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WILL PACKER: Atlanta? Los Angeles? Doesn't matter. His audience will follow him anywhere

Posted By Chris Green, Monday, August 10, 2015

If you want to get a producing career going, they say, you have to move to Los Angeles. Maybe New York, if you sunburn easily. But the conventional wisdom says that if you’re not on one of the coasts, you might as well be spinning your wheels.

In a revelation that will shock precisely no one, conventional wisdom is clueless. While LA and New York remain key centers of production, the road to a producing career no longer runs exclusively through Hollywood and the Big Apple. Case in point: PGA member Will Packer, who founded Rainforest Films and more recently Will Packer Productions in Atlanta, the headquarters from which he’s launched no fewer than seven films that have hit #1 at the box office, including Ride Along, Think Like a Man and Stomp the Yard.

Packer is at this point no stranger to the major studios. (Producing a filmography that’s grossed nearly $800 million will open some doors.) But even as he taps into the deeper talent pool that Hollywood offers, Packer remains committed to his roots in the South and the regional production community his projects have done so much to foster. He’s part of a rising generation of producers with one foot in the institutional structure of Hollywood and the other firmly planted … somewhere else. Call it "the real world.” For Packer, that remove from Hollywood is a feature, not a bug—allowing him to listen as closely to his audience as he does to the agents at UTA or the execs at Universal.

Now it’s our chance to listen to Will Packer. In a recent conversation with editor Chris Green, Packer reflected not only on the skills and outlook on which he’s built his success but on the challenge faced by storytellers seeking to marry mainstream Hollywood formats to the vital perspectives unique to African-American and other minority audiences. And if that wasn’t enough responsibility, Packer has opted to hit the reset button and start again at the beginning, learning the ropes of television production even as he extends his enviable track record in feature film.

You have a degree in electrical engineering, of all things. How does a budding electrical engineer find his way into independent film?

The long way, I’ll tell you that. Engineering was something that would let my parents feel a little more comfortable about my ability to feed myself. I actually wanted to get a business degree. I applied to Wharton and got in. But a funny thing happened on the way: I got accepted into the electrical engineering program at Florida A&M University, which was a state school not far from home and which was offering a lot of money for top minority students to come to that school. Wharton was not. So my parents said, "Guess where you’re going?” [laughs] But they pacified me by saying, "Look, it’s a fallback. You don’t have to be an engineer. You can always get your MBA later, and the combination of those degrees means you can do anything.” So I went for it. I worked hard and am proud to say I graduated magna cum laude with a degree in electrical engineering.

Entrepreneurship was CLEARLY a goal of yours—when did that begin to coalesce around film?

My freshman year, I met a guy who would become a lifelong friend. All he wanted was to be the next Spike Lee or John Singleton. I helped him make a little movie while we were at FAMU and helped him hustle that movie into profitability. It wasn’t ‘til later that I found out that what I was doing, raising the money, hiring the actors, ultimately finding our own way to independently distribute the thing, that’s what a producer does. Two struggling college students turned this $20,000 movie into about $100,000 in profit. That was huge. Forget Wharton; here’s my entrepreneurial endeavor right here. I’m going to be a movie producer.

Those "aha!” moments are really gratifying. How did you find that distribution and turn that first profit?

When we finished the film, I talked my way into a second-run theatre in Tallahassee. The guy kept telling us, "No, no, no, I’m not going to show your movie,” but I wouldn’t relent. He said, "If I show it one weekend, will you go away?” I said, "Absolutely.” So he finally agreed to show it, and that’s where the true hustle came in. We got our entire campus and that town of Tallahassee so excited about this locally-produced film that featured local actors and students, that we were able to pack that theatre for the entire weekend.

That’s what really launched us. That’s what allowed us to make a little bit of money and what allowed me to say, "There could be a career here.” I did the same thing with my next film, Trois, an erotic thriller. We talked our way into theatres, and instead of just one second-run, we got about 19 theatre chains to agree to carry our film. And we took that film with a budget of about $200,000 to a box office of $1 million.

How did you go about turning those no’s into yesses? Because that’s ARGUABLY the core of the producer’s job.

I don’t believe in "NO.” Everybody’s going to tell you "no.” What does that mean?nThat’s just their opinion at that time. "No” doesn’t mean that you don’t have the right project, or you don’t have the skills, or you don’t have the ability. It just means that person, at that particular time, doesn’t see the movie in their head that you see in your head. It’s your choice to give power to that "no.” And I choose not to give that "no” power. I don’t care who says it. I don’t care if it’s the financier, the head of the studio, the actor that you think that you have to have to make your project happen.

You operate out of Atlanta, which is one of the fastest-growing production communities in the U.S. WHAT does a producing career look like, if it’s not based in Hollywood or New York?

I love it, to be honest with you. I think it gives me an advantage over some of my peers who are Hollywood-based. I like the fact that I’m in a market that is outside of the industry bubble. I like the fact that I interact a lot more with the consumers that I’m creating my projects for. If I walk into a Starbucks in LA, I can’t throw a rock without hitting an agent or a writer or a producer or a director. In Atlanta or some of the other markets, it’s not the same. I’m bumping up against doctors and accountants and money managers and construction workers. They’ve got their perspectives, and it’s important that we not ignore them. I like being around those people. I think it gives me an advantage when I am creating my own content.

 photographed by Matt Kennedy for Sony/Screen Gems

Of the movies you’ve produced, which were the hardest to put together? which were the biggest challenges once you got into physical production?

You know, my early stuff was tough. It was hard to get my calls returned. Stomp the Yard was a tough one to get traction on because it wasn’t a concept that Hollywood folks were familiar with. Stepping wasn’t a dance form that they knew. I took that film to every studio, and every studio passed. It forced me to go back and hone my pitch. At first I was selling it more as a coming-of-age story of a young college student who happened to be a dancer who wanted to learn stepping. But I had to adjust it to Hollywood tastes by making it more of a dance movie.

It was an executive at Sony who said to my original pitch, "That movie’s not going to fly here.” And I said, "All right then, tell me what will.” And he said, "Well, our most successful movie this year was You Got Served, and we’re looking for a sequel.” So I adjusted my entire pitch so that it could be You Got Served 2. That’s what ultimately got me in the door and got me in the office of the head of Screen Gems, who said, "Oh, yeah. This is even better than a You Got Served 2. This could be its own film!” and I thought, "Well, duh.” [laughs]

But I never would have been able to have that conversation had I been stuck on my original version of the film. So I had to be malleable. It was tough getting told "no” by everybody, but ultimately I made a better movie.

In terms of physical production, I just completed Ride Along 2, which was the biggest-budget film I’ve produced—a sequel to my most successful film to date. I wanted so badly to get it right, since this was a chance to create a franchise. So that movie presented a challenge and an opportunity that was different from any other film I’ve done.

Sequels and franchises simultaneously have to give the audience something new, even as they provide a level of familiarity. How do you and your creative team approach that balance?

That’s the paradoxical thing about a sequel—that you’ve got something that works, but now you have to do it better by doing it different. You have a core audience that loved the first one. The studio says, "Give us that audience and then some. Give us more. Don’t lose any of the first audience, but give us a bigger audience.”

