the rights management systems many distributors now have in house). The seller arranges access to screeners of the show and buyer and seller negotiate terms and final contracts are drawn up. There are two big problems in this scenario; deals take a long time, the back and forth and complexity of paperwork means that a single deal might take 6-12 months to complete and many deals never happen due to the simple logistics of physically setting your stall out and managing it.

 

Since the process is so labour intensive, sellers have to optimise their sales teams to concentrate on the highest value parts of the catalogue being sold to the richest buyers. The long tail of content often remains unsold regardless of whether there is demand. If you are a buyer from a smaller channel or a VOD platform, good luck getting attention of the major distributors – even if you’ve got a decent budget. The distributors are frequently too busy dealing with the paperwork from their big clients to respond to your email.

 

Automated licensing systems solve both problems and are a perfect use case for the blockchain. Deals can be done in minutes and entire catalogues can be easily bought and sold where previously they wouldn’t have seen the light of day. This simplicity in the face of complexity might just increase the possibility for creative commercial people to exercise more of the creative whilst the commerce takes care of itself.  With LiveTree ADEPT, the platform takes this idea and moves it square in the middle of an entire system of funding, licensing and distribution, through Blossom TV and to a whole new era of simplicity. With a new tool for creators, big and small to test the market, access investment and license and choose options for distribution, a decentralised freedom for creative endeavour is very much in our grasps.

 

For those who’ve bought Seed and wonder how it will make money, this licensing model is key. Seed holders now have an opportunity to own a share in the licensing process around film and television and value is created from other people loving what you love. Seed has been created in a fixed quantity, so any unsold tokens will be removed from circulation in what is called a ‘buy back and depletion’ model. Stuff only has value if it’s scarce, like gold, so your Seed will become a larger part of a smaller pie. But how? It’s all about the fees which are paid in Seed – when something is created, funded or distributed, Seed is paid, increasing demand.  The crucial understanding here though is that it makes no difference whether a project is deemed successful or not, the very transactions around any activity on the platform generate demand for Seed ensuring its value remains intact. This is about bringing together all interested parties on one platform, to provide efficiencies and win wins for the industry, fans and the creators. It all ties back to our values of transparency, fostering mutual benefit and getting great content on to screen.

 

This is a global platform that breaks down the walls that separate us – with a world that now understands it is interconnected, we need storytelling that reflects the needs we have now, plant this Seed and see it grow.

 

 

Visit LiveTree ADEPT for more information

A LiveTree For All Reasons – by Cheryl Clarke

A LiveTree for all reasons
A LiveTree for all reasons

A LiveTree For All Reasons – by Cheryl Clarke

If you’ve heard of LiveTree ADEPT, you’re probably now interested in the compelling mission and values of a business that is about to build a platform which places the power of creative entertainment into the hands of those who create, invest and watch it, rather than the corporates, but what next?

If you’re an investor with a wallet of crypto-currency and blockchain investments, look away, you know what you’re doing and the market is a fascinating and dynamic place, enjoy!

But LiveTree is different, it has clear mass market appeal beyond the crypto-players and this is what differentiates it from the vast majority of blockchain propositions and here’s how:

LiveTree, the reward based crowd funding site is an established revenue generating business that has seen 20% growth month on month. Over the last six months alone, it has crowdfunded some 120 film, TV and content projects. It has also built a network of 14,000 entertainment companies and their employees. That’s great, but there was always a bigger plan in the LiveTree house and finally the time has come to build it.

So why get involved now? For start offs there’s a very attractive discount scheme designed to make the offer feel good to even to the smallest stake of interest.  Whether it’s your great uncle who always keeps a couple of grand to one side ‘for interesting things’, or if you’re an up and coming film director, a TV and film mega fan, an established TV production company or a seasoned film investor, LiveTree ADEPT is for everyone.

Even for the casual observer, the platform will quickly become a fascinating space to immerse yourself in the wonder of our potential creativity, when the arbiters of taste, judgement and culture don’t have exponential company growth to think of.

To the uninitiated, setting up a digital wallet might also seem a little daunting but it’s as simple, if not more so, than opening a bank account, just follow the videos here: https://adept.livetree.com/

Most crucially, the cultural implications are broader and deeper than a speculative flutter. If you believe that the films we make and the stories we tell can change our hearts and minds, then this is for you. As a fan, you can get closer to the creators, have a say in the direction a project goes in, you could even own a piece of it.

As a creator, up and coming or established, the platform is the place to go with all of those ideas and developed projects that you know aren’t going to get commissioned or financed through the traditional routes and gatekeepers. These tend to be the best, ground breaking or frankly diverse stuff which a now risk averse, money obsessed environment can’t take a punt on, obsessed as the system has forced us to be on revenues. These ideas can have a willing audience to pay for it if there was a mechanism to share the story, through word of mouth and decent marketing. That mechanism is LiveTree ADEPT. Or maybe as a producer you don’t want to give up the value of what you create to a massive internet company that doesn’t pay its taxes and in this digital wild-west, is answerable to no one, not even its own algorithms.

