As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing the founders of Story Data, business partners and brothers, Chris and Gregory Parker.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Chris: In January of 2014, I read an article by Katey Rich for Vanity Fair titled “Quentin Tarantino Cancels His Next Movie After Script Leak.” Tarantino had forwarded a script to six people and it leaked out. As a writer, it hit me, how can we put a man on the moon, instantly share a thought or opinion with millions of people around the world with the tap of a send button, yet our industry is still sending screenplays over open email?
Tarantino’s anger over the betrayal started me down the path to create Story Data. I couldn’t believe we were still sharing screenplays via open and unsecured platforms. The only answer I could find about why, was, “Because that is just the way it’s done!”
There are a ton of things “just done that way” in Hollywood, only because no one bothers to challenge or change them.
So, I set in on this idea of creating a way to securely share scripts with people digitally, while allowing the sender to control how and for how long recipients have access to them. After scouring various script hosting sites, I discovered that the majority of them have no security features in place to stop the very thing that upset Tarantino. He, like everyone else, had no way of tracking his screenplay. Once you hit send on that email, or share that Dropbox folder password, you are at the mercy of the recipients.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Early in our entrepreneurial careers, late 90’s, we created a company that developed a unique risk management windows-based software application. We were very proud of our hard work and we were featured in Information Technology magazine. This magazine write-up caught the attention of Microsoft, who was looking for risk management software at the time. Corporate sent an executive who spent a week with us in our small, one-room office in Austin, Texas evaluating us. Ultimately, Microsoft passed on our small company, but for a couple of young African Americans, it was a fascinating experience. At that point, we were hooked on being entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
Greg: Our big idea is to fundamentally change the way the entertainment industry finds and creates the content we all enjoy today. Using Artificial Intelligence, big data, Blockchain, and cloud computing, we are working to vertically integrate content creation from discovery to production completion. It is this foundation and technology that will set the stage for a move to fully digital production office. Thereby, saving production companies, producers and others time and money.
How do you think this will change the world?
Chris: Currently, Hollywood content discovery is handled through a series of disparate systems that often do not communicate with one another. Story writing and discovery software and platforms are normally separate from budgeting or scheduling software, for examples, which are separate from casting efforts, and so on, and so on. These separate systems create large amounts of data that are tracked in a siloed fashion and therefore, create tremendous technical debt and overhead. Our growing platform integrates ALL these systems and processes into a big data solution that will drive efficiency and reduce overhead. This goal is summed up into what we call the industry’s first “Digital Production Office.” These efficiencies are made possible by our proprietary algorithms that transforms a screenplay into data elements. These elements are used by A.I. technologies, such as cognitive services, to drive the other aspects of the platform. You will immediately see low hanging fruit gains, such as reduction in manual reprocessing of static data. Characters, scenes, locations, etc. are not rekeyed dozens of times as you move from silo to silo. Higher gains are achieved through A.I. generated casting lists, helping speed up identification of actors right for a role, or facilitating communication between all departments, within seconds. We believe our platform has the ability to become the one-stop shop for discovery and production management.
Chris: Any technology taken in a direction that is meant to harm or deceive can destroy a great idea and harm an industry. I do believe avoiding A.I. in the areas of script creation is something we all should strive for. Stories are art and should always have a human creation to them. We never want to enter an area where stories are created on an assembly line like an automobile.
Greg: Technology can be used for evil or for good and a good story can make you happy or bring you to tears. With that said, I believe with A.I., and other technologies we are using to streamline and create a more efficient and cost savings production process, one can clearly see the good our company is doing to help others tell their stories for good.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
Chris: Yes. We like to say we owe this idea to Quentin Tarantino. I originally got the idea after reading an article about his anger at sharing his screenplay and someone leaking it to others. At that moment I thought, with all this technology, how are we not sharing scripts securely. This was the beginning of the idea. What we have built to this point, and our future roadmap, shows that the idea has evolved tremendously since that cold January night, however, his anger was the spark.
Greg: Chris had the idea, when I came aboard, I helped him refine it and bring it to the larger idea that it is today. When it comes to ideas, we feed off each other. He comes to me with great ideas and looks to me to help him take them to the next level.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Chris: Just like many startups, our first round of funding comes from family and friends, as well as indie producer and Producer Guild of America member Autumn Bailey-Ford. However, a second round of funding would allow us to scale faster and complete our roadmap sooner. With that said, we know the realities of Angel and VC capital, and how African Americans are left out of Silicon Valley. We are building a startup to change that reality.
