As Indigo Films celebrates its 15th anniversary, founder David Frank (pictured) reflects on growing the San Francisco-based indie from a one person operation to a team of almost 150 employees, working on the prodco’s biggest slate to date.
Reflecting on 15 years in the business, David Frank (pictured), Indigo Films’ founder and executive producer, tells realscreen that his company’s attention to every element of the production has been the key to Indigo Films’ longevity.
“I would hate to use the word ‘quality control’ because it sounds like a factory – but I would say [the reason the company has survived is] attention to the story,” he says.
After every show has wrapped, Frank leads a post mortem with the entire crew and staff to ask questions like: “What were the network’s expectations from the first proposal to the first outline? What did we deliver and was the network happy? What were the challenges in the budget or schedule?”
He’s seen the dividends of hard work, as Indigo is currently enjoying its best year yet, with its largest slate of 12 new series and pilots, and 60 different programs being produced, including Travel Channel’s Insane Coaster Wars, which just aired, and two other series for the U.S. network: MegaMansions and Amazing Boardwalk Empires.
“We’ve worked on a few projects with Indigo Films this past year, most recently Insane Coaster Wars, which we were just thrilled with,” says Andy Singer, general manager of Travel Channel. “They are professional and easy to work with, and bring fresh, creative ideas to well-known subjects.”
For Investigation Discovery, season five of I (Almost) Got Away With It aired recently, and Indigo is also producing Wives with Knives and 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (w/t) for the network.
Also on the slate is a mini-series for Nat Geo Wild – Indigo’s first commission for the network – and pilots for History, BIO, Destination America, CMT and Discovery Channel, the latter’s show called America’s Most Secret.
In addition, Frank says the company is expanding into comedy reality, with two of the above-mentioned networks’ pilots being set in the comedy genre. He says the non-fiction TV industry has evolved over 15 years, and one change he has appreciated is a demand for series over specials.
However, he also notes one negative change over the passing years: “The development process is much more expensive and labor intensive. It used to be that you could sell a show on a napkin at Realscreen [Summit], but now everyone wants tape.”
He offers advice to other people starting their own prodcos: “I learned by trial and error at the very beginning that you have to keep your eye on the future and the next sale,” he says.
“When I first sold our very first show to A&E, CyberSex Cop, I basically produced it and was in the trenches with meetings, the rough cut, the fine cut, I worked with the editor, and at the end of the show I didn’t have another show to produce.”