Post a Job Join The Guild
Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register
Blog Home All Blogs


Search all posts for:   


Top tags: feature  cover  diversity  new media  PGA East  Produced By Conference  Producers Guild Awards  ap council  california  chris moore  disney studios  dodger day  elections  empire  Events  fea  film  financing  gender equity  Greening  Harvey Weinstein  hdr  high dynamic range  Ice Cube  ilene chaiken  incentives  laura ziskin  LGBTQ  lot lunch  New York 

SWIMMING WITH SHARKS: Good Guy Clay Newbill Runs The Show At The Top Of The Reality TV Food Chain

Posted By Michael Ventre, Tuesday, March 8, 2016

In the tortoise-hare dynamic, Clay Newbill’s career has been mostly tortoise. His slow and steady trek toward the peak of the alternate-programming hill has come about through hard work, perseverance, patience, skill, smarts, and good old human decency.

But there were a couple quicksilver moments of clarity more attuned to the hare that had a tremendous impact on the Shark Tank showrunner. The first came when he was just a lad living in Florida.

"From an early age, the first school play I ever saw, I knew what I wanted to do,” says the son of an Air Force pilot, who moved around a lot before settling outside Daytona Beach. "I wanted to be in the entertainment business. We had just come to Florida, I was the new kid at school, and a few weeks in, there was an assembly in the cafeteria and the curtain pulled back and it was a play of A Christmas Carol. I turned to a kid next to me and said, ‘How do you get to be one of the kids on the stage?’”

The second came in 2008, at CBS Radford studios, as the pilot for Shark Tank was being shot. "Our control room was upstairs,” Newbill recalls. "So I’d come down between pitches to chat with the "sharks” and I’d have to walk through our crew. And all of our crew, everyone who was there—agents and whatnot—were all gathered around a monitor, and all talking about what just happened.

"They were fascinated,” he continues. "Now these are people who are very critical, because they’ve seen everything. And they were just completely [riveted]. There was something hypnotic about it. Something magical was happening.”

L from B: Robert Herjavec, Clay Newbill,
Mark Cuban,Kevin O'Leary, Daymond John,
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Lori Greiner.
That kind of magic doesn’t happen overnight; generally, Newbill leans "tortoise.” That side of the analogy better reflects the painstaking rise through the non-fiction television jungle in which he traveled the world, accumulating a wealth of practical experience, making contacts and friends along the way and seizing opportunities when they presented themselves.

Shark Tank, which has been going now for seven seasons, is the culmination of a slow, steady and determined push forward. "People at his level … a lot of them are insane,” laughs Shark Tank executive producer, Yun Lingner, a colleague of Newbill’s for more than 10 years. "There are huge egos. Big personalities. Super insane crazy yellers. They have this instability.

"What’s amazing about Clay,” she counters, "is that he’s such a reasonable person. You can get successful through the ranks in so many different ways. He’s really been in the trenches. He has such a strong and incredible work ethic. Other producers really respect him because he knows what he’s doing and works so hard. He’s that combination of being calm and measured and rational—which is sadly rare at his level—but also creative and funny.”

Indeed, if you look around his office—unassumingly tucked away on the second floor of a modest structure on the far fringe of the Sony lot—what you don’t see is evidence of a cult of personality. It’s Newbill’s own heroes that get the attention: a prized football signed by Dallas Cowboys legends Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin; framed album covers—the Beatles and Herb Alpert, as well as the soundtracks from Goldfinger and Thunderball, a nod to his dad, a James Bond buff.

Newbill presides over one of the most popular reality shows on television with all of the swagger of a trusted accountant, yet his reality resume is the stuff of Hollywood big shots: co-executive producer on The Bachelor, executive producer on The Mole, Who Wants To Marry My Dad?, Top Designer, and American Inventor, stints on early, format-defining series like the Los Angeles and San Francisco seasons of The Real World, as well as Making the Band. And before that, lots of grunt production work at what was then known as Disney-MGM Studios while he lived in Florida, working with such television luminaries as Don Ohlmeyer, Screech Washington and Kim Moses.

"When you’re running a company as I am and you’re hiring somebody to run a show, you want to find that person you can just have confidence in and who knows when to bring issues to your attention and when to handle it himself,” says Jon Murray of Bunim-Murray Productions, whom Newbill credits with giving him his start. "Clay is a real adult. He gets it. He knows when to raise a concern or to just send an email and say, ‘This came up. I took care of it.’

"There are people like that,” Murray adds. "But they’re a special breed. When you find someone like that, you want to hold on to him. We were lucky to have him for so many years, but we’re proud of the success he has had with Shark Tank and his other projects.”

Shark Tank is based on another Sony property, Dragons’ Den, a popular hit in many parts of the world. The format is simple: entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors.

"Our show embodies the American Dream,” notes Newbill. "Though Dragons’ Den has been successful in many territories around the world … there’s only one country that has its own national ‘dream.’ That’s worldwide. People all over the world say, ‘The American Dream.’.”

Even as Newbill observes, "The moment the show becomes predictable, we’re dead,” he also knows that the drama built into the format assures that Shark Tank by its very nature remains unpredictable.

"I like to say that Shark Tank is like a courtroom drama,” he explains. "Somebody comes in, the entrepreneur, and they give testimony, and the sharks are cross-examining. When you’re watching a great courtroom drama like The Verdict, when you watch that cross-examination, you as a viewer, you’re swinging back and forth, you’re on the edge of your seat—‘What’s going to be the answer to this question?,’ ‘How’s it going to impact if they’re guilty or not guilty?’

