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TentSquare: A New Twist On The Production Experience

TentSquare creator Andrew van den Houten gives Shaquille O'Neal an overview of the site at SXSW

BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor

Coming from a strictly production background, Andrew van den Houten’s computer technology expertise revolved primarily around the common online resources – Facebook, LinkedIn – used by most other members of the production community.  A producer with ten years of award winning experience on shorts and features screened world-wide in festivals including Sundance and Toronto felt there might be a way to share his knowledge through technology, but the avenues seemed limited.  A chance meeting at a social event gave van den Houten inspiration to create the very resource he felt was lacking.

“I was talking to a technology entrepreneur at a pre-wedding event who is very successful and incredibly energetic.  He was really excited about the world of production, but wanted help in finding somebody to run his new production company,” said van den Houten.  “This man just happened to be Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster.  Justin Timberlake played him (in “The Social Network.”) I use the internet but hadn’t thought about how to import the technology.  It was just a brief interaction, but the discussion was really inspiring.”

From his inspiration came the idea to create an online community focused on providing a wide range of production needs with ease and efficiency.  A resident of New York, van den Houten was very familiar with finding resources he needed in the city, as well as other major hubs including Boston and Los Angeles. He recognized, however, that people in less film-friendly locations or with less experience wouldn’t know where to take their first steps.  He also realized the production community is equal parts supportive (people often recommend peers and friends for production jobs) and competitive (there are scores of talented individuals vying for the same jobs.)  TentSquare, an interactive film and content studio with an integrated social network, was birthed from merging these realizations together.

TentSquare is van den Houten’s vision of an artist friendly studio comprised of members who share in the creation of a cohesive vision.  Free to join, TentSquare members are encouraged to participate in the creation of a project from selecting story lines and titles for the script, to casting main and secondary roles, to determining the director, producer and cinematographer.  Future plans for TentSquare will expand to every aspect of the crew, both below and above the line.

“TentSquare users will get to vote on the story, the genre, characters and plots.  There will be an array of options for where the story can go.  The writers will be in control of the implementation of the user’s directions,” said van den Houten.  “We’ll have an established panel of judges to narrow down the members picks to five finalists, and the members will choose one.  Members will unite to create a great project.”

Before launching TentSquare, van den Houten used the advice he gathered from tech space experts to secure a lawyer and to find the best developers possible.  During his search, he reconnected through Linkedin with Carlos Rodriguez, a colorist friend who was working at Deloitte Digital.   After hearing about the concept, Rodriguez moved from Denver to New York to commit to the upstart’s development as CCO and Co-Founder.  Daniel Fairaizi, another Deloitte Digital alum, also made the east coast move to join the TentSquare team as CTO and Co-Founder.

Launched just a few months ago, TentSquare made their debut at SXSW and doubled their membership within four days.  They are about to launch their first film project, to be penned by the McManus brothers, TentSquare members who’s first feature “Funeral Kings,” was an official selection in the 2012 SXSW competition.  Funded by a private tech investor, TentSquare’s first feature will be made with a budget shy of one million.   The film will be a SAG signatory feature, and the chosen actors and crew will be flown to the location and housing will be provided for the duration of the shoot.  Throughout production, TentSquare members may stay on top of the shoot’s details through photos and behind-the-scenes interviews that will be posted on the site regularly.  Voting on this first project has already begun.

“We’re very excited to be commencing our first project,” said van den Houten. “It’s scalable.  We’ll be watching the experience closely from every angle, and learning about what works and for those aspects that don’t work well, we’ll be looking at ways to improve them.”

As the site and the community grow, van den Houten is looking forward to creating a job network where members may either source other members from specific areas for open positions or place “job wanted” posts to announce their availability.  He’d also like to create a crowd-funding aspect of the site where members may invest in specific projects.

“There is an array of ideas to explore down the line,” said van den Houten.  “I’d like this to become a premiere place to find talent and to create together, to utilize technology to network, and to extend connections both online and offline.  As much as technology can bring us together, it can disassociate us as well.  The connections made on the TentSquare site will continue to grow beyond the virtual environment as people connect and take their team building experiences onto the set.”

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