Docs

Realscreen’s Trailblazers: Amy Entelis, CNN

In an industry that seems to be changing on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep track of those changes, and the creative and strategic minds behind them. But we ...
January 14, 2019

In an industry that seems to be changing on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep track of those changes, and the creative and strategic minds behind them. But we managed to catch up with several such individuals and companies for this year’s edition of our annual series. Through their work, these trailblazers have either anticipated change and harnessed it for their benefit, or have served as key instigators of those moves. As a new year begins with more evolution and innovation doubtlessly on tap, Realscreen salutes those who propelled 2018 to fascinating heights.

Our first of five Trailblazers this time around is Amy Entelis, EVP, talent and content development, CNN Worldwide.

When Amy Entelis joined CNN in 2012, she was on a mission to transform CNN from a solely news-based cable net to a prime destination for long-form premium storytelling.

“I think we have achieved that,” Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, tells Realscreen, at the close of a year that suggests she’s right.

Entelis was responsible for launching four content brands for the network’s global platform, including the non-fiction focused CNN Original Series and HLN Original Series; and the documentary platforms, CNN Films and CNN Films Presents.

Since joining CNN six years ago after 30 years with ABC News, Entelis and her team have developed more than 35 non-fiction series. The most successful of those, the Zero Point Zero-produced
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, aired its 12th and final season in 2018. Bourdain tragically took his life in the midst of shooting the new season, and several episodes aired posthumously.

Meanwhile, CNN Films has acquired, co-produced, or commissioned more than 40 feature and short films, including three of the year’s buzziest docs: RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen; Three Identical Strangers, directed by Tim Wardle; and Love, Gilda by Lisa D’Apolito.

The variety and quality of storytelling Entelis has overseen through her tenure has drawn in a new and younger audience for CNN.

“We did it very purposely because we wanted new voices, we wanted new points of view, and we felt that the documentary community was rich in those kinds of people that could provide that kind of programming,” she says.

What are the criteria you’re looking for when investing in a film?
It starts with a topic and theme. We rely heavily on CNN to support CNN Films and Original Series, so we do companion programming. It has to fi t the zeitgeist of the network. Beyond that, it has to have a defined narrative. Films do well on CNN that are character-based, and that are illustrating larger themes and issues that we talk about on CNN.

In 2019 CNN is producing a biographical documentary on Anthony Bourdain. What can you tell me about the project and of Bourdain’s importance to the network?
On the Original Series side, it’s impossible to overstate how impactful Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown has been for CNN. It set a path for other people who wanted to work with CNN and do original series.
His loss to us, and his family and his team, is really immeasurable. In terms of the documentary, we want to honor Tony. I think we want to explore more deeply how he did what he did, why he did what he did, how his craft developed, how his view of the world developed, and somehow capture that in a documentary film.

What does the success of RBG, Three Identical Strangers and Love, Gilda mean for CNN?
We are immensely proud of those projects and to be identified with those filmmakers… We feel like CNN is in a groove where we have been able to define what we are about, what stories we care about and what we are seeing — at least theatrically and through performances on CNN — is that audiences agree with us. I think we hit our mark.

See the rest of Realscreen‘s Trailblazers, as featured in the January/February 2019 edition of Realscreen, here.

About The Author
Senior staff writer Frederick Blichert comes to realscreen with a background as a journalist and freelance film critic. He has previously written for VICE, Paste Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Xtra, Canadian Cinematographer and elsewhere. He holds a Master of Arts in film studies from Carleton University and a Master of Journalism from the University of British Columbia.

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