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Maker Studios Talks Partnership with PGA ProShow

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 22, 2013

At this year's Produced By Conference the Producers Guild ProShow is teaming up with Maker Studios for their development partner in "online content". PGA member Emily Barclay, who is Senior Director of Special Projects at Maker Studios, took some time to talk about Maker's involvement with the ProShow.

This is the first year the ProShow is partnering with specific Development Partners to offer a deal to each category winner - what was your main inspiration for joining up?

Emily Barclay: Maker Studios is excited that the digital platform is being recognized more and more by traditional media professionals as a viable distribution model for content, and we want to offer the opportunity for producers from all backgrounds to engage with us to develop and create online content that might break the mold of what they are accustomed to creating.

Are there specific types of projects you're looking for, or any sort of guidance you can give entrants? What does "online content" mean to Maker Studios?

EB: We're looking for creative concepts that would attract large audiences globally through a YouTube channel. Maker has a very large audience base through our network of channels, so we are positioned to help a creator find and grow a subscriber base for viewership. Successful examples of online content are often repeatable format concepts, generally short form, often non-episodic so that the viewer can consume non-linearly. Audience engagement through calls-to-action are great ways to sustain a show. Ideas that span categories of comedy, music, lifestyle, gaming, and science fiction can generally find large audiences online. However, if the right "big" idea of a narrative, longer form concept came along that seemed particularly suited for internet distribution we would definitely be interested.

When you meet the finalists at the Produced By Conference, are you looking for them to pitch verbally, or with materials, or are you indifferent?

EB: Materials are helpful. It is good to know that a producer not only has a vision but the ability to execute a concept beyond just an idea.

Are you bullish on developing new stories?

EB: We definitely are interested in new stories -- stories and CHARACTERS. The most successful shows online are personality driven.

Any final words for potential contestants?

Familiarize yourself with what is happening online. A new generation of viewers have emerged whose primary consumption of content is through the Internet. They want to be entertained. What is your voice? Imagine what you could do in this space originally and creatively, to find your own audience by giving them something fresh and unique.

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To submit for the PGA ProShow, please go HERE.

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Ryan Seacrest Productions Talks Partnership with PGA ProShow

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Heather SchusterThe PGA Producers Showcase is teaming up with Ryan Seacrest Productions to provide the winning producer(s) a development deal in Reality Television. Heather Schuster, the Senior VP, Development and Current, Unscripted Programming for Ryan Seacrest Productions answered some questions about the new relationship.

This is the first year the ProShow is partnering with specific Development Partners to offer a deal to each category winner - what was your main inspiration for joining up? 

Heather Schuster: There are so many producers with strong ideas out there, and they may not always have access to the right people or company. This is a terrific opportunity for rsp to find new content that otherwise might not make its way to us. It's also a way to meet and work with talented producers.

Are there specific types of projects you're looking for, or any sort of guidance you can give entrants? How does Ryan see his company expanding in the future?

HS: The exciting thing about RSP is that we are an independent company, so we can develop and sell to any buyer. That enables us to pursue all kinds of projects from large network formats, like game and arced competition, to water cooler docu-series. We are really open to a wide range of ideas, particularly those that touch on facets of pop culture and have a wide appeal. New approaches are crucial, as well. I look forward to finding the next fascinating subculture we can immerse ourselves in through follow doc, as well as the next innovative network format that leaves everyone saying "why didn't i think of that?"

When you meet the finalists at the Produced By Conference, are you looking for them to pitch verbally, or with materials, or do you have no preference?

HS: I think the best pitches are those that are organic to the project and play to its strengths. it's nice to be surprised in a pitch, as well. a great verbal pitch is an art―it is storytelling. I always suggest losing the notes and trying not to read the deck in the room. Strong materials are also key. You never want weak leave-behinds to undermine the strength of an idea.

Are you bullish on developing new stories?

HS: Absolutely. That is our business! We constantly have to find new stories and new ways of telling them. Hopefully, this will be just the beginning of some fruitful new relationships to develop new hit shows.


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Sunset Bronson PGA Lot Lunch

Posted By Rembrandt Bell, Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The new PGA Studio Lot Initiative had it's 2nd lunch on Monday, March 11th - this time on the Sunset Bronson Studio Lot.  The lunch was hosted by Vance Van Petten at the PGA and PGA member Beth Talbert put it all together.  Thirteen of the 23 known PGA members on the lot attended and it was a great time!  

