I know this is a film site, but we’re about to embark on my one and only favorite sport seasons – March Madness! As a result, for this week’s screenshot, I bring you Fanzooloo. Founded by filmmakers Kaylyn Thornal and Natasha Bedu – that’s right, filmmakers – let’s let these entrepreneurs talk about the game for themselves.
Describe Fanzooloo in 140 characters or less…
Fanzooloo is an interactive sports mobile app, web and media company where users can find and share what fans do before, during and after the game. It’s about everything that is not actually the game itself – food, drink, convenience, community and fun!
(Oops that was 253, but I like you so I’ll let it slide)
I’d expect this from jock types, but you’re filmmakers. How did you come up with this idea?
While writing and producing Food Paradise, a travel series for the Travel Channel, I came up with the idea to create Fanzooloo.
We’d travel all over the country and shoot at these great one-of-a kind local restaurants and bars in the mornings and then we’d have all evening to enjoy the city. Several of us on the crew loved sports so we’d inevitably want to check out the local teams. We realized we didn’t really know anything about the local area and we also didn’t want to just go to like a Chili’s, we wanted to go where the locals go – real insider hangouts. We asked the concierge, a few locals, a couple of scalpers, but our choices and information were limited. That was the first inclination – and because I was doing travel TV I originally wanted to turn the idea into a sports travel series and I pitched it to my company and they loved it. That was in 2009. But the economy nose-dived, and that company like most companies lost over half their shows that year. Six months later they were like, “nobody is buying anything”, so they told me to move on with it and I let it just kind of sit on the back burner.
A year later, I was going to see the Red Sox play the Giants in San Francisco, and again I found myself searching for the same kind of information – where the locals got a drink before the game, pre-game happy hour specials, parking that wouldn’t cost a mint, where to grab a last minute ticket, the best local brews and food inside the park of the non-hot dog variety, where to grab cash, and where to stop after the game. I mean you can spend half a day Googling all this information, but I wanted it all in one place. And I wanted it in the palm of my hand as I was looking for a parking spot. So the idea sort of switched from passive TV based information to instantaneous mobile information. And that’s Fanzooloo. It’s all fan sourced, insider information all in one place. And it’s interactive as well, so if someone suggests a new favorite spot, we research it, make sure it’s legit and publish it almost immediately.
It’s a smart idea, but it’s such a bold move. What made you think people would pick up on it?
Nothing like a few months of unemployment in this industry to give you the confidence to take your life into your own hands. Also, I approached it like making a film, so I wasn’t that intimidated. I think at the time I saw a beginning, middle and end – pre-production, production, and post production. But the major difference with Fanzooloo, is that there is no post-production. You’re always in production. It’s constant.
I think I was confident people would like it because it was providing a solution to a need. I eventually pursued the idea via mobile and web because everyone I talked to about it was like, wow, an app I’d actually use, or that’s a great idea I can’t believe someone hasn’t done that. It gives you real-time insider information on what the locals know – where to grab a drink and a bite to eat before and after the game, parking that won’t break your wallet, last minute tickets, convenience like nearest ATMs and gas stations, best ways in and out of the park so you’re not sitting in traffic, best beers and local fare inside the stadiums, as well as what make that stadium unique (sports museums, batting cages, giant Coke bottle slides, kayak rentals to catch a homer in the Bay) – that is the general information.
But things change for every stadium. For example, in downtown Los Angeles you can pay $30 to park at the Staples Center during a Lakers game, but on Grand Street – which is super close to the Staples Center – after 6pm you can park for free at any meter. Since most games start at 7, this is ideal. And even better, on the corner of Grand there is a Japanese restaurant that has a 2 for 1 happy hour on Lakers game days and all appetizers are ½ off. Nowhere is this information published or promoted – the parking or the happy hour – except our app. And we have information like that on every venue.
I had a kid from LSU who called last week asking if we were expanding to college – which we are – and he was like, it’s a genius idea. That’s when you know you’re on to something that might not suck. And that kind of enthusiasm pushed me toward this uncharted territory of HTML, CSS, and mobile app development.
I’m really jazzed for the college expansion because as I mentioned, I dig March Madness. OK, so you’re filmmakers by trade, has this become your day job or do you still have day jobs?
Kaylyn: I produced television for years until the great LA production depression in 2009, and then switched to editing TV full-time. I still produce, but I’m much more satisfied creatively editing now. I’m about to start back at Game Changers season 3, a documentary series for Bloomberg TV.
Natasha: I’m a freelance cinematographer, camera operator, and photographer, although the majority of my shooting these days is for Fanzooloo. Fanzooloo is not yet our full time gig, although it is about ¾ of my full time gig. In the morning before work, we take meetings at lunch, and meet with the developers, follow up on emails, write blogs and everything else at night.
How have you retained your audience across multiple platforms? Is it a challenge?
We keep our audience mostly through blogging and social media. But I think the key is that we provide information that people are searching for.
So, what’s the biggest challenge running this multi-platform app driven company?
Putting it together wasn’t hard, it was challenging, new and fun. We were learning new things every day which makes it exciting because it’s a new medium and we could also do whatever we wanted with it, take it in any direction. The hardest thing now is that we are growing rapidly and it’s very challenging for just a few people to stay on top of everything. We could hire ten people full time right now and there would still be more work than we could all handle.
Speaking of help, do you have help? I really hope so.
We have had an amazing group of collaborators helping with Fanzooloo. We have contributing writers from LA to Boston, some who write daily, some weekly, and some when they can. They are all unique and so smart, and not all writers per-se, but they are all passionate sports fans. We also did a celebrity chef tailgate blog and a couple of notables were Top Chef Master’s Susan Feniger who owns Street and Border Grill here in LA, (who Natasha actually photographed while working for Zagat), as well as Top Chef Stefan Richter of LA Farms.
We’ve also had sports fans as researchers and back end programmers. People that want to be involved in sports and are passionate about their teams and just want to be involved.
Find out more about Fanzooloo by downloading their app, visiting their site or watching this nifty video! Be sure to check out everything including one of my favorite features, This Day in Sports History written by contributing writer, Adam Goudchaux …also a filmmaker. Who knew sports and filmmaking were kindred spirits?
–by Erikka Yancy for Film Independent
March 8th, 2012 • 5 Comments