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What Scriptd Believes

The Mission

At Scriptd, we know that stories have immense power.

We can use stories to tell complex redemptive stories that reflect our modern world, or we can use stories to divide and reinforce stereotypes. We can use stories that portray multi-dimensional characters that represent our diverse world, or tell stories from a single perspective furthering harmful narratives.

We believe that stories used for good can shape how we view our world, therefore making the world a bit more empathetic, a bit more informed, and a bit more understanding of others.

And research done on media effects is with us on this. One of our favorite examples is the Will and Grace effect. Research showed that the commercial and critical hit TV show in the 90’s Will and Grace, with it’s gay character leads, significantly shifted attitudes and reduced homophobia.

So, we believe that stories — specifically diverse stories — can and do shape the world around us. And with that belief, we are on a quest to empower underrepresented and overlooked creators to share their stories.

The Problem

Of the represented writers in Hollywood, only 14% of writers are members of a minority ethnic group, even though ethnic minorities make up over 40% of the population. That means 86% of stories we consume are written from a single viewpoint.

And it’s not just writers. Over a 9 year study women had less than a 30% of speaking roles and characters of any racial minority group made up just 29/2% of speaking roles. Also, despite public outrage and press, the numbers barely budged over 9 years.

Even purchasing power does little to move the needle, Latinx have 3% speaking roles despite buying 23% of all movie tickets.

We don’t want to overwhelm you with numbers…but they don’t get better in any category. For example, women are just 18% of directors, producers, editors and cinematographers in the top 250 grossing films in 2017.

I think you get it — there is an issue. And the issue goes beyond a moral obligation to make sure that the stories we tell people are representative of the world around us.

This disparity and blatant exclusion of the majority of the American public translate to the box office. Last summer was the lowest summer box office in 11 years. What films do well? You guessed it — studies show that films with diverse casts do 2x better in the box office. Also, films with female leads regularly outearn male leads.

Why It Matters

We started by telling you how stories shape the world around us. Stories also shape our view of ourselves. Research shows that “if you can see it, you can be it.” Research consistently shows that people are affected by what they see on screen — and showing well-rounded complex characters make a genuine impact on our lives. One of our favorite examples is that after The Hunger Games movies came out, archery classes for girls doubled and of the new archers, 70% said they were inspired to take up archery because of characters they saw on screen, mentioning Hunger Games protagonist Katniss Everdeen by name.

With women writing bold stories about women, we take another step away from the one dimensional women often portrayed on screen. When people of color write stories, our society gets an important dose of empathy for viewpoints rarely represented. With diverse stories, we validate the unheard voices that are all too often left out of the conversation.

We Are Committed to Creating Long Term Solutions

  1. This is a systemic issue; the way Hollywood finds stories is ineffective, exclusionary, and lowers the financial upside (last summer’s box office was the lowest in over 10 years). There have been some solutions presented, but we feel that none are holistic, long-term, or truly mend a system that perpetuates privilege and is built for a certain viewpoint.
  2. We think stories matter and there should be a variety of options to enjoy a good story. We’re looking beyond the screen recognizing that storytelling can exist in unexpected places and great stories are engaging despite the medium.
  3. We believe that there has to be a better way for talented writers to get their stories told. We believe that working in Hollywood should have nothing to do with where you went to school, who your parents know, or your gender/race/sexual orientation/beliefs.
  4. We believe that story matters. And because of that, storytellers matter.

We have some ideas on what that looks like. And we’re no rookies at this either — we’ve optioned 7 films, 2 TV shows and a webseries (90% written by women and people of color) among other success and our team consists of executive producers, writers, talent, and entrepreneurs.

The journey of Scriptd is just beginning and we’re excited to be part of Matter and write the next chapter of our story. We hope you’ll join us.

To telling great stories,

Team Scriptd

Mainstream media surrounding the Middle East is incomplete.

That’s a diplomatic way of saying politicised. Or, hollow.

We believe that is true both of the media we create ourselves in the region, as well as media externally looking in and interpreting.

And, as children of the Middle East and North Africa, this modern phenomenon is alienating. Because, after all, media shapes our perceptions. It teaches us what the world around us is thinking, what’s important, what beauty looks like, what humour sounds like, and how the little boxes that we draw around each other as profiles should be shaped.

Photo Credit: Alex Atack

Two and a half years ago, a group of us came together to tell the kinds of stories from the Middle East that actually reflect our lived experiences. The kinds of stories we could get excited about. Not because they were hopeful, or romantically idealistic. But because they were real. Through each story, we learned a little more about where we came from, too. And, non-Middle Eastern listeners would tell us how they felt they could actually relate to a part of the world they didn’t know deeply.

Photo credit: Lilly Crown

Kerning Cultures is a podcast company telling stories from the Middle East. The Guardian calls us the This American Life of the Middle East, meaning we’re really good at creating immersive audio experiences. Right now, we have a single show, but our vision is to grow into a podcast network of 10–15 brilliant shows in English and in Arabic.

We’ve told the kinds of stories like the young businessman reviving specialty coffee in Yemen for global export — amidst the ongoing war; the story of five sons and their mother who flee their hometown in Iraq and navigate Europe’s elusive borders, crossing one, after the other…and in the shuffle, physically lose their mom. So commences a search up and down the continent to find her again. And we’ve told the stories of the young Tunisian entrepreneurs innovating amidst the vestiges of 19th century French colonial laws, to keep the promises of their Tunisian revolution alive.