If you would like the PGA to host a PGA members-only lunch on your lot, contact Karen Covell at karen@karencovell.com or Jethro Rothe-Kushel at jrothe-kushel@scenario-la.com and they will help you set it up.  It's a wonderful time to have PGA members meet one another and talk about ways to invite others on that lot to join the PGA!  

If you would like to find out about other PGA members on your lot, just click here to fill out the short survey:  http://tinyurl.com/9eyqnok.

*Pictured.  From left:  Lance Lucas, Debbie Alpert-Orrall, Jeff Reilly, Vance Van Petten, Karen Covell, Lou Dennig, Jan Davis, Jackie Pratt, Brad Dumont, Deb Whitcas, Carlos Huizar, Jeannine Sullivan.Not pictured:  Jethro Rothe-Kushel, Beth Talbert

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9th Annual "Power of Diversity" Workshop Coming

Posted By Deborah Calla, Monday, March 4, 2013

"The Producers Guild of America: The Power of Diversity” is one of the most sought-after and successful producing workshops available today.

In 2004, the PGA Diversity Committee decided to empower producers looking to make a difference in the entertainment landscape through content that accurately reflects the environment we live in – a globalized world of many colors, religions, sexual orientations and physical abilities.

We wanted it to be an "A to Z producing" workshop and we wanted it to be inclusive. Our Celebration of Diversity (2002 – 2004) award recipients had given us a great legacy and we kept them in mind as we created the program.

"Every one of us matters. All our voices are primary voices. If I would look at my ideas in terms of film, it is to create a world where that is not only a reality for people of color like myself, but for women as well.”

-Danny Glover

"I've had an amazing journey that was fueled by my parents, who taught me how to work with people and that color didn't matter”.

- Chas. Floyd Johnson

George Sunga, Charles Howard, Steve Grossman, Yvonne Russo and I spent many late afternoons at the Guild and at different coffee shops, creating a format for the workshop. Although Charles and I are the only original founders who continue to be actively involved, we have been joined by a great many producers, including: Vicente Williams, Dan Halperin, Julie Janata, Megan Mascena, Cirina Catania, Luis Barreto, Karyn Benkendorfer, Rebecca Graham Forde, Christina Lee Storm, Rikki Hughes, Emily Barclay, Ayser Salman, Martha Cotton, and Paul Villadolid.

Since 2004, the workshop has evolved greatly, but it has never veered from its initial intent: to educate and create opportunity for projects and producers that pursue inclusion.

We have had the honor to work with hundreds of producers in the workshops, some new and some already established including Aaron Rahsaan Thomas (Southland CO-EP CSI: NY Supervising Producer), Sarah DeLio (Bless Me, Ultima Producer) and D'Arcy Conrique, Entertainment Finance Group at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

When asked about their workshop experience this is what two past alums had to say:

"The PGA workshop was invaluable in helping me with my television pilot and my career as a TV writer. The mentors enthusiasm,support and feedback was crucial to my development as a working writer and aspiring producer. They brought in the best producers, directors and executives in the business and have continued to foster relationships with all the workshop participants. I completed the workshop with a new found confidence and an understanding of the various facets of producing. This amazing opportunity provided me with skills that I continue to use on a daily basis.”

- Hollie Overton – The Client List

"Through dynamic instruction and unparalleled accessto top industry professionals and mentors, the PGA workshop has become a veritable masterclass for the next generation of producers.”

Ben Lobato – Justified, The Unit

The submission period for the ninth cycle of the "Producers Guild of America: Power of Diversity” workshop starts on March 11th 2013.

This is a unique opportunity to participate in the workshop with your dream project and advance your producing skills in one-on-one sessions with committee mentors and in master classes with such producers as Marshall Herskovitz, Bruce Cohen, Ali LeRoi, Damon Lindelof, Caryn Mandabach and Shonda Rhimes.

The program runs for eight weeks: once a week in the evening and two Saturday mornings.

Participants begin with a script for a project that they would like to see produced. The goal of the workshop is to get these participating producers’ projects ready for the marketplace by the end of the eight weeks.

In addition to attendance at the weekly master class and sessions with committee mentors, participating producers must prepare a plan of action for their project to be presented at the end of the workshop. This plan develops during the run of the workshop with the guidance of their assigned producer-mentors.

Subjects covered during the workshop include such topics as story development, pitching techniques, packaging, possible buyers for the project, how to approach and connect with buyers, financing, marketing plans and new media concepts and techniques.

If you are working on a project for the web, television or the big screen, the PGA Workshop can help take you and your project to the next level.

And the workshop is free.

