Brough Johnson sees Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland as a major production location for the world’s entertainment content.
A former film editor, she is co-founder and CEO of Narrative Muse, a revolutionary online matchmaker pairing people’s personalities with suggested books, movies and television created by women and gender diverse people from a wide range of backgrounds, based on users’ identities, tastes and moods, rather than past consumption.
Brough (pronounced ‘Bro’) believes Auckland’s time has come, as has television and movie content made by creators of colour and all genders. Narrative Muse plans to be part of this shift.
“It’s challenging to produce screen content in a Covid world because folks need to be so close together. Aotearoa is in a special situation – we’re going to be producing a lot of the world’s content. We have a golden ticket for a period of time, as long as we keep ourselves on track with being Covid-free.”
“What excites me about Auckland is that we are incredibly well-prepared for this future. We have studios up and running, we have production companies, we have crews on the ground, we have a lot of skills and expertise, and we’re going to start seeing a lot of our local actors in Hollywood films.”
Brough says Covid-19 brought content production to a halt globally, while audiences shut-in and sheltering from the pandemic changed their behaviour. Reading dropped due to limited access to physical books, while demand for streaming services, television and e-books skyrocketed. With Black Lives Matter protests following closely, content by and about people of colour dominated global bestseller lists.
“There is so much going on in people’s tastes now. Things are changing incredibly rapidly. What people need right now is not what they needed before Covid. The kind of content that they choose based on their mood and the topics and genres they’re seeking has changed significantly. And within our own company, we’ve always done a lot to make sure we’re elevating voices by filmmakers and authors of colour and this has never been more important.”
Narrative Muse can help local and international publishers and producers understand what audiences want, and what would become bestselling content. With the feedback loop created by the recommendation algorithm and machine learning, input from its diverse content curators around the world, data provided by users and the recommendations they go on to read or view, Narrative Muse is collecting data that shows what audiences want right now.
“We use forward-looking data, about what audiences are seeking rather than what they’ve purchased in the past. All data pre-Covid isn’t helpful – no one wants what they wanted pre-Covid; the world has flipped upside down. People’s needs are so different now and that’s the piece we’re able to offer, which is a really exciting future.”
The disruption of 2020 is teamed with more publishers and producers realising the appetite of traditionally marginalised audiences to see themselves represented with depth and complexity on screen and page.
“So many folks from marginalised groups don’t see themselves reflected. Make that content and people show up. The data shows it – all the bestselling book lists and most watched shows and movies are full of content by and about Black creators. Think about Black Panther, Wonder Woman, some of the highest-grossing films of all time. People want to see themselves on screen, we need to make that content.”
“The screen production industry is going to be explosive. We already have some really big productions happening here, but I think it’s only going to get better, we’re going to produce some extraordinary things down here and I think a lot of people’s careers are going to be made by this boom time.”