Jane Rimer, longtime consultant for Toronto-headquartered independent prodco Insight Productions, has officially joined the company’s senior management team as chief of international business and creative development.
Rimer first began working with Insight and its chairman and CEO John Brunton while at FremantleMedia North America on the roll-out of Canadian Idol , and has worked with the The Amazing Race Canada prodco on myriad projects since then while operating her consultancy. Now, as Brunton puts it, Rimer is “throwing her hat in the ring with Insight” and will join the senior team –headed by Brunton and COO Barbara Bowlby – in an official capacity, splitting her time between New York and Los Angeles.
“We’re growing our business very quickly, and Jane’s got that tremendous asset that you don’t see very often – she uses both sides of her brain,” Brunton tells realscreen. “She has that really strong creative side as well as a terrific business sense. It’s difficult to find someone with both of those skills.
“I think she’s got a very up to date view of where media’s going, and I don’t know too many people that are as well connected as she is internationally,” he adds.
Targeted areas of growth for the 35-year-old prodco range from further moves into scripted and digital content to developing formats for the international market and building further relationships with potential international copro partners. As part of her remit, Rimer will be intimately involved with each initiative.
“John always says he never wants to look backwards – the focus is always the future,” she says, regarding her appointment. “For me, because the future is not just about producing shows for linear broadcast outlets but is now so much about content and what you can do with it once you’ve created it – putting that together with the kind of company that Insight is, there were no negatives for me.”
While the company has been behind Canadian versions of global format franchises such as Top Chef, Big Brother and the aforementioned Amazing Race and Idol, it has also put significant elbow grease behind developing its own exportable formats. Rimer says that will be even more of a priority now, for both the unscripted and scripted genres.
“We are known certainly for the last eight to 10 years as the company to bring formats into Canada, and that is wonderful, but alongside that, there is a robust development team that will be focusing further on ideas that can be appropriate for the international marketplace,” she says.
Brunton points to one of Insight’s newest formats on the way, The Great Food Express, as one that has global potential built into its DNA. Calling it “a cross between Top Chef and The Amazing Race,” the format places chefs on a train that’s traveling cross-country, and with each stop, the participants must create meals from local cuisine and also take part in “slightly more extreme challenges” through the journey.
“It translates beautifully whether it’s in China, Canada, France, Italy, Brazil, Argentina,” says Brunton, adding that while it would make sense to launch the series in Canada, a country with rail travel woven into its history, the company is mulling over the potential of launching in a number of territories. “It works so beautifully around the world and we’re just now solidifying our international partnerships.”
Also on the factual front, Insight’s recent foray into feature documentary, the Greenpeace-focused How to Change the World , enjoyed the benefits of a Sundance premiere and has recently been sold to Netflix, says Brunton. The company has several more feature-length projects in the works, including a documentary following iconic Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, and it’s another area that Rimer and Brunton are keen to expand further into.
Ramping up digital content is also an immediate priority, with Brunton saying a digital studio is in the works, “with a number of partners in that arena.”
And with talent being a key factor to driving original digital content, Rimer says Insight is developing talent “specifically for digital platforms – some of which will come out shows such as The Amazing Race and Big Brother, and we will be looking at other ways to source talent for those platforms.”
Expanding the development team with potential hires in the U.S. is “on the table,” Rimer says, but isn’t an immediate priority. But with concerted pushes into scripted, globe-trotting formats and feature docs in the offing, developing international partnerships is key, and Rimer is keen to use her experience in that area – honed through time spent working with global producer-distributors – to further build the Insight brand on the global stage.
“It’s about knocking on every door and seeing what we can do outside of the traditional models that will open new avenues of business for us,” she says.
“What I’ve always done for Insight and what I bring to the table is the role of relationship broker,” she adds. “I know a lot of people around the world and if I see an opportunity that makes sense for us to have a conversation about, nothing makes me happier than getting everyone around the table.”