Clay Newbill on the set of Shark Tank with "sharks" Kevin O'Leary, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John,
and fellow executive producer Yun Lingner

"The difference in Shark Tank,” he continues, "is that you’re thinking, ‘Are they going to get an offer, or are they not going to get an offer?’ With every question asked, it’s something you can sit at home with your family or whoever you’re watching with, and say, ‘Oh they’re going to get a deal’ or ‘This is perfect for (Mark) Cuban or Lori (Greiner), Barbara (Corcoran) or Daymond (John). This is right up their alley.’ Then as they do their search and discovery and they ask their questions and get their answers, that pendulum is swinging back and forth. That’s the excitement of the show.”

But again, it was a tortoise-like approach by Newbill, executive producer Mark Burnett, Sony and ABC that enabled it to become the hit that it is today.

"We realized—and thank goodness ABC realized—if you look at the model from the U.K. and Canada, it took three seasons for it to reach the tipping point where it became a hit,” Newbill reports. "We knew it would take the same here. In all the territories where it was successful, that was the model.

"When you hear the concept, it’s not a big hook,” he adds. "But when you watch the show, you get it. You’re hooked. That’s what I tell everybody: Watch it once and you’ll get hooked. Thank goodness ABC believed in it enough that they stuck with it for those three seasons. Sure enough, when the third Season came: BAM!”

One prominent shark believes he knows why. Says Cuban: "Without Clay, Shark Tank doesn’t work. He makes the magic happen.”

And the magic probably happens because Newbill knows it’s not the result of magic, but rather elbow grease, creativity and human relations—elements in his portfolio that he’s been honing for years.

"There are so many intangibles Clay brings,” confirms Rob Mills, senior vice president of alternate programming for ABC. "His passion is first and foremost. Clay is one of those unsung heroes of reality, because he’s worked on everything. With Clay, it’s really all about doing great work. He has zero ego. His preparation for everything is intense. And he never gets complacent. He’s always thinking about what we’re doing, not just now but a year from now and five years from now.”

Holly Jacobs, executive vice president of reality and syndication for Sony Pictures Entertainment, fills in the picture: "This is an interesting show. There are a lot of moving parts. All of the many, many entrepreneurs to manage, to navigate, to hear their stories. Then you have a lot of very interesting sharks who have incredibly busy lives, who are unique personalities, who are really smart. That takes a lot of navigation. Clay has a very, very calm and centered way of managing it all. He gives you a lot of confidence and he’s very, very good with detail.”

Murray said he knew that Newbill was special when the two worked on The Real World together, when Pedro, a young Cuban-American cast member who was HIV positive, got sick during production and had to fly home to Miami from San Francisco to be checked out by his doctors.

"Clay and me and a camera person and an audio person all went with Pedro and spent a week with him in Miami,” Murray recalls. "Working with Clay for that week showed me a sensitive side of him as a human being, especially in his care for Pedro and his concern for Pedro’s family and friends and our work to try to document this while being sensitive to everybody. It was amazing.”

When Newbill is away from Shark Tank, he’s usually at home in Manhattan Beach with wife Jaesuk, a flight attendant, and 6-year-old son Wyatt, who recently got on skis for the first time during a trip to Mammoth. Newbill loves to surf, an obsession he picked up when he lived in Florida.

Back in 1991, after graduating from the University of Central Florida (he has since set up a scholarship there and offers paid internships for students to work on Shark Tank) and doing some production work at Disney, he packed everything he owned into his car and drove across the country. He rented a room with two other roommates in Manhattan Beach, a town he fell in love with. Later, after traveling a ton and saving up, he bought a house in the town, where he still lives with his wife and son. He worked diligently over a period of many years, taking whatever opportunities that were available, moving forward, learning and striving to improve.

In other words, he pursued and achieved the American Dream. Now he’s running a show that gives others the chance to do the same.

"Shark Tank has definitely resonated with our society,” he says. "You see someone walk down that hall and hit that rug and start their pitch, you can relate to that person because they’re trying to overcome some great obstacle. They’re trying to get success. They believe in something with their entire spirit, and here they are to convince the sharks this is something worth doing and get the investment that takes them to the next level with their business.

"I think Daymond John said it best: It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, race, color, creed, whatever. You hit that rug and you’ve got your shot.” Clay Newbill can relate. He took his shot. He didn’t miss.

- See all of the articles from the February/March 2016 issue of Produced By Magazine.

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Initial Slate of Featured Speakers & Session Topics for 8th Annual Produced By Conference Announced

Posted By Administration, Friday, February 19, 2016

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) announced the initial slate of speakers and session topics for its 8th annual Produced By Conference (PBC). This year, PBC’s headlining panels include a "360 Profile” roundtable discussion with All Def Digital principals Russell Simmons, Sanjay Sharma, Chris Conti, and Jake Stein; and the "Conversations With…” series featuring an in-depth dialogue with producers Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman from Brownstone Productions.

Produced By is the only conference specifically created by producers, for producers. No other event gives producers so many opportunities to network with and learn from top storytellers and decision-makers in the entertainment industry. Registration and pricing information can be found at Early bird registration at a discounted rate is available now and ends May 1st. Produced By 2016 takes place June 4-5 and is hosted by Sony Pictures on its studio lot in Culver City, CA.

Confirmed panelists to date are noted below in alphabetical order. Additional speakers will be announced in the coming weeks.

