As a company specializing in science-fiction storytelling, looking toward the future is what Jeffrey Morris, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of FutureDude Entertainment and his team do every day. But on the occasion of the company’s 10th Anniversary, it’s time to take a look back at what has made the company successful in its first decade, in addition to what will propel it forward in the years to come.
For a perspective on this topic, we talked to two important players who have been with Jeffrey on this journey. Phil Hinderaker, Chief Operating Officer of FutureDude Entertainment is a veteran business executive and investor, with experience helping early stage companies grow. And Anne Marie Gillen, President of Production for FutureDude Entertainment, is former COO of Revelations Entertainment and an experienced producer, who nurtures the financial and business relationships that bring FutureDude projects to life.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS
With an intellectual property (IP) catalog of more than 30 concepts from which to develop films, television series and other projects, you might think FutureDude’s success is all about its wealth of ideas. However, in talking to both Phil and Anne Marie, they’ll tell you that’s only half of the story. The first key to success that both insiders shared, is Jeffrey’s remarkable skill in managing both the creative and business sides of the business.
“Jeffrey can write a script in a matter of weeks, and when he directs, it’s a well-oiled machine.” shared Anne Marie. “He’s into the details and planning — thousands of storyboards, lighting, cameras, costumes, visual effects. There’s no ‘fix it in post’ mentality. He’s a writer, director, designer and a visual effects self-taught expert, but he’s what I call a ‘balanced’ creative or producer. He understands enough about the business, plays in the model, but doesn’t go too far to one side or another.”
Phil agrees, “Many times it’s difficult for someone on the art side of the world to get the connectivity with the business side. Jeff is both a creative person and a businessperson — he knows unless he bridges to the business side, he can’t move forward on the creative side.”
Another attribute that sets Jeffrey apart is tenacity, which is a huge asset in the entertainment industry. Every project requires putting a large number of complexpuzzle pieces into place, which Anne Marie knows well from her career as a producer. “Jeffrey pivots quickly when needed. He can be platform agnostic, going from comics to apps, to gaming, to the theatrical world and TV. Another thing I’m impressed by is his ability to reverse engineer a story into a price range that makes sense.”
Phil shared similar examples of Jeffrey’s ability to push through obstacles. “Jeff is good at asking questions. He is great about just picking up the phone, running something by you, saying ‘here’s where I’m stuck, what are your experiences?’ We really connect through analogies and stories.” Phil continued, “The thing that inspires me about working with Jeff is that he’s not afraid to let anything get in between what he wants and where he needs to go. He just figures out a way. He has a survival instinct. He’s just a quality human being.”
Ann Marie also mentioned Jeffrey’s ability to connect with people as both a businessperson and as a storyteller. “He’s appealing to investors because so many of them are closet creatives — they love to be able to take Jeffrey’s vision and help him get to where he wants to be.”
In Phil’s eyes, celebrating FutureDude’s 10th Anniversary as a company is a big milestone when pitching projects to investors. “That creates a platform where there is more durability that can be leveraged in future projects.”
While FutureDude has launched many projects in the past ten years, the company’s first full length film, Persephone, is officially in pre-production. Phil anticipates it will be a game changer for the company, creating financial success for the investors in addition to being something consumers will really enjoy. Phil explained, “This give us the ability to leverage all the other IPs and having them be seen differently by the investment community. The first-time success helps us with the others.”
Even during a global pandemic, the future looks bright for FutureDude Entertainment. According to Anne Marie, “What COVID-19 did was jump start us 5-10 years into where we thought the industry was going. Even as COVID dissipates, there will be long-term changes in release requirements for theaters, and how much will become streaming.”
Right now, the race is on for new streaming services to hook subscribers, and that’s all about the quality of the entertainment they’re showing. Anne Marie believes these changes are positive ones for FutureDude, sharing, “[There are] so many more players and partners. With FutureDude, we’re in a good position because there’s so much ready to go — the IPs are so well-developed.”
And while the FutureDude team has strict COVID-19 safety protocols in place, they have a number of IPs that work especially well as “bottle” movies with a smaller cast shot on a limited number of sets vs. lots of actors and many locations. This allows them to create character-driven stories with exciting special effects even in the middle of a global pandemic.
The year 2020 will go down in history for so many reasons, and several of those have positioned FutureDude’s brand of storytelling well. For starters, the pandemic has created more interest — and debate — about science which is key to the company’s focus on producing more realistic science fiction vs. science fantasy. In addition, “There’s a lot of buzz on topics like climate change,” shared Anne Marie, a topic about which Jeffrey is passionate that’s central to several of his stories including Persephone and Oceanus.
In addition to climate change, 2020 has opened up conversations about racial justice and other important social issues. Anne Marie shared, “With the call for more diversity, it strikes me that Jeffrey has always included people of color and women scientists in his projects, either behind or in front of the camera. He is a black man but doesn’t ever pitch himself that way.”
A clue to Jeffrey’s perspective can be found in the dedication to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his book Slingshot: Jupiter Conspiracy, “for reminding us that who we are is infinitely more important than how we look.” Jeffrey has always taken an inclusive approach not unlike one of his other personal heroes, Gene Roddenberry, American television screenwriter, producer and creator of the original Star Trek television series. This approach to inclusion is just another reason the past decade for FutureDude Entertainment is likely to be the first of many more.