Bryn Mooser, CEO and founder of nonfiction entertainment studio XTR, says he wants to see more production on Los Angeles’ Eastside, a historic area for filming movies.
“Echo Park in particular is sort of the center of the creative community, especially for documentary filmmakers,” says the Oscar-nominated producer (Rescue boat, Body Team 12). “The area used to be called Edendale, and that’s where the first Hollywood studios were. Charlie Chaplin’s studio, Keystone studios, Mary Pickford, everyone was there. The first walkie-talkie was filmed probably about a mile away. So there’s this history of doing things here, which is really exciting.
That’s what prompted Mooser, a fifth-generation Angeleno, to open XTR’s new 35,000-square-foot production facility and headquarters on a cul-de-sac in Echo Park (in the former home of BelleVarado Studios). The studio, established in 2019 and previously located in a warehouse loft on Sunset Boulevard, recently opened in a Spanish Mission Revival-style building decorated with vintage wood tables and reclaimed doors inlaid with stained-glass windows that Mooser himself found and cut. to adapt. Every nook and cranny of campus feels human and organic, never fabricated or curated in a vacuum, which is ultimately an apt rendering of a sanctuary for real-life-focused documentary filmmaking.
XTR produces, distributes and finances documentaries, series and podcasts. They call me magic, the Apple TV+ docuseries on Magic Johnson; Oscar nominee for MTV Documentary Films Ascent; Menudo: Forever young on HBO Max; The territory by National Geographic, and winner of the Emmy and Peabody awards 76 days are part of the company’s list of more than 80 documents. I didn’t see you therea feature film about living with a disability which won the documentary achievement award at Sundance this year, will hit theaters in early October.
Mooser recalls his first job in the entertainment industry working on the Fox lot for Blue NYPDand how it became a model for the kind of work environment he wanted to establish in the new home of XTR Studios, which includes work and meeting spaces, a sound stage, a recording studio, as well as production and post-production facilities.
“I think that experience where you walk in and you can feel an energy that people are doing things is what got me so excited about being in the entertainment industry. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to come back,” Mooser thinks. “I want this space to be a place for creatives to come in and that can help break down barriers of entry for people to do things.”
XTR’s new home includes work and meeting spaces, a sound stage, recording studio, and production and post-production facilities. The 45-person company currently has around 25 film and television projects in production. Beyond that, the operations of XTR’s Documentary+, a free streaming platform for non-fiction movies and TV launched in 2021, are also contained within the workspace’s vaulted hallways.
“We created it to provide a platform for passionate non-fiction fans. We initially started with an on-demand aspect, where we are on the web, we are available as an app on iOS TV, Roku, etc. Then we launched as a fast channel, and we’re now in 85% of connected TVs in the US, and we’re available globally,” says Justin Lacob, Head of Development and Production at XTR and co-founder of Doc+. . “It really is a place where people can watch documentaries for free, anywhere and everywhere.”
Available in over 80 million homes in the United States alone, much of Documentary+’s original content will be produced on location on XTR’s sound stage, which can do full virtual production, allowing them to create documentaries from lower cost – which the film calls seated interviews or atmospheric recreations in a controlled setting.
“We’re not trying to compete with Netflix, but we’re adding value,” Lacob says of the platform, which offers a mix of features and shorts from notable directors and filmmakers on the rise. “Many of our materials on Doc+ are not available anywhere else, so we operate in our own way in the streaming wars.”
XTR also makes its studio facilities available for rental by other companies’ non-fiction or commercial productions. “I want this space to be a place for creatives to come in and it can help break down barriers of entry for people to create things,” Mooser says. Given the new and broader documentary audiences cultivated due to the greater accessibility of streaming platforms, Mooser expects the space to be in demand. “The genre was never really able to reach a mass audience because it was limited to film festivals or a few rooms that showed documentaries. But now they can evolve in the same way [as narrative features]. That means not only do you have new audiences, which of course creates new business, but you also have those audiences who are being exposed to documentaries for the first time and want to become creators themselves. So there’s this whole new class of filmmakers, who have a totally different perspective and experience than those who have been making documentaries for a long time. It’s in the fabric of that backdrop where you have new audiences, new filmmakers, and a thriving business, that I think there’s an opportunity to build a studio, hopefully at the center of that, that is built for this moment, not built for the past.”
Part of Mooser’s vision with building the studio is about collaboration and creative inspiration as necessary parts of the storytelling process. By having post-production in-house, editors can collide and exchange the energy of ideas – like when atoms and their waveforms overlap in close proximity – in a comfortable setting. Having this as a priority is something that makes XTR Studios unique in the industry; another is the company’s emphasis on working with a range of filmmakers (thanks in large part to the discernment of XTR’s head of film, Kathryn Everett).
“Historically, documentary studios have focused on a documentary filmmaker, you know? Like, a guy. And that’s just the singular vision of this director,” says Mooser. “What was important to us was that we were building something that didn’t have a voice at the center, and that we were really working with a lot of filmmakers.”
This story first appeared in the September 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.