Spotlight On … Jared Fryer

The IOEE’s member base is incredibly diverse, with people from all walks of life signed-up to enjoy the privilege, services and benefits associated with it. To let you know just how broad a spectrum of people we work with and what membership represents to them as individuals, we’ve created Spotlight on… which, every month, introduces you to an IOEE member with an interesting story to tell. For April, the spotlight is on Jared Fryer, an enterprising filmmaker who set up Cinema Jam, a London-based community for up-and-coming film professionals.

Jared Fryer describes his business, Cinema Jam as a ‘membership organisation for film professionals in the earlier stages of their careers.’ It’s an unusual enterprise in that it developed organically to meet members’ needs, as Jared explains:

“Cinema Jam ran in an informal way for a few years so it’s hard to say exactly when we started out. It began with me asking people I’d worked with on film sets to come out for drinks because I enjoyed the sense of community that forms when you’re making a film. Everyone works long hours, doing sometimes quite peculiar jobs!”

Of course, unlike those working more regular jobs, people in the film industry work in a piecemeal way, with groups forming and disbanding all the time as new projects begin and end. To counter this, and to provide those just starting out with a more lasting sense of community and belonging, Jared decided to make Cinema Jam something a little more than a social group. Gradually, the number of people joining grew until last year it was registered officially as a business, complete with premises and ticketed events. Funded primarily through private sponsorship, Cinema Jam provides its members with the support of a professional community. It runs events specifically for those whose careers are in their early stages and who haven’t yet developed a network of contacts through decades of working in the film industry. Membership is restricted to those who’ve already worked professionally on film and have the capacity to show their work, or at least speak about it. Jared and his team run monthly events where work is showcased, debates are held, Q&A sessions take place and high-profile people from the world of film speak to members.

Before starting the business formally, Jared himself was freelancing as an electrician on other people’s film sets, as well as making his own films. He describes himself as primarily a writer/director, although he’s also produced some projects and is currently developing a web series with a French production company. Like many young, successful people in film, 29-year-old Jared is willing to exercise his enterprising side in order to make a living in the industry he loves. That capacity to spot an opportunity and doggedly pursue a goal is something Jared displayed as a little boy growing up in California, as he recalls:

“When I was a kid I had various businesses! I’d sell freshly squeezed orange juice and home-baked blueberry muffins. I had a little delivery business in my neighbourhood when I was 11 or 12. I sold drinks and snacks at football games too. It wasn’t even about the money, I’ve just always found it fun to try to make something from nothing!”

However, Jared knew that although he had the aptitude for entrepreneurship, as well as a growing experience of his industry, he lacked the business experience required. This is what prompted him to join the IOEE, as he explains:

“I don’t have any business training and I don’t really come from a family of entrepreneurs so I was looking for some mentorship. When I wanted to get serious about Cinema Jam I had to be honest with myself that I needed people who knew what they were talking about.”

Jared attended an event for entrepreneurs at the British Library and it was there that he heard about the IOEE. Through joining the organisation he met a mentor – Malcolm Snook, whose input has proven invaluable to the business:

“He was fantastic and changed the course of what I was doing. Malcolm has had several successful careers of his own – he really knows business. As my mentor he gave me confidence, telling me what he thought I was capable of and what potential he believed there was in Cinema Jam. That’s no small thing for someone like me with no business background.”

So, aside from that valuable mentoring contact and unbiased personal support, what does Jared’s IOEE membership bring to Cinema Jam more broadly, as a business?

“Membership gives me and Cinema Jam more credibility. We don’t receive financial support but we do receive support-in-kind from a business improvement district – Camden Town Unlimited. For the last couple of years, Camden Town Unlimited has provided us with office space, access to training, networks and other extremely useful resources. Although that support isn’t directly connected to the IOEE, in order to continue to enjoy it we need to demonstrate that we’re making something of Cinema Jam. Our IOEE membership and the recognition we have received as a result help to give us that valuable credibility.”

Many of the companies that share a postcode with Cinema Jam operate in the tech sector and can show their development in terms of products taken to market or profits accrued. For an organisation like Cinema Jam, which straddles the divide between business and social enterprise, the measure of success isn’t so clearly defined. In essence, that’s why membership of an organisation like the IOEE, with its associated gravitas and respectability, is so important to Jared. The young filmmaker proved himself further late last year when he was honored with the The Judges Special Award - given to an individual who has stood out above the rest in terms of everything SFEDI and the IOEE feel is great about enterprise - at the IOEE Celebrating Enterprise Awards 2015.

Jared’s mentor, Malcolm, nominated him to win the award, which was presented at a prestigious House of Lords ceremony. When nominating his young mentee, Malcolm said:

“One of the first discussions I had with Jared was about whether the work involved in Cinema Jam would prove a distraction from his own personal goals as a writer and director. I wholeheartedly approved of his decision to help others and develop a community but in no way did I push him in that direction. His decision to help others in similar circumstances has helped him to learn, grow and fund his own projects, but it was by going beyond the call of duty in helping others first that these benefits came about and it is a large part of why I feel Jared really deserves the recognition of this award.”

For Jared the award provided a boost, the impetus to continue pushing his innovative enterprise into new business areas. He says:

“Winning the award was very important and very validating to me. To get that vote of confidence from an organisation I respect was wonderful. And seeing the other people at the event who won awards and the fantastic things they were doing made me feel like I was in great company.”