Well, by definition, that expectation is paradoxical. Because everything that that original audience loved is what they love and is what a bigger audience didn’t necessarily love. But yet you’re trying to grow that film, to broaden it. You try to keep your original cast yet add other elements. ou try to challenge your writers: Okay, take the core of the original story, duplicate it and make it bigger. Everybody expects bigger and better with the sequel. Now bigger doesn’t always mean better, as we know, but that’s what the studio expects. You never hear them say, "That sequel was great! It was smaller! That was a great smaller sequel.” Nobody ever says that. [laughs]

Producer Will Packer (left) on the set of Obsessed with cast members Idris Elba and Beyonce.

Talking about Stomp the Yard, you touched on the disconnect that can exist between the young, African-American audience that your films speak to and the POWER structure of Hollywood. How do you strive to bridge that gap? some of the people you’re trying to get to greenlight your movie are a lot like me … not just white but, y’know, super-white.

[laughs] I love that term, "super-white.” I’m going to steal that.

Hey, it’s all yours.

You know, here’s the thing. I bring a different perspective than some of my counterparts. I have an audience that I know really well that shows up for my movies. But honestly, what I try to do is find universal stories and put black people in them. If you look at my movies, they could have been movies starring anybody.Sometimes that’s hard for people to see, because they just look at the surface, the race or ethnicity of the actors, and they label the movie. But in reality, if you switched those actors with actors of a different race, the movie wouldn’t change that much.

Personally, I like the fact that my movies have a different flavor, because they do have actors that you don’t see as often in some of these situations or against some of these backdrops. For instance, I have a thriller that I’m working on right now. Now I would argue that between the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and between late-night cable and now VOD, you’ve seen almost every iteration of a thriller that you can imagine with a white lead or two white leads. But you haven’t seen a lot of them with a black lead or Latino lead. Now you can’t lean on that alone. You can’t just make the exact same movie and put a black lead in it or a Latino lead in it or an Asian lead. I’m not advocating that. That’s lazy, and there’s no excuse for that, if you’re going to call yourself a real filmmaker.

But you can use the fact that this comes from a different set of cultural expectations to inform the creative process, and that’s what I try to do. We haven’t seen an African-American female in this position; let’s lean into that and make it different. That’s what has worked, and that’s what my audiences have embraced—and not just black audiences.

But because they star and feature black casts, it allows some of my super-white peers and execs to put a label on it and put it in a box that dictates: We can’t sell it foreign. Or, we know our domestic revenue will only be a certain amount, so we can’t spend above X on marketing. So I do have to deal with that. At the same time, if you’re talking about something that’s not going to play to all four quadrants, then it doesn’t make sense to spend the same amount that you would on something that has that broader appeal. I get that. That’s not lost on me. But what also isn’t lost on me is the way that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if the expectations of everybody involved with exploiting the content are lowered. Then you definitely won’t break the ceiling, because nobody’s really trying to—whether intentionally or unintentionally. They’re accepting a level of marginalization, and that’s something that I do fight against.

Packer (left) with Kevin Hart at the premiere for Ride Along.

speaking of breaking new ground, let’s talk a little bit about television. as a guy who’s come up through motion pictures, what has it been like to get a feel for this different format?

Look, it’s all about creating content. I don’t care if it’s film or if it’s television; you’re creating content. But the process of that content creation is very different in television. I’ve enjoyed being able to go through the script sale process and then the pilot process, and then having pilots picked up and then going to upfronts and having them presented to advertisers. All of that has been a learning process. In some aspects it’s more immediate, and in others it’s more drawn out. If you make a movie for a studio, you pretty much know it’s coming out … some way, somehow and on some platform. With television, that’s not the case. You can work just as hard to create a television pilot that never sees the light of day. But the reward is that if audiences respond to it, they’ll take that journey with you every week. When a movie audience leaves the theatre, for the most part that relationship is over.Whereas with television that’s not the case. I’m looking forward to audiences continuing that relationship with the material, week after week.

For producers just starting out, whether film or TV, what should be their key priorities?

Going out and doing it. Don’t talk about it; be about it. That’s something that I live by. And today, people have more of an ability to get things done than ever before. Content is king in a way that it hasn’t been for a while, because you have so many distribution outlets. Go out and do it. Shoot something. If you’re just starting off, you really need to go and shoot something, because that first thing you shoot is going to suck. [laughs] Period. That’s the rule. It’s going to be bad. So get that out of your system. Get those first five out of your system, ‘til you get to the ones that are really good.

Will Packer with fellow producers Bruna Papandrea (left) and Reese Witherspoon at this summer’s Produced By Conference at Paramount. Packer served as moderator for the event’s headlining "Conversation with...” the Pacific Standard producers.

Considering what you’ve just said, it makes me wonder where Will Packer’s career might have gone if it was starting today instead of in the ‘90s at Florida A&M.

Well, I think that I came into the business when I was supposed to come in. But knowing me and the hustler that I am, I think that I would be doing everything I could to be a major player in the digital space, doing everything that I could to make content outside of traditional Hollywood avenues and make them come to me. I would do what I could to build an audience outside of traditional Hollywood marketing, which I think is overrated—especially today. I don’t think that you have to have something that appeals to everybody, as long as it appeals in a strong way to somebody. And if those somebodies are a loud, persuasive demo, then you will bring others to your content.

Since you bring it up, could you talk about the limitations of Hollywood marketing? In what ways does it work and what ways doesn’t it work?

I think that it serves a great purpose for awareness and letting an audience know that a film is big, it’s real, it’s something that’s substantial. But it does not, in the way that it used to, encourage that desire to see it. It doesn’t make it cool.

Audiences today, especially youth audiences, are so influenced by the taste of their peers, and not just locally. Kids in Iowa know what kids in Detroit are doing. Kids in Detroit know what kids in Waco are doing. Kids in Waco know what kids in Brooklyn are doing. They know what’s cool. Just because you’ve got billboards or a bunch of TV commercials or radio spots, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those kids want to go see it. A lot of times it’s about finding an organic, viral way to get a conversation started about your content. It’s not necessarily about going out and spending a bunch of money. I think the music industry has shown us that when Beyoncé can drop an album without a lick of marketing, and the word gets out and everybody flocks to buy it, you don’t necessarily have to have a bunch of traditional marketing signifiers to tell people that they need to go to your movie.

How do you get that viral conversation going, to find those people who are going to be the evangelists for your movie?

Well that’s the core of my producorial skill set: being able to go out and connect with a specific audience. I can tell you, it all centers around feeling organic and authentic and not feeling manufactured. Sometimes the more money you spend, the more fake or manufactured your movie can feel.

For me, it’s about finding content that lends itself to sparking an organic social conversation. That’s something that I do on all my projects, on all my platforms. It’s essential. I started off as a grassroots marketer of my own independent films. I still do that same thing to an extent today, even though I’ve got big Hollywood studios behind me. There’s nothing more organic than touching people. And the way that you touch people today is through their smartphones, their tablets, their computers. That’s how you can reach people in a real way. It’s not always some billboard or Hollywood advertisement.

It feels like we’ve circled back to the perils of the Hollywood bubble, and how producers can break through that barrier.

Absolutely. I mean look, in my first year in television, I got two shows on the air. That just doesn’t happen, and I don’t take that for granted, right? But the true success is going to be when we keep those shows on the air. It’s one thing to sell the show the way it needs to be sold to the folks who are making the network schedule. It’s a completely different thing when you talk about how those shows will be presented and consumed by your audience. That’s where I always have to keep my eye on the ball.

