STREAMING GAY CULTURE
Creating Content With Brian Sokel
~ by joel martens ~
The media universe is one that has changed quite dramatically in recent years. The act of producing a film or television series, once only the purview of large studios, has evolved far beyond the giants who once controlled what we saw, who was portrayed and when we saw it.
It’s an industry that certainly still thrives, producing work that flows across the nation’s film screens and our televisions in their attempt to captivate and catch the largest possible audience share. A process that some say, is limited by the weight of that burden, because reaching the necessary numbers can exclude content that is suited for smaller, “niche markets.” Such is the way of the hit series and the blockbuster film.
Conversely, there has always been a myriad of smaller works out there, produced by the creative genius of filmmakers and producers who have a vision and the wherewithal to take them to fruition. Once accomplished, a brief dance with success may occur, through the lenses of local Film Festivals that dot the landscape, but, especially if their content is LGBT, the “circuit” tends to be short-lived. The exception of course, is if you happen to be one of the “lucky ones who got picked up” by a large studio as mentioned earlier. By the way, if you’ve never been to your local film fest, make it a point to do so. You will find some of the most amazing, creative work, happening there. Millions of which would never see the light of day, if not through that purview.
Independence is something that is bred into the creative psyche and it has given us some of history’s great masterpieces, in all mediums. But, even those great works need a platform for their expression. Small films, short films and independent episodic works do have places, but they are few and far between…And, if your content is LGBT? The landscape becomes even drier.
DEKKOO, a new, gay streaming service looks to change that idea. Their concept is simple, to gather as much relevant content as they can, be it old or new and offer it up to audiences.
Brian Sokel, DEKKOO’s COO sat down with The Rage Monthly to explain:
Please tell us the story of DEKKOO. When did you launch the service?
We launched DEKKOO in October of 2015, so we’re just a little bit over a year old. We did a soft launch, because we were rolling it out to get a feel for what the response would be. We were basically building subscriber rates and growing very organically. I would say, that we truly came on line in June of 2016 and it’s only been in the last six months that we’ve been cooking.
To give you a little background, DEKKOO is owned by a company called Gaius Media, which is sort of an entertainment company that has multiple holdings. Our sister company, TLA Releasing, has been around forever, since 2000. A lot of our experiences have all been around gay film and cinema and the universe of film festivals.
When everything was still about DVDs, we started having conversations, because the Netflix and Blockbusters of the world had started scaling back their DVD business and moving into streaming. The first thing that went was niche content and that is always alternative content, like LGBT cinema. When Netflix exploded into streaming, they grabbed up as much as possible, because they couldn’t get their hands on all the major, great stuff early on and as a small, niche content provider, you can amass a lot of titles easily. There was a great representation of content up until a couple years ago, when all the big players realized that they wanted to move into original content. Even after amassing their millions of customers, they started to scale back on all their licensing deals. Similar to the DVD universe before, they’re not going to license alternative and niche content, because it speaks to a smaller audience. They need to license for the widest audience as possible.
We started to talk about providing a streaming service that spoke specifically to the LGBT community and we started to get excited by the idea and the opportunities it presented. At that point, we decided to refocus our energies and make DEKKOO dedicated primarily to gay men. It’s a content that we know and we didn’t want to water it down with content we don’t necessarily have the expertise about, to provide a stronger streaming experience. We started to reach out to filmmakers and studios and bring content on board and within a few short months, we managed to amass more than Netflix. That happened, because even though many of the large streaming sites have a gay and lesbian page, they may only have 200 movies. In the end, it’s not the best representation of what is out there. Even better for us, those larger services are never going to acquire those amazing 15-minute short films that were a smash at, say at the Miami LGBT Film Festival.
That is one of the things that pleased me about spending time on DEKKOO. The fact that you have so much content around independent filmmakers and so many short film titles. It’s rare to have access to them.
Absolutely. The reality is, for anyone who pays attention to queer cinema in general, there are so many filmmakers who have made great shorts. They of course, hoped someone might give them their “Big break,” but that doesn’t always happen. That doesn’t mean however, the short or the low budget film they made, shouldn’t be seen by a larger audience. The fact that there was no home, no place to access that content, made us realize that we had stumbled on to something.
