Tosca Musk, Elon’s sister, has a enterprise enterprise of her personal — and it is all about romance and feminine sexuality | CNN


Atlanta, Georgia
CNN
 — 

Tosca Musk strides onto the pink carpet at a Regal Cinemas, statuesque in a white pant swimsuit and glistening burgundy silk high.

A hush comes over a bunch gathered exterior the theater’s doorways. Some whip out cell telephones and begin recording her each transfer.

It’s a cold October night time in Atlanta, and the followers are right here for the premiere of “Torn,” the second in a trilogy of romantic fantasy motion pictures primarily based on books by writer Jennifer Armentrout. The group of principally feminine followers vary in age from their twenties to their seventies, and a few flew in from Boston, Detroit and different cities.

This can be a massive night time for Musk and her five-year-old streaming service Passionflix, the backer of the film. It’s their first public movie premiere for the reason that pandemic began.

She floats from one group to a different, chatting effortlessly with Passionflix’s superfans, often known as Passionistas. Her older brother, Elon Musk, often is the most well-known sibling within the household, however he’s not the one one who’s based an organization.

Musk, 48, is the pressure behind Passionflix, which adapts romance novels into motion pictures and streams them to a loyal area of interest viewers. Romance novels are the most well-liked style of books in america, and Musk is tapping into that market with tales about sultry, highly effective feminine leads and good-looking males with chiseled abs. She directs a few of the movies herself.

“Passionflix focuses on adapting romance novels precisely because the fan and the writer envision it,” Musk says in a separate CNN interview. “We concentrate on connection, communication and compromise – and take away the disgrace from sexuality, particularly for ladies, as a result of it empowers girls to each acknowledge and ask for pleasure.”

Days earlier, on the set of a Passionflix film, “The Secret Lifetime of Amy Bensen,” Musk supplies just a few glimpses into life along with her well-known household.

Perched on a navy blue sofa in a room tucked inside a warehouse in suburban Atlanta, she chooses her phrases rigorously when requested about her older brother, who was on the verge of his Twitter acquisition.

The Musk youngsters – Elon, Tosca and one other brother, center baby Kimbal – had been born in South Africa and hung out in Canada earlier than coming to america. Their father, Errol, is an engineer and property developer, whereas their glamorous mom, Maye, is a mannequin.

From left to right: Tosca Musk, Kimbal Musk, mother Maye Musk and Elon Musk at Maye's 50th birthday party in 1998.

Tosca Musk attended movie faculty on the College of British Columbia in Vancouver and moved to California after commencement. For 3 months, she labored for one in every of Elon Musk’s corporations, Zip2.

“I noticed each time I stepped out of the movie world, I used to be simply not joyful,” she says. “It simply wasn’t my factor.”

After a quick stint on the Los Angeles workplace of Canadian media firm Alliance Atlantis, she started directing and producing movies whereas nonetheless in her twenties.

Musk produced romance movies for the Lifetime and Hallmark channels and in 2005 launched a comic book internet collection, Tiki Bar TV, which was hailed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs as forward of its time within the rising area of vodcasts – or video podcasting.

Then got here Passionflix. Its origin story is a basic story of when one door closes, one other one opens.

About 5 years in the past, Musk obtained an e mail from a lady who wished her to show her script right into a film. Musk cherished the script, however there wasn’t a lot curiosity from manufacturing corporations.

“Individuals weren’t actually that as a result of it was too risque … It was an grownup film with just a little little bit of reincarnation, issues like that,” she says. “It simply wasn’t a type of issues that common community tv wished to do.”

However Musk met the lady, Joany Kane, in Los Angeles, they usually bonded over their shared ardour for love novels. Throughout that dialog, Kane introduced up the concept of turning romance novels into motion pictures and making a streaming platform for them.

And with that, Passionflix was born – with Musk on the helm and Kane as a co-founder.

“We had no traders. We needed to exit and discover each investor. So it was a matter of going out and pitching each single individual,” Musk says. “We pitched each buddy, each member of the family, everyone only for that small little bit of angel funding. It was arduous. The primary cash in is at all times the toughest cash.”