As a sales or distribution outfit, you have a new pipeline of content to do deals with if you choose and as a viewer, you have a pre pay per view channel where what you watch is what you and your community have helped to make. If you were to imagine a version of Netflix where your voice is heard on what gets made and you have the chance to share in its success in every way, and so does everyone else in the network, then for me, that’s just a buzz.

When we can see that the power for change is in enough of us coming together to enable this new future. The digital token being offered at the root of LiveTree ADEPT (Advanced, Decentralized Entertainment Platform for Transparent distribution) – is a stake in a new world of entertainment where everyone’s welcome.

 

CREATIVITY UNCHAINED by Cheryl Clarke

CREATIVITY UNCHAINED by Cheryl Clarke

The thing about creativity is that it isn’t a product. You can’t capture and bottle it like an artisan gin or an indigestion remedy. Creativity comes from people’s hearts and minds. It’s about confidence and self-belief, and it’s fragile and elusive and easily scared away.

How strange, then, that a large part of the global entertainment industry — with the noble exception of high-end TV drama — is committed to commoditising creativity. The reason, of course, is money: media corporations run on profit and predictability. Creativity doesn’t. It’s random and erratic and prepared to starve in an attic. From the corporates’ point of view, much easier to reign in those pesky creatives and replace their dangerous, disruptive ideas with nice, safe content that looks much like everybody’s else’s. It may not win you awards or inspire your audience or add to the watercooler conversation, but it won’t frighten the horses — or more to the point, the bean counters who now run the show.

So yes, it makes sense on paper. But it’s still a really bad way to go about creating content that people actually want to watch.

Admittedly, the entertainment industry is up against it at the moment. It’s battling on several fronts, including broadcaster risk-aversion, digital disruption, the crash and burn of the traditional business models, too many successful format franchises clogging up the schedules, and a me-too broadcast culture that no longer has the time or money to invest in development, or the patience to give shows time to take root and grow.

But I believe the core problem is today’s one-strike-and-you’re-out approach to the creative process. Somewhere along the line, we’ve stopped giving our creative talent permission to fail. But those brave enough to dream, and whose dreams are ultimately the stuff of our entertainment, need the freedom to cock up, make U-turns and chase wild geese in their pursuit of the new, the different and the original. What they don’t need is to be punished for putting their hopes and imaginations on the line.

There are two things wrong with this. The first is that judging content purely on the basis of its commercial potential makes life difficult and dispiriting for the creative community. And the second is that it doesn’t work. The irony is that audiences crave the shock and excitement of the new, not the predictability and safety of the old. Which is why those once-in-a-generation shows that come along and change the game are always, always driven by creativity rather than profit.

The blockchain’s ability to take the creative control away from the corporates and hand it to the makers and consumers of content is, for me, one of the most exciting aspects of the LiveTree ADEPT platform. Thanks to the power of the network effect, it will be individuals who decide what projects get made, and who makes them. In this brave new marketplace, the viewers will be the commissioners, and their criteria won’t be profit and shareholders and targets but what they want to see and feel and experience.

At that point, it won’t be about them anymore. At long last, it’ll be all about us.

 

For more information, or to register to participate in the LiveTree ADEPT token sale, please visit adept.livetree.com

 

 

 

 

 

Build it and they will come – by Cheryl Clarke

 

Build it and they will come
Build it and they will come

By Cheryl Clarke– co-founder, LiveTree ADEPT

I’ve earned my crust as an independent in the media and content industry for almost 20 years and in that time have journeyed along a continuum of feeling a mild sense of discomfort to utter rage at the lost opportunity of unlocking the potential of creativity and commerce to work towards a more fair and sustainable world. It seems to be staring us in the face but we’re limited by this powerful language of how things ‘are’.

As a complicit link in the chain of creating blanket discourse that values unsustainable growth over new ideas for a better world, I’ve started looking more systematically into how we’re all susceptible to this language. When you flip the same coin and see the other side – how things could be – with exactly the same people, resources, and profitability, then you start to see the possibility of the magic of change.

But even stronger than the language is the very real way our current global financial system forces commercial enterprise into a process of commoditising and monetising our very relationships, values and of course creative culture. And this is getting worse, with internet giants owning our data and getting into content creation, the dark genius of their business models is chilling at best. At least in the analogue world of broadcast and advertising, I might have been taken for a broadly demographically identifiable mug, but a relatively anonymous one at least. Not one where they know my name, where I live, what I buy and when, where I am at any given moment, what conversations I’m having, if I’m driving – and then trust these same companies to have my best interests, not their offshore profits, at heart.