* Photography: Drexina Nelson for Drexina Nelson Photography; Hair: Reginald Doss; Grooming: Denise Tunnell; Styling: Leah Taylor for Taylor-Ector Studios; Producer: Staci R. Collins Jackson for The Collins Jackson Agency

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DEALMAKING DONE RIGHT: A Back-to-Basics Approach to the Byzantine World of Waterfalls, Hurdle Rates and Preferred Returns

Posted By Daniel Lawrence Abrams, Monday, August 10, 2015

Before you can negotiate your own deal as a producer, you should have a strong understanding of how revenue waterfalls work and how the future "pie” can be split up. Here we provide some rough outlines of how money often flows through a production. There are standard players involved, and their placement in the revenue waterfall is often similar.

The EXHIBITOR is the theatre or theatre chain that sells the movie ticket to the customer.

The DISTRIBUTOR is the company that normally provides "P&A” (prints & advertising—a bit archaic since the advent of digital cinema) and then connects the PRODUCTION COMPANY to the Exhibitor.

The Distributor also connects to:

• TVOD companies (Transactional Video On Demand, e.g., cable VOD, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc.)

• SVOD companies (subscription-based VOD, e.g., Netflix, Amazon Prime)

• AVOD companies (advertising-based VOD, e.g., Crackle, Hulu, Maker)

• PAY TV companies (HBO, Showtime, Starz, Epix, etc.)

Increasingly, ISA (International Sales Agents) often function as Distributors, making the line between the two increasingly blurry.

There are many differences between studio financing and independent film financing. But either way, you will likely be interested in finding equity investors.

When you’re courting investors, the ideal scenario is to secure sufficient equity funding for the full amount of the film’s budget. This is rare, especially as budgets get bigger. Often a film will raise a substantial fraction (25% to 60+%) of the budget in equity from private investors, and then use that to secure the "package”: script, director, producer colleagues and, most importantly, the stars.

At this point an ISA can do "presales,” taking three to nine or more months going to the major film markets (AFM, EFM, Cannes, etc.) and getting minimum guarantees (MGs) from buyers in countries worldwide. These buyers agree to book the film at a discount; buyers who wait to see the completed film could pay more. A producer might then get financiers to "cash-flow the MGs,” giving your project a loan against those sales contracts as well as against any expected state/provincial/national production incentives or tax credits. Finally, other higher-risk financiers might provide any necessary "gap/mezzanine financing,” giving your project a higher-interest loan to cover any part of the film’s budget not covered by equity, MGs and tax credits. Once everything is in place, you can consider your picture greenlit.

When it comes to the deal with your equity investors, virtually anything goes so long as you follow the rules of the SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission). You’d be wise only to pursue accredited investors who can demonstrate they are "high net worth individuals.” There’s greater liability when taking investments from unaccredited investors.

Almost no two investment agreements are exactly alike. But there is a "Standard Deal” structure that’s reasonably popular, for low-budget films in particular. It can be succinctly explained as "After Payback, Hurdle Rate, then Split into Two Pools”.

It works something like this:

a) 100% of first revenue to the Prodco/project (assuming all project’s costs, obligations to unions, loans, sales agents, etc. have been paid) first pays back investors’ principal pari passu, which means pro-rated on equal footing. (Exception: Gap or mezzanine financiers will typically be paid at a higher negotiated rate.)

b) Then subsequent revenue pays investors a one-time "Hurdle Rate” (aka "Preferred Return”), often between 5% and 20%, for the entire duration of the investment (i.e., not compounded annually).

c) Then any remaining revenue/proceeds is split 50/50 into two pools: the "Investors’ pool” and the "Producers’ Pool”

- Investors are paid pari passu from the Investors Pool.

- Producers, director, actors and other profit participants receive "upside” in the form of proceeds from the Producers’ Pool. Note that the 50/50 split assumes that the team in the Producers’ Pool is working for discounted rates, which are thus balanced by a substantial share of the back end. Some equity investors may require a 55/45 split, or even up to 70/30, but in that case the team should get paid their full rate for weekly full-time work.

Another structure can be described as a "Revenue Corridor Split,” whereby funds flow in and are split into different "corridors” (percentages), which can change according to milestones.

For example: First revenue to the project (after all costs, etc.) is split so 80% goes to the Investors’ Pool and 20% to the Producers’ Pool, up until the investors are paid back their entire principal + their Hurdle Rate.

Any remaining dollars are then split 50/50 between the two pools. This way, the "corridors” ensure that at least some initial revenue goes to the non-investor profit participants in the event the project earns money but not enough to make the investors whole. It’s a useful means of addressing the concerns of profit participants skeptical that the film will earn enough revenue to make worthwhile a late placement in the waterfall.

For bigger budget films (say, more than $20 million), producers often employ a very different structure whereby the split tilts more heavily to the financier’s favor due to the greater risk of losing very substantial amounts of money. Alternatively, profit participants might receive a schedule of bonuses based on box office milestones, or simply a smaller percentage of the gross revenues instead of a share of a Producers’ Pool. Producers, directors, stars and other profit-participants might agree to this because those percentages may yield considerably greater returns if the film becomes a blockbuster. The bottom line is that there are a thousand ways to structure a contract, and each has its own pros and cons. Having a good attorney to work through the process with you is crucial.

($30 million film budget that earns $150 million in Worldwide Theatrical Box Office)
*Click for full version. Also attached at bottom of article

BOTTOM LINE RECAP: >>> All Media WorldWide Gross Revenue = $240 Million

Work 2 to 5+ years for… >>> Lead Producer’s Profit Participation Share = $1.9 million

Splitting the Future Pie

The bad news is that in the indie world, many films lose money. If you’re using the standard structure, you should be prepared for your points to end up worthless. Consequently, filmmakers may want to include a profit-participation "floor” in their contract to guard against notorious "Hollywood accounting.” That agreement should be coupled with strong auditing rights, giving the producer the ability to fully audit the books, initially at her own expense, at least once per year. Insist on serious penalties should the distributor ever underpay by more than 10% (perhaps reimbursement of the cost of the audit plus triple the underage).

How should you split up the pie? There are some standard ranges to consider.


Assuming budget under $5M:

• "Produced By” Primary/Lead Producer: 10% to 40% (often 20%) depending on development expenses

• Director: 2% to 15% (often 5%)

• Writer: 1% to 10% (often 5% if not WGA)

• "Name-Above-the-Title” Actor: 3% to 20% (often 5%)

• 2nd Name Actor: 1% to 10% (often zero)

• 3rd Name Actor: Zero to 5% (often zero)

• Name Cameos/Rest of Supporting Cast Collectively: Zero to 10% (often zero)

• DP: Zero to 5% (depending on if he/she cut their rate)

• Editor: Zero to 5% (likewise)

• VFX/Other Key Dept. Heads Collectively: Zero to 5% total (likewise)

• Other Producers, Collectively (i.e. not Executive Producers/financiers): 10% to 20%

• Line Producer: Zero to 5%

• Executive Producers: 1% to 5% of the proportion of investment they bring in

• Entertainment Attorneys: Zero to 7% (often zero if not discounted rates)

• Packaging Agents: 1% to 5% (only if they provide three or more major elements)

Remember, this money is paid separately, out of the Producers’ Pool, not from the gross revenue to the project.

Daniel Lawrence Abrams produces feature films (including Mining for Ruby) and television (including the Emmy-nominated The Writers Room on Sundance Channel). Special thanks to Stephen Marinaccio for his assistance in preparing this feature.

