One Perry Hall resident and his team are looking to bring a piece of Hollywood's film industry here to Baltimore.
Glen Spurlock, 34, has founded My Indie TV, a Baltimore-based online streaming startup geared toward independent artists and filmmakers who want to create and display their original work for the masses. The platform's goal, with the slogan "Designed for the fans. Built by the artists," is to give entertainment enthusiasts more content while also boosting Maryland's economy by creating jobs, Spurlock said.
They're starting small — currently at 2,000 subscribers and 194 Twitter followers — and they have huge dreams — 1 million subscribers by the end of 2017, which will help fund original programs.
But in the era of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which have blazed a path for cable channels and networks like HBO, MTV and CBS to stream their content on demand, Spurlock sees the platform as an inventive way to open doors to a film industry that is not always welcoming to those looking to break into the business.
"The statistics are really low of who is going to make it behind the camera and in front of the camera. We want to open doors for people … and we have that opportunity to figure that out," said Spurlock, who has a background in culinary arts, but a passion for acting and filmmaking — a penchant that deepened while taking film classes.
While "dabbling" in the film industry, Spurlock said he didn't like how Hollywood and the entertainment industry was structured. People's original projects would often be changed dramatically or would never see the light of day if they were sold to a large studio or film company, he said.
"I like the idea of keeping everybody in their original form. This is your idea. This is your vision. Make it this way," he said.
Keeping that in mind, Spurlock and his team of five — many who have a background in filmmaking — are working to build a strong network of artists and filmmakers that can expand and exchange ideas and have more creative control over their brands, he said.
Filmmakers will have the chance to pitch their projects, and My Indie TV will fund them with money earned from the subscriptions accrued (Subscriptions cost $20 for the first year, and $4.95 for every following month, according to Spurlock).
The startup, which has around 12 filmmakers signed on to showcase their work, is still in its initial stages. The streaming service has averaged around 300 new subscribers a month since its soft launch in June, Spurlock said.
The My Indie TV website, which experienced connectivity issues this week, features only a pre-order button plus teasers and trailers for upcoming content. But the startup is planning to officially launch My Indie TV in early 2018 with an array of channels, including history, food, horror and artist-based channels; educational programming for children, including an "Interactive Classroom;" a host of exclusive releases from Friday to Sunday; and a weekday lineup that mimics scheduled television programming.
Spurlock said My Indie TV has brought on a stand-up comic to oversee a comedy portion of the streaming service and will release additional trailers and pilot episodes as well as casting opportunities in coming months.
"We want to be in that same ballpark as Netflix or Hulu … but we only want to do original content," Spurlock said.
Atlanta, Ga., filmmaker Tim Everett, 40, met Spurlock at a casting event earlier this year and signed on.
"I hope that small startup channels like this, and any that come along, will change the nature of filmmaking the way YouTube changed who has access to be the media," said Everett, who also founded his own film company Bravo Whisky Charlie Films.
"With indie films in general, you'll have all these people that have great ideas, and they try to get out to Hollywood, and they'll be waiting tables 10 years before someone gives them a shot. That's old and boring and unreliable," he said.
Now, with a platform like My Indie TV, the people with original ideas will have a place to make them happen, Spurlock says.
Spurlock's goal is to launch 100 movies within the first year after launching and to host 35 shows weekly, producing at least 60 percent of the content within the Maryland area, which he estimates will create upward of 100 jobs.
But all of this is contingent on one hugely ambitious goal: 1 million subscribers by the end of next year, he said, which will help fund all these projects and expand the company's reach.
"If we can reach 1 million subscribers ... we will immediately open our office doors to anyone with a good idea to walk in to pitch it to us," Spurlock said, and so far, he believes the goal is achievable.
My Indie TV's employees have spent over $50,000 out of their pockets on equipment and travels around the country to Pennsylvania, New Orleans, La., Outer Banks, N.C., and Alabama to capture footage for their upcoming releases, which include "The Hunt," a show about the paranormal, and their first feature film about zombies, "Theory of Z."
They've promoted the outlet while on their travels, passing out fliers and using social media to promote their brand, a more "guerrilla-style and grass roots-type marketing," Spurlock said.
Partnerships have also been essential. Vodka company Virus Vodka plans to sponsor the site's horror channel once it launches, according to a company spokesperson, but until then, more investment from the fans and focus on the company is essential in the coming months, Spurlock said.
"I want to enable anybody that has a love for entertainment because I'm passionate about it. ... and I want to benefit where I grew up and where I live. I want it to be a permanent home for entertainment, not just a place where people come and go," Spurlock said.
"We want to put that piece of Hollywood here."