I’ve been talking to people in influencer roles in media, television and the environmental sector, you might even call them leaders. They have some really interesting things to say when they’re not in the board room. When what they say doesn’t ‘threaten’ the relentless growth juggernaut.

Put simply, apparently people do not want, don’t have the time, money or motivation to contribute to matters of environmental or social change. The media industry doesn’t even seem to be having the discussion in any cohesive way – it’s not in the budget! But is this because we are all held captive to this language of helplessness – that there’s no alternative, the constant buck passing, the resentment of being ‘told what to do’.

Buckminster Fuller, the renowned 20th century inventor and visionary born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1895 dedicated his life to making the world work for all of humanity and operated as a practical philosopher who demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called “artifacts”. One of his famous quotes says: ‘You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

After over a decade of trying to get under the bonnet of why an industry that holds such potential to tell stories that make the world a better place is so strangled by a singular objective of profiteering and showing at times seeming audience contempt, (rhinoplasty brides anyone?) I’ve been delving into the history and story of money in contemporary society and it’s started to shed some light. It allows us to understand better how we’ve got to this point, coinciding with the development and proliferation of a technology, the blockchain, that has mainly been used to trade digital currency to this point but can now scale and promise undeniably hopeful answers to some of our seemingly relentless free market yet centralised issues.

I’m a business person through and through, I’m fascinated by how humans organise to endeavour to create something and share the spoils so we can make best of our resources. It’s my assumption and it certainly was true for me when I started out, that I wanted to work in the entertainment industries because I wanted to be close to those I saw as having a creative purpose. They wanted to make beautiful films or art, to inspire, educate and entertain and shhhh, make a difference.

If we look over the top of the media garden wall, we know business can’t continue to mow through resources and people in the blind pursuit of growth as it has for the last 50 years, our people and planet simply can’t sustain it. So, do we wait for ‘the people at the top’ to have an epiphany? A few individuals through persistence, action, energy and commitment to get things moving and make some improvements but never shift the balance of power. These are laudable efforts of course, but the separation between ‘I, you, them and us’ helps only to serve this rhetoric of compromising values and leaving your purpose at the door when you come into work.

What LiveTree ADEPT is proposing is a new choice for creative people, companies and fans to come together and build something new, to do as Buckminster said, and render the old model obsolete. This doesn’t mean the old guard comes crashing down from day to night.  Just that, if there’s a real possibility to open up a means for anyone with enough talent and energy to tell stories, that have an audience who want to watch them, decided by that audience, not by a cabal of self-interested studio owners or commissioners, then what possibly is the objection to that?

There is a small percentage of people who got into the media business simply to make as much money as possible and to feel as powerful as possible – just as recent research from the University of San Diego has found there are around 20% of senior managers who are psychopaths. But what about the other 80%, what about them, what about you?

Where’s this perceived resistance in change? Aren’t we all then part of the resistance, calling out others to take the responsibility to enable change, when in the end, in our hearts, we know we’re all one.

The Media CSR Forum is an ‘independent’ body looking at issues of sustainability in the media sector. Its admirable, yet I might suggest limiting work, comprises a cohort of 25 media organisations, including major broadcasters, some publishers and advertising agencies.

It produced a report in 2013 entitled ‘Does It Matter Material, Strategic or Operational?

An analysis of sustainability issues in the media sector’.  The resounding and depressing conclusion was that no, not much. I’m not sure that’s true, I’ve got a hunch. In the foreword of the report, it says ‘Sometimes we need to readjust our social architecture so that it better enables us to make habit patterns out of our good intentions.’ This has never been truer. The media industry has such enormous power and its very existence thrives on the creation of ideas and the ability to deliver these to mass markets. Set it free. Be the leader. Come and set up in the LiveTree, the view of the future is quite beautiful.

 

What’s wrong with Netflix? By Ashley Turing

What's wrong with Netflix

By Ashley Turing

 

Let’s take a trip back into digital prehistory. We’re in 2004 and improved internet speeds and connectivity mean you no longer need a physical DVD to watch your favourite film or TV show. You can stream your entertainment over the net, in your own time, in your own place.

 

Netflix, a Californian entertainment company founded in the late Nineties as a DVD-by-mail operation, has recently gone public (2002), selling 5.5 million shares at a price of $15.00 of common stock (approx. $85million, LiveTree’s current Seed Token Sale cap is approx. $50m more on this later). It is also busy migrating its postal business into a streaming business in an effort not to die with DVD. But to its credit, Netflix persevered. And we all know the happy ending to this particular story.

 

Happy ending for Netflix, that is. The jury is out as to how happy the ending will be for the creative community.

