We try to get out and around at TeamPeople and last week it was a trip to Realscreen West in Santa Monica, California. Good work if you can get it! This event on the Realscreen calendar focuses heavily on the reality genre we’ve all come to love. Let’s face it, no matter what your personal tastes, scripted, “unscripted,” documentary, singing/dance/talent/ninja competitions, news, what-have-you, and whether you watch it online, over the air, on cable, or smartphone, these are good days to be in our business. With so many genres and platforms to feed, those of us that cook the meals are busy in the kitchen.
Realscreen featured panels with impressive network and production company people addressing the state of the business and talking trends. A “trend watching” series looked at topics including; “Keeping it Real.” This session addressed the growing “authenticity” movement in the reality genre with both producers and network executives “vowing to make reality a little more real with earnest characters, narratives and production techniques.” Specifically, there is a real movement afoot with “self-shot” footage. NBC’s The Island, for example, is 95% self-shot by the participants. Let’s hope that trend runs its course and doesn’t impact too many professionals.
I enjoyed a lively discussion panel titled “The Showrunner: Soldier, Savior or Spy?” The session dug deep into this increasingly indispensable position that sits somewhere between the production company and its producer(s) and the network and its executives. The Showrunner is typically employed by the production company, but the network may also have a direct relationship with this person. It can lead to some murky allegiances and interesting questions of who is working for who? MBN Productions Billy Taylor, himself a well-known Showrunner said, “Hopefully, at the outset, you’re looking at it as a collaboration. There are checks and balances. The other production company is checking you, and you’re delivering a cut and then the network’s checking that, and you’re going in, and there’s this back and forth volley. And that’s why we have several rounds of notes.”
Very interesting stuff.
It wasn’t only about reality, Discovery President Rich Ross spoke in a keynote address about the importance of documentaries and diversity. He also made a bold promise in response to challenges from digital upstarts like Netflix, “We will have by far the most aggressive documentary and special business on television by next year,” said the exec.
At the Realscreen Awards, held outside (you can do that in Santa Monica) on Tuesday evening, Hall of Fame inductee and Pilgrim Studios CEO and President Craig Piligian said it best in accepting his award, “When you have a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, those things happen, but at the end of the day, in this business, it’s really a wonderful life.”
But it wasn’t just listening to sessions, keynotes and awards speeches, I also had some interesting one-to-one chats with top independent producers from companies like Bunim-Murphy, and top agents from agencies like N.S. Bienstock/UTA.
We attend events like Realscreen West, and East, and others like NAB and InfoComm to meet with our clients in out of the office settings, and to look for new clients who could benefit from access to the top creative and technical talent we represent. We also attend these events to meet with our current talent and introduce ourselves to new ones. As a conference “delegate” at Realscreen West I was given access to the full list of attendees. This is not a short list at 1,115 names.