Jump shot – a ‘data science informed’ film and television studio founded by an artificial intelligence professor at Wharton – has come out of stealth mode to find, develop and sell various multimedia projects from creators from underserved communities.
“If you just redo what’s been done in the past, that’s fundamentally conservative,” said CEO and founder Kartik Hosanager, a professor at the Wharton School of Business with a chair in AI. “If the data is based on decisions made by people in the past, then those biases will be built into AI. You don’t have to choose one size. We are trying to create a more inclusive era of global television and film making. ”
Using machine learning tools can provide a way to bypass the instinctive decisions of traditional Hollywood go-ahead decisions, but it has its own limitations. Was AI trained to only look at what worked in the past, instead of evaluating new projects with more nuanced data tools, said Hosanager, author of A human guide to artificial intelligence, a 2019 book on how algorithms shape our world.
“We kind of said there had to be a way to gauge an idea on its own merit,” Hosanager said. “We are a data science-driven studio with the specific goal of breeding new ideas. We want to find commercially viable ideas in new places.
The company is focused on three crucial elements of the long process of creating a show: 1) finding new talent and stories around the world with high production values, based on AI analysis of responses social media videos; 2) analyze the potential audience for a given project, built around low-fi versions that can be tested with online audiences; and 3) match emerging talent with proven showrunners / mentors, to help creators and their projects navigate the shoals of a complex industry.
The company, which is backed by the venture capital studio Atomic, launched in stealth mode almost two years ago, and started building a list of projects last fall. Besides his terrific academic props, Bangalore-born Hosanager also has entrepreneurial background, founder and later sale of ad technology company Yodle to Web.com for nearly $ 350 million.
The company already has a dozen projects in various stages of development, working with creators that have yet to be discovered by Hollywood.
“All the ingredients are there, we don’t have to wait for Hollywood to find them,” Hosanager said.
Trying to develop projects in a different way, Jumpcut draws on data from A / B testing with “large-scale” online audiences, using it to shape key plot points. Testing also helps focus on likely market opportunities for a given project, for example whether it can ‘travel’ beyond a national market and target audience.
“When we feel like we’re spinning from the hip on ourselves, we’re going to see the audience and see what they think about it,” Hosanager said. The company uses low-resolution video versions of the stories to see which components work with these audiences.
But Hosanager is usefully skeptical of the limitations of its own data-driven approach. Numbers are not everything.
“What are the missing data? Said Hosanager. “What doesn’t the algorithm get?” It is the heart of a company like ours. It’s not just soulless data that makes decisions. It’s humans who make decisions with better tools. It’s about changing the DNA of the whole process.
Creators who work with the company participate in a six-week “boot camp” to help shape their projects. Creator groups in a given boot camp cohort will continue to connect with each other for support and ideas.
Then they’re each paired with a mentor / showrunner to help them navigate the inextricably human and complicated parts of the production.
“We find partners who fundamentally care about paying it forward,” Hosanager said. “They are excited about the idea, excited about the creator. And they usually make money along the way. They come and give their opinion. When there is a strong game, we invite them to be part of the production team.
The project also represents a sort of closed circle for Hosanager, who grew up in southern India, fascinated by films, directed plays in school and even wrote a screenplay. But his practicality won out, and instead he became an academic, author and entrepreneur.
“If I had been born in another India, I probably would have been a director,” Hosanager said. “At one time, there were only two ways to make a living there: to be an engineer or to be a doctor. I have experienced success as a teacher. Then one day, it struck me: everything is linked.