RS West ’18: The process behind production partnership

Production partnerships and pod deals in particular were top of mind during a high-level panel discussion at the 2018 Realscreen West conference in Santa Monica, California. Stephen David, CEO of Stephen ...
June 8, 2018

Production partnerships and pod deals in particular were top of mind during a high-level panel discussion at the 2018 Realscreen West conference in Santa Monica, California.

Stephen David, CEO of Stephen David Entertainment, moderated the Thursday (June 7) session, titled “The New Deal on Dealmaking”, which saw industry executives discuss the range of partnerships available to producers, as well as the processes behind establishing them, and making them work.

Participants included Ethan Goldman, president of entertainment at Anchor Worldwide; Rob Lee, senior agent for alternative television at United Talent Agency; Gena McCarthy, EVP and head of unscripted programming at Lifetime & head of programming at FYI; and Danny Tipping, head of factual at Znak & Co.

Despite the influx of challenges currently facing the production industry, the amount of opportunities in terms of the number of potential buyers is abundant.

Established production companies today might approach an individual producer with a number of quality projects under their wing and a good track record with the offer of a pod deal. The deal would not only provide some overhead, but it would also allow the individual to form the basis of a partnership with the studio to supply support in development and production.

“If you’re lucky enough to become that prolific and successful, you’re going to start your own prodco and that’s when the headaches really begin,” UTA’s Lee told the room of delegates, noting that concerns of money and raising private equity amplify.

“In this environment, even with all the buyers, you need somewhat of a long runway of one year or two years to start to be paying back some of the financing,” he added. “People have to believe in you, in your talent and be in it for the long run.”

Znak & Co’s Tipping advised junior producers and budding studios to seek a pod deal that is complimentary to their company’s ideals. Additionally, future projects that stem from the partnership need to “make sense that they’re coming from you or in partnership with you.

“As an individual, you need to look at the types of projects that company [you're partnering with] produces, their reputation in the industry, the sorts of things they’ve had successes with, and go from there,” he stated.

Younger production outfits should look to keep their identity, but also look for diversification in the marketplace as larger production shops are looking to secure deals in various subgenres of non-scripted.

If the development team is flexible enough, “they can maximize the marketplace and deliver high-quality programming in all of those areas if they’re fed with pods in expertise in those areas,” Lee noted.

The group of panelists agreed that getting your project to market as quickly as possible, through a fair deal, is the most important thing.

“Good ideas aren’t doing anything while they’re sat in a development folder,” said Tipper. “The only good ideas are ultimately the ones that get made, and the best deal is the one you want to do twice.”

“For newer producers trying to get something going, get a fair deal. It’s not about getting the greatest deal and the last dollar,” Lee stressed. “Sometimes the people who will get your show sold will not make the deal you want. As long as they’re not screwing you over, make the deal with the best company you’ll have a future with and get your show sold and into production.”

In addition to fighting for the best deal you can get, Tipping emphasized staying within the production for the show you’ve created, even if you haven’t been tapped as showrunner. The reason, he said, is that if you’re involved in the production and play a valuable role, it will serve you well when you’re pitching your next project.

Whether you receive credit as a showrunner, producer or executive producer,┬áthe experience of being involved with the production, and the reputation you’ll build while that show is made, will only serve to advance your career.

“Fight for that credit and the authorship of the idea,” McCarthy concluded.

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