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PLAYING POLITICS: Veteran Showrunner Barbara Hall Charts Her Course with Madam Secretary

Posted By Michael Ventre, Monday, August 10, 2015

The common thread that connects Madam Secretary and Bruce Springsteen may not be immediately apparent to the uninitiated. The former is a television series on CBS about a female Secretary of State, one that was renewed for a second season and appears on its way to a secure place in the network’s future. The latter is a musical and cultural icon from New Jersey whose highway was once jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive, at least according to legend.

But for Barbara Hall, veteran writer-producer and the showrunner of Madam Secretary, an evening spent with Bruce in November of 1980—along with thousands of others inside the old Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland—spurred her on to where she is today.

"I’m not exaggerating,” she declares. "It was a moment when my whole life changed in terms of my understanding of what I wanted to do.”

She didn’t get invited onstage like Courtney Cox. She had seats much closer to the overhead catwalk than to Bruce. "I could barely see the stage,” she recalls. "But I saw this presence, and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do’—not as a musician necessarily, but I saw this visual image of someone throwing himself entirely into his artistic expression and making an entire life out of it. It was a commitment that I suddenly understood. It changed everything. It changed the direction for me. That’s why I ended up in LA, I think.”

It was the kind of big-dream epiphany that a young girl might have when she watched the news and saw Madeleine Albright or Condoleezza Rice or Hillary Clinton serve as the chief foreign affairs advisor to the leader of the free world. It might also be the kind that a young woman might fix her sights on when she hears that Barbara Hall is one of the top showrunners in the business.

The confluence of those aspirations is what brought about Madam Secretary and Hall’s participation with it. "We pitched Nina Tassler at CBS on an idea we had,” recalls Lori McCreary, an executive producer of Madam Secretary who has worked more often in feature film. "Nina said, ‘I know the perfect writer for you. You have to meet Barbara Hall. I’m surprised you haven’t met her already.’”

It’s easy to surmise why Hall came to mind so readily. She has not only compiled an extraordinary list of credits in television but also boasts a unique body of work outside it. A native of Chatham, Virginia (population: 1,300), she has written for landmark series like Newhart, I’ll Fly Away and Northern Exposure, created Joan of Arcadia, was one of the creators and executive producers on Judging Amy and spent time on Homeland. On top of it all, she’s authored 11 novels, records and performs her own music, and is a devoted mom to her daughter.

The progress of that resume fairly charts the demographic transformation of television producing. "It’s been a really interesting evolution,” says Hall, who graduated summa cum laude from James Madison University with a degree in English. "Back when I started, I literally would be up for jobs, and it was like, ‘We need a woman in the room. We need a female voice.’ People were pretty open about it. It was heavily weighted on the male side. Then there was a sea change to the point where there were equal number of men and women in a room. Then there were women running and creating shows. There was also a bit of a backslide on that for a while. And I feel there’s a resurgence going on now.”

David Chase, arguably New Jersey’s second most prominent contributor to American pop culture after Springsteen, also had a major impact on Hall’s career. The two worked together on I’ll Fly Away and Northern Exposure, and Hall identifies the creator and showrunner of The Sopranos as one of her mentors, along with Joshua Brand and John Falsey.

Early in his career, Chase recalls, he benefitted greatly from working with two extraordinary women on The Rockford Files: executive producer Meta Rosenberg and writer-producer Juanita Bartlett. "I learned a lot from those two women,” he shares. And in Hall, Chase saw a reflection of his Rockford colleagues—not least in her amazing talent for writing.

Barbara Hall (2nd from right) at the 2014 Produced By:
New York conference with moderator Mark Gordon (center)
and fellow showrunner panelists (from left) Greg Yaitanes,
Terence Winter and Jenni Konner.

"When (Barbara) turned in a script, it would be so good that it would make you want to go back to work,” Chase says. "Because you had to prove that you could be better, or it would get you excited about the whole show when you were getting bored with it. You’d say, ‘Oh, there’s still more to do with this show. There’s still room to go here.’ That’s what I always got from her. With the good writers, that’s always how it is. They turn in a draft and you say, ‘Oh shit, I wish I had done that.’”

McCreary agrees: "She puts magic in all her scripts. She has the great ability to put in the right amount of humor and the right amount of humanity and have it all come together. It’s a joy to read her writing.”

Hall’s writing chops led to her becoming a successful showrunner, a position that requires a skill set that extends well beyond breaking stories and writing scripts.

Hall and Lori McCreary participate in a Madam
Secretary Q&A session held at Harbor Picture
Company in New York.

"She really is a dream boss,” says David Grae, who got his first staff job from Hall on Joan of Arcadia and is now a co-executive producer on Madam Secretary. "She treats it in many ways like a partnership, even though she’s the boss. She’s very humane and respectful and generous in a business where some people aren’t. I’ve worked with some people who were much more egotistical and insecure. Barbara is so good, she doesn’t have to be that way.”

Her mentor Joshua Brand, whose recent credits include the FX hit The Americans, adds an appreciation for Hall’s ability to keep her composure in a frenetic and pressurized business.

"No matter if the walls were falling down, she was unflappable,” he smiles. "You never saw her sweat. It inspired confidence. She’d look at you with those blue eyes as deep as Lake Tahoe, and you felt everything would be all right. She might have been having a nervous breakdown, but you’d never know. And she saved you from having one. I think her ability to inspire confidence and project competence help make her a successful producer for the long haul. They’re qualities that continue to serve her well.”

Hall’s approach to her television work came out of writing novels and was further influenced by working with Brand and Falsey, whom she credited with helping bridge the gap between literature and TV. "It’s a lot about character-driven narrative,” she explains. "Complicating situations, taking scenes from recognizable human experience and making something poetic and dramatic. I felt like it started then and continues now.”

She applies the same methodology on Madam Secretary, with a strong female lead character in Elizabeth McCord (played by Tea Leoni) that incorporates elements of all three female U.S. Secretaries of State to date, but isn’t bound by those examples.

"I really wanted Elizabeth McCord to be our own creation,” Hall confirms. "I didn’t want her to parallel too strongly any [real-life] female Secretary of State. For a lot of different reasons, she needed to work in television in a unique way. For me, that was about making her more of an outsider—someone who didn’t come from the political world. She doesn’t have that in common with the other three female secretaries of state. But I did read all three of their stories, and I did pay attention to their approaches. And I think the main thing I came away with was that they all had very particular styles. I took a little bit from each of their styles.”

It’s one thing to create a multi-dimensional character; it’s quite another to keep a show running with vigor and imagination for 22 episodes a season. Grae observes that Hall has the rare skill to create a particular vision that helps a series live a full life.

"A lot of shows in their first season, or the first couple of seasons, take time figuring out what they are,” Grae says. "Barbara has amazing clarity from the pilot. From the second, third, fourth episode she knew there would be some kind of international incident for the secretary of state, and at home Tim Daly (who plays Henry, McCord’s husband) also has an interesting life. Barbara brings a clarity to it that many showrunners, even experienced ones, struggle to get.”

When she’s not running a major network drama series—which requires regular cross-country jaunts, since the show is produced in New York while the writing staff is based in LA—she continues writing novels and being a great mom to her daughter, who lives in the Big Apple. She also writes, records and performs her own music, an interest she has pursued since she got a guitar for her 15th birthday.