 

Today, Netflix has become a household name, a meme and a synonym for streaming video. It’s on virtually every device with a screen. It’s become a powerful force in modern culture. From an end-user perspective, Netflix provides a great service. But there’s a darker side to the Netflix phenomenon, namely its practice of using your data to maximise its profits.

 

Next time you switch on Netflix, check out your ‘personalised content’ feed. This is compiled via algorithms similar to those used by Facebook’s newsfeed. It works like this: Netflix gathers data from its users’ viewing habits, which it then uses to rate everybody and everything involved in a production — actors, directors, set designers, even romance levels, plot conclusiveness and the ‘moral status’ of characters — to judge whether a piece of content is worthy of transmission. This user-data-based scoring system has a single objective: to maximise Netflix’s profits.

 

I personally find this annoying — I seldom want to watch what Netflix has decided I should watch — but, more importantly, it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous for creativity. It’s dangerous for consumers. And we need to rethink it.

 

Netflix is a centralized operation. In other words, the power resides in the top execs and it is answerable only to its shareholders, not to its users or the creatives who produce its product. In essence, it takes your data and controls it within a non-transparent structure.

 

The unstoppable growth of the centralized online giants — and I’m not just talking about Netflix here, but also YouTube, Amazon, Apple — is creating an entertainment marketplace dominated by content whose sole function is to make money. Brave, thought-provoking, game-changing content that adds to society’s creative and cultural stock isn’t part of their remit. I call that scary.

Netflix doesn’t share the data it uses to drive the algorithms that determine what content it shows to its subscribers. Even the people who create its content aren’t allowed to see the data. This is bad news for consumers, because it limits choice and will ultimately result in a world of cookie-cutter content. And it’s bad new for content-makers, because creativity and originality will be sacrificed on the altar of profit.

Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there. Digital rights management (DRM) is shaping up to be the next battlefield. Netflix’s DRM policy is to license content in perpetuity. This means that content-makers cannot realize the true value from their IP from any other channel, Which in turn means that their IP’s long-term value is lost. Irretrievably. Again, this is disturbing, not least for the distributors whose job is to navigate the increasingly murky waters of DRM to realize the best price for content. Distributors are also beginning to be cut out of the deal. You may think this is no bad thing — but if the alternative is a single gorilla that could overpower you in a heart beat, it’s a worry.

In October, Netflix had 109 million subscribers worldwide, including 52 million in the US. A rudimentary calculation shows that, at a subscription of roughly $5, it’s netting around $545m per month.

 

Pause to catch breath.

 

I keep thinking that, if just one month of Netflix’s revenue were invested into LiveTree’s new digital token, Seed, it would be enough to reinvent the entertainment industry. It would be enough to create a new marketplace that’s fairer, more efficient and more transparent. More importantly, we could create marketplace that would be sustainable because it would protect and nurture the product — creativity — that drives it, rather than exploiting it for short-term gain.

 

In today’s world, dollars equal power. Netflix is using this power just like the Hollywood studios — themselves centralized ecosystems — to increase their power, profit and control. For example, it is now making lock-in deals directly with Hollywood stars, including Will Smith. Netflix also declines to license to cinemas, which means none of its films will ever be seen on the big screen. Ergo more money and control to Netflix; less choice and diversity for consumers and creatives.

 

All this has me worried about the future of creativity. Imagine if Netflix decided to up its subscription fee to $10? Or $15? Or $50? After all, who’s to stop it? That would put a severe dent in not only your entertainment choices, but your entertainment budget. The spectre of creativity governed by profit rather than passion was one of the reasons we at LiveTree ADEPT started to think about what could be done to turn the ship. It’s possible, achievable and, actually, not that difficult. We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the vision. All we need is your help.

 

For more information, or to register to participate in the LiveTree ADEPT token sale, please visit adept.livetree.com

 

The end of the centralized entertainment industry by Ashley Turing

 

ENTERTAINMENT 3.0

By Ashley Turing

 

The way we engage with content is changing. In a little over 10 years, we’ve gone from Blockbuster video —remember the days of VHS and “Who taped over the wedding with the football?” — to Subscription and Netflix Video-On-Demand (SVOD the “S” is for subscription). There’s no question that access to content has improved, but we are beginning to see new problems with the digital entertainment model. The centralized internet behemoths are replicating many of Hollywood’s bad old practices that exploit through a lack of transparency. We have come to accept this behavior as normal, but not for much longer. Today we now have the technology to help change the dynamic.

 

Entertainment is a powerful societal force. Great scenes in films and catchphrases from TV shows are part of our cultural fabric, collective consciousness and personal frames of reference. Entertainment guides our culture, our values and, if you believe some Trekkies, our future. No disrespect to Trekkies. I’m a closet one myself.

 

This blog examines the future of entertainment and the learnings we can use to make that future decentralized, better and fairer. I’ve broken it down into what I term the ‘ages’ of the internet, on the basis that the profound change in our relationship with content has been driven by the progression of that technology.

