Couldn’t Make It to the Produced By Conference? Catch Up Here with Highlights From 8 Conferences
One of the biggest advantage of being in Los Angeles is having access to massive events where key players talk about the Business and exchange about their craft. In today’s fast changing world, being able to plug into what’s happening is key, but many events keep happening ‘behind closed doors’ and if you can’t attend them physically, you can’t access the shared info.
Fortunately, mentorless reader Howard Barrett attended the Produced By Conference and offered to share his notes and highlights from the 8 conferences he could follow. I absolutely loved Barrett’s offer, and thanks to his generosity, you can now have a sneak peek at what’s going on slightly under the tip of the iceberg.
Enjoy scanning through, and if you have the opportunity to attend such events and would like to do the same exercise, email me:
2015 Produced By Conference Los Angeles – Highlights:
a Guest Post by Howard Barrett
I had the pleasure of recently attending the 7th annual “Produced By Conference”- created and organized by the Producers Guild of America. I’ve attended each year since inception and have sat in on and absorbed great insights and experience from many accomplished film and television creators. This years’ conference was hosted by Paramount Pictures.
At the Produced By Conference, you listen to, learn from and even meet literally dozens of top producers, executives and successful industry professionals working in Film, Television and Digital Media. It’s a literal “who’s who” of the Industry-past, present and future…
Some of this year’s important session covered important topics, such as:
- How can producers get access to China?
- What are non-scripted TV buyers looking for?
- How do you get the rights to and develop a biopic?
- How are today’s small-screen series redefining horror storytelling?
- How can I choose the best screenwriter for my project?
- What are the different ways to get my independent film distributed?
- How can I use the social web to distribute my content?
- What states are offering the friendliest production incentives?
- How do I set up the most efficient digital production workflow?
- How can I develop partnerships with brands to create and distribute content?
- How do I break into producing videogames?
- Are my pitching skills any good? ….and much more!
Here’s a sneak-peek at a few of the insights gained from this year’s conference-from a sampling of eight of the twenty four unique “how to” sessions:
CONVERSATION WITH: REESE WITHERSPOON & BRUNA PAPANDREA
With Reese Witherspoon-Oscar winning actress and Producer of Gone Girl and Wild, and her producing partner Bruna Papandrea.
- Reese and Bruna are pioneers in trying to truly focus on stories that carry themes of strong women themes and/or role models.
- They are very concerned at the underrepresentation of women in all aspects of film-making.
- They often hire female interns
- ‘Live Your Lane” (Reese Witherspoon)-doctrine for how they see their niche in film
- “Everything has changed” ( Reese) > the fact that there are so many traditional and non-traditional distribution platforms and avenues for film /story-telling today. They see this as a great opportunity, not a roadblock.
SCARY 3.0: THE NEW HORROR
Panelists included David Alpert Exec Producer of global hit TV show The Walking Dead and Carlton Cuse – well known writer and producer of Lost
Focus of the Session: The audience may have grown more sophisticated, but they’re as hungry as ever for inventive, compelling horror storytelling. In this session, we explore the way the genre has been reinvented for the small screen, bringing together producers from several of the scariest shows on television to share tricks of this trade.
- David spent many years pursuing the story and rights- owner/author for what is now The Walking Dead. His focus and determination are truly remarkable.
- Horror genre on TV is incredibly popular now-especially among young demographic.
- Use of Social Media is more and more important to develop new shows-especially those with a smaller, niche fan base, given the variety of offerings on both Network and Cable television today.
- The Actors’ use of “live tweeting” is very popular among fans for Walking Dead-both for audience and the actors.
- Producers on this panel consider the ability to build STORY in a limited series (ie. Cable/ 8-10 hous of programming) much easier than with a Network broadcast TV offering of 22 hours.
FROM SCRIPT TO SCREEN: GET ON THE SAME PAGE WITH YOUR WRITERS
Focus of the Session: One of the most important parts to the success of any film is putting together the right team. And one of the keys to getting out of development hell is to understand how screenwriters think. Learn how to pick the right writer for your project and how to work most effectively with them
Panelists included Dan Gilroy of the multi-generation, talented Gilroy film family;-screenplay writer of The Bourne Legacy and Writer/director/ Producer of the recent hit independent film Nightcrawler.
- Studio films vs. Independents – the importance of maintaining creative control. Dan Gilroy articulated the many limitations of studio-managed films and “notes” by committee and its limitations on the creative process.
- Understanding “story structure” is very important-especially for Independents
- At minimum, it takes 7-10 months to get an independent movie made, after “green light”
ALL THINGS PRODUCING: ASK THE PROS
Focus of the Session: Getting a story to the screen, big or small, requires a unique combination of passion, imagination, and commercial savvy, all banked on a tenuous marriage between your own creative instincts and the tastes of the marketplace. How do working producers strive to find the sweet spot where innovative storytelling overlaps with popular appeal? And how do they work to keep the necessary “heat” under a project as it slowly (oh, so slowly…) comes together? Perhaps above all, how does a producer working in today’s marketplace work to finally turn a “no” – or a series of them – into a “yes”?