· Amy Baer, President, Gidden Media; A STORM IN THE STARS (2016), LAST VEGAS

· Elizabeth Banks, Partner, Brownstone Productions; PITCH PERFECT 1 & 2, "Resident Advisors”

· Ian Bryce, Principal, Ian Bryce Productions; WORLD WAR Z, TRANSFORMERS 1-4

· John Canning, Producers Guild, Co-Chair of the Motion Picture Technology Committee


· Chris Conti, Head of Digital and Television Content, All Def Digital

· Nonny de la Peña, CEO, Emblematic Group

· America Ferrera, "Superstore”

· Dalia Ganz, Director of Digital & Partnership Marketing, Freeform

· Max Handelman, Partner, Brownstone Productions; PITCH PERFECT 1 & 2, "Resident Advisors”

· Kenneth A. Hawes, Director, U.S Army Public Affairs, Western Region

· Marshall Herskovitz, Partner, Bedford Falls Company; THE LAST SAMURAI, "thirtysomething”

· Basil Iwanyk, Founder and Owner, Thunder Road; SICARIO, THE TOWN

· Jeff Jenkins, EVP of Development and Programming, Bunim/Murray Production; "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," "I Am Cait"

· Andrew Karpen, CEO, Bleecker Street Media

· Courtney A. Kemp, "Power”

· Michael London, Principal and Founder, Groundswell Productions; TRUMBO, SIDEWAYS

· Gary Lucchesi, President of the Producers Guild of America; THE LINCOLN LAWYER, MILLION DOLLAR BABY

· Christie Mattull, Managing Director, HUB Entertainment Insurance

· Lori McCreary, President of the Producers Guild of America; INVICTUS, "Madam Secretary"

· Nick Meyer, President & CEO, Sierra/Affinity

· Ted Mundorff, President and CEO, Landmark Theatres

· Clay Newbill, Founder & President, 310 Entertainment; "Shark Tank,” "Brain Surge”

· Commander John W. Pruitt, III, U. S. Coast Guard; Director, USCG Motion Picture and Television Office

· Ben Relles, Head of Comedy and Unscripted Programming, YouTube Originals

· Lt. Col. Glen F. Roberts, Director, Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office, U.S. Air Force

· DJ Roller, Co-Founder, NextVR

· Ted Schilowitz, Futurist, 20th Century Fox and Chief Creative Officer, Barco Escape

· Kathryn Schotthoefer, Senior Vice President, Social Media, Heavenspot | M&C Saatchi

· Sanjay Sharma, President and Chief Executive Officer, All Def Digital

· Mark Shelton, Producer/Director, Shattered Sky

· Bettina Sherick, Founder, Hollywood in Pixels

· Russell Simmons, Chairman and Founder, All Def Digital

· Molly Smith, Partner, Black Label Media; DEMOLITION, SICARIO

· Jake Stein, President, Def Pictures

· Robert Stromberg, Founder & CCO, The Virtual Reality Company

· Sarah Treem, "The Affair"

· Vance Van Petten, National Executive Director, Producers Guild of America

· Adrian Ward, Division Manager, Entertainment Industries Division, Pacific Mercantile Bank

· R. Decker Watson, Jr., Executive Producer, Defiant Pictures; "Deadliest Catch,” "Ice Road Truckers”

*The above speakers are subject to change.

Produced By 2016 features a broad range of programming, including mentoring roundtables, workshops and networking events. In addition to the "Conversations With…” and "360 Profile” series, PBC’s conference panels encompass an incredible variety of topics. The program to date includes the following sessions:












· THE STATE OF FINANCING FILMS TODAY Sponsored by Pacific Mercantile Bank



In addition to Sony Pictures, sponsors already on board for this year’s conference include Cadillac, the Official Auto Partner of the PGA, Delta, the Official Airline Partner of the PGA, Corbis Entertainment’s BEN, PRG Production Resource Group, Panasonic, AMC Networks, ARRI, Box, Entertainment Partners, Film in Iceland, HUB International Insurance Services, Intuitive Aerial,Light Iron,Minnesota Film & TV Board, Pacific Mercantile Bank, Produce Iowa, Technicolor, The Molecule, Film US Virgin Islands and VER.

Produced By Conference 2016 is chaired by PGA members Ian Bryce, Tracey Edmonds, Mark Gordon, Marshall Herskovitz, and Rachel Klein. Returning to the PBC team are Supervising Producer Barry Kaplan (EKG, Inc.), Program Director Madelyn Hammond (Madelyn Hammond and Associates), Marketing Consultant Lynda Dorf, and Sponsorship Director Diane Salerno (Six Degrees Global).

Produced By Conference 2016 is made possible by the Producers Guild of America’s charitable entity, the PGA Foundation, and epitomizes the Foundation’s core mission to educate those working in the producing profession. To review highlights from previous Conferences and receive news and the latest programming updates for Produced By Conference 2016, please visit the Guild’s official website and follow its social media channels for the event:


Twitter: @Produced_By


About the Producers Guild of America (PGA)

The Producers Guild of America is the non-profit trade group that represents, protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team in film, television and new media. The Producers Guild has more than 7,000 members who work together to protect and improve their careers, the industry and community by providing members with employment opportunities, seeking to expand health benefits,promoting fair and impartial standards for the awarding of producing credits, as well as other education and advocacy efforts such as encouraging sustainable production practices. For more information and the latest updates, please visit,, and, and follow us on Twitter @ProducersGuild.

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

LESLEY CHILCOTT - February Cover

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 16, 2016
No one likes being a documentary producer. You either love the job, or you don’t do it. No middle ground.

To choose to produce a project—in any format—is to invite a world of headaches into one’s life. Budget problems, schedule problems, talent problems, post-production problems… the list will go on as long as you let it. Documentary producers get to enjoy all of those tribulations, but with a fraction of the budget, compensation and public acclaim that their counterparts in scripted film and television enjoy. You have to love the job, maybe even love it too much.

