First up a quick intro! Please tell us who you are and what you do.

People know me as a filmmaker (last film, Fractured Land), public engagement specialist and entrepreneur (previous company, Gen Why Media). I'm also a mom to two delightful girls.

I studied political science and communications, and then social innovation at the University of Waterloo. Now I'm co-founder and CEO of Hoovie - a ticketing and film screening platform that gives you everything you need to watch a great film with others and talk about it, online and offline. Like a book club for movies. The goal is to build lasting relationships and community through cinema.

Our vision is to create an entirely new way of connecting using social cinema as a vehicle for engagement and belonging.

Where did the idea for Hoovie come from?

There were three aha moments that sparked the idea for Hoovie.

  1. While distributing Fractured Land, I realized that there were very few ways for people to meaningfully experience film with others, especially in remote communities where there are typically no theatres. One end of the spectrum is a half empty cinema, and the other is a solo laptop screening. Neither experience is all that social - in fact, it’s the opposite.

  2. While filmmaking, I co-founded and ran a public engagement agency called Gen Why Media, through which I was working on a project about loneliness and social inclusion with the City of Vancouver and other partners. Through this experience, I realized how incredibly lonely people are in urban areas, especially in Vancouver - deemed a city full of lonely people, according to a Vancouver Foundation study.

  3. In the music industry, there were (and are) all these companies popping up that bring live music into intimate, private spaces at scale, backed by real capital.

So I thought, a) people want to be social with one another through cinema, but struggle to do so, b) loneliness is an epidemic, and c) people are tired of experiencing arts and culture in large scale ways (e.g stadiums).

Meanwhile, film is an incredible medium to bring the right people together and spark conversation. The opening was there to apply a sharing economy solution to this film distribution and cultural problem.

From there, Hoovie was born as a platform for public engagement, and innovation in the film industry.

In case you’re wondering about the name, it’s “Home” and “Movie” in one. We crowd-sourced the name and people anonymously voted on it. It was pretty amusing how many people REALLY liked this name :)

On your campaign page you describe Hoovie as the world's first truly social cinema platform. What is social cinema, and why is it so important in 2020?

Online streaming is the dominant medium for watching movies today - huge streaming services with infinite amounts of content to consume. But something has been lost in the convenience of watching movies at home - the social aspect. Movies used to be inherently social; it wasn’t just the film, it was the shared experience of watching it with others and connecting over it.

Streaming video is here to stay, but it doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. By incorporating conversation through video, group interactivity in movie-watching, and through supporting everyday people to host juicy conversations, Hoovie creates a fun online experience that will be much more like going to a movie with friends, and meeting kindred spirits along the way. That’s what we mean by social cinema!

What makes Hoovie different from existing streaming services (say Netflix or their Netflix Party feature)?

Teleparty (previously Netflix Party) at first seems like a cool idea. But the reality is, it’s just a film playing + chat (like texting). In my mind, this actually makes the experience worse because non stop chatting with friends during the movie is… distracting! (Cue the memories of that friend who never stops talking during a film!)

Hoovie differs from other co-watching platforms by enabling:

  • Host-led video discussions before and after the film

  • Like-minded people coming together - both strangers and friends

  • Community building through movie clubs

  • Fundraising

  • Online and offline screenings

  • A catalog of curated independent films, sending industry-leading returns to film rights holders

The pandemic has hit the arts industry hard, particularly the world of film. Several large cinemas chains are verging on bankruptcy, studios are holding off on releases, or putting them out directly on streaming services.

This will inevitably have a knock-on effect on independent film. What changes do you foresee happening over the next few years?

If watching movies online continues to be a primary channel for independent film distribution, it needs to support filmmakers. Huge streaming services pay film rights holders as little as $0.01 per hour of streaming. That’s ridiculous and completely unsustainable.

Hoovie is charting a new path. Our model sends industry-leading returns to film rights holders - up to 60% of the gross ticket sales, in fact. Not only will this provide a new revenue stream to independent filmmakers, but it also makes Hoovie’s platform very attractive for new, premium content. Our roadmap will see an explosion in catalog offerings over the next 12-18 months.

As to changes in the industry, well, even pre-COVID, going to movie theatres was no longer as commonplace as in the past - it was more something people do once in a while, usually for the cutting edge technology. But given the upgrades people have made to their home entertainment systems, theatres are going to have to step up their game dramatically, perhaps shifting more toward VR.