"Sometime during college I began experimenting with writing songs,” says Hall, who last performed about a year ago at a release party for her CD. "I studied poetry. I sort of began marrying the two forms. It’s something I just kept up. When I moved to LA, I just met musicians. When you hang out with musicians, you end up making something together.”

Ultimately, beneath the sparkle of her many accomplishments, it all comes back to Bruce. "Bruce Springsteen is from a small town in New Jersey that nobody had ever heard of before he put it on the map,” she points out. "I was from a small town in Virginia that nobody had ever heard of, and I suffered from this sense of, ‘It’s hard to pursue greatness when you’re not keyed up for it.’ When I saw someone else who didn’t ignore that but used that, he made poetry out of the place he came from. I understood suddenly what that was about—that you could make poetry out of your surroundings, wherever you were. It made me understand the concept of throwing myself into what I felt I was meant to do.”

Somewhere, in another small American town, a young woman is watching Madam Secretary and getting some big ideas.

* Written by Michael Ventre | Photographed by Kremer Johnson Photography

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THE (DIGITAL) ROAD TO MONACO: The PGA Brings Its New Media Expertise to Monte-Carlo's Illustrious Festival De Television

Posted By Chris Thomes, Monday, August 10, 2015

The ocean was really blue. Like electric blue. Maybe it was because I had just woken up after a painfully long transatlantic flight, but I swear it was bluer than it should have been. A Photoshoped postcard wouldn’t compare. The smell of coffee filled the cabin, and window shades popped open, flooding the dark cabin with orange light from the Mediterranean sunset. These were my first few moments along the Côte d’Azur, the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France. Monaco was floating below, as was my final destination, the Monte-Carlo Television Festival.

Dream-like. Everything. Lack of sleep contributed, but as my Producers Guild colleagues, National Executive Director Vance van Petten and New Media Council Vice President John Heinsen, and I whisked along the curvy, seaside roads in a Festival van, the dream became more lucid. Like the exotic frames of a James Bond movie, the landscape inspired thoughts of endless sun, bikini beaches, tuxedos and cocktails. It was easy to see why such adventurous stories find a home in this place. It was everything the French Riviera is known for and then some—and a perfect setting for one of the longest-running and most glamorous TV festivals in the world.

PGA member Chris Thomes

In 1961 Prince Rainier III established the Monte-Carlo Television Festival torecognize television as an outstanding means of bringing cultures together and enhancing theirrespective knowledge. This past June, consistent with its 55-year-old mission, the Festival De Television sought to enhance knowledge and collective understanding once again by expanding the half-century-old program to include digital storytelling.

Although not nearly as old, our own Producers Guild has also continued to embrace change in entertainment. Since 2002, the PGA has stood behind and supported a vibrant and growing community of producers focused on digital production. In that time the New Media Council’s constituents have continued to educate, inform and provide perspective to the Guild on all matters digital. Regardless of new or traditional media, all producers agree that content is king. In Monte-Carlo they’re in good company, including a real king, Prince Albert II.

With barely time to wash my face and don my suit, another van raced us up the hillside to our first event: a reception hosted by the minister of state and the CEO of the TV Festival. The roads were narrow with tight corners, winding up and down the harbor circuit, so putting on my tie in the van was all but impossible.

 Nighttime at the legendary Monte-Carlo Casino

A reception line and handshake greetings with the minister of state and Festival CEO gave way to Champagne and cocktails that sparkled on waiters’ trays. An I-can’t-believe-how-good-she-looks Bo Derek stood nearby with an eager entourage while an eclectic mix of the hottest young stars and 1970s TV veterans graced the courtyard with bright smiles and excited conversation.

I took a moment as I sipped a bitter, bright red Campari and ice and looked out over the Monte-Carlo Bay. It wasn’t difficult to plug into the culture of the Festival. It truly is a celebration. Far from some gimmicky media event, this is a profoundly respectful, thoughtfully produced and vibrantly glamorous ceremony that truly honors television and those who live and breathe it. Network stars, veteran producers and guests from around the world come annually to recognize achievements in TV, including the radical evolution of TV into the digital landscape.

That’s exactly what Festival CEO Laurent Puons and Business Development Manager Joanna Merchie did when they added this year’s new industry conference and networking program, The Content & Multiscreen Experience (CME), to the Festival. As Puons explained, "What we’re doing with CME is bringing together executives and producers and all kinds of creative decision-makers to discuss and collaborate on the latest techniques in content creation and the management and distribution of that content.” That effort, inspired by the radically changing TV ecosystem, also encouraged them to seek out expertise from the Producers Guild of America’s New Media Council. And so there we were—Vance, John and myself, shaking hands and talking digital with the who’s who of TV.

From left, PGA Vice President of New Media
John Heinsen, Lisa Heinsen, National Executive
Director Vance Van Petten and PGA member
John Huncke compare notes on the Festival.

For the next few days the three of us, joined by fellow industry colleague John Huncke from AMC Networks, spoke on a series of forward-looking panels focused on digital perspectives, only occasionally stealing away to try our luck in the famous Monte-Carlo Casino. From rights and content licensing for digital platforms to overall production in the new media space, the sessions covered a wide swath of ground and provided insights critical for anyone jumping into the ever-changing and disrupted world of digital television programming.

In the first of two panels, we discussed development, production and distribution in the digital space, specifically from the viewpoint of the producer. Several questions came up around distributors like Netflix and how they are influencing the ecosystem. We agreed that while it is encouraging a lot of new production, there is a wide disparity between the budgets of Netflix and Amazon versus the smaller or multi-channel networks like Maker, Fullscreen and Machinima or production companies with consumer-facing brands like Buzzfeed or Tastemade.

While the House of Cards model is top-dollar, premium, digital-first programming, there are countless micro-budget, short-form digital series that make their out to the public via YouTube or Vimeo.Helping to clarify that not all digital content is created equal was a helpful stage-setter for the more detailed conversation around workflow that followed. We went over the value chain from beginning to end, while John Huncke walked through the evolution of a digital idea through production and distribution on the AMC side, illustrating the network approach for digital programming as more derivative in nature.

Attendees and press gather on the Festival
de Television red carpet

But everyone agreed that the producer, no matter the platform for digital programming, is the ringleader holding everything together. We reaffirmed that it will be critical for producing teams to become more savvy about scaling budgets and crews on new media projects, anticipating that many crew members will wear multiple hats throughout the production process.

I even concluded that a lot of digital projects will operate more like indie film than traditional television and that every department or group touching a show—from business affairs to post-production—will have to think differently. The end of the first panel landed on the simple idea that while digital distributors are creating more opportunities for producers, the rules are constantly changing, so producers are never really at rest.

From there we jumped to a second panel focused on multi-platform second-screen content. John Heinsen and I walked though several live event and pre-taped digital second-screen experiences both of us had worked on together for several years. We made it clear that a second screen has to be truly integrated into the larger program in a seamless way, or it risks being dismissed as ancillary. True value comes from producers in both traditional and digital formats working in unison to deliver a consistent brand value to the viewer.

We explained that digital tools like the second screen are enhancing fan experiences for TV programming as they proliferate across platforms, giving viewers new insights into favorite shows via exclusive second screen content. Vance, John and I acknowledged that second-screen enhancements most effectively complement live event programming. I even suggested (perhaps too boldly ... that was some strong coffee at lunch) that pre-recorded programming might be the next big opportunity in the second screen space, tapping directly into the writers room and developing unique points of view and "super” experiences that will allow showrunners to tell stories like never before.

