You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

River Studios Hires YouTube and Hollywood Insiders for L.A. Virtual Reality Studio (EXCLUSIVE)

San Francisco-based virtual reality (VR) startup River Studios is expanding to Los Angeles with some key hires to run VR productions and work with both Hollywood and YouTube and social media talent. River Studios Los Angeles is being led by its new executive director Jonah Loop, and members of his team have previously done work for Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, YouTube, Maker Studios and Jaunt.

“Los Angeles is the center of the world for storytelling and content creation,” said River founder and CEO Mike Rothenberg in an interview with Variety this week. Loop, who previously did visual effects work for movies like “Collateral” and “Bad Country,” agreed: “For rapid production, L.A. really is the place to be.”

River Studios was spun out of Rothenberg Ventures last May. The VR-focused venture capital company has been doing some early stage investments in virtual reality startups like Wevr, Jaunt, AltspaceVR and FOVE for some time and was experimenting with an accelerator program for virtual reality companies. Through that work, Rothenberg frequently got contacted by partners looking to produce VR content, which led to the founding of River Studios.

The studio has since worked with NBC Universal, Coldplay, the Denver Broncos and the Sacramento Kings. Recently, it made headlines with producing a virtual reality experience for Icelandic pop icon Bjork. Loop said that the studio has been focusing on music and sports: “Those two spaces have such engaged, vivid fan bases.”

Loop is joined in Los Angeles by YouTube personality Sam Macaroni, who more recently also produced some VR content for Jaunt, and now is joining River Studios as head of production. “My goal is to blow people’s minds,” Macaroni said, explaining that he’s fascinated in virtual reality in part because of the ability to be a pioneer in a new medium. “I feel like we are a bunch of Charlie Chaplins,” he said.

River executive director Andy Stack also comes from the world of YouTube videos, albeit with a slightly different perspective. Stack used to be the head of creator technology at YouTube Space Los Angeles, where he also oversaw YouTube’s first 360-degree video productions. “My mind was blown at the interactive possibilities” of virtual reality, Stack told Variety.

Also part of the River Studios Los Angeles team are RYOT’s former director of digital content Stash Slionski and Brinton Bryan, who has been working as assistant director with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Richard Linklater.

The Los Angeles team is working closely with River’s San Francisco-based animation director Ewan Johnson, who previously worked at Pixar and Dreamworks on movies like “Finding Nemo,” “Monster’s Inc.” and “Penguins of Madagascar.” Together, they’re looking to produce both animated and live-action content, with several new projects in the works to be released later this summer.

More Digital

  • Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese

    Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese Video Platform Bilibili

    Alibaba has purchased an 8% stake in the Chinese online video platform Bilibili, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Bilibili is one of China’s top video streaming and entertainment platforms, with about 92 million monthly active users and 450 million page-views per day. Founded in 2009, it was listed on the NASDAQ last March. Alibaba’s [...]

  • Clevver-Logo

    Hearst Magazines Buys Clevver's Pop-Culture YouTube Channels After Defy's Demise

    Hearst Magazines has snapped up Clevver, a network of female-skewing lifestyle and pop-culture news YouTube channels that had been owned by now-defunct Defy Media. Clevver was left homeless after Defy’s sudden shutdown in November; its principals said at the time they were looking for a new home. Hearst Magazines sees a digital fit with Clevver’s [...]

  • "Brother" -- Episode 201-- Pictured (l-r):

    CBS Interactive's Marc DeBevoise on Streaming Boom, Content Strategy, and Apple

    Not everyone wants or needs to be Netflix to succeed in the streaming space. And not everyone sees Apple’s enigmatic new service as a threat. Even as rival streaming services offer gobs of content, CBS Interactive’s president and COO Marc DeBevoise sees the company’s targeted original programming strategy continuing to attract viewers to its All [...]

  • Rhett-Link-Good-Mythical-Morning

    Rhett & Link's Mythical Entertainment in Talks to Acquire Smosh (EXCLUSIVE)

    Smosh, the YouTube comedy brand left stranded after parent company Defy Media went belly-up, may be about to get a new business partner. Mythical Entertainment, the entertainment company founded by top YouTube comedy duo Rhett & Link, has been in talks about acquiring the Smosh brand, sources told Variety. Multiple potential buyers came forward to [...]

  • Pokemon Go

    Proposed 'Pokémon Go' Lawsuit Settlement May Remove Poké Stops, Gyms

    A proposed settlement in the class action lawsuit against “Pokémon Go” developer Niantic could remove or change a number of Poké Stops and Gyms in the popular augmented reality game. The proposed settlement was filed in a California court on Thursday and applies to anyone in the U.S. who owns or leases property within 100 meters [...]

  • Skyline of Doha at night with

    Qatar's beIN Rallies Support From U.S. Companies Against Pirate Broadcaster beoutQ

    Qatari powerhouse beIN Media Group has rallied support from American sports and entertainment entities, including Discovery and Fox, behind its request that the U.S. government place Saudi Arabia on its watch list of top intellectual property offenders. The Doha-based broadcaster, a state-owned spinoff of Al Jazeera news network, accuses the Saudi government of harboring pirate broadcaster [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content