How long has SHELTER been in the works?
Shelter has been years in the making. I have been genuinely considering how to enter the market for the last two years or so, and how we make the leap from distribution into exhibition/broadcast, as the one business serves the other. After identifying what audience we believed was under-served, and the type of content we really wanted to curate for them and that excited us, the research then started in earnest midway through last year to determine who could best provide the infrastructure to host the platform and develop the apps. We researched companies in Australia, the US, India, UK and NZ, and in the end we decided to work with New Zealand company Shift72. Once we started working with Shift72, things really started to get underway late last year. We have been fortunate to be able to utilise our relationships in distribution and sales to curate quality content from all over the world that fits our audience’s needs.
Why do you think this type of platform will succeed in such a cluttered market of streaming options?
In my opinion, currently the market is cluttered from a purely entertainment sense, from the position of drama, or docos, or a combination of all genres. There would be no point in trying to enter that large entertainment market and compete. Where you can compete is in the very specific, very niche market by curating high quality content. What are audiences not getting access to? How can you curate for those audiences? This will be the next wave of streaming I believe, and it will be ultra specific and niche. I think it’s an exciting time to be a part of the media landscape. This will undoubtedly increase production, and more independent production in the sector.
Architecture, Design, Lifestyle & Outdoor Living content isn’t always sustainable-focused; will this influence the sort of content that you purchase/commission?
There is a real shift within the sector taking place. And it starts with the clients, the home owners, the commissioners, when views start changing at that level it starts filtering up the chain. Architects are very focused on sustainability at this point in time, what products they use, life-cycles of materials, closing loops. Construction is going through a real metamorphosis into making healthier and more sustainable homes. And the home owners and their awareness is driving that.
This absolutely influences the content we want to present, both in licensed and commissioned content. In addition to a genuine focus on sustainability content on our platform we have partnered with Eden Reforestation Projects, a non-profit org established to reduce poverty and restore healthy forests in countries devastated by deforestation. Each month a tree will be planted to represent every subscriber, with a view to us and each of our subscribers planting many thousands of trees where they are most needed.
Have you got offices in other major centres to help promote the platform?
We are taking a cross-platform approach to curating content and speaking to our audience. We are working with established and leading companies like Dwell, one of the biggest international independent home and architecture magazines, to host their video content. Locally, we have wonderful brands like Green Magazine whose video content we are also hosting. The stunning still imagery in a magazine will always remain and be relevant, but the real growth areas for these traditional markets is video.
Will you personally be producing content for the platform?
Our first original commission for Shelter is a 6-episode series called Inspired Architecture, and it’s available to watch now. Directed by Jim Lounsbury (The Meaning of Vanlife, Love is Now), it’s a series we are incredibly proud of. It delves into the narrative of buildings, and the people who have created them. We are looking at more remote locations for future episodes, such as buildings from bush fire prone settings, to being completely off grid, but each of them incredibly inspiring in their design and ethos.
How do you manage to fit such a big project in, in between the acting gigs?
The acting gigs are fine, ask me how my wife Camille and I try to fit in a big project with 3 kids! We like to be productive and to create, and Shelter is something we are very passionate about. I’m just about to start work as an actor on another series close to home. Very rarely – close to never – do I get to read MOW [make own way] on the call sheet, and I’m really looking forward to it, and showing my home town Ballina in NSW to the world.
Is being entrepreneurial in the blood, or is it something you picked up out of necessity in between acting gigs?
I have always enjoyed many facets of this industry, and you do have to make work for yourself, and make the type of work for yourself you want to put out into the world. You can’t just rely on others to do that for you. Get it done. Go make it. Don’t let people tell you it can’t be done. Knuckle down, work hard, surround yourself with genuinely good people, talented people, because you can’t do it all on your own, you need help and support from a creative and collaborative team. Go do something ambitious and unique, something you really care about, that you enjoy, and that will really speak to people.