Kevin Joy on the red carpet at the premiere of Passionflix's

Musk declines to say whether or not her brother Elon was one in every of her unique traders. However she says she will be able to at all times rely on her two brothers, together with restaurateur Kimbal Musk, to present her recommendation on her enterprise ventures. She tries to not ask until she actually must.

“I get recommendation from them to a sure diploma after I ask for it. However no unsolicited recommendation,” she says. “If I ask for recommendation, I’ve little question that he (Elon) will give it to me. After which I’ve to take it, as a result of he’s going to be proper. So it’s a must to actually need to know what you need to ask. However more often than not after I’m with my household, we speak about household issues.”

So what does she take into consideration her brother’s new function as CEO of Twitter – and the flurry of headlines surrounding it?

No remark.

Passionflix’s first movie was “Hollywood Grime,” primarily based on a best-selling novel by Alessandra Torre a couple of Southern girl who finds romance with a Hollywood star when he involves her small city to movie a film.

“Throughout that taking pictures of that film, we had been struggling,” Musk says. “Are we going to get cash? Are we going to have the ability to end it? We had been not likely certain. We principally had been simply kind of piecing the {dollars} collectively.”

In Could 2017, Musk performed a trailer of the film at a romance novel conference and requested attendees to prepay $100, as founding members, for a two-year Passionflix subscription. About 4,000 individuals signed up, Musk says, and he or she and Kane used that to point out potential traders they had been onto one thing.

“Making an attempt to lift cash for a female-driven platform on romance was simply not excessive on anyone’s precedence listing on the time,” she says. “However as quickly as we confirmed there was that many individuals that will come on board, the traders simply began flying in.”

Fans take photos of people on the red carpet at the premiere of Passionflix's

Passionflix has since produced greater than two dozen feature-length and brief movies, in response to the Web Film Database.

The corporate stays lean – it has a core workforce of seven individuals who every put on a number of hats. Along with producing its personal content material, Passionflix additionally licenses movies for its platform.

“I believe the largest problem for Passionflix is we will’t produce sufficient content material to satiate the followers,” Musk says. “It’s a wrestle with so many streaming platforms, when individuals need unique content material on a regular basis.”

With greater than 200 streaming companies now competing for viewers, such area of interest markets face a myriad of challenges, says Dan Rayburn, a streaming media skilled and marketing consultant.

Creating, licensing and advertising content material could be very pricey, he stated. And whereas romance is the biggest-selling style of books within the US, that doesn’t essentially imply its reputation interprets to motion pictures.

“That’s evaluating apples to oranges. Books are totally different,” Rayburn says. “This enterprise is past robust. It’s extremely aggressive and requires an absolute giant sum of cash.”

Passionflix fees a subscription payment of $5.99 a month. The corporate doesn’t disclose its subscriber numbers. Musk says subscribers are within the “six figures,” however declines to supply specifics.

Rayburn says it’s arduous to find out the corporate’s profitability with out figuring out its bills, together with manufacturing and licensing prices.

“OK, in case you don’t have subscriber numbers, what’s the utilization? What number of hours monthly do individuals watch it? How a lot are you spending on content material licensing?”

A deep dive into Passionflix’s on-line film catalog reveals a mixture of up to date romance, fantasy romance, paranormal romance, erotic fan fiction and associated sub-genres.

The movies, which stream on the Passionflix website and on Amazon Prime Video, are rated on an escalating steaminess scale Musk calls a “barometer of naughtiness.”

The 5 classes: Oh So Vanilla, for healthful romcoms; Mildly Titillating; Ardour and Romance; Toe Curling Yumminess; and NSFW (Not Protected for Work). The latter class has risque plot strains and extra intercourse – suppose “Fifty Shades of Gray.”

However Musk says that even the naughtiest Passionflix motion pictures don’t attain the soft-core porn threshold.