Panelists included Gary Lucchesi, Co President of The PGA and longtime, well known film Producer ( “Million Dollar Baby”) and Lori McCreary, Co-President of the PGA, Producing partner of Morgan Freeman and co-exec producer of, among others, Invictus and Madame Secretary.
- “Always try to own your own I.P.”(source material/property)
- “Always bet on yourself”. Trust your intuition. Some of the most successful projects in Film got years of “No’s”-before getting a “Yes” to produce. (several examples cited in past years-including the award-winning Field of Dreams)
- The differences and importance of using an Agent for Television (many use/need) vs. Film productions (very few use agents in Film) projects.
- If no other formal channel options, consider seeding a TV show Online-build up the “eyeballs”/audience and then, try to get a (more) traditional broadcast and/or cable deal-EVEN IF you don’t make any money/do it for free!
BASED ON A TRUE STORY
Focus of the Session: More than just bio-pics, this genre is hotter than ever. Learn ways to create compelling stories for film and television as well as how to handle the legal issues that often accompany the scrutiny that comes with adaptation
Panelists included a “dream team’ of Producers including; Lisa Bruce (Theory of Everything); Matt Baer (Unbroken) and George Clooney’s longtime partner, Actor/Producer Grant Heslov (Argo)
- Great panel/session!
- Much discussion about Legal Assets/ Owning Rights, the Rights of Privacy and the rights of Publicity
- Even more detailed discussion about rights –from Book to Film and other content projection/expansion.
- “True Stories are very compelling” (Panel)
- Great real-life case study-covering many years, about Lou Zamperini-the real person/story behind 2014’ “Unbroken”, directed by Angelina Jolie and the roadblocks, twist and turns in finally getting this story to screen.
- The challenge of turning a Book property (longer/more context) into a 2+hour film and how the story and characters need to be compressed …and the resulting creative challenges for the Writer, Directors and Producers.
- The further challenge and creative “balancing scale” into what liberties can or must be taken to deliver this compression of Book into film.
UNSCRIPTED AND UNCENSORED: MEET THE BUYERS OF NON-SCRIPTED TV
Focus of the Session: Non-scripted television remains a marketplace in flux, churning with new premises and formats that seem to emerge every week. This panel of company and network execs helps you stay ahead of that relentless curve, sharing candid insights about their current approaches to program acquisition and development. What sorts of stories get buyers excited? And how can you refine your projects to play to today’s—and more importantly, tomorrow’s—programming trends?
Panelists included TV’s Suzanne Daniels-MTV President of Programming and Bruce Robertson-from ITV Studios America
CREATING MEANINGFUL BRAND PARTNERSHIPS TO ENHANCE YOUR CONTENT
Focus of the Session: The search for funding never truly ends, but the right relationship with an established brand can provide a key piece of your budget puzzle. Learn how you can connect with Brands- to support and enhance your project, not only in terms of equity investment, but also advertising support, social media outreach and other marketing exposure. Learn what brands are looking for, how to tell when you have an organic “fit” for your project, and how to meet your brand partner’s expectations and create a productive relationship.
Panelists included Lou Fusaro, Co Exec producer of original television hits-House of Lies, Ray Donovan and Californication.
- A growing trend to “embedding content” that artfully marries Story +Integration of consumer products . Very important to producers.
- Given trend to large, ”tentpole” productions, sequels and prequels, the mid-size film demand and their budgets are shrinking, forcing an increasing need for other new sources of funding.
- As platforms are both growing and getting more sophisticated, it is important for Producers and Brand Marketers to know how to properly integrate their brands and stories, especially with the goal of authenticity.
360 PROFILE: EMPIRE
Focus of the Session: The past television season has yielded a handful of new hits, but none has risen so fast or looms as large as Fox’s smash Empire. With its Shakespearean roots and hip-hop sensibility, the fierce family drama has evidently hit the broadcast network sweet spot. In this special conference closing “360” session, we gather a group of the series’ top producers to discuss the numerous elements that came together to propel Empire to breakout success-the only show in the modern age to continually grow its’ viewing audience, each week of the season .
Get ready to explore the series from every angle, including: story development, casting, dealing with network notes, branding and marketing and building the series’ audience through social media
An all-star panel of the hit shows’ Creators, Writers, Directors, Producer and Show Runner included: Creator/Director Lee Daniels-director of The Butler, Precious and Empire and Brian Grazer, head of imagine Entertainment and well-known producer of countless film and television hits such as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind,”24” and Empire.
- “It plays like a live event” (Lee Daniels)
- How important the depiction of the family central to the story in Empire- is not a story about an Afro-American family, but a family in business/the Music business and all of the challenges and the trappings that come with it.
- The Show is delivering large audiences across multiple demographics and ethnicities.
- The hugely successful integration of Music and Drama in Empire and the unique success and new business model that its’ original music is offering-as a further significant revenue stream and awareness generating tool for the show.
About Howard Barrett
Howard Barrett is Founder/Owner of Marketing Initiatives- a consumer marketing, media and public relations agency, as well as a producer of feature documentaries and television show concepts. He co- exec produced Overlooked Suspect, an award-winning documentary based on an 18-year investigation into the 1995 Los Angeles “crime of the century”.