Gunpowder & Sky, a studio that for the last two years has produced and distributed science fiction shorts via its online Dust service, recently launched DUSTx, a free, add-supported sci-fi channel, on Roku. The channel, which includes full-length films and TV series, debuted with 20 movies, 30 series, and 200 short films.
The Savvy Screener recently spoke with Gunpowder & Sky’s co-founder and president, Floris Bauer (pictured above), about the studio’s plans for DUSTx, advice for aspiring independent filmmakers and the future of OTT. (Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
TSS: Gunpowder & Sky just launched DUSTx as a free, ad-supported channel on Roku. What are the studio’s plans for expanding to other platforms? Are there plans for a premium version of DUSTx?
Bauer: We are in discussions with a number of platforms, and the idea is for DUST to live on premium AVOD and SVOD services, as well as in bundles.
TSS: How does DUSTx differ from other science fiction brands, like Syfy, for instance?
Bauer: DUST is a next generation sci-fi brand that embraces and showcases novel thinkers, curious minds, innovative future-leaning creators, and those with prescient ideas about how our lives are being altered by technology. DUST doesn’t live in one place or platform, and isn’t in one format. Short films, TV series, feature films, channels, events, a thriving community and so much more, DUST is ubiquitous.
TSS: Who do you see as your chief competitors in the streaming space?
Bauer: Some traditional channels have a few good sci-fi titles, but we don’t really have a competitor fully focused on sci-fi.
TSS: DUST features both classic and original content. What is DUSTx’s strategy for developing original content? Will it also include features and TV series? What licensing relationships have you developed for classic content?
Bauer: We work with a talented and diverse group of over 200 creators, across all content types. From Zach Strauss who directed Bad Peter, to Nicole Delaney, creator of YOYO, to the directors of Prospect, Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell. DUST is embracing innovators across the globe, most recently debuting the Kept, a short film by Colombian award-winning director and screenwriter, Jaime D Gonzalez. We’re currently producing a number of TV series and feature films, sometimes based on DUST short films, in partnership with both networks and streaming platforms. On the licensing side, we have relationships with all the major studios and rights holders.
TSS: What are some films and shows that will debut in the next 12 to 18 months?
Bauer: We have a number of films and series we will be announcing soon. In the meantime, DUSTx will feature timeless classics such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the 1989 sci-fi comedy starring Keanu Reeves, to cutting edge favorites like Paycheck, the 2003 sci-fi action film based on Philip K. Dick’s short story, starring Ben Affleck. It will also feature original shorts such as Bad Peter, a cautionary tale about an overbearing AI assistant which had a smashing debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this year.
TSS: Gunpowder & Sky welcomes short films from unknown filmmakers and recently launched a film competition called Kin x Dust. Can you elaborate on the competition, and how it might relate to the new Roku service?
Bauer: KIN filmmakers Jonathan & Josh Baker premiered their short film Bag Man at the SXSW Film Festival in 2014. After receiving a strong response from audience members and critics, they began developing the short into KIN. The KIN x DUST competition – in partnership with Lionsgate – offers emerging filmmakers a platform for their own short films to be seen by DUST’s devoted audience of science fiction fans. Filmmakers were invited to submit an original sci-fi short film inspired by KIN’s tagline, “No bond is stronger than family.” The winner will receive a $10,000 grant, have their movie premiere exclusively across the DUST platform, and meet The Baker Brothers. The competition is part of larger campaign to help market the new film, as well as providing Lionsgate a way to tap into our community of emerging creators. (Editor’s note: The submission deadline was August 20, 2018.)
TSS: Can you offer advice to filmmakers looking to submit a project? What is the revenue-sharing model with filmmakers?
Bauer: Being passionate about what you’re creating is the most important advice I could give. In relation to how we cooperate with creators, there are a variety of structures and revenue-sharing models depending on whether it’s a short film, series, film or podcast. Budget range is also considered.
TSS: Anything else you’d like to tell us about Gunpowder & Sky? What other types of content does the studio produce and where does it get distributed? How will DUSTx fit into your distribution windows?
Bauer: We’re open to all forms of content. We develop and experiment across content types, as well as being flexible on how and where we release it. Ultimately we are looking for great stories and concepts that will resonate with an audience, wherever they consume media.
TSS: Where do you see the OTT business in five years?
Bauer: Bigger and better. For most of us, it wil be the conventional way of how we receive content into our TV screens. So hopefully in the next few years, we will stop calling it the OTT business.
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