By Mary Ellen Holden

OpenGate Entertainment is disrupting the traditional Hollywood pitch process. Through data-driven marketing, OpenGate identifies unique stories from a diverse group of content creators. OpenGate develops creative concepts through a multi-stage process to create a compelling, salable pitch package.

Co-Founders Mike Anderson and Jeff Hood, both successful technologists and entrepreneurs, entered the entertainment industry in late 2018. They co-founded the first entertainment production investment fund for original content driven by women, people of color, and marginalized groups. Founded in late 2019, OpenGate professionally develops, curates, and provides creative projects with a real opportunity to succeed.

OpenGate’s business model was conceived as they drove up and down Sunset Boulevard, meeting with studios, agents, networks, and others. These decision-makers voiced concern over the lack of original inclusive content that was packaged correctly in the pipeline. Once the entertainment industry validated the need, they instituted a process to develop pitch packages across all genres professionally. OpenGate makes curated content available to an extensive distribution network through a web-enabled portal. In recognition of its’ catalog value, OpenGate recently entered into a first-look agreement with Whistle Studios.

Today, the OpenGate content curation engine is the largest developer, curator, and distributor of original concepts in the entertainment industry. It boasts diversity throughout all development phases. OpenGate has been on the pulse of cultural trends before they have become part of the societal zeitgeist. We spoke with OpenGate’s Co-Founders, Mike Anderson and Jeff Hood, to understand why its mandate for diversity is good business.

Mary Ellen Holden: Why disrupt the traditional way projects get developed and sold in Hollywood?

Mike Anderson: With the entertainment industry operating in basically the same fashion for the last 50 plus years, we saw an opportunity to bring fresh talent and concepts to the screen in an innovative fashion. We founded OpenGate to give unique stories a legitimate shot at being brought to life. We use in-depth analytics to target specific voices. Next, we fully develop concepts through a rigorous multi-step process. The stage is then set to amplify these voices and the stories they have to tell. As stated on our website, “We get your project in the hands of real buyers leveraging a real team of industry executives, using a real process which is based on data-driven decisions that create real results.”

Mary Ellen: What makes your business model unique?

Jeff Hood: While there are several script services like The Black List, for us, it’s about helping someone get their project to a point where it has a chance of being picked up by a distributor. For that to happen, the stories go through our multi-step process where a solid foundation is laid down. Once the script is perfected, all of the required ancillary documents are created at the highest quality level. The use of in-depth analytics, of course, allows us to target specific voices where these amazing stories exist. Once those concepts are vetted, we are then able to develop and amplify these stories.

Mike: We’re a one-stop-shop that allows concepts, ideas, and stories to be polished, packaged, and put in front of a distribution network that has an actual ability to bring these projects to life. Much like a Board of Advisors serves a CEO, we advise, comment, suggest, and challenge our customers. We provide introduction services once projects are fully packaged. We work to get our customers into the room and in front of real decision-makers, with pitch packages that address all of the typical objections and allow the conversation to be about the merits of the story and not whether the logline is compelling enough or if the midpoint of the script is on page 55.

Mary Ellen: What does your customer base look like?

Jeff: As a direct result of our data analytics-driven targeted advertising, fully 75% of our customers are either female, people of color, and/or members of other underrepresented groups (e.g., members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, marginalized religious groups and more).

Mary Ellen: How are you compensated?

Mike: Our clients retain 100% of the Intellectual Property (IP) associated with their project during their engagement with us. We typically charge $2,500 to $5,000, dependent on the level of effort required to take whatever the customer shows up at our door with and get that to a point where we can get it sold. Our opportunity as an organization to realize a financial reward lies on the back end. Our agreements with our distribution network allow us to realize a percentage of production and distribution fees.

Mary Ellen: How did you come to work with Geena and her Institute?

Mike: We were introduced to Geena and CEO Madeline Di Nonno by Melanie Capacia Johnson, initially with Tiny Horse and now Head of Whistle Studios. As technology types, we were unbelievably impressed with not only the work of the Institute and the positive way in which they shine a light on the need to create gender balance, foster inclusion, and reduce negative stereotyping in family entertainment media, but also the sophistication of its GD-IQ Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient technology.

I always enjoy telling the story of the first time I met Geena and Dr. Shri Narayanan USC Viterbi School of Engineering. We had a technical discussion about programmatic speech and script analysis to identify trends and patterns. It was then that I realized there was a whole lot more to this than meets the eye! It only made sense that once we formed OpenGate that we develop a formal partnership with the Institute and support the ongoing efforts of Geena, Madeline, and the entire team.

Jeff: Certainly, the ability to fully integrate GD-IQ into our development process is a goal of OpenGate and one that we are focused on achieving through the course of 2021. We feel as though we will have accomplished what very few have in the industry to date with that in place.

Mary Ellen: How do you determine success?

Mike: We are well aware that we need to build a catalog and a reputation, which takes time. There certainly has been no shortage of skeptics. We hear quite a bit of “that’s not the way it works.” With currently over 150 customers; 50+ of which have gone through our process to date; and 15 projects in various negotiation stages, pre-production, and/or production, we are on a great trajectory. Provided 10 to 15 of these projects are picked up in 2021, that would be a pretty good achievement and an indication of the beginning of success.

Mary Ellen: What makes OpenGate thrive?

Jeff: This notion of targeting, developing, and curating creators’ work was still a novel concept in the world of original content development. While our service is open to all, we vet content and creators to identify and separate the contenders from the pretenders. Receiving the feedback that we do from our customers who have gone through the process is why we got into this. It provides immense satisfaction for the entire team. I am confident that once our catalog comes to life on screen, those feelings will extend to a whole other level.

Mary Ellen: What advice do you have for content creators?

Mike: Success doesn’t just happen by accident; it is directly related to putting in a tremendous amount of effort to build something amazing on a solid foundation. Believe in what you have, and give it the absolute best shot that you can take. If and when you experience rejection, listen to the ‘why’ and adjust accordingly.

Mary Ellen: What type of projects interest you?

Jeff: Stories that fall into the inspirational category, regardless of the genre or world, are the ones that we collectively generate a true passion for. They are also the stories that our distribution network has been most excited about.

Mary Ellen: Is there anything you’d like to share with our audience that I did not ask?

Mike: We can’t thank our initial customers enough; those people took a chance with their dream on our story and our vision. Without those folks and their belief in what we were attempting to do, OpenGate wouldn’t be experiencing nearly the success we are. We owe a debt of gratitude to them.

Photo Credits: OpenGate Entertainment