In a sign of the rapidly maturing online-video business, Fullscreen’s expanding talent-management unit has reached outside its own YouTube multi-channel network to sign JennXPenn, whose popular comedy and music-video Top 10 shorts run on a competing MCN, DreamWorks Animation‘s AwesomenessTV. She will be repped by Fullscreen’s Andrew Graham and Rana Zand, two of the eight managers under former CAA executive Larry Shapiro, now Fullscreen’s SVP and head of talent.
JennX, whose real name is Jenn McAllister, is nearly 18 and finishing up both her high school studies (online, of course) and a national concert tour with musician Tyler Ward. Reached in Nashville on the tour’s final stop, the Los Angeles-based McAllister said her decision to hire a management team was spurred by her increasingly frenetic array of career opportunities and time demands. Along with banking a series of video shorts ahead of the tour, in the past several weeks she joined Ward on 16 tour stops and took part in two massive social-media fan festivals in New York and Toronto organized by Digitour Media, whose investors include Ryan Seacrest and Advance Publications. McAllister said she hopes to explore more acting and hosting opportunities in coming months with help from her new management team. “It’s been difficult to balance everything I’ve been working on,” McAllister said. “I was talking to a lot of management (agencies). But I heard a lot of good things about Fullscreen. I have a lot of friends (in online video) who work with Fullscreen.”
Her individual videos on the JennXPenn channel have drawn as many as 1.5 million views, though more typically her weekly posts get 250,000 to 500,000 views each. She also posts regularly with her roommate, Andrea Russett, on the Jenn and Andrea/Andrea and Jenn Show on AwesomenessTV, the online video network that DWA bought a year ago.
Shapiro said Fullscreen is building out its management team because the online video space has rapidly become a real business for young talent to create content, find audiences and make a living. “Fullscreen is all about the talent,” Shapiro said. “We’re about empowering the creators. We’re doing that from a tech platform and a solutions approach, but we need to do it from a management perspective as well.”
Two decades ago, while Shapiro was at Propaganda Films, he worked with young filmmakers such as David Fincher, Antoine Fuqua and Michael Bay when they were only able to get gigs directing music videos, which were becoming increasingly popular with young audiences. Eventually, advertising companies and their clients started hiring those no-name directors to create commercials, and soon after that, Hollywood came calling. Much the same process happened in the videogame business in the 2000s while Shapiro was heading CAA’s videogame unit, he said, and now it’s starting to happen in the Wild Wild West of online video. Fullscreen will do “360-degree” management deals using typical percentage cuts with talent, then funnel them as appropriate to established talent agencies in a manner typical with more traditional media.
“You always go after the talent that reaches the youth (audience), the talent that’s shaping the entertainment behaviors of a generation,” Shapiro said. “They’re going to grow up emotionally connected to these creators. They may not be watching the videos of these creators in 10 years, but these audiences may be watching a TV show one of them has produced. We’re on the cusp of that happening.”
Meanwhile, Fullscreen continues to be the subject of acquisition rumors, which over the past few months have variously included Relativity Media (a failed last-minute bidder for Maker Media) and Warner Bros. (which has already led an $18 million round of investment in Machinima), as big media companies continue to seek toeholds in the online-video business and relationships with the up-and-coming creators building audiences there.