Small companies, big ideas: Toronto’s Go Button Media on the benefits of “boutique”

There’s no question that the television industry is competitive, and it can be hard for a small prodco to break through the noise and find its niche. In ‘Small Companies, ...
March 3, 2020

There’s no question that the television industry is competitive, and it can be hard for a small prodco to break through the noise and find its niche. In ‘Small Companies, Big Ideas’ Realscreen chats with indies that are innovating and thriving, showing the unscripted world that sometimes the best things come in small packages

Below, Realscreen hears from Daniel Oron and Natasha Ryan, founders and executive producers of Toronto-headquartered Go Button Media.

Founded in 2015, the company has earned a reputation for turning “creative chaos into polished productions.” Its projects — spanning factual, lifestyle and branded content — have included Secret Nazi Bases for UKTV and Discovery, Sense Appeal and Mom vs Matchmaker for OUTtv, No Roses on a Sailor’s Grave and A World Without NASA for CuriosityStream and Documentary Channel, to name a few.

Here, Oron (pictured left) and Ryan (right) discuss the advantages (and challenges) of running a boutique production house.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

As a small company, are there any stereotypes you find yourself trying to fight that come along with that?

We are indeed boutique and so far, we like it that way. We are involved in everything that the company does. Everyone that works with us is like a partner, from broadcasters to staff to talent and crew. We crave the direct input, energy and perspective of the people we are lucky enough to work with. We have overworked ourselves at times, but we would rather put our budgets onto the screen and into our staff than overreach ourselves on overhead and growth before we are ready. There are stereotypes that come from being a small company but the bigger our portfolio grows, the easier they are to overcome.

What are the challenges in being a small company at a time when many production companies are being acquired by some larger, multi-national operations?

Occasionally, we can be overlooked by larger broadcasters but we stay focused on impressing the clients that choose to work with us and that tends to increase our scope. We formed some extremely successful partnerships with broadcasters in the U.S. and Europe starting out and have continued our relationships with them into long term content production. That track record is now translating into more success in Canada.

What are some of the advantages or benefits of remaining independent?

We can pivot quickly. Everyone in our office is involved in everything we do, so if we need to make fast changes or adaptations or decisions, we can have quick communications and be up and running again with no time lost to briefings, boards, etc. We are designed to be streamlined and light, all our relationships are direct… We have some incredibly intelligent, innovative and creative people working with us and we want to stay a size where they can be heard and feel proactively involved in our content production.

What’s your strategy when it comes to breaking through the clutter and succeeding in such a competitive market?

We have a surplus of pitches but mostly we try to listen and deliver what is requested. If you meet with one of us and talk about projects, your message is conveyed to our team and we zero in on that direction. There isn’t another department that takes over. It is all us and we want to ensure we provide content that reflects back on the client’s mandate and vision. We aren’t big enough to swing wide so we focus on keeping our relationships strong and our communications tight.

There has been considerable consolidation throughout the television landscape in the last handful of years. Has there been any consideration on your part to station Go Button under the wing of a larger business?

Not yet but the future is fluid. Recently offers have started coming in, but our current model is working so until it stops or we stop, we are pretty content. We are building a substantial catalog and an amazing team so someday we can step away and know that the people running the company are the same people that helped us build it.

Can you tell me about the importance of copro, and why that’s imperative to your business strategy today?

We’ve had the most success when we bring multiple worlds together. Shows like Secret Nazi Bases and our new mystery science show have gained more than financing when they are produced with multiple international clients. On these projects we benefit from the wider audience insights and also from their experience on their past shows. It is so much more tentacled than just quietly making a show for one destination. We are able to take into consideration international interest as the story and structure are being carved out. The bigger picture leads to greater latitude and return in distribution. It can be a task to assemble the multi-partnered deals in terms of rights and structure, but then the project is almost tailor-made for worldwide consumption. We wouldn’t have that outcome without the insights our partners provide.

The other side to the multi-deal project is that we can usually guarantee the secure continued life of the series for our clients in the event that one piece of the puzzle happens to fall through.

Lastly, what are you working on now?

We’re mid-production on an exciting new science mystery show for a number of clients, as well as putting the final touches for renewals on a couple of our existing shows. In addition, we have a number of ‘in play’ projects that were pitched earlier this year and now have secured initial financial pieces and fantastic clients we can’t wait to begin working with. 2020 will see Go Button develop some scripted content for the first time as well. This past month we’ve completed our feature WWII documentary No Roses On A Sailor’s Grave and we are really looking forward to its release. Finally, we are propelling ahead with a bundle of dynamic streaming concepts we have been lining up to launch.

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