Aardman Animation’s former Head of Broadcast, Miles Bullough, has teamed up with former BBC creative executive Jesse Cleverly to launch Wildseed Studios, a next-generation entertainment content incubator designed to attract creators looking for funding and expertise. It is calling on emerging and established creators to get in touch here and have their ideas commissioned, developed, financed and distributed.
The company is adopting a portfolio approach to development – investing up to £10,000 into each of 50 new projects over the next three years, with follow-on investment available for projects that make a connection with an audience.
Wildseed has recently completed its first round of funding and has already invested in two projects. The first is an animated show for young adults based on the work of underground UK comic artist Ralph Kidson and features ‘God and Jesus’, where God explains his plans to Jesus for his latest miracle, ‘Animal Job Centre’ where an unemployed squirrel tries to navigate the vagaries of the job market, and ‘Serengeti’, where punchy and loutish animals launch into foul-mouthed tirades against each other at the slightest provocation. The second project is a live-action sci-fi/horror web series from 19-year-old creator Drew Casson – a 90 minute, special-effects-heavy horror/sci-fi coming-of-age story, shot vlog style, about a small English town being taken over by aliens. More projects are expected to be announced soon.
Wildseed describes itself as being platform neutral – putting great characters at the heart of everything it does and then looking to distribute projects to the platforms that best suit the idea. ‘A YouTube Channel will be a big part of what we do’ says co-founder and MD Miles Bullough, ‘but we are also working with creators who, for example, want to produce a mobile game first and that is really exciting for us where there is a great character at the heart of the game’.
Wildseed is planning its public launch for Autumn 2013 once its content pipeline is in full flow.
Targeting young adult audiences (13 to 35), Wildseed Studios is looking for ideas in four genres: Genre Fiction (Sci-Fi/horror/fantasy), Animated Sitcom, Character Comedy, and comedy for Kids 6-11 in both live action and animation. ‘We have also set aside 10 of our 50 potential investments for ‘Wildseed’s Wildseeds’ – ideas that don’t necessarily fit any of the above genres but that we love and want to get involved with anyway’, says co-founder and Creative Director, Jesse Cleverly.
Before setting up Wildseed Studios, Bullough spent nine years at Aardman as Head of Broadcast working on international and multi-platform brands such as Shaun The Sheep, Wallace and Gromit and Creature Comforts, as well as setting up Aardman’s Rights and Digital divisions. Prior to that he was MD at comedy indie Absolutely, which produced shows such as Trigger Happy TV, C4’s Armstrong & Miller, Stressed Eric and The Jack Docherty Show.
Cleverly has been running his own IP development company Connective Media for the past five years, working with a range of blue-chip clients. Prior to this he spent 10 years at the BBC in a range of editorial positions. He was trained as a script editor at BBC Films where he put the film Eastern Promises into development. He was then asked to join the team setting up BBC Fictionlab as Head of Development, exploring the new formats, new platforms and new technologies that would enable storytelling in the digital age. He finished his time at the BBC working as Head of Co-productions and Acquisitions at CBBC. Prior to the BBC he was Head of Marketing at the Royal Court Theatre for Stephen Daldry, where he commissioned the world’s first theatre website and launched 90 new plays.
‘Miles and I have spent the last nine months working on our business plan and fund-raising’ says Cleverly, ‘and we have found that there are lots of incredible creators out there who are making original engaging content with huge potential, but who lack the resources and experience to take what they do to the next level. We aim to be the company that enables them to develop into the next generation of entertainment trail blazers’.
‘We’ve also had a great reaction to our plans from established creators’, says Bullough. ‘Our proposition of not needing creative control, offering a meaningful share of back-end and moving fast and fearlessly has struck a chord with people who have great CV’s already but are interested in working a new way.’
Wildseed is focussing on low-cost production with its early pilots. ‘Neither we nor our creators make money from our early stage investments – it all goes into the projects’, says Bullough.
Wildseed is looking for its early stage investments to deliver finished content that can be put in front of audiences to gauge their reaction. Where that reaction is positive there will be with greater levels of follow on investment to create projects that break out and establish themselves on multiple platforms including TV, theatrical features and stage shows.
‘For our investment-funnel model to work’, says Bullough, ‘we need just one of our fifty investments to turn into a breakout hit. That feels achievable given our experience, our test and roll out methodology, and the amount of talent out there looking for investment and support. The key will be to create characters that the audience wants to be or be with and when we do, to be ready to exploit them across all media and all over the world.’
‘Working on our business idea, writing business plans, presenting, fund-raising and launching a start-up over the last nine months has been a thrilling experience’ says Bullough. ‘What has really been exciting though is the projects that we have been unearthing. Some of the people we are working with are at a turning point in their burgeoning careers we have been able to make a crucial contribution to what they do. This has already been as rewarding for us as anything we have ever been involved in professionally.’