That’s when we again reinforced the critical value of the producer. Having a solid strategy before committing dollars to a second screen or transmedia experience is essential. Heinsen said that savvy "transmedia producers adapt their IP to suit different platforms and even different demographics … but the one thing I don’t hear nearly enough when talking about transmedia is strategy, and you have to have that if you want to get the most of what you put out there.”

Inside the Festival awards ceremony.

As an example I explained that a recent digital series effort around ABC’s Secrets and Lies leveraged a strong transmedia strategy early on, conceived from the writers’ room and executive producers. "We funded that project from our own budget,” I told them, "which was critical. We couldn’t wait for sponsorship dollars to offset costs. We simply moved forward because the content was exceptional and it was the right thing to do.”

All in all, that was our message to conference attendees. When you make content for digital, it has to be just as good as any other traditional content. You cannot sacrifice quality. New media is simply another format; the one thing that stays consistent is great storytelling.

And that was what everyone was there for: great storytelling. For the next few days panels continued, screenings played, and Festival attendees strolled the halls of the Grimaldi Forum following red carpets, paparazzi flashes and the buzz and chatter of eager TV fans behind velvet ropes, all of it culminating on the final two days and closing with the Golden Nymph Awards Ceremony.

Kicking off with cocktail reception at the royal palace hosted by Prince Albert II of Monaco, the event finale was a spectacle like no other. As the sun set, I found myself in deep conversation over Champagne with The Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors and toasting with Sons of Anarchy’s Ron Perlman and Lilyhammer’s Steven Van Zandt. Surreal for sure, and not just because of the unexpected mix of attendees but because of the backdrop of the amazing city, the investment from the community and royal family and support and passion of Prince Albert. It is unlike any festival—ever.

Festival attendees and guests enjoy a reception
in the Court of Honor of the Prince’s Palace, the
personal home of Monaco’s Prince Albert II.
 Down to the last day, the four of us (plus better halves Stacy Van Petten and Lisa Heinsen) made a magical day trip to Èze for sightseeing and shopping. Èze is now one of my favorite places on earth. It’s a renowned tourist site on the French Riviera, famous worldwide for the view of the sea from its hilltop, where it is home to a rustic medieval village built into the hillside. From the top of the gardens I could see it again. That ocean. Electric and blue and amazing. Even the smell of the salty air was mesmerizing. The day trip was perfect for inspiration and reflection before heading into the final night of our journey.

Just as quickly as it began, five days celebrating the best of television and its constant evolution—not to mention blue skies and seas, bikinis, tuxedos and cocktails—came to a close on Thursday night with the awards. Terry Crews, Ming Na, Lindsey Wagner and Bo Derek were among the stars that celebrated the festival and the winners of the Golden Nymph awards at the gala dinner, where we all danced into the wee hours of the morning.

And while it continued to feel like some lucid dream, the real-life impact of a festival like this is astonishing. It honors TV like no other event. The Emmys are well-established and certainly respected, but the Festival De Television takes it to a whole new level of glamor and sophistication, with content that’s far more audience-friendly than MIP TV or Mipcom.

As for the future of the fest, Puons believes that there is nowhere to go but up. "We’ve established a great foundation here. There is so much growth in television that we’re confidentmore and more high-level actors, actresses, executives and producers will see that this is a must-attend event and will add it to their calendar.” And the Content & Multiscreen Experience is sure to continue to enlighten the industry about the latest digital trends, just as the PGA’s New Media Council has done for more than a decade, both reinforcing that no matter the format, the producer is at the center of great entertainment.

Weary from a long week but invigorated from our adventures, John, Vance and I all parted ways at the airport—John heading to London, Vance to Switzerland and I back home to my family. I sat quiet and still on the plane. The cabin was dark and hushed. When I closed my eyes, the amazing visions and events from the journey flashed by like living paintings. I heard the casino and the paparazzi. I felt the sun from the beach as I turned and saw the narrow roads wind their way up the hill to the palace. I tasted the bitter, bright red Campari and smelled the salt from the electric blue sea.

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SHORT TAKES: STARS AND BARRED- Times are Changing in Hazzard County...

Posted By Administration, Monday, August 10, 2015

Q: Given the series’ prominent use of the Confederate flag,TV Land recently pulled its reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard from its broadcast schedule.Wasthis the right decision?How should our industry approach content from earlier eras that glorifies or celebrates the Confederate flag?

Roland Tec, Co-Producer, Defiance:

This question highlights the inherent push/pull that exists in television between the needs of advertisers and those of viewers. Whose interests should be paramount here? If it’s the advertisers, the answer is clear: Pull the potentially offensive content. But if the interests of the viewers guide the decision-making, we’d go the other way, with an understanding that humanity needs to acknowledge and reflect upon its history and culture, not bury its head in the sand.

Carrie Certa, Segment Producer, The Kennedy Files:

No. I would pull any episode which discusses the flag in an approving or glorifying way, but they should not pull the entire series.

Wendy Miller, Executive Producer/Director, Groundbreakers with John Waters:

I’m not sure if there’s ever been a show more offensive than Hogan’s Heroes on TV. I watched it when I was a kid, and no matter how sexy and freewheelin’ Major Hochstetter was, the show never made me want to become a member of the Gestapo. The Dukes of Hazzard is as racist as The Beverly Hillbillies and just about every other TV show produced in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying it’s a slippery slope. Just ask the people burning copies of Huckleberry Finn.

Roland TecCarrie CertaWendy Miller

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RISK TAKERS: PEAKS AND VALLEYS- Even When The Production Is In The Clouds, It's Good To Stay Grounded

Posted By Administration, Monday, August 10, 2015

Lauren Selig

Executive Producer:
Black Mass
Lone Survivor

Every producer has at least one "movie that changed my life.”  What’s yours, and why?

My parents took me to see Out of Africa when I was so little my knees didn’t bend over the edge of the theatre seats. I remember thinking that a three-hour movie would be the worst experience of my childhood. Let’s just say my butt didn’t move off that chair. I was mesmerized. Hooked.

Goodness knows, there are easier and more reliable ways to make a living than by financing films.What draws you to film as a business opportunity?

I love the idea that stories last forever. Very few industries have that longevity and power. That said, from a business perspective, this industry sucks. Stick to technology or real estate, or be an entrepreneur. This biz can be insane. A good day is when someone does the courtesy of telling you they’re about to f**k you over just before they do.

What’s the most recent project you’ve backed?What got you excited about it?

I’m so excited about Everest. So many of my earliest memories involve camping, rock climbing and the outdoors. It’s a more personal movie to me, as many of my friends were on Everest in the days the film is set. I think Cross Creek is one of the best production companies out there, like a family you want to be part of. And of course, The Downslope, which Stanley Kubrick wrote; it’s hard to deny his incredible work. The truth is, I was most excited making my daughter’s home movies with her friends. A priceless experience, and the talent had "momagers” I liked.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?And which project(s) had the most gratifying payoff?

The biggest risk I have taken was moving to LA in the first place after my husband passed away, out of the blue. I had two kids in tow and was starting a new career and new life from scratch, with only the support of my family and a few close friends like Alex Brunner at UTA. As cliché as it is, my kids are the biggest, most gratifying payoff. That and the fact that I haven’t yet run kicking and screaming from this town.

