Half Yard Productions’ co-owners and executive producers Abby Greensfelder and Sean Gallagher moved from behind the scenes at Discovery – after being heads of program development for Discovery Channel and TLC, respectively – to open their own production company. The bold move seems to have paid off, with Bravo tapping them to work on the now infamous Real Housewives of D.C., a very busy slate, and the task of introducing American viewers to the art of noodling.
Half Yard was formed almost four years ago and, since opening up shop as a small prodco, currently has offices in Maryland and New York City and is working on a number of series and specials for different networks. They’re currently on the fifth season of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress, one of the first series Greensfelder and Gallagher were commissioned to produce when they started the company. That series, which takes a look at brides coming into New York City’s Kleinfeld Bridal store looking for ‘the’ dress, took second place recently in EW.com’s Guilty Pleasure’s poll (second to ABC’s Wipeout). The Half Yard duo is thrilled about being named a popular guilty pleasure.
‘Something [Gallagher] would say is the best ideas are simple ones,’ says Greenfelder. ‘Which isn’t to say that we have simple minds, but maybe we do [laughs]. We come up with ideas that are simple ideas. Say Yes to the Dress is a very simple idea for a show and that’s part of what makes it so successful and accessible.’
Gallagher says a lot of what he learned from the network side of business has informed the production business. ‘When we were at [Discovery], hundreds and hundreds of shows got pitched to us, so we know what worked and what didn’t,’ he says. ‘It sounds like a no-brainer but it’s the simplicity, where you can explain it in one sentence. That’s what we try to focus on [at Half Yard].’
Greensfelder says furthermore that it’s important to take a programmer’s mentality to the production side. She says they take a network, look at what’s working on their schedule and what sorts of shows they would be looking to pair up. ‘On the network side, most of the time you were never looking for any old idea. You were looking for targeted ideas to fit your schedule and your strategy,’ she says. ‘While we never have perfect information of what a network’s needs will be in 12 months, we try to see what’s working for that network and what their needs are as if we were working at that network and try to get inside their mindset. Hopefully that helps us develop better ideas.’
This strategy seems to work, given the busy slate for Half Yard, which includes the second season of American Loggers for Discovery Channel, which Greensfelder dubs ‘American Chopper in the woods’ and a pilot on noodling for the Animal Planet. For the uninformed, ‘noodling’ is the art of catching catfish with your hands as hooks and feet as bait. Greensfelder says the pilot will focus on a family starting a business bringing people to Oklahoma to learn how to noodle. ‘It’s kind of City Slickers meets noodling,’ adds Greensfelder. They’ll also be making a special for History called How the States Got Their Shape, based on the book by the same name; a special for Nat Geo on civil war submarines told as a historical cold case and lastly, a talent-led quirky hunting show for Versus.
Of course, their slate can’t be discussed without including Real Housewives of D.C. The latest in the Bravo franchise gained a lot of press when one of the Housewives, Michaele Salahi and husband Tareq, infamously crashed a White House event. The incident created a lot of press for the upcoming series, which has yet to have an announced air date. ‘At least it has put this franchise on the map, in a way that other shows in the franchise haven’t been when they were in production. That’s been an interesting circumstance for us,’ says Greensfelder.
In other Washington-related news, Greensfelder will be speaking at the Realscreen Summit on February 3, moderating the session Marketing Mythbusting. ‘I always feel very energized after Realscreen because, as a production company, you’re selling instead of buying and it provides you with a lot of focus as a company, to see what are your best ideas,’ she offers. ‘Creatively and from a relationship perspective, it’s a great opportunity to see and be energized by the whole production and programming company.’
For newcomers to the Summit, Greensfelder recommends going to sessions and making contacts. ‘Even if it’s just one contact from all of Realscreen [Summit], for a new production company, that’s the value of going.’