Every now and then we get to know someone who inspires us. It could be the world-class pianist who started his career at the age of 17, proving that it’s never too late to follow your dream. Or, it could be the 10-year-old who is already writing his second novel.
These are the stories that filmmaker, self-proclaimed social media addict, guitarist and free-thinker, Manuel Gruber (29) found and shared with the world wide web. He is part of a growing community of media professionals who are taking the online video revolution to the next level. He – a native of Burgenland – founded his first company Visual Propaganda at 20, while studying at the Vienna University of Technology and FH St. Pölten. His second company, viralvideo.at, came into existence only five years later. Both are still running.
Meanwhile, he was also involved in bringing the first TEDx event to Austria, TEDxPannonia, and co-founded Dream Academia, a “dream incubator” and a media platform. Despite his full workload, in 2011 Manuel found the time to take up a Master’s degree in journalism while completing his undergrad in media technology with a focus on TV production.
It was during this period that his interest in stories and the power of storytelling grew into somewhat of a fascination. Having started experimenting with audio-visual production already in his teens, his natural inclination was to think, “why not tell stories in video?” His current project, Dreama.tv and its blog off-shoot dailydreama.com, is focused on distributing curated non-fictional stories of individuals who set out to pursue their dreams and make a living out of doing something they love.
Target Audience? “Dreamers”
Currently based in Vienna, Manuel, his co-founder Philipp Klemm, and his three-core member team are set to bring the work of a new generation of socially conscious filmmakers to a web-savvy audience. From skateboarding subcultures in Mexico to the Detroit music scene, Dreama.tv promises a diverse range of international content that showcases impressive talents and influential trend-setters from all walks of life. Their six-series pilot programme, starting at the end of November, will be dedicated to recording studios in Jamaica. “Music is my passion and I have friends in Jamaica so that’s how this idea came about,” Manuel says.
The underlying vision? Providing real-life examples of people who do things differently, and giving viewers the self-confidence to think more about what they really want to do in life. “That’s one of the main reasons we founded Dreama.tv – to create a cool way of consuming content that makes you think about why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you can pursue your dream from back when you were five,” Manuel says. For now, Dreama.tv will stay in private beta. “The website could be launched any day, it’s all ready,” Manuel says, “but we want to gather more content first.”
The Dreama.tv team Photo credit: Dreama.tvThrow Away Your Television
Bored by the rise of increasingly uninspiring (“reality”) TV shows, Manuel sees an opportunity in catering to a more discerning audience. The first producers selected so far by the Dreama.tv team include UK filmmaker Andrew Hinton, winner of the 2012 Vimeo Documentary Award, and 2012 Webby Honoree Joe Harrison of the LA-based award-winning new media production company Painting in Pictures.
“People keep asking, ‘how’d you get this guy in Oklahoma or LA’?” says Manuel when talking about his mode of approaching producers. “They’re literally a click away. Go on Vimeo, see their stuff, contact them – and an hour later you get an email saying ‘Let’s Skype’,” he says. The hope is that viewers will tune into Dreama.tv knowing that it is the place where they’ll get their daily dose of inspiration, no matter the form, and that as the project gains in scale, it will reach an ever-broader audience.
The first step willbe relocating to Berlin. “The scene is much bigger in Germany,” says Manuel. “All the investors interested in Dreama.tv are there.” The startup gained momentum when it was accepted in the first batch of the ProSiebenSat.1 Accelerator programme at the beginning of the year (read more about here). “It opened the doors to the entire media landscape. More than 20 entrepreneurs welcomed us with open arms.”
Right now, the team are talking to several investors, VCs and a media company. “We need a lot of cash, and I’m not willing to share 80 percent of my company,” says Manuel. “So, it either flies or it doesn’t.”
Creating Meaning, Not Advertising
One of the mottos that Manuel goes by is, “No advertising, just honest inspiration through friends.” His vision of success emphasises structuring one’s life in a way that makes it possible to create meaning and impact for ourselves and those around us. This philosophy extends to all professional projects.
The monetisation strategy behind Dreama.tv is therefore based on engaging editorial content rather than traditional advertising such as banner ads and other forms of interuptive marketing. Instead, most featured episodes will be preluded by a five-second “Proudly Powered By” overlay.
The challenge will be in finding sponsors and partners who understand this type of contextual and experiential brand value, which has already been internalised by forward-looking innovators like Ray-Ban, Intel and – perhaps most notoriously – Red Bull. Not following standard TV industry practice, Dreama.tv will share its advertising revenues with producers, because the crew sees the benefit of forging long-term relationships with its partners and building sustainable profit-sharing solutions. The team is also working on an online shop, where users can buy Dreama.tv T-shirts and their partners’ products, among other merchandise.
Photo credit: Facebook, http://on.fb.me/1femrX2Enabling a better TV experience
Compared to even five years ago, the ease of digital video production has greatly increased, mainly due to equipment being cheaper. As a result, it is easier than ever before to find visually appealing, independently produced online content – which is what Dreama.tv sets out to do. As for how the concept differs from that generally offered by video-sharing sites, Manuel explains: “The problem with YouTube and Vimeo is that users think of them as search engines for videos and not as providers of a TV experience.”
Ranging from three to 30 minutes in length, episodes aired on Dreama.tv will respond both to the demand for higher quality as well as to shorter attention spans. Regarding the general outlook of new media and the “democratisation” of digital content, Manuel sees the future as clearly being in on-demand access via multiple devices. With this in mind, his company secured a deal to create a smart TV app with Samsung in June 2011, which they finished recently.
What’s Your Dream?
When asked about sources of inspiration and mentors, Manuel refers to his long-standing friendship with Harald Katzenschläger, self-termed “Dream Developer”, founder of Dream Academia and chief organiser of TedxPannonia – “the most dreaming guy in Austria”. He recounts how working with Harald for more than two years prompted him to think more deeply about what he wants to do in life, and how to go about it without bowing to external pressures – a sort of Dream-It-Yourself approach. Manuel is also awed by the One Day on Earth project, and how its founder and TEDxVienna speaker Kyle Ruddick “just did it” – pulled it all off only three years after first having the idea. Incidentally, Kyle’s project alludes to what is perhaps one of the core strengths of the Dreama.tv concept in an increasingly saturated online content space: content is no longer king, but curation is.
As for Manuel, he’s already living his dream. His ultimate goal is a different one, though: “I’ve always wanted to become a rock star.”
Reporting by Stefanie Rauchegger.