11/09/2012 12:10 EST | Updated 01/09/2013 05:12 EST

The Canadian Program Giving Creative Startups a Boost


Last week, the Canadian Film Centre's CFC Media Lab launched a fantastic new program called ideaBOOST, designed to assist artists and companies exploring the frontier in digital entertainment.


ideaBOOST. Image courtesy CFC.

For those that aren't familiar with the term, "digital entertainment" refers to entertainment that takes place in or around an online community and on mobile devices. It's gaming-, web television-, tablet-, app- and smartphone-based multi-platform entertainment that will soon include augmented reality and other new technologies.

IdeaBOOST is a "business development lab" but it's much more exciting than that. It's a very cool career-accelerator program for Canadian innovation companies working in the digital sphere.

I'm a big supporter of programs that help Canadian artists, but I'm a bit wary of government grants that can be overly relied upon, and don't necessarily foster excellence. IdeaBOOST brings industry into the equation, and I think that's what makes it such an impressive concept.


CFC Chief Digital Officer Ana Serrano. Image courtesy CFC.

Developed by CFC MediaLab founder and CFC Chief Digital Officer Ana Serrano (who describes it as a "four month intensive boot camp for digital content entrepreneurs") and sponsored by Shaw, Corus and Google, the program will help teams raise financing, but just as importantly, it pairs winning applicants with Executive Mentors offering advice on everything from product development to business strategy and audience engagement.

"We believe that audiences play an integral role in digital entertainment strategy development," says Serrano. "So it's important that the companies that come through the program understand that the...products that they're building are an 'engaged' form of entertainment. We think that 'engaged entertainment' is the future of our business."


The crowd at the CFC event. Image courtesy CFC.

Thirty-nine projects were submitted to a kind of Kickstarter-style social media campaign, 332,000 votes were cast, 850,000 likes, 89,000 tweets and 15 companies were shortlisted. The projects were then judged by a group of industry experts and eight companies were selected as the winners.

Here are several that sounded particularly exciting:

The Buffer Film Festival will be a Canadian-based, internationally recognized annual online video film festival that will "launch, promote and advance videomakers in the online community," according to founder (and full-time YouTuber) Corey Vidal.

The Ghost Town Project is a trans-media project by Intuitive Pictures that will bring the world's abandoned towns back to life, starting with one landmark building in each location. Led by producer Ina Fichman, it will uncover the hows and whys of abandoned sites with a restoration team including historians, architects and conservationists.

The Path, presented by Smokebomb Entertainment, is an eight-part digital fantasy series about a highschool girl who accidentally opens a door into a world of dark, sexy, 21st century fairies. The series is available online, on tablets and phones and allows fans to interact with content, join social groups that compete against each other. What's intriguing is that the community can also participate in scripting, casting, design and story creation. They want to bring the fans and the community right into the show itself.

Loud on Planet X is a platform of rhythm tap games to be incorporated into mobile gaming. Starting with a silent premise where your band is transported onto a strange, silent planet, you must defend yourself by creating your own sounds, including playlists of your own music or newly discovered bands. Team leader is Alex Jansen, owner of Pop Sandbox a production and publishing company that released KENK: A Graphic Portrait.

Ramen Party is an interactive storybook app that introduces children aged 0 - 4 about food, by making each element in a Japanese ramen a fun character who is invited to a party. The child learns about each separate ingredient, and when they finally all come together, you have the complete dish.