Get to Know IndieFlix: Q&A with CEO & Co-Founder Scilla Andreen
Jordan Kelley, Content Director, Brandstorytelling.tv
Scilla Andreen is on a mission to change the world with film. The award-winning Producer, Director, Emmy nominated Costume Designer, Author, CEO & Co-Founder of IndieFlix Group Inc. (a global streaming and offline screening distribution service that focuses on content for a purpose) is an industry veteran and a multi-hyphenate of the highest order. Her work has been covered globally, from The New York Times, to Good Morning America to the South China Morning Post. She is a producer of social impact films and a staunch supporter of the notion that film can create conversations that lead to action, for brands, individuals, and social good alike.
Brand Storytelling caught up with Scilla to learn more about her business, her values, and the future of IndieFlix:
What was your background ahead of starting IndieFlix?
I was working two jobs while attending NYU studying political science. I wanted to be a litigator. My sophomore year I fell in love with a director. I end up helping him as a stylist on a national Surf detergent launch campaign and made so much money I dropped out of school and never looked back. After we broke up, he wanted to get married, so I moved to LA and broke into Television; applying my stylist skills to the wardrobe department. I landed my first gig as a hanger sorter on The Wonder Years. By episode six I was the costume designer and shortly after I was nominated for an Emmy. I didn’t even know what an Emmy was? I also didn’t know how to sew or sketch.
What was the impetus for starting IndieFlix?
To be clear I am not a super fan of indies like people think. Don’t get me wrong I love some indies but mostly I am a TV girl. I grew up on TV. What I do love is well crafted, engaging stories. I don’t care who is in them I just never ever want to be bored. I was blessed to work on amazing TV shows like The Wonder Years, Party Of Five, Dawson's Creek, Smallville and more. During my hiatus I would produce and direct short films and eventually feature films. I traveled the festival circuit and met talented filmmaker‘s with movies no one could watch. I knew that Hollywood had only so much bandwidth to pick up films from the festivals. So, I naïvely started IndieFlix thinking it would be as simple as hanging a shingle and an “OPEN” sign in the window of the Internet.
I spent the next 10 years learning that filmmakers are human beings. They need mothers, managers and agents. I also learned about raising money, running teams, marketing, reports, royalties, costs, spend, hidden fees etc.. At one point we had over 12K titles with worldwide rights and I didn’t want to watch any of it. So, I pivoted to content for a purpose. I also didn’t see the point in trying to compete with the Netflix, Amazon and Hulu’s of the world. I love those services and support them all wholeheartedly.
Part of your business is hosting community screenings - Why is it important to promote and support social impact films in this way?
I believe film can be one of the most powerful mediums on the planet but the power is not in the watching. The power is in the conversation post-screening and the materials that keep the conversation going. Our films are intentional and we use them to build community, foster conversations and create actionable, sustainable, scalable change. When a community witnesses each other watching a movie and has a conversation; there is a measurable impact. I know this because we do it everyday and that gets me excited.
As the CEO of IndieFlix, a global streaming service, my shareholders and board didn’t understand why I was putting so much energy into these offline community screenings? Now they see the thousands of screenings we book around the world and the picture is clear. We connect people through movies.I didn’t have a lot of support in the beginning. In fact the board didn’t believe I could pull it off but they didn’t stop me, they just watched. Of course now they’re very happy that they chose not to stop me.
Interestingly, I’m still known in the industry as, “that mom who does those little school screenings”. To date our six social impact films combined have booked over 15,000 community screenings to audiences as small as 30 people to as large as 2500, reaching ages 10 years old to 100, and spanning 85 countries. We get schools and families talking about universal topics such as bullying, anxiety, empowerment, sexual harassment, effects of social media on our lives and technology on the brain and more. We create positive impact campaigns for communities. We track and measure our work and the best part of all is we’re told our content has saved lives. We also create and distribute companion materials, such as curriculum, courses for ongoing education, interactive test-your-knowledge quizzes and games to keep the conversation going. And when parents and schools asked for more content, we built a Creative Coping Toolkit for schools which contains, 19 peer-led activities that get us talking about our feelings and emotions helping to normalize the conversation about mental health. From that I’ve wrote a book called The Creative Coping Toolkit for families. It has 10 activities that gamify talking about our feelings. All of this is driven by the data culled from the conversations and surveys post-screenings. It's the merchandise piece, “the happy meal” to our social impact, tent-pole films. It’s not sexy but it’s meaningful. This is not quick. It's a marathon but these films make more money than most documentaries.