PGA member Lesley Chilcott openly cops to being an addict. "I still do commercials to support my documentary habit,” she admits, mock-sheepishly. "It’s like a virus. I think once you have the privilege of being able to share someone’s truth, you want to do it more and more.” And indeed, she’s been sharing a lot of truths during the past several years. A veteran of countless PSA shoots, Chilcott served as co-producer on An Inconvenient Truth, arguably the definitive doc of the century’s first decade. She subsequently teamed with Truth director Davis Guggenheim to produce acclaimed documentaries like It Might Get Loud and Waiting for ‘Superman,’ winning the 2011 Producers Guild Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures for the latter. Of late, Chilcott has added directing credits to her filmography, most recently CodeGirl, the feature she produced and directed last year about the Technovation Challenge, an international competition that showcases teams of teenage girls around the world striving to develop and code community-oriented mobile apps.

Chilcott with DP Logan Schneider on location in Moldova
Breaking free of the December holiday rush for an hour, Lesley Chilcott sat down with Produced By editor Chris Green at a roadside juice bar in Woodland Hills. Over the whine of machinery churning out kale-carrot-cucumber beverages, the pair discussed the halcyon days of MTV, the nature of Netflix’s unprecedented commitment to documentaries, and the enduring influence of Mark Lewis’ Australian cult-doc masterpiece, Cane Toads: An Unnatural History.


How did you find your way into the business?

I was studying business at USC, in something called the Entrepreneur Program. I wanted to start a vegetarian fast-food chain. But my friends were in cinema school and I was constantly crashing screenings and sneaking into one of the classes. I had always been a huge movie buff, but never had thought of it as a career. No one in my family had ever done it.

I finished college early and wasn’t super thrilled with the restaurant industry, based on what I’d learned. And maybe I was a little ahead of my time with the vegetarian fast-food chain idea. So I started working at MTV as a PA, right after it turned 10.

So that’s at the point where the network was evolving from pure music videos to producing its own shows.

Yeah. In fact, because I was based in LA, I worked on many of the live multi-camera shows. I was part of the first team that created the MTV Movie Awards. I remember sitting around the room brainstorming with Joel Gallen and others, "What weird categories could we have? How about Best Action Scene. Best On-Screen Duo? We came up with the craziest stuff we could. And even though I was close to entry-level at that time, everyone got to have input.

I think a lot of people start in this industry not sure what they want to do. But because I had this business background, I had more direction, though I must admit I didn’t think of it on my own. It took my college friend to say "Why don’t you think about going to the Peter Stark Program at USC? You’d be a great producer.” That was food for thought. I knew I was on that route, but at MTV, if you stuck around, pretty soon you were handed the reins to do something. So I never made it back to grad school.

I worked on the MTV Movie Awards, the Video Music Awards, ½ Hour Comedy Hour, all those sorts of shows. You start as a production assistant, then you have a little more responsibility, then you’re an associate producer. I think you got the better credit to get you to stay. I was the associate producer on a show called Trashed. That was my first real producorial experience. It was a comedy game show where we blew contestants’ possessions up—we "trashed” them—if they didn’t answer our questions correctly. I had a lot of responsibilities on that show.

There was always something fun going on at MTV, but I followed the VP of Production, Joel Gallen, when he left the network. In fact, the only real job I’ve ever had was helping him start his company, Tenth Planet, and even that was a start-up. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a real job.

I did two- to five-year cash-flow projections for Joel and finally put my degree to use. I worked with him in production for nine months, and then through my friends at MTV I started doing commercials, hundreds of them. Through that, I got to work with some of the very best directors. Some of them were full-time commercial directors like Joe Pytka, and some of them came more from film or television, like Tom Hooper, Bennett Miller and Todd Field. What’s great about commercials is that I had the chance to get to work with so many different directors, and I didn’t have to commit six months or a year of my life to it. It was three weeks. It’s been such a pleasure for me to be able to have these moments with these very big talents and learn what I could from that. Especially now that I’m directing myself. In fact, I’m very thankful for a job I did with Todd Field where he turned to me and said, you should be doing this, directing. He was very encouraging.

As a producer, sometimes you try and adjust your producing style so that you can cater to whatever director you’re working with. This person is a visualist, or this person is a master storyteller, or this person is an amazing production designer or all of those things. I was constantly trying to put myself in their shoes and think where might I need help if I were them. Wearing those different hats and working with so many different directors on commercials really inspired me to direct myself.

It wasn’t that I wanted to be a director my whole life. I was perfectly happy as a producer, but started directing because one day, I was covering for a director I was working with. There were two things happening that we needed to shoot, so I had to shoot some things myself. On a documentary, that happens; you have to split up to cover everything. I kept doing that, and then one day I finally thought, "I think I can do this myself.”

There’s also a lot of overlap between roles on documentaries. It’s the director’s vision but it’s generally a partnership between the director, the producer and the editor, because there’s no script. The editor then especially becomes an important storyteller, because they’re the ones who will first notice. "This person is way more interesting than we thought,” and that changes your entire direction. They’re often fulfilling the role of a writer. It’s just after they’ve already shot, instead of beforehand. They’re the writers after the fact.

That’s a really neat characterization. So how did you go from commercials to documentaries?

Well, as fun as commercials can be, sometimes there’s a lack of substance.

You don’t say?

