Fourth Wall Studios lays off creative as $200M in production funds evaporate

Los Angeles-based transmedia production company Fourth Wall Studios laid off the majority of its staff this week as it changes direction to become a technology provider for other producers. The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that the company had fired between 25 and 30 of its 40 employees. Fourth Wall CEO Jim Stewartson didn’t want to comment on the exact headcount when contacted by GigaOM, but he acknowledged that the company had to let “a significant part” of its staff go. “It’s been a bad week,” Stewartson said.

Fourth Wall Studios made a name for itself with video content that would directly involve the audience through phone calls and text messages. The company won an Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media for its show Dirty Work, which reportedly came with a six-figures price tag per episode.

Fourth Wall has been bankrolled by Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, who invested $15 million in the company last year, and promised to spend as much as an additional $200 million to finance the company’s content production. That money won’t be available to the company going forward, acknowledged Stewartson. Instead, Fourth Wall will focus on the technology it has built to enable interactive content, which will be made available to third-party partners. In the end, that part of the business seemed more scalable, said Stewartson.

That also means that the future of some of the shows Fourth Wall has been working on is uncertain. Stewartson said that work on shows that are produced with partners is going to continue, but the company itself won’t finance content anymore. Stewartson said that he is very proud of the team that was behind the company’s shows, adding: “It was a very, very sad day when we had to let many of them go.”