As a final note on community screenings, due to COVID-19 we accelerated our road map and launched all of our offline community screening programs online. It’s game changing.
Additionally, you have the IndieFlix streaming service - can you tell me more about that?
IndieFlix is a global subscription based streaming and community screening distribution service of content for a purpose. The streaming service is $4.99/mo & $39.99/yr and the community screening service prices vary. We used to be your source for independent film now we are content for independent thinkers. I recently scrubbed 7000 titles from our library in order to focus the company on content for a purpose. It’s what I care about. I’m positioning us to be complementary to the Netflix, Amazon and Hulu’s of the world. Now we stream over 5000 titles (shorts, features, docs and TV). We focus on edutainment. Soon we will be launching curated collections focusing on such topics as climate change, empowerment, equity etc.. I am so excited to grow our library of content with branded content and share it with the world.
In 2020, there seems to be a trend towards brands creating purpose-driven content. What do you think about brands getting into the social impact storytelling game?
I love it! First of all this next generation with purchasing power cares deeply about how they spend their money and the story behind a brand. So, brands creating purpose-driven content are smart, meaningful and potentially profitable. We learn from sharing each other’s stories, so what better way to tell your brand story than to participate in the most powerful medium on the planet. You can find it, star in it or just believe it is an efficient way to embed the brand’s mission and essence into our DNA. I was absolutely blown away by the content I saw at this year’s Brand Storytelling Summit. I am building out our library with as much quality branded content as possible so our audience can watch it all on one platform.
What's next for IndieFlix - do you have any upcoming films, and what will you do about events during the Coronavirus Pandemic?
With social distancing becoming our new norm due to COVID-19, IndieFlix maintains that social and community engagement can still thrive. The priority is to be there for each other. We are committed to bringing quality online solutions to schools, organizations, and corporations immediately to help support them during this time of uncertainty.
All of our film-based programs are now available via our Online Community Screening platform to meet the needs of those in isolation at home. Now Entire schools, organizations, and corporations can affordably access all IndieFlix programming on anxiety, bullying, sexual harassment, effects of social media, and digital & mental wellness as well as participate in the interactive materials and discussions from home.
On the horizon, our latest project The Upstanders, a documentary about resilience and the power of connection to end bullying is releasing in April. It's the third in The Trilogy of films that address mental wellness. We are also launching Nevertheless, a documentary that takes a look behind the headlines of #MeToo and Time’s Up. NEVERTHELESS follows the intimate stories of 7 individuals who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or school context. From a writer's assistant on a top TV show to a Tech CEO and 911 dispatcher, the film shines a light on the ways in which we can shift our culture and rebuild.
Other projects in the queue address addiction, money, learning, climate change, gaming, body image and more. We also acquire content and create curated collections to license to our database of over 25K communities in the world.
My vision for the future of our streaming platform is to grow the library, bundle content with companion materials and merchandise; then deliver directly to the verticals and audience segments in our growing database. Without sharing too much about what we are building, since I am still designing it to launch later this year (post presidential election) we basically want to use film to enhance the human condition.
About Scilla Andreen
Scilla Andreen is an award-winning Producer, Director, Emmy nominated Costume Designer, Author, CEO & Co-Founder of IndieFlix Group Inc., a global, streaming and offline screening distribution service that focuses on content for a purpose. Her work has been covered by such publications as The New York Times, and Good Morning America to the South China Morning Post. She’s produced and/or distributed social impact films, Nevertheless, Screenagers, Angst, and Empowerment Project. Scilla directed and distributed two feature documentaries; one about the impact of social media on our lives, LIKE (2019), and the other about cyber-bullying, The Upstanders (2020), which shares stories about resilience and the power of connection to end bullying. Scilla is Included in Screen International’s Women to Watch, Variety’s Women’s Impact Report and PSBJ Woman of Influence. She is a popular speaker at Sundance, Cannes, CES, SXSW, BeBold and Women in Film. Scilla is also the Founder of IndieFlix Foundation. Scilla is on a mission to change the world with film. IndieFlix.com