Santa Monica based Tongal is an online-platform providing remote content. “Think of us as a virtual studio made up of above- and below-the-line talent from all over the globe,” says CEO James DeJulio.
As a creator in the world of remote content, Tongal was ahead of the game when the coronavirus pandemic halted production and content delivery. Tongal stepped in providing solutions. Their most recent work was with the Sesame Workshop. In celebration of Pride Month, the Sesame Workshop used Tongal’s community of creators to develop a series of social assets including this Instagram post that celebrates friends and families of all shapes, sizes and colors.
James DeJulio talks to Variety about how the company worked with TV and Film and how he sees the future of content creation.
What conversations did you have regarding the Sesame Street Pride image?
We have an ongoing relationship with Sesame Workshop, who use Tongal to create video and other content for social media. They were looking for a dynamic shareable social asset to celebrate their LGBTQ friends who help make up the diverse fabric of the street. It was a nice match for our community – since Tongal levels the playing field for talent, regardless of obstacles and barriers to entry like geography, sexual orientation, race, and gender. It’s been fun to watch the reaction on social. People have even been asking for the art to be made into a print and phone background.
As far as I’m concerned, a major crisis forces organizations to embrace “outsiders” and outside innovation to help advance their businesses, adapt, and thrive. We were seeing the appetite for open employment models begin to expand before the pandemic…now, it’s the normal course of business, and we’re seeing growth from the brand and studio side. One thing’s for sure, any perceived psychological barriers to open models for talent – like ours – seem to have evaporated overnight.
With production halted, how else has Tongal provided solutions to the film and tv industry?
Our product is made 100% remotely, so I’m grateful to say that navigating this transition with our clients and community has been relatively seamless. Tongal, from day one, has been made up of independent producers working out of garage studios all over the world – making studio-quality ads and entertainment on micro budgets – with talent, passion and technology as their enablers. They’ve never relied on big crews to get work done, and they’re used to self-contained productions with only a few people. The same holds for our animators, working out of home studios around the globe, tapping into a network of remote talent with specialized skills. Because of that, we can “turn on” production instantly wherever it’s geographically safe.
Can you talk about any other solutions and collaborations that happened during the pandemic?
WarnerMedia used our platform to connect with independent artists to design train car interiors for “Snowpiercer,” the 1,001-car train from the TNT series. To create crossover excitement for existing TNT fans, artists planted Easter eggs from other TNT shows.
Lululemon originally planned large, live workout events, and big photo and video shoots, but immediately pivoted and activated their network of ambassadors from home. Instead of traditionally planned, fully-staffed shoots, they moved to have their brand ambassadors capture content and then feed that content to editors on our platform to put it all together in at-home workout content for their community.
What solutions were the TV/Film industry looking for you to provide?
We’re having conversations around everything from developing animated features, to creating quick content that supports existing titles, to helping studios incubate IP and discover new, micro-budget films that can be created safely right now.
As a subscription-based service, what growth did you see from the pandemic?
In Q2, our rate of new subscriptions grew over 100% in April and May which is interesting because March was, on average, well below our normal rates of enterprise activity (even though our creator community experienced the opposite effect). I think it’s good news. Businesses are realizing that “the show must go on,” but maybe the stages and players are changing.
What thoughts do you have on how the pandemic will impact content creation?
This has already forced major change onto the business of content creation, and it has been swift. The “low touch” economy did what 10 years of change couldn’t – force studios to consider day and date digital releases of major films. That’s going to impact the revenue opportunity of each title, and with it, the production economics. That invisible hand is going to force production into new geographies, giving rise to local economies and talent pools. Unfortunately, those will be outside of California. It’s also going to force content producers to bet on new talent and new models across the board. It’s already happening, with enterprises looking to the fringes and using open models to access highly-specialized talent. The free movement of skilled work around the globe will democratize creativity and create value for businesses and talent – a win-win for everyone.