Former Viacom Exec Van Toffler Launches Studio With High Powered Help

Former Viacom Media Networks CEO Van Toffler characteristically offers a bold forecast and colorful description of the studio he just founded with help from former Endemol Global Strategy chief Floris Bauer, and Otter MediaPeter Chernin’s joint venture with AT&T.

The enterprise, Gunpowder & Sky (G&S), will be “the next great disruptor of popular culture,” Toffler boasts. It’s the “defiant lovechild of YouTube, the MCNs [digital multichannel networks] and Netflix, mixed with the subversive spirit of those independent creative misfits who altered the planet from their very wired garages.”

The exec who oversaw MTV’s development of animated series Beavis and Butthead adds that he’s “like my 19-year-old, rebellious self being able to once again regress by making content free of format, genre or even a platform.”

This morning’s announcement is short on major details about strategy, financing, and governance.

Still, G&S vows to create content “ranging from 90 seconds to 90 minutes,” and says it’s already working with partners on some projects. They include a four-minute animation series, some digital-first horror movies, 45-second videos with sports stars, and “a theatrical film about a high school trip gone bad in the White House.”

Co-production partners include UK film and digital studio Realm Pictures, direct-to-consumer film studio Supergravity Pictures, as well as Bona Fide Productions and Adaptive Studios. Others will be named “in the coming weeks.”

Bauer, who’s G&S’ Co-Founder and President, says the studio “will develop and distribute its own original content as well as support other creators with quality storytelling and unique visual aesthetics that appeal to the global connected generation.”

Chernin calls G&S “a bold move for us into what we think is the next great opportunity in content production – producing premium groundbreaking video with up-and-coming, as well as established writers, directors and talent for primary distribution on emerging platforms.”

The announcement comes nearly a year after Toffler — who had been at Viacom for 28 years — left his job as President of MTV Networks Music & Logo Group. His announcement came a few days ahead of a restructuring and widespread cuts at the conglomerate’s networks operations.

In addition to his work with Beavis and Butthead, Toffler helped usher in the docu-reality genre with The Real World, and shepherded the launch of a number of awards shows, including the VMAs, as well as several social campaigns, including VH1’s Save the Music. He also launched MTV Films, whose productions included Election, Hustle and Flow, Blades of Glory and Napoleon Dynamite. Toffler was named Viacom Music and Logo Group President in 2004.

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