Screw Hollywood—let’s make our own movies!

hen Garrett and Jessica Gee pitched their animated series to Netflix and Disney, they received a $10 million offer―but they turned it down.

The couple had amassed 2.6 million followers as @thebucketlistfamily on Instagram—as well as 1.32 million followers on YouTube—and knew they would bring more to the table (like a built-in audience) than any network would be able to provide them. They decided to raise the investment themselves.

Garrett had some experience in this area. While attending BYU 10 years prior, he developed a QR code app called Scan and sold it to Snapchat three years later for $54 million. Rather than invest the money in his next startup, he and his new wife Jessica decided to sell everything they owned and travel the world. 

What started as a way to document the Gee’s travels quickly became a business on its own. Their Instagram and YouTube accounts grew as they checked items off their bucket lists and had three kids along the way. Three years and 65 countries later, the family renovated a bungalow in Hawaii and settled in for their next chapter: bringing what they’d learned from their travels to the television screen.

That’s where things get interesting. Typically, a television series gets pitched to networks in hopes that they will fund the pilot and, depending on how it is received by test audiences, get picked up for a season. In this case, the network acts as a gatekeeper, deciding which projects get greenlighted and which ones don’t based on their subjective tastes.

But the Gees didn’t need someone else to tell them whether or not their idea would succeed. They already had millions of fans who would watch (and pay for) their series regardless of what it was about―and that gave the Gees considerable power when it came to determining their next steps. 

Platform = market

“If you’re out there with an audience, you are a founder.” That’s what angel investor Scott Paul told me during a recent Utah Business funding panel. “You can monetize…

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