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Entertainment Master Class at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP

by Alden Peters, former Media Center Incubator Member

I was able to attend the Entertainment Master Class (EMC) series called Running Shows at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP thanks to a scholarship the Media Center offered. From September 20th – 23rd, the EMC held peer-to-peer educational seminars created by the television industry, for the industry. It was “designed for aspiring creators, executives and entrepreneurs who work in the worldwide business of television entertainment.” Showrunners and producers from CBC, ZDF German Television, MediaCore TV Singapore, Sony Pictures Television Arabia, K M Media in the UK, 1+1 Media Group in Ukraine, IMAGINA US in Miami, and Norwegian Broadcasting Company NRK, came to New York for the EMC. There were presentations from showrunners of hit US shows such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Pawn Stars, Say Yes to the Dress, and Man vs. Food.

The range of topics and depth was impressive, and the open honesty each speaker presented with was refreshing. The agreement is that all questions were answered and trade secrets were shared, but who said what cannot be repeated. Here is a summary of only a few of the presentations that occurred during the four-day seminar, including what I found to be the most interesting takeaway from each speaker (not sharing any of those trade secrets, of course).

GAME SHOWS: YOU HAVE THE GIG, NOW FIX IT

Who: James Rowley, current Executive Producer of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

What: Rowley shared the six steps he takes when he becomes the showrunner of a format, whether it’s a new creation or taking on the 13th season of a rigidly-established, and much-loved, format. These steps range from conceptualization to required deliverables to brand loyalty to closing your eyes and envisioning the show in your head.

Most Interesting Takeaway: I never considered however the story being told in a game show. I considered the outcome of the game to always be the important piece, not story itself. An example is comparing Jeopardy! to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: one show is about the questions and the other is about the contestant’s journey.

EVOLUTION OF A SHOW: FROM SELLING THE SIZZLE TO DELIVERING THE MAIN COURSE TO THE BROADCASTER

Who: Abby Greensfelder, co-owner and Executive Producer of Half Yard Productions

What: Greensfelder gave a refreshingly candid presentation about Say Yes to the Dress and its spinoffs, Diggers, and an upcoming show of theirs. Topics ranged from production schedules and budget to talent and network agreements.

Most Interesting Takeaway: Because networks heavily program (and often over-program) popular trends, spinoffs of a successful show are inevitable. So you want to selectively franchise your own show instead of having a competitor try to create something similar to fill a network’s program.

COMEDY: FROM BROADCAST LATE NIGHT TO WEB-DELIVERED JASH

Who: Daniel Kellison, Emmy nominated TV producer/writer and co-founder of Jackhole Industries

What: After producing for David Letterman in his 20s, Kellison now produces web content with his comedy collective JASH. Kellison compared working for broadcast TV and working online, valuing the ability to take enormous risk with online content. JASH began during the brief period when YouTube was funding channels to create content. While YouTube’s funding has disappeared, Kellison explained how kept his revenue stream with brand content and ads.

Most Interesting Takeaway: Kellison compared online content to the wild west: it’s all new and constantly changing. He also shared incredible stories about working with David Letterman.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

Who: Chris Albert

What: Albert walked through infamous public mishaps such as the Duck Dynasty and Paula Deen controversies, analyzing how the PR crises were handled. He outlined a broad strategy for the preparation and prevention of crises, and also giving specific strategies for handling a crisis when it does occur.

Most Interesting Takeaway: Crises come from social media. When apologizing, don’t justify what happened, just apologize and move on. (That one applies to life.)

In addition to these presentations, there were presentations about crowdfunding, transmedia storytelling, and the writers’ room. Then all EMC participants formed groups and pitched a format to the group. The scope of the EMC Running Shows seminar ranged from broadcast television to online content, and even expanded into transmedia storytelling. The Entertainment Master Class is worth checking out when they return to New York City next year.

Alden Peters (@aldenpeters) is a documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Casa Vera Productions.