We’ve said “we” a lot. Allow us to introduce ourselves: we are a motley crew who gathered over the powers of the internet and then scattered across Dubai, Seattle, Beirut, Cairo, Bristol, New York, Baltimore, and Amman. We hail from business, journalism, audio engineering, and design backgrounds.

Cofounders Hebah Fisher and Razan Alzayani
Producer Dana Ballout | Producer Alex Atack | Producer Jacqueline Sofia
Sound engineer Mohamed Khreizat | Producer Percia Verlin | Sound engineer Ramzi Bashour
Marketing Director Bella Ibrahim | Producer Alexandra Chaves | Producer Lilly Crown

We broadcast Kerning Cultures episodes online, on international radio shows, and at live listening parties where we gather our community in art galleries, coffee shops, and yoga studios to debut new episodes and discuss them afterwards. One listener described our listening parties as a “meditative experience”, sitting in a circle with a bunch of strangers, no one checking their phones, just… listening to a story together. Afterwards, the discussion often goes on for hours.

Photo Credit: Antonie Robertson

These next five months with Matter are going to be formative for us. We’re keen on learning how to really grow our listening community globally, to explore business development opportunities in the United States through Matter partners, and establish a framework to grow a robust podcast network that maintains our high quality journalism and strong culture across shows and production teams. And, we are so excited.

Why Every Word On Radio Matters

It was before 7 AM and I was fast asleep. I know because the sunlight hadn’t made it through the blinds yet to wake me. I rested peacefully secure in the belief that when I rose that morning to head back to my advertising sales job at CBS Radio, the world would be exactly as I had left it the night before. Only it wasn’t. My landline awoke me to mother’s voice calling from back East saying solemnly, “Turn on the T.V.”

That was 17 Septembers ago and it took some time for me to process the fact that the last time I felt the deep sense of loss I felt on November 8th, 2016, was on that morning of September 11th, 2001.

We were attacked again. Not just from the outside (this time the Russian government, according to the most recent intelligence reports), but from the inside by our own deeply fragmented Like-driven society.

Anyone can be attacked. But this time, some of the deepest wounds were self inflicted. And that’s really the part that hurts most. We were co-opted as willing participants on Twitter and Facebook. We argued with what we thought were stereotypical people from “the other side” only to discover that there were agents and bots playing the greatest catfish game in history.

As the attacks further stoked the flames, we retreated from social media to the solace of CNN or FoxNews (heaven forbid we turn on something neutral like the PBS Newshour when Twitter posts are covered so well by the major networks). We went from the duopoly of Twitter and Facebook to the oligopoly of media (over 90% of U.S. media is owned by five companies) and back again.

We didn’t have a chance.

I’m 20 years in radio, beginning my ad sales career at WTOP News Radio in Washington, DC and created the original version of what came to be the iheartradio app in partnership with Clear Channel in 2007. In short, I’ve been streaming live radio to mobile phones since 2003.

I knew that 86% of live broadcast radio stations in the U.S. are independently owned and had spent the previous 14 years working on businesses that could harness the power of their content and overwhelming reach to 305M citizens weekly. After the election the imperative of distributing 100’s of thousands of diverse voices from local, independent, college, international, internet only, and small market radio stations crystallized for me.

In my previous startup, we constantly got asked if anyone could create their own radio station. “Hmm,” I thought, “If Freedom of Speech is limited by social media algorithms, trolls, and normative behavior, then why not give everyone a microphone?” I was confident that the trolls and the arguments were being given louder voices than the peaceful thought provoking types (and I was right). So it was decided. Let people create stations, add them to a professional radio station database and make everything on the radio searchable in real-time just like the internet. Every. Last. Word.

And why isn’t that the same as our current U.S.- democracy- threatening fragmentation? Because Real Radio is one to many and even if you can’t see anyone else while you’re listening, you know you’re not alone. As humans we need a place to gather, to listen to others, and to have true connection.

nēd co-founders Jason Madeiros and Ayinde Alakoye

So, I tested the idea in a very scientific way. I called up my Co-founder from a previous venture, Jason Medeiros. We’d worked together for about 4-years at that point and after explaining nēdl I asked him, “Am I crazy?”

“No, it’s simple and easy to understand,” and with those words from him we started researching. That’s when we discovered something amazing truly amazing: that Natural Language Processing was finally good and cheap enough to commercialize.

So, what is nēdl? It’s The Search Engine for Live Broadcast. It’s real-time live event transcription made searchable and discoverable. nēdl (as in the haystack) is a B2B2C solution addressing a $44.1B global ad market with an AI-powered search engine to make radio more useful for users and measurable for advertisers. The platform allows radio listeners to use speech recognition (AI) to eliminate the need to go station-to-station for the specific news, sports, talk information and entertainment they want to hear. In addition to searching over 120,000 domestic/international live broadcast streams nēdl has secured, users can also search live User-Generated Content as users can tap a mic, start their own live broadcasts to inject their words into the same live search results so others can discover them as they are speaking.

As we dug in for the next year, we began to think we’d have to build a commercial product first that had impact down the road rather than build a product that could be both commercially viable and impactful at once, until we learned about Matter.

It was one of the first times that we spoke to an institutional investor that was standing for our mission — to democratize access to information and to the microphone itself. Honestly, we didn’t know that this kind of institutional investor alignment was possible before the last six months and we’re thrilled to be a part of Matter Eight.