Ron Howard and Brian Grazer say that their accelerator can help diversify Hollywood
Impact Creative Systems (formerly Imagine Impact) is bringing a startup accelerator-style approach to finding fresh creative talent, and it announced this morning that, with funding from venture capital firm Benchmark, it’s spinning out from Imagine Entertainment — the production company founded by director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer.
Right after the news broke, the accelerator’s founders — Howard, Grazer and CEO Tyler Mitchell — joined us at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference to discuss their vision. Grazer (whose films with Howard include “Apollo 13,” “A Beautiful Mind” and the upcoming “Hillbilly Elegy” for Netflix) recalled the Hollywood of 25 years ago, which he described as an “opaque” system where original writers often struggled to break in, and he felt that Impact could “democratize access to Hollywood.”
“How can we create opportunity to have access to the epicenter of employment in the media business, which is Hollywood?” he said.
For starters, Mitchell described what he claimed is a scalable system for evaluating 2,000 script submissions every week.
“We were able to build a system that leverages both technology as well as expert systems evaluating not just the writers, but the readers — almost like financial analysts — and try to come up with metrics in a world where there aren’t stats,” he said.
Mitchell also noted that in Impact’s first cohort of 87 writers, 39% were BIPOC, 10% were LGBTQ and it was split 50-50 between men and women, with 11 different countries represented.
“If you try to find the most talented writers in the world, they’re going to look like the world,” he said.
Howard made a similar point, saying that this diversity results from an interest in “fresh new voices” with “no statistical goals or agendas in mind — it’s just happening in a really honest way.” (At the same time, interviewer Ingrid Lunden couldn’t help but observe that this was a panel of three white men discussing diversity.)
Asked whether they’re interested in finding new talent from social media, Howard pointed to Grazer as the one who’s always encouraging him to “know what’s going on up north” (a.k.a. in Silicon Valley).
“Right now we’re in a creative renaissance with podcasts and Instagrams … finding their way into the center of the narrative,” Howard said.
Grazer said he often looks at YouTube, in particular. At the same time, he cautioned that creating content for these online platforms requires a different skill set than writing movies or TV.
“It doesn’t reduce the likelihood of their success necessarily, but it’s a different art form,” he said. “Because writing a teleplay or a screenplay, even the greatest playwrights can’t do that particular thing — you have to be trained.”
Still, Imagine found at least one idea in an Instagram Story, developing a comedic show around an actor (Grazer didn’t want to say who it is, but it’s probably Arnold Schwarzenegger) with a donkey named Lulu and a miniature horse named Whiskey. Apparently the show has attracted multiple bidders, and as for where it will end up, Grazer said, “It sort of seems like Amazon. I’ll let you know tomorrow.”