 

Web 1.0: the birth of the hyperlink and email

 

Before 2005 (roughly) the internet was a slow and cumbersome beast. We’d crank up our modems and wait.

 

And wait.

 

And wait.

 

For those of you who were there, this will bring back memories:

For those of you who weren’t, listen and wonder at our patience and fortitude.

 

We lived in a world of progressively loaded images — remember fuzzy-to-clear pic downloads? Gopher and bulletin boards were the norm; receiving emails was an infrequent pleasure. The online universe was positive, optimistic and full of opportunity. Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of an internet built on egalitarian principles had been born.

 

Streaming media was all but non-existent — bar the likes of Winamp (I was fortunate enough to work with the founder of Winamp – but let’s save that for another blog.

 

Back in the early days of Netflix, you may remember its DVD postal rental business. It would mail DVDs to you and you would then have to mail them back. You could also buy DVDs. It’s worth remembering that Blockbuster still managed to blow Netflix away at the time (Blockbuster peaked in 2004).

 

Web 2.0: centralized internet giants dominate markets using your information

 

My background is in computer science/artificial intelligence (AI). The reason AI wasn’t a mainstream proposition when I studied it was because you needed to process a mountain of data to make machines seem intelligent. The truth is that computers are dumb. To make a computer appear intelligent, it needs a considerable amount of processing power (CPUs) to compute and match algorithms (patterns) against huge sets of data. To figure out key features — the things that really matter — it has to process a lot of patterns. And I mean a lot.

 

Information is the key to our markets. As human beings, it is the most valuable commodity we possess. Prior to 2005 (roughly), cloud computing didn’t exist. Networked “big data” hadn’t really been invented. Google was actually a pioneer in this field with the launch of the Google File System, which stores and processes data across multiple machines.

 

With ever-faster internet connection speeds, along with unlimited data storage and processing power (‘big data’) available at giant data centres, we are now in the age of Web 2.0. But we are also facing its less attractive consequences.

 

Web 2.0 also saw the rise of Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and ‘big data’. What we have today is AI used over huge data sets to manipulate markets and dominate industries. Moore’s law — which posits that overall computer processing power doubles every two years — remains true. The tech giants have taken advantage of it. They have hooked up the old AI theories to a network the machines powerful enough and with enough storage capability to imitate intelligence. Intelligence they then use to ‘help’ you into thinking you want to buy what they want to sell you.

 

Web 3.0: the decentralised future of entertainment

 

Web 2.0 is all about centralised trust. You hand over trust in the form of your data to centralized corporations in return for services. We have no option but to trust these centralized companies —internet overloads— because they hold the power. In the entertainment industry, they dial out creativity in exchange for your money. They are building Hollywood within a centralized system, and replicating the “Hollywood Exec’s” bad old ways with algorithms.

 

Is there a solution?

 

I believe there is, which is the reason I founded LiveTree. Our mission is to create a fair, transparent, community-powered film, TV and content network. I’d like to say here that I dedicated LiveTree to Aaron Swartz, the late, great computer activist. I’ll be writing another blog to explain how Aaron’s spirit lives on in our operation.

 

Now the technology is finally here to meet the challenge. It’s called blockchain. No longer do you need to hand over your life and security to a centralized entity in return for the content and services you need to survive in our complex, connected world. Decentralized systems are a way of creating peer-to-peer trust. They enable you to create a contract with someone without the need for a third-party  — a Netflix, a Facebook, a Google — to manage it and, significantly, profit from it. It’s shared, immutable and unchangeable. So it builds confidence, no hiding or dodgy dealing.

 

At the heart of LiveTree ADEPT (Advanced Decentralised Entertainment Platform for Transparent distribution) is digital-rights management. It enables creators to connect and create contracts (licenses) directly with each other. It’s a genuine once-in-a-generation paradigm shift. With ADEPT, you control what gets made, rather than Hollywood, Netflix or one of the traditional content gatekeepers. You then reap the rewards from that content, as well as the community you have created to help realise it. You are in control of the algorithms. Better and better, the whole process is completely transparent and open source. And you earn from entertainment’s digital token — LiveTree Seed — which moves the control from centralized powers to you.

 

In other words, you get to be part of how the content gets created which generates a community, you get to control, your profit and your future.

 

For more information, or to register to participate in the LiveTree ADEPT token sale, please visit: adept.livetree.com and you’ll be directed to a secure server where you can register your interest

 

 

BFI and LiveTree partner and focus on Black Stars in film

LiveTree and the BFI have partnered to support emerging film talent and are proud to hold the official launch at the BFI Raw Shorts: Black Stars event on 19 November.

Join us for an afternoon with black young talents who either write, direct or star in their own projects, have built huge online followings and kick-started their careers along the way – they’ll share tips and tricks in a Q&A and screen examples of their work before free networking drinks.

