Who are these geeks?
The Post-Geek Singularity (PGS) is a creative community built on the vision of co-producers and business partners, Robert Meyer Burnett and Mike Bawden. Together, the two form the creative and marketing team behind Imagination Connoisseurs Unlimited, LLC, (ICU) a production company focused on making original and inspiring genre entertainment and presenting it to audiences in a way that makes it “fun to be a fan” again.
And, yes indeed, these two know how to have fun.
Robert Meyer BurnettFor the past 27, filmmaker Robert Meyer Burnett found himself traveling the globe participating in just about every aspect of the film industry. Beginning as a Production Assistant on LEATHERFACE; THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III, he soon found himself as one of the first Management Trainees under Warner Brothers Senior Vice President of Production Bill Young, allowing him to observe feature film production from the very highest level of a major motion picture studio.
In 2009, Ludovico developed and produced its first feature film, THE HILLS RUN RED, in association with Warner Premiere and Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment with Burnett as producer.
He went on to direct and edit five episodes of the HBO/Cinemax Late Night anthology series ‘Femme Fatales.’
From 2012 thru 2014, Burnett wrote, edited, and produced over 50 hours of additional programming for the HD restoration Blu-Rays for ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘Star Trek: Enterprise.’ The seven seasons of ST:TNG won 2 Saturn Awards. 2016 saw the release of three features he edited, the time travel thriller PARADOX, the serial killer drama MY ELEVENTH, and the mystery I KNOW WHERE LIZZIE IS.
During the summer and fall of 2021, Burnett’s editing work and post-production supervision on the feature film, TANGO SHALOM, won international praise at film festivals in North America and foreign markets. The feature went on to a ten-week theatrical run in select markets and is now available on-demand both domestically and in Asia.
Mike BawdenMike Bawden is a writer/producer living in the Midwest. He has over 30 years of experience in advertising, marketing, and public relations and has only recently begun working with creators and filmmakers to produce a variety of pulp/action stories, comic books, and video content focused on the sci-fi, horror, and fantasy genres.
As of August 1, 2020, Bawden has been collaborating with co-producer Robert Meyer Burnett (FREE ENTERPRISE and THE HILLS RUN RED among others) on his streaming show ‘Robservations: The Show About Something.’ The two also continue to collaborate on a number of other projects.
In December of 2019, Bawden and his partner/co-creator, legendary comic book cover artist, Dave Dorman, published the first issue of their pulp magazine series “Amazing Tales of The Wasted Lands.” Bawden is writing additional stories in the series and hopes to start publishing those in 2022 with a new anthology ready for distribution in time for SDCC 2022.
For the past four years, Bawden has served as the mayor of his hometown, Riverdale, Iowa. His term ended on December 31, 2021.
An integrated approach to making great genre entertainment
The PGS community and streaming platforms are just two of the five divisions that make up Imagination Connoisseurs, LLC. ICU also operates Imagination Unlimited Press (publishing), ICU Post (post-production services), and a variety of single-purpose LLCs through which it develops, produces, co-produces, and markets a number of projects.“ICU develops intellectual property into viable, multi-platform businesses,” explained Bawden. “It’s more than just finding a good story and making it into a movie or series – although that’s a big part of what we intend to do. We just go beyond that, exploring every angle and opportunity to create additional value that will enhance the profitability of the licensed IP and lengthen its viable lifespan in the marketplace.”
Bawden went on to explain how he and Burnett split the duties and responsibilities for managing both the creative and the business sides of the IP they license, acquire and create.
“Rob and I have a slightly different way of looking at what we do when you compare our production venture to more “traditional” production teams in the entertainment business. We both have backgrounds in production – Rob’s is primarily in filmmaking – both features and documentary-style projects. Mine is in the commercial production of advertising campaigns and internal communications content that is, essentially, long-form storytelling with a specific business purpose behind it.”
As a result of these differences, it’s a natural fit for Burnett to oversee the creative and production aspects of each project while Bawden focuses on acquisition, funding, marketing, and sales/licensing of finished content.
“It’s not like we don’t have opinions about what the other guy should be doing,” admits Burnett. “If I’ve got an idea on how to market one of our projects, Mike’s the first guy I talk to about it.” Similarly, Bawden often provides notes and suggestions for projects in development and evaluates preliminary drafts of scripts.
“It helps to be a writer,” Bawden admits. “Who knows, someday we might produce one of my ideas – but for right now, Rob has angles on some really great stuff and I’m very pleased with what’s already in the pipeline.”
Leveraging the movie-going experience
One example of Bawden and Burnett’s marketing-focused approach to projects taken from development through distribution is their view of how best to take advantage of the limited opportunities their small-budget projects will face with exhibition houses and other distributors.“There’s been a lot said and written about the impending death of the movie theater business,” Bawden said. “And those reports aren’t wrong if the expectation is that the movie exhibition business should be just like it was twenty or forty years ago. But that’s the point … it’s not.”
Burnett and Bawden are working on ways to partner with movie exhibitors who are willing to try some new things to lure people back into their theaters. “Studios who don’t understand their responsibility to revitalize the movie-going experience are not just going to kill an industry, they’re going to do long-term damage to their own business,” opined Burnett.
Both Burnett and Bawden agree that the secret to the long-term success of movie theater operators and their own business lies in having a deeper understanding of what it means to be a fan and how to deliver a unique experience that will entice fans back to the theater time and again.
“There’s a reason our company’s mission statement is that we will make and deliver characters, stories, and franchises that “make it fun to be a fan” again,” explains Bawden. “Rob and I both remember the excitement and anticipation associated with the things we loved growing up – and in a time of reboots and re-imaginings, much of that is lost to cynicism and paint-by-numbers storytelling.”
“We’re out to change all that,” declares Burnett. “And there’s just one way to do it. By focusing on the fan experience.”
“We know and understand fans of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and more because we are fans, too,” explained Burnett. “Star Trek was like a religion for me. I waited hours outside theaters to see Empire Strikes Back. I’ve been to dozens of Comic Cons.”
“ICU will be successful because we know how to talk to fans and we know how to listen to fans,” added Bawden. “We’re not talking about fan service, there’s too much of that. We’re talking about fan-focus. There’s a difference.”
ICU’s fan focus is all about managing expectations, maintaining high standards, and making sure characters are never put ahead of the great stories they’re in, no matter what medium is used to tell the story. But most of all, fan-focus is all about “engagement.”
And that brings us back around to the Post-Geek Singularity and the content created by Burnett, Bawden and the team of fans (fellow Imagination Connoisseurs) referred to as “Content Partners.” The PGS is a vital piece to the puzzle that makes ICU different from other production companies.
“It’s kind of like living in an R&D laboratory,” explained Bawden. “We’re talking with fans every day and, more importantly, we’re hearing what they’re saying. We understand what’s on their mind. We know why (and if) they want an escape and can conclude the best way to get it to them.”
Fans get a seat at the table by joining the ICU Patreon
Fans may get an opportunity to have even more say in what properties ICU produces in the future when the studio launches its Patreon. The program is designed to give fans who have always wanted to be on the inside of the filmmaking experience to be there without having to invest in a movie or buy a production studio to do it.
The ICU Patreon will be the way fans can have a voice in the fate of the kinds of films, TV shows, comic books, and games that they’ve loved their entire lives. In return for their monthly, monetary support, Patreon members will receive perks provided in benefit tiers that correspond to their level of support.
More details will be provided when the Patreon program officially launches later in 2022.
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