What are the essential qualities you look for in a producing partner?What flaws are you willing to overlook?

Essentials for me are honesty and outside-the-box thinking—two qualities that are becoming exceedingly rare in this industry. As for flaws … wait, people in this business have flaws? Gosh, I hadn’t noticed.

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Posted By Administration, Monday, August 10, 2015

At the 2015 PGA East General Membership Meeting, AP Council Commitment Award winner Kay Rothman is surrounded by fans of Kay Rothman holding fans of Kay Rothman. 

October 24

The PGA’s East Coast Conference returns to the Time Warner Center for its second year! Headlined by a special conversation with multi-talented producer Tina Fey, PBNY programming will span film, television and new media topics. Produced By: New York features the most producing information, networking and mentoring that it’s possible to pack into a single day.

Attendees enjoy Produced By 2015. 


August 20

Help unlock the spontaneous creative genius of your cast. All we need is a suggestion from the audience for a location to hold the event …

August 22

It’s the essential industry issue of the moment. The PGA Seminar Committee brings you up-to-date on the efforts to fight content theft.

September 12
Production Safety Seminar: PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES

Produced By: New York in action.

The producer’s first responsibility is to run a safe set. This special seminar examines the essential elements of vehicle safety during production. 

September 17
PGA Doc Club Screening, Q&A + Salon: PEACE OFFICER

Join the Doc Club for a screening of the gripping new documentary about law enforcement in America, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker(s) moderated by Documentary/Non-Fiction Committee Chair Lesley Chilcott.




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MENTORING MATTERS: GETTING A LEG UP DOWN UNDER- A café-based lesson in feature film finance

Posted By Scott McConnell, Monday, August 10, 2015

Like any good film story, I had a goal and a problem. The solution turned out to be the PGA Mentoring Program.

I had worked successfully as a non-fiction producer, but I wanted to work in fiction features as a writer and producer. How was I going to make that transition, especially as the years were creeping on? I felt I had the right script (my own low-budget drama that I’d been developing/pitching for three years), but what I understood about film finance would barely fill the zero in a net profit statement.

After I applied to the PGA Mentoring Program, I was excited when I learned that I had been slotted with Peter Bevan, English-born but now LA-based producer of 14 features and current executive vice president of production at Umedia.

I prepared dozens of questions about feature production while Peter efficiently organized our first meeting at the exclusive and swanky Soho House. After being surprised that Soho House actually let me in, I met Peter: tall, calm, affable and half my age! We politely small-talked, then I peppered him with questions about topics like foreign tax incentives, pitching equity investors, finance from presales (especially the market value of male vs. female talent) and contacting Hollywood players who might have a personal interest in the themes of the story.

And that was just meeting #1. He arranged meeting #2 at Jones in West Hollywood. I was still struggling with the complexities of film finance, so Peter patiently went through how it works, including the relationships between parts of a finance package: equity, tax shelter, pre-sales, gap, tax incentives. We also worked up lists of Australian and British talents who are strong in the foreign presale market. (I am Australian born and will film the story there.) Peter also advised me about finding an Australian co-producer, including the need to protect myself as the originating producer.

Meeting #3, our last, was at Graffiti Café on La Brea. As I walked into yet another classy café, I blurted out my suspicion to Peter that I was really being filmed for some hidden camera reality show about cafés. Peter kindly allayed my fears as we discussed government development money and pre-production. (Be 100% certain that the money is in the bank and accessible to you!) When it came to filming, Peter explained how to watch the budget and use a light touch, giving the director space and knowing when to be and not be on the set.

Peter was the total pro—always generous with his time and expertise, always benevolent during my constant quizzing and, most of all, always thoughtful and informed in his answers and advice. Happily, Peter and I remain in touch, and he is still answering my questions.

I had a problem, and the PGA Mentoring Program solved it.

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GOING GREEN: FOOTPRINT IN THE ICE- When Burning Waste is a Better Option Than Recycling, You're Not Going Green, You're Going Greenland

Posted By Rachel Joy, Monday, August 10, 2015

In nonfiction production, inspiration often comes from unusual characters. But what happens when the character is the world’s largest island, covered mainly in ice and inhabited by only 65,000 people? When producer David Casey visited Greenland for the first time, the country itself became his inspiration. "It was a life-changing experience and created in me an almost biological belief that what is happening to Greenland matters to everyone. From that moment, it had been a life goal to get back to Greenland and to broadcast the stories of Greenland to as large an audience as I could, any way possible.”

In a land brimming with amazing stories and stunning backdrops, Casey struck gold when he decided to develop a series on the mining industry. Produced by Moxie Pictures and airing on Animal Planet, Ice Cold Gold follows the mining company Sixty Degree Resources and its eight members as they try to strike it rich in one of the harshest, most inhospitable places in the world.

Ice Cold Gold executive producer
David Casey

With the arctic summer lasting only two months, the cast prospects and mines throughoutGreenlandhoping to unearth hidden fortunes before the arctic winter comes back, covering everything with ice. During this small window, the prospectors endure severe arctic storms, icy boat rides, fatal rock slides, volatile ice sheets and utter isolation. And so does the crew.

"These guys, just in one episode alone, they traveled over 1,000 miles,” says Casey. "They were in Aasiaat, above Aasiaat, about 40 miles, and they traveled another 450 miles south to meet up with the rest of the miners, and then all those miners went back to Nuuk. It was an incredible endeavor. And then on the way, you’re seeing rubies pulled out of the rock, you’re seeing gold, and you’re seeing some of the largest icebergs in the world just caving off of glaciers in Aasiaat.”

The Hollywood Reporternoted that, "Ice Cold Gold... marks the first TV production of this caliber to be shot in Greenland.” For Casey, the challenge to build production infrastructure from the ground up was also an opportunity to set up sustainable practices from the beginning.

"We’ve always been conscious of our carbon footprint and our social and environmental impact on Greenland itself and what that actually means, not only behind the camera as the production but the eyeballs and the awareness we’re creating to millions of viewers.”

Casey realized quickly that involving local producers was crucial to navigating the complexities of filming in Greenland, as well as understanding the culture. Nina Paninnguaq Skydsbjerg Jacobsen is a local producer who shares Casey’s vision for sustainable production. "In Greenland we have this philosophy that started earlier with the Inuit, and it’s the Mother of the Sea. The Mother of the Sea is or was God, basically, and provides everything—all sustenance, all food, all game. The Greenlander is rewarded by the Mother of the Sea, but if the Greenlander takes too much, the Mother of the Sea takes away. So it’s this core belief of sustainability.”

The country of Greenland may value sustainability, but the remote landscape itself made implementing environmental practices difficult. Right away, the production team hit a major obstacle regarding waste management. Because the population of Greenland is only 65,000, with only 17,000 in the capital of Nuuk, the country hasn’t instituted recycling services and currently burns their trash. The production properly disposed
of compost but had to weigh the monetary and environmental pros and cons of shipping thousands of pounds of recycling out of the country.

"Ninety percent of everything except for hunting and fishing [yields] is brought in from Copenhagen, New Zealand and Argentina, all the way up to the Arctic. So if they recycle it up there for only 65,000 people, they’re not creating a huge impact anyway. So it actually creates more waste to recycle in Greenland than just burning it does.”

