The creator of Newcastle-based interactive film production firm TryLife has revealed he’s in talks with US networks including Netflix about screening the company’s new video on gang violence in America.
Paul Irwin was speaking at the opening of the second Newcastle StartUp Week on Monday, which was labelled ‘Inspiration Day’ and took place at the Boiler Shop in the city centre.
The five-day, multi-venue festival is the brainchild of Paul Lancaster, who has a vision of accelerating digital entrepreneurship in the North East and providing support and inspiration to start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs.
“I’ve just come back from six weeks in Hollywood – we initially took the TryLife concept over there as part of a trade mission in 2016,” Irwin told BusinessCloud.
“We were a bit of a wildcard and we weren’t quite sure how we’d be perceived but when we went over there we were absolutely ‘mobbed’.”
TryLife was set up by former youth and community worker Irwin to create an interactive educational and drama series to educate young people across the UK about the consequences of their life choices.
The company has so far produced episodes covering subjects including drugs and mental health and has attracted millions of followers on social media.
Irwin and co-founder Nicky Kaur have been working with the Department for International Trade (DIT) since the trade mission in 2016 and are now working on developing a new interactive film with the Bloods, Crips and Mexican Mafia in South Central.
Irwin says he hopes the new episode will educate young people about the history of gang violence in America.
“We held an event where we had founding members of the Bloods, Crips and Mexican mafia on stage for the first time, all standing there saying ‘If I had something like TryLife as a kid maybe I wouldn’t be in the position I am’ – so we got buy-in from the entire community,” he said.
“And now we’re in talks with HBO, Fremantle, Netflix, Amazon and a couple of other distributors.
“But to be honest, even if we don’t get a distributor these guys [gang leaders] have got enough of a following and enough gravitas behind them that if they put their name to it, the distribution network is already there and we can leverage our huge audience that we’ve amassed.
“We’ve got a few meetings and quite a lot of interest in it – I’m just going to see where it ends up sitting. Producing it is the most important thing, just getting it off the ground, but it’s just phenomenal to see how it’s been taken up.”
Irwin told BusinessCloud that TryLife’s biggest audience is now in America.
“We’ve got 6.5 million people on Facebook, I’ve reached 188 million in a week and 140 million Americans in a month with no marketing or an advertising budget,” he said.
“That means that 65 per cent of all Facebook users in the US have seen some TryLife content within that month. I’ve got the trust of a huge community there and we just need to keep the momentum going.”