One of the topics that requires highlighting is the issues facing minorities in the film industry. Is there a correlation between income, ethnicity and those who are filmmakers? Is there an ethnic and social divide in the film sector?  If so, what can we do about it?

 

Shredding The Red Tape

We can pretend like these invisible lines of separation are not there but barriers do exist. Within the film industry we can see recycled narratives played out in various different ways for various different reasons. In film, black actors are often shoehorned into roles that do not reflect their reality or reinforce negative stereotypes. What is more frustrating is that some projects appear to have been commissioned predicated on what stereotype they play up to. Too often a predominately black film, or the story line of black character in an otherwise white film, revolves around the themes of struggle, slavery, drugs and violence or single parent lifestyles.

A potential cause is the metaphorical “red tape” and who approves what. Fortunately, this no longer universally applies thanks to the internet, communities, social media and, most importantly crowdfunding. Now it’s mostly about your vision and getting the money, exposure and support to turn an idea into reality.

 

The Wider Issue

When it comes to creativity the issues are broader than race, gender, religion or any other differentiating factor. The real barrier to entry is finding the freedom to create what you want to see in the world in the exact way you envisioned. Fortunately, power has become less centralised. Nobody has to be Oliver begging for gruel, now we design our own banquets and have everyone contribute and join us for the meal.

In the UK, Crowdfunding plays a major role in providing creative freedom and we at LiveTree are taking it further, beyond funding to a wider community of like-minded creatives helping each other achieving their goals.

No matter where you are from and what prejudice or obstacles you may face. We challenge you to make your vision a reality. Get Funded. Make a difference. Branch out.

 

 

– Daniel @ LiveTree

 

 

 

 

LiveTree and Kent Film Office partner to support UK filmmakers

Kent Film Office logo

LiveTree is announcing its partnership with the Kent Film Office to support the work of UK filmmakers. The partnership will help filmmakers with funding, promotion, support and access to film locations.

 

The LiveTree – Kent Film Office Partnership

LiveTree will offer competitions, access to the LiveTree creative community and suppliers to support their projects and will help filmmakers secure funding. The Kent Film Office will share content, film funding opportunities and competitions with its audience. Together they will promote the use of Kent as film location.

 

Helping filmmakers focus on creativity

Developing the creative element of a film is only a small part of the process of the filmmaking process. From getting a film funded to working with the right suppliers, to finding the perfect location to promotion, many necessary tasks distract from the creative process.”, said Ashley Turing, CEO of LiveTree, “By partnering with the Kent Film Office we want to help filmmakers keep the focus on the creative process by helping them with funding, promotion, support and access to film locations”.

 

Assisting filmmakers with locations and permits

Since we were founded ten years ago, the Kent Film Office has been successful in assisting filmmakers find amazing locations and getting permits for filming in public spaces across the county. Productions large and small have found their way to Kent to benefit from our locations and local support facilities,” added Hannah Lucey, Film Officer of the Kent County Council Film Office “And, with this new partnership with LiveTree, it will be even easier for filmmakers to take the hassle out of the production phase.

 

About the Kent Film Office

The Kent Film Office was established in 2006 as an economic development initiative by Kent County Council.  It provides a first class Film Commissioning Service to the film and television industries, assisting productions with a location finding and research service, obtaining film permits, facilitating traffic management requests, sourcing local crew and trainees and mediating any local disputes.

LiveTree and BFI Future Film Raw Shorts launch campaign supporting aspiring filmmakers

LiveTree Future Film Raw Short campaign
LiveTree has partnered with the British Film Institute to support emerging British film talent. To launch this partnership, LiveTree and the British Film Institute (BFI) developed the Future Film Raw Short campaign to support emerging film talent across the UK.

 

Future Film Raw Short competition

The Future Film Raw Short competition allows aspiring filmmakers to crowdfund and promote their film project. A filmmaker enters their film proposal by setting up a crowdfund and promotion campaign on the LiveTree platform. This starts the crowdfunding and promotion process for their film project.

LiveTree and the BFI then pick a selection of winning projects who will be awarded an additional £500 funding –on top of their film’s crowdfunding results– and access to BlackMagic cameras to shoot their film project. The winners will be announced at the 10th BFI Future Film Festival, 15-19 February 2017. The festival is the UK’s most important industry film festival for young filmmakers aged 16-25.

Filmmakers that wish to take part can create their project on the LiveTree Future Film Raw Shorts campaign page to enter the competition.

BFI Future Film Festival

 

Socially conscious crowdfunding platform

LiveTree is a socially conscious crowdfunding platform focused on supporting creative projects. Uniquely, LiveTree doesn’t just fund projects, it connects creative communities. Bloggers, influencers, suppliers, brands and charities share the success of the project. They earn branch commission when they promote a project, meaning all the marketing isn’t down to a project creator. More importantly, the community will continually support creators throughout their journey.