[Laughs] Yeah. So usually once or twice a year as a commercial producer, I would make it a point to do a public service announcement, whether it was to help a cause, or a director, or a client, or someone else we had a relationship with. There was this amazing camaraderie that would happen because, inevitably, we had no money. We could pay a fraction of what would normally be paid. I always figured, well, if everyone is going to get paid poorly, then everyone may as well just get paid the same thing. I mean, you can’t ask a production assistant, who’s already the least-paid person, to get paid one-eighth. That wouldn’t even be legal. So I said, "Let’s just pay everybody the same thing.” And it created this incredible "we’re all in it together" spirit. I’d be producing spots for this cause or that cause and so I would research the cause and learn more about it, which led to seeking out more and more PSAs, which was not the norm.

So I was working with Arianna Huffington and Scott Burns and Lawrence Bender and Laurie David, part of a group called Americans for Fuel Efficient Cars. We were trying to create these deliberately provocative PSAs that said if you drive an oversized SUV then you’re indirectly supporting terrorism, and here’s why.

We thought it was fantastic. And every time we would complete one of these, right before it was supposed to air, it would mysteriously get pulled, through pressure from Detroit and other sources. So then we would call the news and often they’d do a story, running the commercial full length on the 10 o’clock news. And that gave us way more eyeballs than we would’ve ever have gotten.

It was that kind of activism that pushed me into shooting documentaries. I had also seen a documentary. I admit that I didn’t see it when it first came out; I came to it late. But it was called Cane Toads.

Oh, Cane Toads is a phenomenal movie. For about a year, I screened it for nearly everyone I knew.

So then, you know. When I saw Cane Toads, I realized this was a different genre than I’d been led to believe. Not only is this hilarious, but it’s crazy, pure craziness. Instead of just this dry story about how the cane toad was introduced to Australia to fight the cane beetle, you had images of Kombis driving down long roads trying to run over cane toads and little girls who kept giant poisonous toads as pets. And I thought, "That’s what I want to do.”

I can’t tell you how gratifying it is that there’s a Produced By cover story that has its roots in Cane Toads.

Cane Toads was one of those movies that indirectly put me on the path to working with Laurie and Lawrence. They had recently gone to see Al Gore’s slideshow about global warming, and within 24 hours Lawrence Bender and Scott Burns had both called me to attend a meeting about the slideshow Al Gore was giving. And I showed up and I knew everyone except Davis Guggenheim, and Davis knew everyone except for me.

Within that meeting, we decided that we needed to fly up to San Francisco, talk to Al, and convince him we were the team to turn his slideshow into … something. We weren’t sure what. And of course, it ended up turning into An Inconvenient Truth, which was the first documentary I produced.

A few months went by and Davis called and said, "How about you mostly quit what you’re doing and I mostly quit what I’m doing, and we form a documentary production company?” And it took off from there. I think once you have the privilege of being able to share someone’s truth, so to speak, in a documentary, you want to do it more and more.

For instance, when Davis and I were following around Al Gore, we had these great conversations with him. But we’d bring the camera out and he would unconsciously revert to talking points. He’d been speaking in public for so long he just reverted to them whenever he saw the camera. Finally Davis said, "Let’s just do an audio interview with you.” And so Al talked like Al. We started doing that more and more.

After we had shot the majority of An Inconvenient Truth and Sundance was coming up, we realized that there were a few things that we were missing. So we met with Al to interview him, audio only, one last time. And Al is like, "God, another interview.” Davis interviewed him for so long that the sun set and they forgot I was even in the room. That interview became 75 percent of the voiceover in the film. So even if you have this very well-known personality, sometimes you really have to drill down to get them to be themselves.

What it was like to watch An Inconvenient Truth become not just another documentary but a kind of a cornerstone for contemporary doc storytelling?


Chilcott reviews a cut of An Inconvenient Truth with
VP Al Gore, Kristin Gore, and producer Lawrence Bender
Well, to my knowledge no one had ever made a movie out of a slideshow. So it was a real surprise to all of us. It took what people had thought of as a very complicated issue and articulated why this is an issue and why viewers might have been confused about it. But the fact that a movie starring Al Gore, on the topic of global warming, featuring a slideshow, became any sort of a hit still blows my mind. I’m always telling people, "Analytics are amazing but you have to be careful.” If we had extensively focused-grouped this movie it never would’ve come out in theaters. When I’m trying to advise producers starting out, I tell them, "Use all the analytics available to you, but then you’ve got to stick with your gut and make the larger decision.”


When you think of something that you’re just so sure about and everyone thinks you’re crazy, it doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t crazy but just that it may not be the right time for that project. I interviewed Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, and he told me he actually thought of Twitter back in 2003. It was before Facebook, and people thought his idea of giving updates on what you were doing in 140 characters was really odd and weird, so he put it on the shelf. Facebook came out in 2004 and in 2006 Jack took the idea off the shelf and suddenly it wasn’t so weird.

Documentaries have never been as inventive as they are now. We’re bringing nontraditional tools to documentary filmmaking and telling them in all sorts of new ways. And I think that that’s really exciting.

So working then with Davis, how did you build a company to try to replicate that?

It sounds very grandiose, right? It’s not like we had a development department and a full-time editorial staff. It was just me and him until we had a project. He was still doing pilot work, I was still doing commercial work, and in the meantime we’d brainstorm on what documentaries we would do, and then some documentaries started coming to us, and some we sought out. After An Inconvenient Truth, there were a lot of projects that we started and didn’t finish or we got busy with something else.

What is it that allows you and Davis to click as an effective filmmaking team?

