Helping the Creator in You
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
Even before the advent of the current coronavirus pandemic, Sri Lanka has had a rising number of online content creators. However, given the current circumstances with many of us stuck at home, the creator economy has started to gain more traction in Sri Lanka.
A die-hard creative at heart, Janeeth Rodrigo is someone who has experienced this growth firsthand. Working in the Sri Lankan Media industry for over fifteen years, he is currently the General Manager of Derana Macro entertainment Pvt. Ltd and Ideal Hell, Sri Lanka’s first digital creator hub.
Ceylon Today spoke to Janeeth to better understand the potential of Sri Lanka’s creator economy, its unique challenges and strengths as well as learn more about IdeaHell and a few other surprises coming soon.
To put it simply, IdeaHell “is the first and only YouTube appointed Multi-Channel Network and creator space in Sri Lanka,” Janeeth explained.
It all started with an “early-morning insomnia-driven spark of innovation,” as he put it.
“I was interviewing a candidate for an entry-level position at my company and when I went through his CV it dawned on me that he had applied for a job that was completely unrelated to what his passions were. He had done a course in filmography and video editing but was applying for a job that had nothing to do with either. When I inquired why, he explained that he had recently become the sole breadwinner of the family and despite his passion to become a YouTuber, he simply could not pursue that dream,” Janeeth recounted.
This led Janeeth to wonder, “How can we as a country democratise content creation?”
Then, in a spark of inspiration, the answer struck him.
“I envisioned a fully-fledged studio with all the facilities one could imagine being offered free-of-charge to creators and provide a platform and a space for innovation. This was at best an unrealistic dream because of the sheer investment required. However, thanks to the great generosity of Dilith Jayaweera and Varuni Amunugama along with Darup Peiris who gave us the venue we were able to make the unthinkable a reality. If not for entrepreneurs such as them who are willing to take a chance on audacious dreams such as these we would never go forward as a country.”
Idea Hell goes ablaze
Creating good content isn’t easy, and it is even harder in Sri Lanka with the low accessibility to facilities and equipment needed to ensure the content is of high production value. Through IdeaHell, creators can collaborate with and produce great content with the facilities within the walls of their facility. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for Janeeth’s idea to catch ablaze among Sri Lanka’s creator community.
“Idea Hell is an open space for creators and new ideas which has fostered over 250 YouTubers in Sri Lanka. It provides all the resources needed for video content creation such as filming equipment, lights, one of Sri Lanka’s largest green screens, editing suite,” Janeeth explained.
The first-ever creator space in Sri Lanka, Idea Hell’s facilities include all this in a venue over 20,000 square feet, absolutely free for members to create, edit and upload their content.
Today, he manages over 150 staff across different digital verticals and IPs, and has provided help to over 500 independent creators to pursue their dream careers. He was also able to lobby for the introduction of YouTube’s partner programme, which allows local creators to monetise the content they upload on various platforms.
After watching from the sidelines, helping other creators build their audience, Janeeth is also planning to take the plunge and start making the content of his own – something that his friends, the creators he has helped, and his staff have been pushing for all this time.
“After years of procrastination…I finally decided it was time I followed my own advice and used YouTube as a platform to share knowledge,” he said.
Sharing and caring
Through his YouTube channel, Janeeth hopes to share his expertise in digital content creation, digital media, and marketing with his viewers, hoping that others can use his knowledge and expertise to elevate the quality of their own content, and thus the industry in Sri Lanka as a whole.
“I have always believed in a philosophy of collaboration over competition. I feel that as a small nation we need to collaborate and not compete amongst ourselves. Our true competition lies beyond our shores and to be successful in competing with the world we must be united in our approach,” he shared.
“It is disheartening to see that especially among the youth of Sri Lanka there is an unfortunate trend of jealousy and small-mindedness. We deem others’ success as a failure of our own. My goal is to change this mentality through my channel. This is exactly the reason why I offer whatever I have learned freely from the videos I intend to share in hope that it would have a positive domino effect”.
One of the best things about being a content creator is having the ability to build an audience and share something that others see value in. But there is such a thing as sharing too much.
Janeeth agrees, commenting that privacy and digital security are “two of the most important pillars of modern technology.”
“With the recent hijacking of popular YouTube channels in Sri Lanka, everyone started talking about cybersecurity more. This is a dire need for the country. We lag far behind when it comes to data security and privacy measures. Hopefully, with the recent events, we can propel ourselves to include data security and online privacy into our legislature so that we could use technology more securely.”
Watching the horizon
Although Janeeth has already achieved much success in his efforts to make the chance to create content as a career more accessible, he is only getting started in bringing Sri Lanka’s creative industry forward. As it turns out, he is currently working with Mogo Studios; a brand new venture of Derana Macroentertainment.
“It is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest Animation studios and is currently on a rapid scaling programme. An exciting project will be unveiled soon, but unfortunately I am unable to shed more light on this right now,” he said.
As we watch the horizon for news of Janeeth’s latest ventures, Janeeth wanted a special message to be left for you, the reader.
“Digital Media is a brave new frontier and it allows small countries such as ours an opportunity to shine. Our creativity as a nation can greatly benefit in this digital economy because the internet has levelled the playing field. This was amply evident when a Sri Lankan song went viral all across the world simply due to the power of YouTube. We must foster an ethos of collaboration which I feel will be the first step in really putting Sri Lanka on the world map of innovation,” he added.
Pix by Amitha Thennakoon