Digital Brand Architects striking deals to adapt online content
A string of recent TV development deals has proven that no blog, Tumblr or Twitter feed is too obscure or too new to escape notice in Hollywood, so long as the voice behind the content is compelling enough to expand into other media.WME, UTA and CAA are among the major tenpercenteries who have inked high-profile film and TV pacts based on material that originated on blogs and Twitter. The flurry of activity has been good news for Digital Brand Architects, a boutique shop founded just over two years ago with a prime focus on striking media, licensing and corporate pacts for digital publishers — aka bloggers. Established in 2010 by partners Raina Penchasky, Kendra Bracken-Ferguson and Karen Robinovitz, the agency scouts talent on the Web and social media like any other percentery, with the goal of finding properties that can expand into other, more profitable realms. Penchasky, who is chief strategy officer, said there’s plenty of raw talent in the blogosphere, but most need a lot of help in fine-tuning a distinctive brand and getting it in front of prospective partners. “Once we take them on and figure out how to develop their brand, every single case is different in figuring out what we do with them,” Penchasky said. “Some people’s site fit more to a brand specific item, so we will push them harder on that end and others can be more of an idea that needs to be developed and may fit better elsewhere.” DBA recently pacted with FremantleMedia of North America to develop TV concepts stemming from its client base. Other deals DBA has closed for clients range from one for creating new opening and closing credits on MTV’s “House of Style” to licensing pacts with global brand licensing agency Beanstalk for Tina Craig and Kelly Cook of designer bag site BagSnob, Kelly Framel of fashion blog the Glamourai and Kelley Lilien of Mrs. Lilien. In film and TV, blogs have become akin to spec scripts. Agents and TV execs who like what they read online are increasingly open to betting on tyro talents, such as Emma Koenig, who is developing a comedy for NBC based on her Fuck I’m in My 20s Tumblr blog, or Kayli Stollak, who has a deal to develop a laffer for CBS based on her Granny Is My Wingman blog chronicle of her dating adventures with her grandmother in Florida. Among those scoring recent deals are UTA’s Sofia Rossi, who co-founded Hellogiggles.com and is currently developing several TV projects, as well as WME-repped Kelly Oxford, who was signed on the strength of her Tumblr and Twitter feed by WME and is now involved in multiple film deals. The handful of Hollywood agents who cover this arena said with the exponential growth of social media, competition to find new talent is becoming more fierce. Penchasky stresses that in recent years the playing field has been leveled. “A good writer is a good writer whether you are an established author or a blogger, one shouldn’t need several references to prove that,” one agent at a prominent tenpercentery said. As DBA’s roster and reputation have grown in the past few years, the firm has found itself in the fortunate position of knowing where to look and seeing aspiring talent come to it. The shop came together when Penchasky, Bracken-Ferguson and Robinovitz noticed a significant change in how readers were being inspired by new voices. “It becomes easier to find this talent when you are immersed in the world and know where to look to find certain nuggets,” Penchasky said. At present, Penchasky says the next big thing is do-it-yourself blogs — like how to design your own T-shirts or how to build your own furniture. Hollywood’s appetite for blog material is strong now, but Penchasky is well aware that trends and tastes can change quickly. “The focus of our company has always been finding and developing digital talent,” she said. “What that means in two years is completely different from what that will be today.”
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