Here’s an example. When we were developing a documentary, Davis said to me, "You know, a documentary needs time to find itself.” Meanwhile, I’m trying to do the budget, get ready for our pitch meeting … I just needed information. So Davis might say, "A documentary needs time to find itself,” but my response is something like, "Well, can it find itself a little faster? Because we have to go pitch this in a couple of hours.” That kind of became our joke. "Do you know how many people you might need to shoot this or do you need time to find yourself?” We always had a good back and forth.

At the same time, I knew exactly what he meant, and he’s not wrong, but it’s a perfect example of how our partnership worked and kind of how documentaries work. With a narrative feature you have a script, so you know, well, there’s 13 roles and there’s 14 locations. You have a breakdown. Even if you change it later, you can at least plan. But when you’re writing a documentary treatment, you’re like, "I think this would make a wonderful story. And I think it would be great if we can get this particular person. And if we can’t get that person, we’ll go in this direction.” There are all of these conditions. It gets complicated. So you just have to guess. I always ask, what is the minimum possible days I could do this in? And then you throw in a couple extra days for good measure. I’m always "squirreling away my nuts” until suddenly we’ve found our direction—aha, this person is the key; we need three more shoot days. And you hope that you’re covered.

What is it that makes a story take on the critical mass where it’s not just an idea, it’s an actual production?

I wish I had a good answer for you. I think in scripted projects there comes a point where you know you’re making it because you’re casting, right? Somebody had to finance that. Or sometimes you cast without the financing and get people attached as a way of attracting financing.

With a documentary you don’t have a script circling around. But I think that if the subjects that you want to cover in a documentary are interested and you know that you have access to them, you can start there. Documentaries are essentially a point of view, right? So we’re always pursuing this truth as told from your character’s point of view. I think that there comes a point where you’re committed to telling the truth no matter what it is, even if it has nothing to do with what you wrote in your treatment. But you have to have an engaging enough treatment and you have to show that you have access to these people to at least get your first bit of funding. And then you have to decide, do you raise money as you go, or do you wait and raise it all at the beginning, and then go? I’ve done it both ways. With CodeGirl, I didn’t raise my last bit of money until postproduction. For Waiting for ‘Superman’, Jim Berk at Participant Media had been a high school principal. He knew he wanted to do a film about education. He came to Davis and I and asked, "What would you do?” We spent months writing a treatment, gave it back, and Participant greenlit it based on that treatment. We started down that road, threw that away, and made an entirely different movie, which ended up being Waiting for ‘Superman.’ And that happens more often than not with documentaries.

How did CodeGirl evolve?

I heard about this wacky contest where high school-age girls from all over the world had three months to write a mobile app. The only rule was that it has to solve a problem where the contestant lives. I had read all the dismal statistics about the lack of women in tech and how every major tech company was creating programs for girls because the lack of diversity was a real problem, not for just diversity’s sake but in pursuit of well-rounded ideas, creativity, execution … everything really.

So I thought, "Well, the contest starts every year in January. I have to start now. I don’t have time to raise all the money so I’m just going to raise a certain amount of money.” So I raised this miniscule amount of money and started filming. Then I had something to show, a little clip, which I used to raise more money. Then I had a slightly longer story string and raised money as I went. That worked for that project. But if you’re going to do something like An Inconvenient Truth and follow a former Vice President around or any high-profile individual, you are better off raising the money beforehand. There are no rules for how best to do it.

So what is the marketplace like for documentaries
right now?

Amazing and dismal. On the one hand, documentaries are getting more coverage in the press and in blogs and in digital content sites than ever before. The amazing thing about a company like Netflix is that as part of their plan for you—this is going to sound trivial, but really, it isn’t—you get a billboard. So Netflix has done maybe 13 or 14 documentaries total. But they give them feature film treatment. You go to the festivals, you get the PR agent, you get the amazing poster, you get all their marketing genius and you get a billboard in LA. It’s amazing to see documentaries on billboards. We’re so used to flying stand-by, so to speak!

On the other hand, fewer people are going to the theater to see them. Once I finished directing and editing CodeGirl, as a producer I thought, "Well yes, I want traditional distributors to like CodeGirl but really I made the film for teen girls.” That’s not a small market but it is a different market than the film festival market.

Teen girls aren’t going to Sundance. Teen girls aren’t going to see documentaries in the theater. Teen girls watch YouTube. I didn’t know how my investors were going to feel about this, or if I could get a distributor after giving away my film for free but I felt I needed to make my film free for five days so teens could see it. It needed to be free for Sunday through Thursday, and then on Friday it could be available in theaters and VOD. This is what I needed to do to solve the problem of getting to my audience directly.

So I called Julie Ann Crommet and she set up a meeting for me at YouTube with Made w/Code, Google’s initiative to get more girls into coding. I asked, "Has anyone ever given away their film for free before it went to theaters and VOD?” They said, "No, no one has ever done that.” So I said, "Let’s do that.”

I was very insistent that none of the money could come from tech companies, because I didn’t want someone to say "Oh, this was really just for ABC tech company’s PR.” Google had nothing to do with funding or doing the movie. There’s a bit of a disconnect between funding for narratives and documentary. When you produce a narrative feature, you take money for product placement and you produce a movie in the hopes that it will make a profit. But with documentary, you don’t do this generally, you don’t want anyone to have influence over the film. So Made w/Code came on just for the "freemium” window on YouTube and it made perfect sense for us.

Made w/Code was an amazing outreach partner and I felt very lucky. It aligned with their goals of interesting more girls in coding and it aligned with my goals of reaching teens on YouTube. It actually came out on YouTube in four languages.

Wow. Really?

