How ‘burned out’ filmmaker Mark Meily finally found a project worth his while
Mark Meily, director of critically acclaimed films like “Crying Ladies” and “Donor,” confessed to have become so disillusioned with the task of repeatedly convincing Filipino audiences to support his movies and TV shows that he decided to turn his attention to a different kind of project instead.
He said its would-be patrons needed “very little convincing” and even promised “to support it no matter what it takes.” Meily was referring to a video-streaming app, called Mylo Speech Buddy (Mylo), that was created to aid children in the autism spectrum so that they can learn faster and better. He described the project as “the Netflix of learning.”
With Meily as Mylo’s chief learning officer and his good friend Vincent Rocha as its CEO, the two joined CNN’s business reality TV show, “The Final Pitch,” and became one of the nine finalists of its ninth season. Project Mylo also ended up getting an investor and the exact amount they requested for funding.
“I started feeling this way in 2017. I would produce movies and shows, edit them and promote them in press conferences, where I was asked the same questions by different reporters. At the end of each press cons, my message was always the same: I invite the audience to watch my project. I felt burned out. It’s like the way we market our movies and shows did not change through the years,” Meily said.
‘A Netflix of learning’
In one of the schools where he was teaching, he was asked if he could create a website for tutors. “It’s a virtual place that parents can visit if they want to book a tutor for their kids. Vincent was assigned as my project partner. While we were looking at some 400 tutors, we were also forced to work with a software that wasn’t functioning correctly. That’s when I suggested that Vince and I create something like a Netflix of learning,” Meily told Inquirer Entertainment in a recent virtual chat.
It was at this point when Rocha recalled the difficulties he had been experiencing teaching his son Noah, who was diagnosed with autism at 2, how to speak. “Vince has subscribed to a US-based app for speech development at $100 a month. When I checked it out, I realized that we could create something like it, but make it mass-based. We can even do it for free, much like the Duolingo app,” Meily recalled.
When he checked out the said app, Meily noticed that as the lessons progressed, the quality of the uploaded videos diminished. “The lessons are correct, but the videos have no production value at all. Just because your audiences are children in the spectrum doesn’t mean you can already neglect production value,” he pointed out.
“Vince and I did a prototype and pitched it to parents of special children. They were pleased. They needed very little convincing. When we asked if they’d be willing to pay $100 for it, they didn’t just say ‘yes,’ they said, ‘Whatever it takes.’”
Meily continued: “I’m sure every parent has experienced this—if you could help your child move up from nonverbal to verbal, or just to be able to make a sound, you would do whatever it takes. A father would surely shed tears the moment he hears his child say for the first time the words, ‘I love you, Daddy.’”
Meily said it could be that parents support the project because it makes them feel empowered. “A lot of them feel there’s no more hope for their kids. Now, someone is doing something to help them.
Vince and I didn’t have to promote this to them. We didn’t even need show biz celebrities to help sell it to them,” Meily declared. When Mylo was launched in July, Meily said their goal was to get at least 500 subscribers.
Today, there are 5,000 and the numbers are climbing steadily. At the moment, subscribing to the app is still free, he added.
Meily then recalled their experience joining “The Final Pitch.” He said: “We were able to get an investor. For startups, it’s a continuing journey. One judge said our market was kind of limited at 1.2 million and that he saw very little growth there.
However, that was him speaking while ‘wearing’ a banker’s hat. He then said he took this off to wear his father’s hat, and that’s when he decided to invest in Mylo. Oh, my God! He is an ‘ausome’ dad, too! He said he knew exactly what my partner was feeling.”
Incidentally, Meily is also an ‘ausome’ granddad to 6-year-old Andi.
“Mylo’s market is not merely the 1.2 million Filipino children diagnosed with autism, but the 75 million all over the world. They all need help, but very few are looking for ways to help them.”
Meily is definitely proud of the quality of videos uploaded on the Mylo app. He said it helped that he directed the local adaptation of the Australian variety-style children’s program “Hi-5” in 2015.
He said, “The objective of any learning show is to not let the kids know we’re trying to teach them something.” INQ