For Barry Kirsch and Douglas Palau, chairman and CEO (respectively) of Dubai-based audio and film production and post house BKP Media Group, the year ahead holds huge promise. While many companies are looking to consolidate amid the current tough economic climate, Kirsch and Palau are optimistic that they can develop the firm into a leading creator of original video content, from viral Facebook shorts to full-length features.
While the company, which was founded by Kirsch in 2001, was originally an audio specialist, it later branched out into video postproduction. The company gained a foothold in the video production industry two years ago when it formed a partnership with content creation company Collective, which is now called CollectiveBKP and is based in BKP’s Media City office.
With the creative talent of CollectiveBKP in place, there are now four main strands to BKP Media’s business: the core audio business, video production in partnership (with CollectiveBKP), video postproduction, and new media such as virtual reality. But for Kirsch, who was keen to get back to his musical roots and spend more time composing, there was still something missing. He decided that he wanted to bring in someone with a strong strategic and creative mind to take the group forward. The veteran musician decided to hire Palau – who was then heading up regional advertising agency Impact BBDO – to lead the company to greater content production heights. After a few months of discussions, Palau came on board as CEO around May 2016.
Palau is now working to drive the business forward with a particular emphasis on original content production. “We are well placed from a music composition, radio production, sound design perspective– anything like that you could say we are the leader in the region,” he says. “Barry wanted to integrate that with content development visually. CollectiveBKP has some very talented young millennials, so we have a really talented multicultural group.”
Palau says that he plans to build on this team, which he already considers to be “cross functional” by hiring more people with multiple talents. “That is the way content is now. You’ve got to be able to write, edit and produce, so we are evolving into what I call hybrid content.”
Kirsch points out that he also wants to see the four main parts of the business continue to “cross pollinate” as they all complement each other.
Palau says: “We have got fantastic audio facilities with six studios, and we have millennials creating stuff for millennials. Barry’s vision was for me to come in with my brand, advertising experience and film experience and develop the company into a media group that is really a hybrid offering. One of the elements we are focusing on in addition to audio and content production is entertainment intellectual property.
Indeed, while the majority of BKP Media’s revenues currently stem from its core audio, postproduction and client-based video productions, Palau is keen to see the company produce ambitious, original, pure-form entertainment content.
“We have already started creating our own properties and the difference between that and what some might call branded content is that this is a pure-form entertainment, so we are creating our own ideas without any brief other than we want to entertain a millennial audience. We have a slate of projects in development now, from the small viral or web mini-series’ to full form 90-minute theatrical release movies – all of that.”
Palau adds that the company’s intention is to self-finance these projects as much as possible, although the company will also consider outside funding options for certain projects. “Some of the projects we can self-finance, while for some we will need to bring in partners. But the idea is that this is not a branded content play from the outset; it is an original entertainment play. If along the way a brand wants to get on board we will look at that, we may agree.”
The idea is that BKP will produce entertaining content that stands up on its own and will be able to generate revenue through commercial means, which could mean selling content to an OTT provider such as Netflix, a theatrical release or direct-to-web.
With the capabilities and a strategy in place to create original pure-form entertainment content, Palau offered Digital Studio a sneak insight into some of the content the company has planned. “Right now we are working on a low-budget horror film. It’s being shot in the UK and is going into production around March.”
Palau is co-writing this film with Gerry Sherard, the co-writer of Ali Mostafa’s City of Life. “Gerry and I have a long-term partnership in terms of property development, so we are writing the script and BKP will do all the sound design and sound direction. A company called Homerun in Denmark will do all the editing. We are going to finance part of that film. Then we have a crew and director team to be assigned in the UK.”
Another project that BKP Media is working on is a short series called Taxi Factor, which will feature music talent performing in taxis. “We’re going to use it to showcase music talent who will actually perform in the taxi. We have already shot a pilot,” Palau adds.
“It’s a good opportunity for BKP to showcase music and talent and at the same time we are producing and writing the script and content, so it’s showcasing our ability to produce short-form entertainment,” he said.
Speaking about the overall content plans, Palau says: “This is really what we are all excited about because it allows us to use our talents in a way that we are passionate about. If for every 10 projects we get two successes – hopefully we are going to make a reasonable living from that,” he adds. “The important thing is we own it; it’s our property whereas at the moment we are a service provider for brands and clients. Once you create your own property, it’s a product you can market and commercialise.”
Palau is also keen to tap emerging trends such as virtual reality and 360-degree content and confirms that the company has plans to explore these areas. “We hope to be offering all of that content with a digital platform meaning you can come to BKP and Collective and we will be able to offer the ideas, the production and the means of delivery through digital. That is particularly relevant to us and to the market because one thing we are particularly focused on and particularly passionate about is augmented reality and 360. We are doing some interesting VR and AR projects for different clients. We recently did an amazing piece of 360 filming for the RTA’s launch for a new line. We see that as our own sweet spot and it’s something we want to invest in and develop.”
Palau adds that while BPK will use its in-house talent and resources on these types of projects, it will also tap into talent further afield where necessary.
“We’ll nurture our talent in that genre by getting more projects and also work with experts in London who we’re talking to,” he says.
“Even though the market is tough, if we have a unique offering we will provide value and hopefully create space for ourselves. That’s what I believe we need to do.”