Life was simple for Igor Bonatto. Born and raised in Curitiba, a small beach town in southern Brazil, Igor grew up in an upper-middle class family and dreamed of one day becoming a filmmaker in the entertainment industry. But as his education and film career began to prosper in his early twenties, he felt a lack of self-fulfillment. It was only after studying many of the world’s social challenges and conflicts that the 25-year-old became determined to use his cinematic talent as a tool of transformation. Now, Igor’s start-up, THT (short for “Tables Have Turned”) aims to use the powerful medium of video to inspire, engage and mobilize people around the globe.
“Everything was easy for me my entire life,” Igor says. “Having such an easy life bothered me. I always wanted to contribute to those who were not as lucky as I was.”
With this mission, Igor began to fuse his affinity for film with a commitment to social change. After graduating from the Vancouver Film School, Igor established the São Paulo-based business THT in 2014, hoping to produce video games, apps and movies that would immerse participants in real-life social issues. With the emergence of virtual reality, Igor says the use of videos and games on Smartphones can effectively transport people to a certain part of the world, where social issues seriously affect countless people and their communities.
“It’s a deep immersion into these realities, and we have a lot of nice gadgets that can help measure brain waves. We measure people before and after to see what has changed,” Igor says. “We can link their brain waves with real impact on society.”
The social business leader wants people to engage with global issues, from health and education to security and poverty. Viewers can then donate to the social situation in which they immerse themselves, adding a more “human” experience to it all, according to Igor.
“We believe positive impact can be really cool, like making people care about integrating challenges in their daily lives,” Igor says. “We want to materialize the sense of inspiration. A lot of people want to do something but they don’t know how. Entertainment is a great tool that can change behavior.”
Igor believes that THT is a truly distinctive business that drives social change. Unlike other organizations that raise money by receiving donations from people who may not have contact with the issue they’re supporting, THT aims to connect people with the social problems that they hope to improve. According to Igor, a technology like virtual reality will make donations more of an experience rather than a gesture.
“A lot of people want to do something but they don’t know how,” Igor says. “Entertainment is a great tool that can change behavior.”
“We believe that it is possible to change the world in a way that we have never seen before,” Igor says. “People talk about soccer and baseball, but why not talk about how you can change the world?”
It’s an admirable idea and one that has successfully maintained Igor’s motivation and passion for THT. However, with the current economic situation in Brazil, Igor admits that selling this philosophy to organizations can often be a challenge. Although THT recently closed a significant contract with a big Brazilian company, the difficulty remains in finding “the right companies” for this type of start-up.
“Brazil is a pretty conservative country. Our organizations are also conservative because of debt, so it’s hard to implement innovation in organizations,” Igor says. “But talking to people and putting human contact first is the most important part. We want people to dream as big as we dream.”
For now, THT is committed to creating larger scale projects with bigger contracts, working to produce feature-length films as well as science-fiction movies (which often have a much bigger price tag). Ultimately, Igor hopes to affect Hollywood in order to use the powerful industry as a catalyst to create a significant cultural impact.
“Some people say that I’m too critical and too aggressive, but I truly believe that people with most power have the most to change. The things that shape society today, like the education system, the media, entertainment and culture, makes everything for profit,” Igor says. “If we want a more conscious society, then these things have to change now.”