Greg: I believe we need marketing and press. Navigating this new media driven world requires a solid PR person and even brand ambassadors.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Chris: Listen More — As a tech nerd I am always looking to solve a problem and early on in my tech career I didn’t take the time to listen to people like I should have. Listening shows empathy, and that bonds you to that person and their journey. Listening allows you to truly understand.
Chris: Preparation Is Everything — One must be prepared to fully realize an opportunity. Sometimes opportunities do knock on your door and if you are not prepared you can not take advantage of them. Continuing to learn and working on your craft, keeps you in a perpetual state of readiness.
Chris: You Won’t Receive VC Funding — Ascend Foundation released a report stating a White woman is 97% more likely than a Black man to be an executive in Silicon Valley. This translates to a 3% chance that I walk into a funding meeting and will find someone like me sitting across the table. Investors invest in people so, there is a great likelihood if they don’t personally know or work with other Black men or women, my chances of them wanting us as part of their portfolio is almost nil. We must operate on the fringes of our industries and work three times as hard to take the same one step forward. This is a challenge I gladly take, I’m used to working harder than the next person.
Chris: African Americans Do Not Receive Mentors — Similar to capital, finding a mentor is next to impossible. During my development career, I can count on one hand how many Black developers I worked with. That count remains at one. Social aspects play a huge part in this equation. Fathers are often your first role model, but for many of us, our fathers were not in the house. My mother was my first mentor and she taught me an incredible work ethic. Mentorship stopped there, unfortunately. Until much later in my life, it was very hard to find a seasoned minority entrepreneur and I wasn’t lucky enough to find any other entrepreneurs who wanted to take me under his/her wing. My brother Greg became my business mentor and we stumbled through entrepreneurship together. One day I hope to change this with my own VC firm that will educate minorities as well as invest in them.
Chris: Publicists Are A Must — I’ve made many mistakes with my businesses over the years, but the biggest was not hiring a publicist. Far too many times I thought “if you build it they will come.” You need a professional on your team that knows how to get your business the attention it deserves. I will never make that mistake again.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Chris: Continue to make yourself valuable by continuing to learn. If you are always learning you will stay ahead of the curve. Things like A.I. and other technologies will replace jobs. One day soon we will shop at stores where the only employees are security and tech support. Think of the initiatives to build workerless grocery stores. Many people are worried their profession will become obsolete. Instead of worrying yourself to death or complaining, analyze what the newest trends are and see how you can fit. If I’m a grocery store worker, it is evident in the next five to ten years I won’t have this job. However, I now have that knowledge, so I have the power to make an informed and early decision. I can go back to school and become one of the techs that will build these new solutions. With that knowledge, I have made myself more valuable and in turn I have made my family better.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
Chris: I love the entertainment industry and technology. I would invest in startups that have goals of furthering adoption of modern technology to solve entertainment industry problems.
Greg: I’m going to echo my brothers’ thoughts on this one.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your careers?
Chris: Treat everyone you meet with respect and dignity, you never know who this person will become.
Greg: I believe in personal responsibility. I take full responsibility for my achievements and my mistakes. Once you realize that you are responsible for the advancement of your career you will look at everything different. You will work smarter and harder to achieve your goals, as you are responsible for making them come true, no one else.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Chris: A relentless work ethic. Similar to a top athlete. While everyone you know is out partying on Saturday night, you are working your tail off trying to achieve that dream. Becoming a success means sacrifice.
Greg: You first have to believe you can achieve the dream. If you do not believe in yourself, no one else will. That belief turns into action and that action turns into repartition. In my mind that leads to success.
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
We are using modern technology to build modern solutions to increase productivity and lower cost in the entertainment industry. Big data, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and Blockchain are not only for a specific set of industries. We are bringing them to the entertainment industry, and it will be as epic as a Marvel movie.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Chris Parker is the CEO of Story Data, co-founder of Indie Crowd Funder and Executive Editor of Indie Source Magazine. Along with his brother and business partner, Gregory, he co-founded CGT Capital Group, an IT consulting and investment company. A former software engineer, he has served as an IT project manager overseeing multi-million-dollar software development projects. Chris has melded his passions, creative writing and coding, in the creation of Story Data. His first feature film screenplay was optioned in Hollywood in 2012.
Gregory Parkeris currently the CEO of CGT Capital Group, LLC, a multifaceted IT consulting and investment company. With over 20 years of Information Technology industry and in IT project management experience. Gregory has partnered with his brother, Chris Parker, to create Story Data. Gregory holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Columbia Southern University and a Master of Public Administration degree from Walden University.