 

The British Film Institute

British Film Institute logoThe British Film Institute (BFI) was founded in 1933 as a charity governed by a Royal Charter. It combines cultural, creative and industrial roles, brings together the BFI National Archive and BFI Reuben Library, film distribution, exhibition and education at BFI Southbank and BFI IMAX, publishing and festivals.

The BFI awards Lottery funding to film production, distribution, education, audience development and market intelligence and research.

 

BFI Film Forever

The Future Film Raw Short campaign is part of the BFI’s ‘Film Forever’ five-year strategic plan for 2012-2017 to BFI Logosupport UK film. The plan covers all BFI activities and is based around three priorities – education and audiences, support for the UK film industry and unlocking film heritage.

 

 

 

Forget focus groups and ad agencies… start-ups crowdsource ideas from friends and make DIY viral campaigns

Rosamund Urwin unpicks the start-up rules of a new generation

A reblog from Evening Standard, Monday 18th April. (You can read the original article here.) You can also sign up to LiveTree using this invitation link. 

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With friends like these: small-scale peer research is on the rise Getty Images.

The rules of start-ups are changing. Gone are the days when you had to plan every detail before launch — now entrepreneurs just need to hit “go”. As LinkedIn founder and tech investor Reid Hoffman puts it: “You jump off a cliff and you assemble an airplane on the way down.” If bank managers and venture-capital firms shrug their shoulders and turn you away, crowdfund or try new lending avenues. Most of all, you need to keep changing, developing, adapting.

London is ultra-competitive for start-ups. Here’s how the strongest survive.

Planting the seed

Research, schmee-search. In such a competitive market, entrepreneurs’ primary objective is to get their product out there fast. Better to send it out into the world with the hem unfinished than to see someone else wearing your outfit while you’re still making it.

As Robert Colvile writes in his new book, The Great Acceleration: “The latest craze is for the ‘lean’ start-up — start small, create a minimum viable product and be prepared to switch tack at a moment’s notice.” Hoffman puts it thus: “If you’re not embarrassed by your first version, you waited too long to ship it.”

Alex Head, the founder of catering company Social Pantry, can relate to that: “A resource you don’t have is time. I learned from the age of 15 — selling sandwiches off the back of my bike in Riyadh [Saudi Arabia] — what to do and not to do. I’m still learning.”

If there is some time, a new approach is small-scale peer research. Been to a dinner party recently, only to discover you’re actually there for a brainstorm about your friend’s business idea? This is (low-cost) market research for 2016. Sometimes these are straightforward ideas meetings with a hand-picked focus group from peers and former colleagues; at others, the wannabe entrepreneur is on the look-out for potential partners. You’ll know when somebody starts taking notes, and you’ll get asked for feedback afterwards.

“I was invited to one recently for a mindfulness business,” a fellow journalist tells me. “The other guests were a social media expert, someone in e-commerce and a management consultant. It was a guided conversation, so my friend could work out the best way of taking forward her idea.”

Sebastian Fernando is the founder of flavourme.co.uk. Launching at the end of the month, it is a sharing economy version of Deliveroo: it allows you to order home-cooked meals from your neighbours, delivered by flavourme’s fleet of drivers. It’s inspired by the cooking of Fernando’s Sri Lankan grandmother. Fernando, 27, reckons the most important piece of research is to look at why others who have done what you’re trying to do failed: “A year later there will be a solution.”

Another idea is to bring a business that someone else is already doing in another country here: home-cooked meal delivery is popular in the Netherlands and parts of the US. Jonathan Randall, who founded photobooth firm Flashmat last October, had the idea because a friend of his wife’s was already doing something similar in France.

Old school: commission market research from a specialist firm.

The new way: find out what works as you go along; the brainstorming dinner.

New money

Head, 30, and Randall, 32, both self-funded their businesses, and Fernando applied for seed capital. But there are new ways to get funded.

“Funding has changed enormously,” says Toby Darbyshire, who co-founded solar firm Engensa in 2009. “When we set up Engensa, it was all about institutional investors and venture-capital firms. Now, it has democratised, with the rise of peer-to-peer lenders and crowdfunding.”

Growth Street is one alternative to a bank overdraft. “Over the past three-and-a-half years, bank supply of overdrafts for small businesses has reduced dramatically,” says James Sherwin-Smith, its chief executive. “If you don’t have a bank overdraft, you either have to get more expensive finance or you have to build up cash to survive a dip or if a client pays late. That’s money you’re not reinvesting in your business — hiring another person, say.”

Growth Street is a business-to-business marketplace to solve that: “We connect companies that want to lend because they have excess cash to businesses who want to borrow.”

