Mark Bishop jokes that his lifelong dream was to be a potato farmer. When that fell through, he launched a cutting-edge interactive media company.
Along with Matt Hornburg, who lived in residence with Bishop at Ryerson University in Toronto, the Rothesay-native co-founded Marblemedia.
From its humble beginnings around a dining room table nearly 10 years ago, the company is now at the forefront of cross-platform media production, bridging television, Internet, mobile media and the gaming world.
“Our goal is to tell great stories that entertain and engage an audience,” says the 33 year-old, honoured last week in Cannes, France, as one of 20 people under 35 years old from across the globe helping shape the next generation of broadcasting.
“We’re extending story telling outside what you see on television,” he adds. “It’s more than just downloading clips from the shows. It’s about developing the story and creating interactive features that dig deeper into the characters and the story.”
From an old carpet factory in Liberty Village, a hip media hub in downtown Toronto, Marblemedia produces animated television shows: The Dating Guy, a prime-time comedy for adults with writers from the Simpsons; Skatoony, a live-action quiz show for teenagers; and Taste Buds, a cooking and food adventure series for kids.
“Our success is about having a unique business model and not taking no for an answer,” says the New Brunswick-native, recently named an ambassador for the province. “We have a different way of raising money, telling stories, and getting people to believe in our ideas.”
Marblemedia also has a 50-acre ranch an hour north of Torono. The sprawling production facility, which includes an art barn to build sets, offices and storage areas, is where the company developed the Adrenaline Project, an extreme teen reality series where contestants compete against one another in a tournament-style format. As with most Marblemedia productions, the show features online games and confessional videos that add context and background to the storyline.
“A lot of mobile content failed in the past because it was seen as a promotional tool and not part of the storytelling process,” Bishop says. “The cross-platform content needs to create a more appealing experience.”
Despite the company’s downtown office and large ranch outside the city, Bishop is careful not to overextend the company.
“Our office is modular so that when we do large scale live-action series we can ramp up and bring in more people,” Bishop says. “We have a core team of very talented people but for each project we hire more people with different skill sets for a limited time.
“We avoid bulking up on staff,” he adds. “I’ve seen companies take on too much overhead and then have to fight to find contracts to fuel that pipeline.”
Bishop’s earliest memory of being inspired to work in television came after attending a Mr. Dressup concert at Saint John High School. The five-year old met the star of the CBC children’s television series later that day at the local Woolco store.
“I have a signed record from Mr. Dressup that still hangs in my office here at Marblemedia in Toronto,” he says. “I realized then how amazing TV could be, especially for kids.”
As a student at Kennebecasis Valley High School, Bishop excelled in drama and media studies and helped create a summer camp to teach kids the basics of movie making.
“The week-long camp was a huge success and became an annual event,” he says. “There is nothing more rewarding then getting notes on Facebook from past campers about how much they loved their time at the camp.”
At 17, Bishop became a freshman at Ryerson University in television studies and “the rest is history.”
Although marblemedia is headquartered in Toronto, Bishop said he would consider launching a company or co-venturing with a company in New Brunswick.
“There are many opportunities in New Brunswick and heaps of talent in all sections of the media industry,” he says. “I feel the provincial government has an opportunity to nurture the media industry through a number of different mechanisms, many of which I have shared with both NB Film and other provincial agencies.”
But Bishop said the film and television tax credits in the province need to be expanded to include interactive digital media.
“Other provinces like Nova Scotia have made significant strides to increase tax credits to producers. These credits are the biggest catalyst for the Canadian industry and a real opportunity to attract producers to New Brunswick.”