Rose Hulse, founder and CEO OF Screen Hits TV, the app that curates all your streaming services in one place is our Luminary Interview for May.
The California native, and period drama-loving Hulse, who just happens to also be living out her own 21st Century version of Bridgerton as the wife of George Hulse, an English baronet she met on a Scottish grouse moor is quite something. She certainly dresses the part in impossibly chic day dresses, immaculate separates and her intricate lace wedding gown epitomised the romance and regal allure of the gown Grace Kelly wore to marry Prince Reynier.
Hulse is also a breath of fresh air. She doesn't disassemble like some Brits, she gives an honest and reasoned answer to the pertinent questions of the day where many people either use emotion and rhetoric rather than a carefully reasoned argument or don't say anything at all.
So, she upset some people by telling Tatler that she thought Meghan Markle should have stuck it out as the newest member of the British Royal 'Firm' because it was an extraordinary, once in a generation opportunity to inspire change and diversity from within rather than run back to America and do a deal with Netflix.
She has since softened and revised her opinion and said that if Meghan felt suicidal within the confines of the 1,000-year-old Royal institution it was best to go.
I get the impression if Hulse had been in her place, she would have stuck it out, no matter what because of the lessons instilled by her entrepreneur parents.
Now, let's talk about business and the art of the deal. It's hard to be a female entrepreneur. Only 1% of venture capital funding was awarded to women founders in 2021. Fortunately, Hulse was born and raised by parents with a remarkable instinct for survival and success. They nurtured resilience, tenacity and an invisible cloak of excellence and confidence in their children and the idea that failure doesn't exist if you keep going. They also taught her to ignore the colour of her skin and surround herself with support. So, after many rejections, Hulse found her funding for ScreenHits TV and her disruptive media-tech company has been described as the Tinder of streaming TV by Deadline and one of the top 100 black businesses to know by Forbes Magazine.
AJ: What film or drama has left a lasting impression on you and why?
Rose: The film that has left a lasting impression on me is Shawshank Redemption - "Get busy living or get busy dying." That phrase has always stayed with me and it was at that moment I made a pact with myself to never have any regrets and to get busy living the life that I had dreamed up for myself all those years ago.
AJ: You're the founder of ScreenHits TV - An app that enables people to integrate all their streaming services - as a journalist who reviews films and dramas for a living, it's the app I need. There are far too many streaming services and none of them has exactly what I want. When did the eureka moment happen?
Rose: A little over two years ago. After speaking with some of our partners in the industry, they all told me they were shifting their focus from PayTV to launching their own streaming services.... I knew that consumers would become frustrated with not knowing where to find certain content and would by no means open up over six apps to try and find it. I knew there had to be one centralised app that had all the best streaming services under one roof and voila .... meet ScreenHits TV.
AJ: What do you think of Bridgerton, its colour-blind casting and the way it takes Jane Austen's ideas and rather like Shakespeare, makes them accessible and exciting to a 21st Century audience? Are you a fan? Have you met Shonda Rhimes? It seems Shonda has a genius for understanding what we want to watch in different genres before we know ourselves?
Rose: This is a very interesting question. I speak about this in length in our new ScreenHits TV vlog called "Where to Watch it" on YouTube which features myself and co-worker, James Carter-Johnson. I think that historical figures should stay very accurate. If one day someone chooses to cast Obama for his life story and casts Owen Wilson to play Obama, I think it not only destroys the entire story and his experiences but would offend a number of people and rightly so, as there are a number of amazing actors that look like Obama that can play him perfectly well. That said, I do like how Shonda Rhimes has found a unique way to integrate people from different backgrounds into the Georgian era in her successful TV drama, Bridgerton. Her clever integration of all backgrounds has touched viewers equally across the globe and has made everyone feel they could be part of this magical and beautiful world we have all read about through the life experiences of Jane Austen. Simply brilliant. I also admire how Julian Fellowes is integrating characters from different backgrounds into his new drama, "The Gilded Age," without deterring from history. There is a group of African Americans that were called the Jack and Jill group and he is covering this part of history with beauty and intrigue and allowing African Americans to be seen in a different light than what has traditionally been depicted of African Americans during this time period.
AJ: Your life would make a compelling story - A self-made California girl goes on a shooting weekend and meets the man she is going to marry, an English aristocrat. Was it a When Harry Met Sally kind of moment? I understand you were friends for quite a long time before you realised the right man was right in front of you? Who would play you in the film of your life?
Rose: It is a strange thing to think of having someone else play me. Knowing myself, I would see if they could use CGI and use me to play myself from my younger years until now.... and considering all the Instagram apps out there, I am sure it wouldn't be too hard. but I guess if they just wouldn't let me play myself, I would have to say, without being vain or totally insane, it would be Naomi Campbell??? .... (hmmm, does she act?). Anyway, I digress. When I met George, I was quite young, but he did catch my eye. He made me laugh and I found him incredibly handsome. But we were from two very different worlds. I would hang out in Hollywood in flip flops with CAA agents or celebs like Jason Bateman, while George was hanging out with future Dukes on the grouse moor in tweed..... So I never made my feelings known to anyone. Over the course of time, I would see him casually when visiting London for lunch or dinner with our mutual friend. Each time George made me laugh .... and then one day, I had an ah-ha moment..... I was having dinner at Eight over Eight in London with a few of my friends I was setting up with George when I thought, he is so good looking, why does no one ever set me up with someone like that?! ... and the moment he told me that he was interested, I wasted no time at all in letting him know that I felt the exact same!
