AwesomenessTV, the youth-skewing digital media company majority owned by DreamWorks Animation, has hired Matt Kaplan, former exec at Lionsgate and founder of Chapter One Films, as president of the newly created Awesomeness Films division.
Awesomeness Films is slated to release between 12 and 15 films for theatrical and digital film distribution. In addition to several films currently in production — including “Shovel Buddies,” based on a 2013 Black List script by Jason Mark Hellerman — Awesomeness Films will look to produce and acquire “elevated young adult material” to combine traditional and digital talent across all budget ranges for both wide and limited releases.
AwesomenessTV has already edged its way into films, with Kaplan’s appointment signaling that the company plans to boost its output. The company is co-producing “Smosh: The Movie” with YouTube multichannel network Defy Media, slated for July release. And in April, YouTube said it would work with AwesomenessTV to produce several films over the next two years starring YouTube talent.
AwesomenessTV is among several digital players that have jumped into producing feature-length films. Netflix has a slate of originals in development, including the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and Amazon Studios in January hired indie producer Ted Hope to lead development of about 12 films annually. In addition, Fullscreen, a large YouTube multichannel network, has plans to produce movies.
Kaplan, prior to joining AwesomenessTV, in 2013 founded Chapter One Films, which signed a first-look deal with Blumhouse Prods. In addition, two members of Kaplan’s team at Chapter One Films — Robyn Marshall and Max Siemers — will be joining Awesomeness Films.
“AwesomenessTV has made a major commitment to film production and we are looking to Matt with his strong track record in independent film to help us deliver on our very ambitious slate of films,” said Brian Robbins, founder and CEO of AwesomenessTV. “Major Hollywood studios have largely ignored Generation Z.”
Robbins noted that AwesomenessTV’s film “Expelled,” a teen comedy featuring YouTube and Vine star Cameron Dallas, rose to the No. 1 spot on Apple’s iTunes when it was released last December. That, he said, shows “there is an enormous appetite for movies that speak to” younger audiences.
Kaplan, while at Chapter One Films, produced Akiva Goldsman’s horror film “Stephanie”; “The Lazarus Effect,” starring Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass; “Viral,” directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman; and “6 Miranda Drive,” directed by Greg McLean and starring Kevin Bacon. He also produced Syfy miniseries “Ascension.”
Previously, as senior VP of development and production for Lionsgate Films, he oversaw the company’s indie film label with projects including “They Came Together,” directed by David Wain and starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. In addition, Kaplan was formerly at CBS as director of digital development, where he was responsible for developing and managing online programming for CBS Interactive.
AwesomenessTV is majority-owned by DreamWorks Animation, with a 25% stake held by Hearst. AwesomenessTV’s properties include its flagship YouTube network serving teens; the ATV Network, a multichannel network with more than 90,000 channels; DreamWorksTV; talent-management division Big Frame; and consumer products, music, publishing and branded-entertainment divisions.