“After we first began Passionflix, anyone requested us if we’re going to fee utilizing MPAA,” she says, referring to the Movement Image Affiliation of America’s film scores comparable to PG-13, R, and many others. “I don’t really like all of these scores. They’re not particular to girls. I wished one thing that might fee our exhibits and create extra of a tongue-in-cheek dialog.”

Attendees watch the premiere of Passionflix's

Musk says she’s a romantic at coronary heart and is a giant fan of the style.

“Love is wonderful, it’s extremely highly effective. I like to inform tales of affection, every kind of affection,” she says. “So parental love, buddy love, household love, and love between any sort of couple.”

That broad vary of romantic genres, and its attractive content material, are what units Passionflix other than channels comparable to Hallmark and Lifetime Film Community, says romance novelist Tamara Lush. She believes the romance style has been particularly widespread through the pandemic as a result of individuals search consolation in tales with happy-ever-after endings.

“Hallmark is romance-centered however the tales are very, very candy. Passionflix tells a wider vary of tales, and those romance readers need to watch,” Lush says.

“The recognition of ‘Bridgerton,’ ‘After’ and ’365 Days’ on Netflix ought to inform streaming companies all they should know: that romance is a profitable and certain wager for viewers.”

Passionflix’s unique subscribers, often known as founding members, get entry to film premieres and filming units.

Final month in Atlanta, about 4 dozen of them piled into the Regal theater for the premiere of “Torn.” Following the film, Musk hosted a question-and-answer session with the lead actors, adopted by an after-party at a bar throughout the road. Followers and actors mingled over drinks.

Debbie Parziale, 67, says she flew in from Boston for the occasion. One of many founding members, she says she spent the pandemic years curled up on her sofa, watching Passionflix motion pictures.

“I like Tosca’s premise of empowering girls and making intercourse not such a taboo topic,” she says. “She’s so true to the romance novels. Whenever you learn a guide and watch one in every of her motion pictures, it’s the guide you learn.”

Debbie Parziale, Deborah Thornton and Amanda Cromer, from left, at the premiere of

Amanda Cromer, 32, says she signed up for Passionflix at a romance guide conference. She loves the camaraderie that comes with being a part of the Passionistas. The group has a digital guide membership, referred to as Ardour Squad.

As one of many unique members, Cromer can go to units and work together with the actors. Cromer, who lives in a suburb of Atlanta, says that in a go to to the set of “Torn” she turned an additional in a restaurant scene.

“I like the empowerment the flicks carry,” says Cromer, who attended final month’s “Torn” premiere along with her mom.

“They select books with robust feminine leads. They’ve accomplished such a very good job of portraying the feminine persona as a robust impartial feminine, and never a timid individual.”

Again on the set of her newest romance film, Tosca Musk strikes from one sparsely furnished room to a different.

Musk lives in suburban Atlanta along with her two youngsters, 9-year-old twins who had been conceived by way of in vitro fertilization utilizing an nameless sperm donor.

She’s on the brink of fly to Italy with the twins to movie “Gabriel’s Redemption,” the third guide in a collection by Sylvain Reynard a couple of Dante scholar and his passionate affair with a youthful graduate pupil. She says they plan to take pleasure in a lot of gelato in Florence and go to Oxford, England, so the children can see a few of the places the place the Harry Potter motion pictures had been filmed.

As a single mom, Musk says she marvels on the path that led her to a job she loves.

Tosca Musk poses for a portrait in Fairburn, Georgia, on October 11, 2022.

She hopes Passionflix will assist persuade the movie trade’s massive names that adopting romance novels into motion pictures is a worthy funding.

“The leisure world is managed principally by males. On the finish of the day, the selections are inclined to sway towards the male viewers versus the feminine viewers,” she says. “In addition they are usually extra in regards to the victimization of ladies than they’re about sexually free or sexually empowered tales about girls.”

And for Musk, there’s additionally a less complicated motive for her filmmaking ventures.

“I’m a storyteller at coronary heart,” she says. “I simply need to have the ability to inform tales.”

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