AJ: You have a successful career in the film and entertainment industry and a marriage and children, how do you make it all work?
Rose: It all goes back to that movie, The Shawshank Redemption - "Get busy living or get busy dying." We are so fortunate to be here on this planet. We get to go around the sun maybe 85-90 times before we die, if we are lucky. That is 85-90 summers. There is no time to waste in life. I will do as much as I possibly can while I have the privilege of living on this fantastic planet. I will love hard, work hard, fail hard, win hard, laugh hard, cry hard and most of all try to leave here knowing I got every last drop out of this adventure we call life, regardless of all the wrinkles that are starting to appear from the lack of sleep or stress I create in trying to make it all work!
AJ: Is the difference between success and failure simply about not giving up? How did you deal with the word no and what defines you as an entrepreneur?
Rose: When I think about all the freedoms I was born with, I was going to use them to their fullest. And whenever I was down or feeling the impossible wasn't possible, I would think back on history and about those with no freedoms and yet they still found ways to be extraordinary and create change... their courage, hopes and aspirations were all I needed to believe in the impossible and to find a way to turn every no into a yes. For the second part of the question, I am an unlikely CEO. I never wanted to be a CEO, I never wanted the burden and all the stress that comes along with it. I witnessed it first hand with my parents and their businesses. However, as my mother once told me, sometimes the best leaders are the ones who don't want to be leaders. I try my best to be a very humble CEO. Thankful for every single opportunity. I will never forget the journey I have taken to have this moment right now ... I will never forget the people that I met along the way. I will never forget the way I felt at failures and rejection... And I ensure that my team always feel valued for their strengths, supported for their weaknesses and when someone is drowning so close to the shore, I ensure that the team support that person with all their strength, for as a team that carries each other, is a team that can build together. So if I was to define myself as an entrepreneur, which is often considered a very lonely role, I would have to say I don't see myself as one. I see myself as being part of a team with a role to play to ensure that as a group, we all get to the finish line together. No matter how fast or how slow .... We fail together. We succeed together.
AJ: Hit dramas like Bridgerton, Sanditon, Outlander and Pride and Prejudice show that we cannot get enough of nostalgia, romance or the rituals from other ages. Do you think it will be the same fifty or a hundred years from now?
Rose: Forever. In the end, we are humans that want to love and be loved and learn from our past. I think we find comfort to know that our ancestors have experienced all the same trials and tribulations that we have ... not to mention, life was so much more simple back then and we all dressed so much better, homes were built better and furniture was made to last. I can't wait to explore more period dramas from other cultures. Can someone please do one on the aristocracy of Benin?
AJ: Costume drama, sci-fi or action drama?
Rose: Ooh - that is a very difficult one for me. Let me break this down to age. Pre-teens - action drama. Teens - Sci-Fi (I could not get enough of Aliens!) and in adulthood - it will forever be about the period dramas for me.
AJ: You have successfully raised more than £6 million pounds in funding to develop Screen Hits TV. What were the challenges and what tips do you have for other entrepreneurs in film and television?
Rose: The challenges were hundreds of no’s over and over and over again from VCs. The positives were finding other doors that were open to my ideas and in time I found those doors and I was able to successfully build and grow ScreenHits TV. My number one tip would be what my father told me eight years ago when I was ready to hang up my entrepreneurial boots. He said, "You believed in this business so much that you asked people to invest in you, your ideas and dreams. You owe it to them and yourself to see this through and give it you're all. Until you have done 10 years, a decade of your life, fighting for your dream, you are not going anywhere but back to your office. In 10 years, you will be successful, you just need to give yourself and your idea time to grow. And never, accept defeat when defeat is not yours to have."
AJ: What is your greatest skill?
Rose: My greatest skill that no one knows about is my intuition. I have learned to listen to it and trust it. It has saved me on more occasions than I can count and it helps to guide me through every decision I make. Sometimes when we can't logically think of the answer, the answer is always deep inside of us, if we can just listen a little bit more to our inner selves.
AJ: How do you go slow and escape the 21st Century and switch off?
Rose: Kenya. I recently travelled there for the first time in my life and from the moment I got off the plane I could feel a sense of coming home, even though my ancestry is not from Kenya. I felt 100% connected to this planet, this life and myself. I spent years going to wellness spas to find that zen and all it took for me was flying to Kenya, touching down on African soil, and coming within 50 inches of a trunk of a wild elephant, for me to reconnect with my inner self.
AJ: Do you think philanthropy should go hand in hand with success and wealth?
Rose: No. I think that you can have very little and be philanthropic. Philanthropy should be a part of all we do. It doesn't matter if you buy a warm lunch for someone, pull over to help someone with a broken tyre, ask someone how they are doing, volunteer at your local community centre or give millions of your fortune away .... Philanthropy is something that we should do as long as we have the privilege to be able to help others.
AJ: Netflix, Amazon Studios and other streaming services has ushered in more opportunities for independent films and original dramas to get made? Is this a new Golden Age?
Rose: Yes, 100%. Now is the time for anyone who ever had a film or TV idea to make it. Content is on the rise as the streamers work to rebrand themselves as the new TV channels of the future. The next decade is going to be a lot of fun and a lot of new and old talent have a golden window of opportunity. Take it. What are you waiting for?
Rose Hulse, Founder and CEO of ScreenHits TV was talking to our editor and founder, journalist Alison Jane Reid.
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