For Robert Kirkman's Skybound Entertainment, the Sky’s the Limit
While Skybound is new to online video, it’s already signed on with some important partners. Last year, it signed a deal with Maker Studios to develop short-form content using Maker talent. That marked the beginning of Skybound’s online video efforts, and the two companies celebrated with a party at South by Southwest to promote both the Superfight card game and the web series.
So far, both of Skybound’s online series have been created with Maker, but it has other projects in the pipeline that may be created independently. Maker has a first-look deal for short-form content, so if Maker passes on a project Skybound could decide to produce it on its own.
Skybound is one of five companies in the Maker Labs program and works with a Maker team to co-develop content. Maker talent development people advise Skybound on Maker stars to work with, and Maker data and analytics people help Skybound make decisions about show length and promotional platforms to get the biggest audience possible. Skybound’s online series are more humorous than its other creations, something that Skidmore appreciates. Much of the humor on its series Nerd Court is improvised.
“Nerd Court was just fun in general. We went in every day with a script, we left every day with an amazing amount of improv from our cast. Malcolm Barrett—who was an actor on Better Off Ted, and he’s doing a lot of local L.A. theater, and he was in Dear White People last year—he’s our judge. We had Tessa Netting, YouTuber, as our bailiff. Those two have an amazing and hilarious chemistry. We had fun just sort of letting them riff, and letting them tease our plaintiffs and defendants—and surprising everyone on one episode by bringing Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek on. That was really fun. He had a good time too. I hope. I think so. He told me he did, so I’ll take that,” Skidmore says. “I don’t think the crew wanted to leave when we were done.”
Nerd Court got a high-profile guest when Jonathan Frakes joined the show for the trial of his Star Trek character William Riker.
As of this writing, Skybound is looking for the funding to create a second season of Nerd Court. Working with Maker, it’s shopping around for an advertising partner. Skidmore sees a movie studio, one with a lot of usable characters, as the best fit. Besides Nerd Court and Superfight, Skybound plans to launch two additional online series this year.
From Video to VR
Skybound announced another high-level partnership at International CES that will see it dive into virtual reality (VR).
“The YouTube channel’s awesome, but we’re very excited to see where else we can put Skybound content,” Skidmore says. “A project that I own is the VR series that we’re developing with Samsung which we announced at CES. We’re sort of considering that media development, if you will.”
That project was in preproduction at the time of this interview, so Skidmore couldn’t say much about it, but it’s in the thriller/horror genre. An interactive scary movie sounds like the perfect pairing for a Samsung Gear VR headset.
“The scripts are ready. We’re diving into the specifics that are involved with creating something on such a unique platform,” Skidmore says. “Sort of expanding on the atmosphere that we’re going to create and the environments, and yeah, really digging into what’s it going to take to make 60 minutes of this happen.”
The Samsung VR project will be completely original, not based off any Skybound property, and Skidmore isn’t sure yet how many episodes it will be. It should debut in the fall, although that might change. Viewers will be free to explore side areas to get more information. One of the goals is to build in enough details that it’s rewatchable.
“We want to see people go back and watch it again and again,” Skidmore says.
Right now, Skybound is exactly where it wants to be, able to work with large partners yet keeping a small, flexible office. The key to a creative workplace, Skidmore says, is letting people own their work, giving them room to be creative and take the initiative on projects. Skybound’s model is working so far, as the company is succeeding in comics, TV, online video, movies, and who knows what else tomorrow. The sky’s the limit.
This column appears in the July/August issue of Streaming Media magazine as “The Sky’s the Limit for Skybound Entertainment.”
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