Haggerston-based LiveTree, which launched two months ago, is another new funding model. Ashley Turing, its 37-year-old founder, explains: “We’re a crowdfunding platform and a marketplace once the product is built.” The model is to refer friends “because we believe personal recommendation is the most powerful way to get your product out there”. But while Google and Facebook collect users’ data, LiveTree returns the profit from advertising (skimming off a small share) to them. Users can do whatever they want with the profit they earn, including donating it directly to one of LiveTree’s partnered charities.

Interestingly, Darbyshire, 34, also says that the sums available from early seed and angel investor rounds have shot up recently. “The first round used to raise maybe £200k;, now we’re seeing people raise £2 million from a network of angels.”

Old school: venture-capital firms, institutional investors or a friendly bank manager.

The new way: crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending or much bigger sums from seed capital or angel investors.

Fail to grow

Every entrepreneur stresses the need to innovate. “You don’t want a plan, you want an inkling,” says Joe Nelson, who founded TheyFit condoms in 2011. “You can’t be embarrassed to get it wrong. It’s not binary: if you mess up, you can keep playing the game. You still have 100 lives left.”

This is particularly true with online businesses, he says. “Everything is so fluid, you can change the website pages in the blink of an eye and be nimble.” Nelson, 34,  would use feedback from every customer to improve both product and service.

If web-based, start-ups can do a/b testing from the beginning. That means visitors to the site will see one of two options. If there’s a big discrepancy in how much they go on to buy, the company knows which to choose. They can keep testing repeatedly to hone the site.

Sherwin-Smith, 35, found out the painful way why you have to keep innovating. He started his first business at school. Called Hitmatic, it was like an early version of Google Analytics. “It paid for my education. But Google bought one of our rivals [in the end] and our tech originally was better than theirs. I wish I hadn’t gone to university and had just worked on that.”

Head, who does the in-house catering at Brentford Football Club (150 people a day for breakfast and lunch seven days a week), argues having one consistent revenue stream is essential, especially in a seasonal industry such as contract catering.

Old school: everything polished on delivery.

The new way: fail fast, learn quickly.

Sell yourself

Fernando is launching flavourme.co.uk in Dulwich first, before expanding to other parts of London. He’s going to advertise primarily on Facebook because it allows hyper-local targeting of ads. He says that ads can even be timed to appear when people are on their way home from work and potentially thinking about what they’d like to eat that evening.

For Randall, too, Facebook is his main place for advertising. “It allows you to target people with particular interests,” he explains. “People often have Photobooths at weddings, so I want anyone who’s engaged — weddings can be one of these interests.”

Edzard van der Wyck, 35, is the co-founder of Heist, which makes hosiery without seams. In his five-strong team, three of his staff do the social side. “We can behave like a retail brand, engage with our customers and react very quickly to what they want. It helps us to hone the product and you get immediate feedback.”

Head notes that social media is also an important recruitment tool. “I always ask in interviews ‘how did you hear about us?’ It’s usually that they follow us on Instagram or found us on Twitter.”

But it isn’t all about the new world of media, either. Nelson went on Dragons’ Den. Even though he failed to get funding, it had a huge impact for TheyFit.

“It doesn’t matter if you win or not. That’s a million people who’ve just seen your product and — unless it’s one of the really bad ones — a sizeable minority will agree with your idea. We had 7,000 hits a second at the peak of that, completely free. Those people didn’t all buy but sales still rocketed. The show gets repeated and you get another spike.”

He says there’s no need for a PR agent “as long as you’re willing to do stuff. Spend nothing, be clever, get on”.

Old school: hire a PR firm.

The new way: DIY and online marketing.

When to let go

Nelson sold TheyFit last year for $1.3 million. But the new advice — including from Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler — is not to sell out too soon.

Fernando agrees with that. “I don’t want to be a serial entrepreneur, I want to do one thing really well. We’re a long-run business that requires shifting perceptions. It’s a bit like what Airbnb did: people couldn’t imagine renting out their homes before but now it seems normal. We want people to think, ‘Why would you go to Domino’s when you can order food cooked by your neighbours?’”

Randall’s eventual plan is to use the income from his photobooth business to move into other areas. “I’m looking at things that are more scaleable,” he says. “Start-ups are often burning cash to revolutionise something, but if you take an existing idea that works in another country, you can then put in place a manager while you can then go and pursue your passion project.”

He hopes that Flashmat would be the cash cow that keeps giving (and growing) but that he can use the photos that he owns either for “facial recognition, or other marketing uses. All the info I have could be valuable.” He notes that companies have been bought in the recent past not for their main business but for the information they hold on clients. “I’ll sell the business when it’s in a great state,” he adds.

Old school: sell as soon as a suitor comes knocking.

The new way: Please sir, can I have some more (money)?