Unscripted

Q&A: Amazon’s Conrad Riggs talks “All or Nothing”

As head of unscripted, Amazon Original’s, Conrad Riggs is a busy man. It’s his job, after all, to put together a varied slate that will stand out in a crowded content ...
June 15, 2017

As head of unscripted, Amazon Original’s, Conrad Riggs is a busy man. It’s his job, after all, to put together a varied slate that will stand out in a crowded content world and keep global audiences engaged.

Conrad Riggs

Conrad Riggs

But he’s always got time to talk about football — or, specifically, the football-focused All or Nothing series, which Riggs recently greenlit for a second season. In advance of a new season, dropping June 30 on the SVOD, Riggs sat down with realscreen to discuss the creative process behind the Emmy-winning original NFL docuseries, which, in season one (pictured) followed the Arizona Cardinals. This year the series focuses on the Los Angeles Rams and the hiring of a new head coach.

“It’s a little bit like soldiers who develop a strong bond with their fellow soldiers,” Riggs said of season two’s key ingredients. “This is a team that is in battle and they are looking out for each other and the goal is to finish as a team — it’s not about one person doing great. The bonds and brotherhood among the players are really interesting and you learn a lot about the human condition in a stressful environment.”

Of course, football wasn’t the only subject on the agenda. Riggs also dropped some hints on what’s coming up on Amazon Prime Video, shared his thoughts on the future of unscripted programming and updated us on The Grand Tour‘s Richard Hammond’s condition following a dangerous crash in Switzerland.  The following Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.

What can you tell us about the new seasons of All or Nothing?

I think that this will be the first time you will see a regime change with a coach filmed in real time on a television show or a documentary. Usually, these things are seen in the press before and after the fact. Just to see what the emotions and what occurs in the team and what it means for everyone’s lives is emotional.

Did you learn any lessons on the shoot of All or Nothing that can be applied to other programs? 

General lessons of television and documentary — that is, ‘Be prepared for anything.’ Film everything and trust the people you are working with that they are good at what they doing and empower everyone to try and achieve the best possible results. Part of shepherding these shows and greenlighting them and producing them is also like running an NFL team — you need good players in all the positions on the producing side and all around so they can have a good season as well.

When you have greenlit a series, how do you grab the audience’s attention with so much content out there?

That is the daily discussion that we have among ourselves and with our partners who are coming to us with projects. ‘How do we find the projects that seem fresh and innovative or are a new look into something that has been done before? Does it feel special?’

In a digital landscape, with lots of other options from linear television to movies to gaming to just life, how do you convince someone that your project is worthy of their time?

Part of it is also taking risks on an idea — something completely new comes along like our new show Lore (based on the podcast of the same name). It’s a new horror unscripted anthology series telling stories that are based on fact — but in a visual and dramatic way.

There was a concept of a lot of passion behind it from the creator coming from a non-commercial point of view. He started this for his love of a storytelling and when you pair him with seasoned story television storytellers can figure out how to make it broader for an audio-visual medium. Horror is a well-known genre but has not been an area or a subgenre for unscripted so we felt like we were trying to break new ground there. It’s an example of taking some risk but based on what we thought was a great idea and great team.

Q: Are you looking for formats to tap from third parties or produce in-house? 

We are looking at both. We created a Japanese version of The Bachelor. We got the license format rights from Warner Bros. and we produced a Japanese version with a Japanese bachelor, Japanese bachelorettes, in the Japanese language. That was an existing format from a third party. We thought it was a unique opportunity in Japan and we are looking at other formats globally to see if there are other similar possibilities.

One of the Holy Grails of unscripted television is to have your format that you can produce and roll out in multiple languages and territories. We have a pretty good flow with people coming to us with ideas, so, hopefully, we shortly we will have one or more formats.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say about Amazon’s unscripted programming?

We are trying to have a high bar with quality premium projects that are worthy of asking for someone’s time and attention to watch. We like to focus on quality over quantity, so I think we are seeing an opportunity to grow. Like we’ve had success on our scripted side, we are seeing the opportunity to grow our unscripted programs where there are opportunities to tell great stories.

We are looking for ideas that have global audience potential and we are drilling down and finding ideas — like The Bachelor — that are local or regional. We are a global service and we need to be thinking of our customers everywhere. It’s a really interesting challenge and I think it will open up the opportunity to tell more stories that haven’t’ been told before.

The bar is being raised on the unscripted side with a few more buyers in the marketplace focusing on premium projects like us and other digital players

One final question before you go: Will Richard Hammond’s car crash impact future filming of The Grand Tour

I don’t know yet. It seemed scary. I got a call from (series’ host) Jeremy Clarkson immediately Sunday morning. No one really knew what was happening for awhile. He didn’t know if Richard was in the car when it caught fire and blew up. He got out, he’s safe. He’s like a cat with nine lives. He has a pretty serious knee injury from what I know, but he should be okay. It’s just a question of how long his recuperation time will be.

 

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.

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