People/Biz

Realscreen’s “Real Deal” Q&A: Jane Root of Nutopia

In 1997, realscreen published its first issue. Over the past two decades, we’ve charted the evolution of the non-fiction content industry, chronicled the rise of reality, and explored the emergence of new ...
November 8, 2017

In 1997, realscreen published its first issue. Over the past two decades, we’ve charted the evolution of the non-fiction content industry, chronicled the rise of reality, and explored the emergence of new platforms aplenty. In honor of 20 years of realscreen, we’ve rounded up several top producers and network execs to discuss the evolution of your industry, from their perspectives, in our Real Deal Q&A series.

Jane Root
Founder and chief executive, Nutopia

You’ve served as a channel controller at the BBC, president of Discovery Networks and have built extremely influential prodcos over the course of your career. Thus, you have a unique vantage point concerning the challenges both sides are facing in the current era. How can networks and producers better understand each other’s challenges, and perhaps help to address them?
Producers should remember that when executives talk about understanding their audiences they mean it. Executives need to understand that when producers say there isn’t enough money and it’ll show up in the end result — well, they mostly really mean it too.

At a time of rampant consolidation and M&A activity, Nutopia has remained independent. What are your thoughts on how consolidation is impacting the business, and would you ever entertain selling a stake in the company?
We’re happy as we are for the moment! We started with the goal of building projects of scale so we didn’t need a sale to accomplish that. I’m really driven by innovation, doing things differently [and] finding individual voices, so if consolidation helps with that, fine. If it gets in the way, to hell with it.

What has been the most positive trend in the non-fiction industry over the past 20 years?
Getting beyond the confines of the schedule. And if I was being a bit mean, the audience saying bye-bye to formulaic reality.

You’ve worked with the big SVOD players, and are teaming with feature doc-makers Roast Beef on projects. What are your plans for growth for the next three to five years?
To surprise more people.

What has been your favorite non-fiction or unscripted series over the past 20 years?
It’s tempting to say the vast sprawling soap opera that is the Presidency of the United States of America. But I’d settle for the innocent and chaste first British series of Big Brother in 2000.

In 1997, you had just joined the BBC. Knowing what you know now after the past 20 years, what words of wisdom would 2017′s Jane Root give to 1997′s Jane Root?
Enjoy the triumphs, don’t sweat the disasters. I’ve always had a mantra: “If you don’t f*** up badly now and again you aren’t trying hard enough.”

  • Our “Real Deal” Q&A feature first appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of realscreen magazine, which is out now. Not a subscriber? Click here for more information.
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