In an effort to create less waste, the production systemized gear and travel to be as efficient as possible with the smallest footprint. They removed all packaging and streamlined gear by not carrying individual suitcases, thus saving save space on helicopters and boats and minimizing the number of trips. "So less gas, less sweat, less energy,” observes Casey. "Just bettering the process is pretty much our greatest solution at this point. "

Prospecting for Ice Cold Gold

Because so much food is imported, the crew also committed to eating local fish and meat as much as possible, including seal and reindeer. "You’ve got a reindeer over here that a hunter will sell you that will pay for his livelihood for a long time,” continues Casey, "and then you’ve got a steroid-enriched pig that’s been flown all the way to the top of the Arctic Circle. Which one would you choose for your crew? It’s crazy to think about how far from our base camp that bacon came.”

Preserving the magnificent beauty of Greenland is vital to Casey, but introducing viewers to Greenland via the TV show is just as essential. "For many people, we are introducing Greenland to them. Every shot we take, every frame we shoot needs to speak to that.”

While it’s tempting to focus on the serious issue of global warming, Casey feels that just showing the changes in Greenland has an impact. "Literally, year to year the ice is retreating, but we don’t hit it on the nose. Just exhibit, let it be its own thing. Whoever’s watching the show, let them come to their own conclusions as to why. So if we can do that type of show at a place where great change is happening, we’re creating awareness and bringing eyeballs there.”

Jacobsen believes, "In Greenland, we have a lot of stories that should be told to the world. The Greenlandic people are always about adapting to whatever you’re up against. It’s such a beautiful place in all sorts of ways.”

Regardless of Ice Cold Gold’s future as a series, Casey’s passion for Greenland isn’t dependent on shifting trends in television. "It is my goal that we are ambassadors for Greenland to an American audience. I take that responsibility seriously and always will.”

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Posted By Administration, Monday, August 10, 2015

The Producers Guild proudly salutes the following producers whose credits have been certified with the Producers Mark. This list includes films released in June and July.

Certification via the Producers Mark indicates that a producer undertook a major portion of the producing duties on the motion picture.


Forest Whitaker, p.g.a.

Nina Yang Bongiovi, p.g.a.


James Dahl, p.g.a.

Matt DeRoss, p.g.a.

David Kanter, p.g.a.


Doug Ellin, p.g.a.

Mark Wahlberg, p.g.a.

Stephen Levinson, p.g.a.


Jonas Rivera, p.g.a.


Patrick Crowley, p.g.a.

Frank Marshall, p.g.a.


Reid Carolin , p.g.a.

Gregory Jacobs, p.g.a.

Channing Tatum, p.g.a.

Nick Wechsler, p.g.a.


Ken Blancato, p.g.a.

Karen Rosenfelt, p.g.a.


Janet Healy, p.g.a.

Chris Meledandri, p.g.a.


Wyck Godfrey, p.g.a.

Marty Bowen, p.g.a.


Chris Columbus, p.g.a.

Mark Radcliffe, p.g.a.


Elizabeth Cuthrell, p.g.a.

Lydia Dean Pilcher, p.g.a.


Todd Black, p.g.a.

Jason Blumenthal, p.g.a.

Antoine Fuqua, p.g.a.

Alan Riche, p.g.a.

Peter Riche, p.g.a.


Peter Chernin, p.g.a.

Jenno Topping, p.g.a.

Paul Feig, p.g.a.

Jessie Henderson, p.g.a.


Lauren Bratman, p.g.a.

Brent Emery, p.g.a.

Lizzie Friedman, p.g.a.


David Ellison, p.g.a.

Dana Goldberg, p.g.a.


Judd Apatow, p.g.a.

Barry Mendel, p.g.a.


Chris Bender, p.g.a.

David Dobkin, p.g.a.

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Posted By Administration, Monday, August 10, 2015

The Producers Guild is proud to welcome the following new members, who joined the Guild in May and June, 2015.


Producers Council

Richard Berge (1)

Darren Brandl 


Michelle Brando

Mark Burg

Elayne Cilic

Nancy Criss

Arvind David

Andrina Davis

Michael Doven

Paula DuPre’ Pesmen (2)


Larry Epstein

Nathan Fields

Marcelo Gandola

Neil Garguilo

Joe Genier

Adam Goodman

Joy Gorman

Nora Grossman

Eric Hoberman

Rebecca Hu

Caytha Jentis

Steven Jones

Christopher King

Jenni Konner

Josh Lieb

Eric MacIver

Vince Maggio

Melvin Mar

Ricki Maslar

Joseph McKelheer

Seth Meier

Bill Miller

Ido Ostrowsky

Cami Patton


Bari Pearlman

Scott Pearlman

Peter Principato

Brian Raider

John Ridley

Doug Robinson

Khalea Ross Robinson

Paula Rosenthal

Erin Ryder

Jeremiah Samuels

Ann Marie Sanderlin

Robert Shinn

Brad Silberling (3)

Eric Smith

Kayo Washio

Jeffrey Weiner

James Whitaker

Reese Witherspoon (4)




Nathan Anderson

Dante Anderson

Noel Bahamon

Jason Berger (5)

Leif Dahl

CJ Follini

Robert Gekchyan

Aaron Godfred

Lynn Kestin Sessler

Scott Lasker

Deborah Mars

Dawn O’Keefe

Brandon Rae

Lucas Rakocija

Michael Ross





Justin Bondy

Erica Brady

Robert Currier

Lauren Grzybowski

Justin Hetzel

Heide Waldbaum

Sarita White


Dana Beale


Stacey Jackson

Christen Marquez (6)

Stephanie Neumen

Jamie Renberg (7)

Vanessa Ryan

Samantha Wender



Lisa Davidson

Lisa Higuchi (8)

Mark Swenson



Nicholas Bell

Hannah Bergstrom


Danielle Corches

Katie Fellion

Bradley Hague

Christina Kremer

Brian McCarthy

Davin Michaels

Cristian Olariu

Brennan Parks

Alyssa Silver

Suzzanne Stangel

Caitlin Thornton



Christopher Blasko


Chrysta Burton

Bonnie Lemon

Leslie Lerman

Richard Mann

Ian Markiewicz

Rich Thorne

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Posted By Administration, Friday, August 7, 2015

With this issue, Produced By is happy to kick off its photo contest feature, which doubles as an ongoing search for our elusive, legendary quarry: The Best On-Set Photo of All Time.

This issue’s Best On-Set Photo of All Time—BOSPOAT for short—comes from PGA member Kent Matsuoka, who snapped it during the production of episode 217 ("Kupale”) of Hawaii Five-0. The scene depicts a re-enacting of Kaleleka’aneae (or "The Battle of Nu’uanu”) in which Kamehameha defeated rival chief Kalanikūpule to unite the Hawaiian Islands in 1795 and become Hawaii’s first King.

"Many of the crew in Hawaii have a long experience with Hollywood since the original Five-0,” says Kent.

"They’re just as efficient as the best crews in LA, especially in beach and jungle situations for which they have developed unique tools, such as the hand tractor visible on the bottom left of the image.”

Thanks, Kent! As a result of your photo being selected, you’ll receive a free subscription to Produced By to gift to whomever you choose. We think you should strongly consider the guy who came up with that hand tractor.

We know what you’re thinking. "Best of all time? No way. I’ve got an on-set photo way better than that.” If that’s the case, we dare you to prove it. Submit it to Before you submit, please review the contest rules at Because no matter how great your photo is, we have no desire to get sued over it.

Tags:  I love Hawaii Five-O...still!  This is awesome 

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