Yeah. Obviously we had English. But we shot in all these different countries. And Made w/Code said, "Why don’t you release it in Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi, because some of the winning teams were from Mexico, Brazil and India?” So we did that. Almost a million people saw it in those 5 days. And I know from our analytics that at least 89,000 of them were teen girls.

Then FilmBuff was brave enough to take on this new model with me and became the film’s distributor for our theatrical, VOD, TV, digital and educational releases. Now, we’re going to be the first film, narrative or otherwise, on Mashable starting January 6th. CodeGirl is the first video rental ever on Steam, the gaming portal. So we’ve been trying for some firsts. The producer side of me kept saying, "The market is changing. How can I reach my market in new ways?” If you have an original way to reach whatever your niche market is, you’ve got to do it. Even though I feel like what I’m doing is small, I know that when you directly reach your audience, the impact can still be big.

I think that as a nonfiction person, you constantly have to think about "How do I make it bigger?” I mean, we could’ve just shown An Inconvenient Truth to all the environmental groups. If we had thought that way, yeah, they all would’ve seen it, but I’m not sure who else would have. But we thought, along with Participant Media, "Let’s put this slideshow in theaters and make the trailer so over-the-top scary that we scare people into the theater.” That’s not the approach that you would traditionally think for a documentary. I think you’ve got to identify your market and then ask, "How do I get beyond that market as well?”

There’s definitely more content available than ever before and you’re fighting to get eyeballs on your project so identifying your market is more important than it has ever been. With platforms like YouTube, on the one hand, the barrier to entry is lower and maybe the production value doesn’t have to be as high to attract online viewers, but on the other hand, the stories have to be even better because there is so much competition.

I feel like documentary filmmakers are always right there on the edge, and you’ve got to be careful because you might run out of money or make a bad decision. You’re constantly, constantly trying to figure out how to make things work, but often you get to the real truth that other people can’t get to. And for me that’s really rewarding.

- Feature photography by Kremer Johnson Photography

- Read the rest of the February/March issue

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

#PGAwards Twitter Highlights & More

Posted By Administration, Thursday, January 28, 2016





Producers Guild Facebook Album



January 23, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles

Posted by The Producers Guild of America on Monday, January 25, 2016

Producers Guild YouTube Clips

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Results- Producers Guild Awards 2016

Posted By Administration, Saturday, January 23, 2016
Updated: Friday, January 22, 2016

Held in January, the Producers Guild Awards is a must-attend event for the industry, and represents a unique chance for PGA members to support their Guild and pay tribute to the best of their profession.  The 27th Annual Producers Guild Awards were held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel January 23, 2016.  The 2016 Producers Guild nominated projects are listed below by category, accompanied with producers’ names. Winners are in bold.  Photos and additional media will be posted shortly.


The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:

  •  The Big Short

Producers: Brad Pitt & Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner

  • Bridge of Spies

Producers: Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt, Kristie Macosko Krieger

  • Brooklyn

Producers: Finola Dwyer & Amanda Posey

  • Ex Machina

Producers: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich

  • Mad Max: Fury Road

Producers: Doug Mitchell & George Miller

  • The Martian

Producers: Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, Mark Huffam

  • The Revenant

Producers: Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon

  • Sicario

Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Edward L. McDonnell, Molly Smith

  • Spotlight

Producers: Michael Sugar & Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagon Faust

  • Straight Outta Compton

Producers: Ice Cube, Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, Dr. Dre, Scott Bernstein



The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:

  • Anomalisa

Producers: Rosa Tran, Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman

  • The Good Dinosaur

Producer: Denise Ream

  • Inside Out

Producer: Jonas Rivera

  • Minions

Producers: Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy

  • The Peanuts Movie

Producers: Craig Schulz, Michael J. Travers


The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures:

  • Amy

Producer: James Gay-Rees

  • The Hunting Ground

Producer: Amy Ziering

  • The Look of Silence

Producer: Signe Byrge Sørensen

  • Meru

Producers: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

  • Something Better to Come

Producers: Sigrid Dyekjær, Hanna Polak


The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television:

*The Long-Form Television category encompasses both movies of the week and mini-series. 


  • American Crime (Season 1)

Producers: John Ridley, Michael McDonald, Julie Hébert, Stacy Littlejohn, Diana Son, Keith Huff, Lori-Etta Taub

  • American Horror Story: Hotel (Season 5)

Producers: Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy, Brad Buecker, Tim Minear, Jennifer Salt, James Wong, Alexis Martin Woodall, Robert M. Williams Jr.

  • Fargo (Season 2)

Producers: Noah Hawley, John Cameron, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Warren Littlefield, Kim Todd

  • True Detective (Season 2)

Producers: Nic Pizzolatto, Scott Stephens, Steve Golin, Aida Rodgers

  • A Very Murray Christmas

Producers: Sofia Coppola, Roman Coppola, Mitch Glazer, Tony Hernandez, Bill Murray, Michael Zakin


The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:

  • Better Call Saul (Season 1)

Producers: Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Melissa Bernstein, Mark Johnson, Stewart A. Lyons, Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchison, Nina Jack, Diane Mercer, Bob Odenkirk 

  • Game of Thrones (Season 5)

Producers: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Bernadette Caulfield, Frank Doelger, Carolyn Strauss, Bryan Cogman, Lisa McAtackney, Chris Newman, Greg Spence

  • Homeland (Season 4)

Producers: Alex Gansa, Alexander Cary, Lesli Linka Glatter, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Meredith Stiehm, Patrick Harbinson, Michael Klick, Claire Danes, Lauren White

  • House of Cards (Season 3)

