As a digital agent at the United Talent Agency in the mid-2000’s, Jason Nadler signed up-and-coming online talent and worked with tech start-ups that UTA was starting to incubate. But he found himself increasingly fascinated by the possibility of merging traditional entertainment with digital platforms in new, unexpected ways. As he puts it, "I wanted to get a little bit more into making cool stuff."
And so, over the summer of 2011, he partnered with Jon Zemelis, a fellow UTA agent, and Internet writer-producer Alex Blagg, to create Serious Business, a new media company that focusses on what Nadler calls "Internetainment." Recently, Serious Business launched its first product that lives up to that term—an "app show" called Braindex that looks and feels like a traditional TV gameshow, only it’s an iPad app. The game sets up an interactive battle of wits with celeb guests, including Mike Tyson, who play along with users on their touchscreens, answering multiple-choice trivia questions. Braindex represents the future of digital entertainment in that it treats second screens as primary platforms, but Nadler says it’s just the beginning. He recently spoke with Fast Company about the new Digital Hollywood, and how the rest of Hollywood can improve on its approach to the tech world.
The inspiration for Braindex came from trying to take Hollywood’s typical approach to merging TV shows with the digital experience one step further. "Every network has been trying, really trying, to integrate their Twitter experience into TV shows," Nadler says. But he says that when you see, say, hash-tag Breaking Bad on-screen while you’re watching the show on TV, "that’s not exactly an organic digital experience."
"We wanted to take these more ham-fisted attempts at these second screen experiences and really take it to the next level and make the user experience online really mimic the spectacle of a TV show."
Nadler says that while the idea might seem intuitive, there is still a divide between old and new media that persists.
"Having spent a lot of time in both worlds, there is a certain—disdain might be too strong a word—but a certain apprehension for working with traditional entertainment and creating bigger, better, more interesting projects.
"Opportunity is on both sides, but, really, the most opportunity is right in the middle."
As a former digital agent, Nadler likes to think of himself as someone who has his feet in both worlds—traditional and digital media. Not just in terms of understanding the business of each world, but of understanding the creative people in each of those worlds, and how they need to be approached.
"I think the biggest disconnect between old and new media is how you treat the creator. And there are two very different views of what maximum respect is.
"On the digital side, it’s sort of like ultimate freedom, but freedom is free. And on the traditional side, it’s control, but in exchange for control, we make you rich. I think there’s play in the middle for certain top YouTube talent who get to have the best of both worlds. But as you see the sort of multi-channel networks (such as Maker Studios, Big Frame, Fullscreen, etc.) evolve in the YouTube universe, there’s a disconnect between the people investing in those things and the digital space. It will be interesting to see how that evolves."
Nadler thinks Hollywood needs to better understand its biggest audience, one that is increasingly spending more time in front of computers then flat-screen TV’s.
"It’s about understanding that there is a Gen Y that has been reared on the Internet. And all media that addresses that needs to have that Internet sensibility inherently based in their product. This is news to people who have been making TV or films for the last 20, 30 years. But if we can create products that interject that viewpoint, then we’ve done a good job."
[Image: Flickr user Yann Caradec]