RYOT Co-Founder Bryn Mooser Launches Documentary Studio Startup XTR
Bryn Mooser is taking a new run at the documentary space with XTR, a nonfiction film and TV studio backed by Hollywood and business figures including David Arquette and Christina McLarty Arquette, Lyn and Norman Lear, and former AOL CEO Tim Armstrong.
Mooser is the co-founder and former CEO of RYOT, the immersive-entertainment studio acquired in 2016 by Huffington Post, which is now part of Verizon Media (through the telco’s acquisition of AOL). He exited RYOT at the end of 2018 to work on forming XTR.
“There’s this incredible moment in documentary films – you have an explosion of platforms, and audiences are responding to this kind of content,” he said. Ten years ago, if you wanted to watch a documentary film “you’d have to be in a big city… or maybe there was one row in Blockbuster.”
Mooser said XTR has raised “mid-seven figures” in seed funding. Other investors include Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia; auto-retailing scions Franklin McLarty and Mark McLarty; Thrive Capital founder Josh Kushner (brother of Jared Kushner); Bryan Baum; and Zem Joaquin, founder of Near Future Summit, and venture capitalist James Joaquin. The investment round was led by the McLarty Arquette Group, with Franklin McLarty serving on XTR’s board.
XTR currently has a slate of 10 films and 30 TV series in development with partners including Anonymous Content, Vice Studios and Futurism. Mooser declined to provide details on the projects but said the slate is fairly broad, spanning features about pop stars and athletes along with “impactful documentaries.”
“Our focus is the type of filmmakers we’re working with,” he said. “We’re helping them tell their first or second stories.”
XTR is different from other production companies, Mooser said, because he’s raised capital to invest in films right off the bat. “It allows us to play offense and build quicker than typical production-company approaches,” as opposed to living project-to-project, he said. The new venture is fully focused on documentary storytelling, whereas RYOT’s focus was developing content in immersive VR and AR formats. “For me, it’s a return to my passion of documentary filmmaking,” Mooser said.
Mooser was recently inducted into the documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after earning Oscar nominations for “Lifeboat” (2019) and “Body Team 12” (2016).
Armstrong, who oversaw RYOT before he departed a year ago as CEO of Oath (now Verizon Media), called Mooser “one of the best entrepreneurs and storytellers in the world.”
“Just like he did with RYOT, Bryn identified an industry that is growing at an insane rate but missing an established leader,” Armstrong said in a statement. “As the documentary industry explodes, and with Bryn at the helm, I am excited to watch XTR become a leader in this space. XTR has the ability to help reshape the documentary landscape.”
XTR is based in a warehouse loft in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood on Sunset Boulevard. According to Mooser, the facility will not only house the company’s office and post-production facilities but also serve as a gathering place for filmmakers.
XTR has about a dozen full-time staff. Mooser said he expects the company’s films to be distributed theatrically and will look to shop projects to streaming services and TV networks. “We want to partner with everybody for distribution,” he said.
As for the company’s name, Mooser said it’s an homage to the classic Aaton XTR 16-millimeter camera. “It’s the one I drooled over in film school,” he said.