We believe the experience economy is where a lot of innovation will take shape. And we believe the future of cinema is social. We predict the independent film market will be the first to catch onto how people really want to experience movies. Studios will remain stuck in their old, formulaic ways. Meanwhile, indie films will become even more popular than they are today.

And, it’s not just us who feels this way…

Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal told the New York Post, “What the audience craves is new experiences. It’s about the whole event — good food and something worth seeing together. It’s not about sitting in a broken seat and seeing a movie projected.”

Where does Hoovie fit in?

Online media overall is moving away from consuming content towards experiencing content, collectively and socially with others - as is the arts and culture sector. Hoovie’s product offering is unique because we’re the total package: quality independent film, integrated face to face connection, and a platform that engages and supports audience conversation.

To us, the connection is just as important as the content; our commitment to community is what sets us apart. That’s why we’re featuring a “movie club” model, making it easy for people to host and attend regular online community screenings. Our platform will be like an ‘Airbnb (Experiences) for film screenings’. It’s about time this exists!

Aside from Covid, loneliness - the “other epidemic” - is on the rise. What can Hoovie do to help?

The great paradox of the internet and social media is that they promised to bring the world together. We now know that these phenomenons have had the opposite effect: loneliness, division and polarization. From our very beginning, Hoovie was created as an antidote to loneliness. Hoovie connects like-minded people - new and old friends as we like to say. We know that the stronger the conversation, the stronger the bonds. So a part of what we want to do in 2021 is create a platform that really supports our hosts to easily facilitate the strongest conversations possible. We also want to enable our guests to easily connect with each other after the screenings.

Finally, we want to popularize the movie club model. As my husband said to me one day, “You know what really builds community? Familiarity, and regularity.” And truly, he’s right. When people come together consistently and really get to know each other, that’s when this thing called ‘belonging’ starts to unfold.

Danny Boyle says that “To be a filmmaker, you have to lead. People always like the easy route. You have to push very hard to get something unusual, something different.” Though he’s talking about filmmaking he could just as easily be talking about entrepreneurship.

What parallels do you see between the two worlds? What lessons have you learned in the one field that have helped you in the other?

That’s a very good question. I say a lot that filmmakers and entrepreneurs are both the most interesting and courageous people I know.

As for lessons, the “not giving up” theme is huge. Pushing through obstacles literally builds a proverbial muscle. Living your vocation really helps.

On this theme, I recently wrote about my lived experience in 2020 in this Medium article.

Who inspires you when it comes to business?

What comes to mind first is, I’m a rule breaker. While this may not align well in a large corporate structure, charity/foundation or government, I feel it’s perfect for the environment of a startup.

Hoovie is set to disrupt the co-watching industry by way of our platform and model. Our commitment to ingenuity and iteration will pave the way for our success. This type of innovation in the for-profit space is what inspires me.

I guess you could say, consistency bores me. And really, early stage business is the antithesis of consistency. Startup life is all over the map; and the people involved are so interesting and dynamic, by virtue of the fact that they’re able to handle all the twists and turns.

So I suppose my answer is, 1) “Business people” inspire me as forward focused, and typically very generous, individuals, and 2) The progress that can quickly happen in the business sector is fascinating, and inspiring (less red tape, more capital, etc).

And what about in the world of film?

Films inspire me. And filmmakers inspire me. Their passion to tell the important stories of our time and their willingness to sacrifice everything to tell those stories inspires me.

As for the film industry? Well, that needs some work! Hence why Hoovie exists, to innovate and make the film sector inspiring once again.

The nights are drawing in and the temperature is starting to dip. What’s essential watching for a cosy evening at home?

Anything from the Hoovie catalog will do the trick! All our films are conversation sparking, quality cinema, and relevant (timely or timeless). What more could you ask for!?

Specifically, I love filmmaker Doug Block. He’s an incredible human, so his films reflect his humanity. If anyone reading this craves reflection on love, relationships and marriage, and what it all means today, I’d highly recommend Doug’s film, 112 Weddings. I reference this film in our Pecha Kucha talk here.

And the perfect food and drink pairing to go with it?

I’m a huge wine and cheese person. I also love popcorn. (Here’s a recipe for “feminist popcorn” from a Hoovie guest!)

What would you say to someone considering investing in Hoovie’s campaign?

We would love to see you co-own the future of cinema, and be a part of our family.

If you have any questions, please be in touch. Whether you end up investing or not, I’d love to hear from you. It’s always so wonderful to meet like-minded people. After all, that’s the point of Hoovie!

Hoovie’s campaign is now live on FrontFundr. Head over to their campaign page for more information on how you can get involved!