Producers: Beau Willimon, Dana Brunetti, John David Coles, Josh Donen, David Fincher, Eric Roth, Kevin Spacey, John Mankiewicz, Robert Zotnowski, Karen Moore 

  • Mad Men (Season 7B)

Producers: Matthew Weiner, Scott Hornbacher, Janet Leahy, Semi Chellas, Erin Levy, Jon Hamm, Blake McCormick, Tom Smuts



The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:

  • Inside Amy Schumer (Season 3)

Producers: Amy Schumer, Daniel Powell, Jessi Klein, Steven Ast, Tony Hernandez, Kim Caramele, Ryan Cunningham, Kevin Kane, Ayesha Rokadia

  • Modern Family (Season 6)

Producers: Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Jeff Morton, Jeffrey Richman, Brad Walsh, Danny Zuker, Vali Chandrasekaran, Megan Ganz, Elaine Ko, Kenny Schwartz, Chuck Tatham, Rick Wiener, Chris Smirnoff, Sally Young

  • Silicon Valley (Season 2)

Producers: Mike Judge, Alec Berg, Jim Kleverweis, Clay Tarver, Dan O’Keefe, Michael Rotenberg, Tom Lassally

  • Transparent (Season 1)

Producers: Jill Soloway, Andrea Sperling, Victor Hsu, Nisha Ganatra, Rick Rosenthal, Bridget Bedard

  • Veep (Season 4)

Producers: Armando Iannucci, Chris Addison, Simon Blackwell, Christopher Godsick, Stephanie Laing, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Frank Rich, Tony Roche, Kevin Cecil, Roger Drew, Sean Gray, Ian Martin, Georgia Pritchett, David Quantick, Andy Riley, Will Smith, Bill Hill



The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:

  • 30 for 30 (Season 6)

Producers: Connor Schell, John Dahl, Bill Simmons, Erin Leyden, Andrew Billman, Marquis Daisy, Libby Geist

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Season 3)

Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig

  • The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (Season 1)

Producers: Marc Smerling, Andrew Jarecki, Jason Blum

  • Shark Tank (Season 6)

Producers: Mark Burnett, Clay Newbill, Yun Lingner, Max Swedlow, Jim Roush, Brandon Wallace, Becky Blitz, Laura Roush, Shaun Polakow, Phil Gurin

  • Vice (Season 3)

Producers: BJ Levin, Bill Maher, Eddy Moretti, Shane Smith, Jonah Kaplan, Tim Clancy, Ben Anderson, Shawn Killebrew


The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:

  • The Amazing Race (Seasons 25 and 26)

Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Bertram van Munster, Jonathan Littman, Elise Doganieri, Mark Vertullo

  • Dancing with the Stars (Seasons 19 and 20)

Producers: Rob Wade, Ashley Edens-Shaffer, Joe Sungkur

  • Project Runway (Season 13)

Producers: Jonathan Murray, Sara Rea, Desiree Gruber, Jane Cha, Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Teri Weideman

  • Top Chef (Season 12)

Producers: Daniel Cutforth, Tom Colicchio, Chaz Gray, Casey Kriley, Padma Lakshmi, Jane Lipsitz, Doneen Arquines, Erica Ross

  • The Voice (Seasons 7 and 8)

Producers: Audrey Morrissey, Mark Burnett, John de Mol, Marc Jansen, Lee Metzger, Chad Hines, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker, Carson Daly



The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television:

  • The Colbert Report (Season 11)

Producers: Stephen T. Colbert, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart, Meredith Bennett, Barry Julien, Emily Lazar, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Paul Dinello, Matt Lappin

  • Key & Peele (Season 4)

Producers: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Joel Zadak, Peter Principato, Peter Atencio, Linda Morel

  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Season 2)

Producers: Tim Carvell, John Oliver, Liz Stanton

  • Real Time with Bill Maher (Season 13)

Producers: Bill Maher, Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Billy Martin, Dean E. Johnsen, Matt Wood

  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Season 2)

Producers: Lorne Michaels, Jamie Granet Bederman, Katie Hockmeyer, Jim Juvonen, Brian McDonald, Josh Lieb, Gavin Purcell



The Award for Outstanding Sports Program:

  • Back on Board: Greg Louganis
  • E:60
  • Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Houston Texans
  • Kareem: Minority of One
  • Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel


The Award for Outstanding Digital Series:

  • 30 for 30 Shorts
  • Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
  • Epic Rap Battles of History
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Double Agent
  • This American Life Presents: Videos 4 U

The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program:

  • Doc McStuffins
  • The Fairly OddParents
  • Octonauts
  • Sesame Street
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Toy Story That Time Forgot


The Milestone Award: Jim Gianopulos

The David O. Selznick Achievement Award: David Heyman

The Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television: Shonda Rhimes

The Stanley Kramer Award: The Hunting Ground

The Visionary Vanguard Award: Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)


About the Producers Guild of America (PGA)

The Producers Guild of America is the non-profit trade group that represents, protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team in film, television and new media. The Producers Guild has more than 7,000 members who work together to protect and improve their careers, the industry and community by providing members with employment opportunities, seeking to expand health benefits,promoting fair and impartial standards for the awarding of producing credits, as well as other education and advocacy efforts such as encouraging sustainable production practices. For more information and the latest updates, please visit Producers Guild of America websites and follow on social media:



Twitter: @ProducersGuild




Hashtag: #PGAwards

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
Page 17 of 50
 |<   <<   <  12  |  13  |  14  |  15  |  16  |  17  |  18  |  19  |  20  |  21  |  22  >   >>   >|