Application requirements and forms can be found at: www.pgadiversity.org . There is a $35 application fee.

-Deborah Calla

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The Road to Argo

Posted By Jesse Gordon, Monday, February 25, 2013


By Jesse Gordon

The Producers Guild of America would like to pay tribute to Argo in celebration of its claiming Best Picture at the 2013 Academy Awards.  The following article is re-purposed from the Produced By Magazine.

Producer Grant Heslov brings real Hollywood experience to a "fake” Hollywood thriller

How does one create a suspenseful thriller in which the audience already knows the ending? It was a unique challenge faced by the team responsible for Argo, but as producer Grant Heslov will tell you, with a compelling story and the right personnel, the job is far less daunting.

"When you’re producing a film like this, you find a kernel of something, and you see the potential of it,” Heslov explains. "You see the end product in your mind, and your job is to realize that.” The film that Heslov and his colleagues were ultimately able to realize is the declassified story of CIA operative Tony Mendez, and his daring plan to free six Americans from Tehran in 1979. After Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy, six employees of the State Department managed to escape to hide out in the Canadian Ambassador’s home. With their lives at stake, Mendez crafted a caper in which the rescue team would pose as a movie crew for a fake science fiction film entitled Argo.

It’s a rich story, to be sure, but as Heslov would surely profess, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making a quality film. "In this case,” he notes, "it was about finding the underlying material, finding the right writer, getting a script that we felt really strongly about, and getting a director that could then make the film we imagined from the first moment we thought about this.” That director turned out to be Ben Affleck — who also stars as Mendez — and his vision helped create a film that has garnered both wide critical praise and commercial success.

"Ben turned out to be a great partner,” Heslov shares. "He turned out to be one of those directors that allows a lot of input from a lot of people ... and not just from me, but from the cinematographer on down. And he’s able to filter out and take those bits that make sense.” It stands to reason that Affleck’s collaborative style as a director would resonate with Heslov, as the latter has spent the majority of his career working in tandem with another one of Hollywood’s most famous leading men, George Clooney.

Heslov was born and raised in the Palos Verdes area of Los Angeles, and he began his entertainment career working as an actor while attending the University of Southern California. He was taking an acting class at the time, and it was there that he met Clooney, now his longtime business and writing partner, as well as close personal friend. In what has become a wonderful piece of Hollywood legend, Heslov actually loaned Clooney a couple hundred dollars to get his first set of headshots. The two men have come a long way from the rigorous life of struggling actors, thanks in large part to their cooperative relationship. "Mostly, I work with George,” says Heslov, "and we have a real shorthand in the way that we work. We’re very collaborative because we mostly write the stuff together.” That partnership helped the duo garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Good Night, and Good Luck. The two gentlemen also operate their own production company, Smokehouse Pictures, which has a deal with SONY.

Like many success stories of the entertainment industry, Heslov has become a Hollywood jack-of-all-trades, having worked as an actor, producer, director, and writer. Though he spends the majority of his time behind the camera these days, Heslov’s work as a producer/writer/director has been directly impacted by his time as an actor. In fact, the first project that Heslov ever wrote and directed was inspired by a unique experience that he had had in the acting world. A short film titled Waiting for Woody, it’s the story of a Woody Allen fan who goes to audition for the eclectic director. Regarding a bizarre series of events that befell him, Heslov recalls, "My experience going to audition for him was like something out of a Woody Allen film. I was taking the subway there, it was summer, it was hot, and I got a bloody nose and bled all over my shirt. But I was almost an hour early, so I went and bought a new shirt. Then, when I got there, I couldn’t get in because they didn’t have my name, and they didn’t have the right information from my agent. And when I finally got in, and I was sitting there with all these weird people in the waiting room, everything from a midget to this unbelievably hot chick wearing snakeskin leather pants.” The experience was so unique that Heslov felt compelled to put it on paper, and thus began his writing career.

Though he relished the experience of writing and directing Waiting for Woody, Heslov continued to act in small roles for the next seven or so years, racking up credits in everything from The Scorpion King to True Lies. Then, in 2005, he sat down to pen Good Night, and Good Luck with Clooney, beginning his transition away from full-time actor. Since then, Heslov has stuck largely to writing (The Ides of March, The Monuments Men) and producing (The American, Leatherheads and Memphis Beat, in addition to the titles he’s co-written), although he does continue to act in many of the films he is involved in.