It surprised me when I started researching this story, there wasn’t something that spoke to that concept already set up. Sort of a clearinghouse for LGBT independent filmmaking.
Our commitment had always been, to be gay, stay gay and focus on gay. (Laughs) If we find something good that is a short five-minute film, we want it. We want it just as much as we want a great, new film from Strand. We don’t necessarily need the big “mainstream” gay releases, because people can get those on Netflix. What we want is to focus on the work you can’t find, those hidden treasures and bring them to people. That’s where the fun is for us.
I did notice that you don’t focus on those major titles. Is that something you plan on picking up in the future?
Not right now. We could focus attention on content that is widely distributed, but what is the point? I’m certainly not going to steal market share for the 100 films that Netflix has in their library. But, for a film like Buddy, a short film we just acquired and launched from overseas, you’re never going to see that anywhere else. We can provide that now on a streaming platform that is easily accessible and has apps for iTunes and Android, is available on Chromecast and on Samsung smart TVs. That is very exciting to us.
I love that it opens an entirely new avenue for independent filmmakers and content creators. It can be difficult to get a film seen publicly, so creating a venue for that will help fuel demand for originality. It’s basic supply and demand economics.
I just recently had a meeting with an independent filmmaker in L.A., who made a show, ten episodes, a very top-of-the-line production…He easily spent around $100,000 with a couple of investors. It has a big name, lesbian actor who has already done great shows and great movies. It’s a funny, episodic show and they had a production company in L.A. who shopped it around, but they couldn’t find a home for it. A small platform like ours can give it a home and show it to our subscribers. They understood that even though they couldn’t shop it to the biggest ones out there, they were excited to be able to bring it to our platform and we were too. It was a huge home run for us. It’s cool finding these types of opportunities.
The possibilities for content are endless. For every film that gets produced, there are hundreds more that do not see the light of day. Great, creative content, produced with a tiny budget, now has an outlet.
That’s what we started to see, which again is very exciting and is a part of our goal. Similarly, we also want to produce our own original content, as well. We just launched our first original production last October, a series called Feral that is wonderful and very well-produced. Feral was a huge home run for us right out-of-the-gate, which was a pleasant surprise. Our next series comes out in February, a gay dating reality show called Love Is Blind. It’s fun and on a totally different path than Feral. Then, we have two others coming up later in the year. We plan to do original content every other month.
We’re finding that there are all these young filmmakers who, for example, have already shot a series and just needed a couple dollars to help them fund postproduction. We’re stepping in to do that. Someone recently came in with a concept and he hadn’t shot anything. We loved the script and we’re going to help him fund it. Feral for example, we funded entirely, from ground up.
People keep knocking on our door, because they’re hearing of others who have worked with us. Just today, another gay filmmaker with a gay travel show about traveling the world and exploring great, LGBT travel spots that is just looking for a home. I’m super-excited to talk to him.
Your collection is huge, can you give us an idea of what the size is?
We are fast closing in on 600 hours of content right now, which is crazy. It’ll take you a very long time to get through. (Laughs) We release content Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays and are legitimately booked, solidly through July already. If we find new works now, it’s scheduled for August and September.
Where do you see DEKKOO in the next few years? Is your goal to produce more original content?
What I would love to be able to do, is to see DEKKOO continue doing exactly what we’re doing. Staying very focused and very true to the gay male perspective, finding as much content that is of interest to them as possible.
Then yes, I would like to see us increase our original production. I see DEKKOO almost as being a content producer, much like a studio would be, but in a totally different universe. One in which it’s just on our platform. A stable of creators who bring content for us to think tank, then we send them out to a great gay producer and director and they come back to us with a finished product that gets launched on DEKKOO.
That is where I’d love to see it go. We have started to gather a group of young filmmakers, who are inspiring and interesting with a wonderful vision. If we can help one iota to corral them on to their own creative path, then that’s a home run for me. I’d like to see us recognized not just solely as a streaming platform, but also as a home for creativity and for those who create.
I’m going to be spending a lot more time watching my television in the coming months…
For more information about available content on DEKKOO or to sign up for the service, go to dekkoo.com.