In 2009, Heslov made his feature length directorial debut with the film adaptation of The Men Who Stare at Goats, which starred Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, and of course, Clooney. While most first-time directors might feel pretty nervous being entrusted with a $20 million budget, Heslov seems to have been better prepared than most to make the leap. As he says of his prior cumulative experience, "I learned a lot through osmosis, just being on set. I would try to soak up everything; I was like a sponge. I think what I learned most was how to create an atmosphere where everyone can work and do their best work, without a lot of tension. I think that those are the best kind of sets, and where the best work gets done. There are some people that believe that if it’s chaotic and crazy and people are yelling, out of that comes good art and good work. While I believe that it can happen that way, it doesn’t have to happen that way. We’re so lucky to get to do what we do, to make it a drag seems counterintuitive.”


Heslov’s experience across different roles in the industry undoubtedly helped to prepare him for Argo. As with most historical dramas, the ultimate challenge lay in maintaining the perfect balance between doing justice to the events that occurred while at the same time juggling the cinematic elements that make for a quality film. In the interest of properly capturing the story’s essence, Heslov, Affleck, and Clooney (who also worked as a producer on the film) were in constant contact with Tony Mendez, himself. "I talked to Tony when we bought the article [on which the screenplay was based],” Heslov says. "Once we bought the article, we also optioned a chapter out of Tony’s book that dealt with this particular incident, so he was a consultant on the film. I talked with him, and then the writer [Chris Terrio] talked with him a lot, and went and visited him a bunch. When Ben [Affleck] came on, he met with Tony and went to Tony’s house, and they went to the CIA together. Tony also came to shooting, so he was pretty involved.” According to Heslov, Mendez and his family even make a small cameo in the airport scene when Affleck’s character is leaving for Tehran.

Despite working hard to portray as many of the details as accurately as possible, there were some clear artistic liberties that are taken in the interest of ratcheting up the suspense. The pacing, particularly in the third act of the film, departs a bit from the historical accounts, but Heslov is content with how the film ultimately balances the truth and the suspense. "We wanted to make sure that we were getting things right,” Heslov says. "And when I say ‘getting things right,’ I don’t mean that every beat of our story matched every beat of [Mendez’s] story, but that things looked right, and that the spirit of the operation was intact.”

Though Argo is largely billed as a thriller, the film does have its bits of lightheartedness, mostly provided John Goodman and Alan Arkin, who play the producers in the fake production company set up by the CIA. Though the majority of the films that Heslov is involved with tend to be dramatic, he remains a huge fan of comedy. "I love comedies,” he adds. "I wish that we could find some comedies to do, but it’s hard to find ones that are funny and aren’t just silly. The comedic elements of Argo are really up our alley.” The laughs in Argo mostly come as a self-aware critique of the ostentatious nature of the movie industry, with Goodman delivering lines like "So you want to come to Hollywood and act like a big shot without actually doing anything? You’ll fit right in.” The humor creates a more complex and varied story, which ultimately helps make the suspense toward the end even more palpable.

Visually, the film does a remarkable job of creating an accurate portrayal of the time period. From the cars, to the costumes, to the constant smoking, Argo’s viewers are instantly transported back to 1979. Even the color saturation feels native to the ’70s. The level of accuracy is made fully apparent in the film’s credit sequence, which presents a juxtaposition of the passport photos of the six actual U.S. diplomats with the passport photos made for the actors in the movie; the similarities are incredible. When asked if casting decisions were made in the interest of having the actors physically resemble the people they were portraying, Heslov responds, "Some of that was just dumb luck, and some of that was great hair and makeup work.” The sequence is beautifully tied together with a voice-over from President Jimmy Carter praising the efforts and bravery of the diplomats and Mendez. Interestingly, that sound bite is not actually from 1979, but was collected by the filmmakers specifically for the movie. "Ben had the idea of talking to Carter, which I thought was a brilliant idea, and a great touch.”

Despite the success of Argo and all the other projects he has been involved with, Heslov is not resting on his laurels, and he is currently hard at work on two major projects that look to be very promising. The first is an adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize–winning stage drama August: Osage County. Heslov and Clooney are involved as producers, with John Wells directing and Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts attached to star. In addition, Heslov and Clooney are co-writing their next screenplay, The Monuments Men. The World War II–era film is set to star Clooney, Daniel Craig, and Cate Blanchett, with Clooney once again donning the director’s cap. With those two projects taking up the majority of his time, Heslov has yet to figure out what his next project as a director will be. "I’m not looking too much past [those projects] at this point,” he admits, "but I definitely want to get behind the camera again.”

Given the significant success of Heslov’s career as a producer, this magazine can only counsel: Take your time.


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