So You Want to be a Producer?

by Cathy Corcoran


So you want to be a producer?  And you have a great idea - or two or three great ideas - for a show. How do you flesh those ideas out? How do you break into the biz? NATPE to the rescue!


The Open Development session can help. Hosted by Dan Goodman, Co-Founder of Believe Entertainment Group, the session will feature panelists Caitlin McGinty, senior VP and head of Programming and Development for The Story Lab, and Mina LeFevre, Head of Development for Facebook. The group discuss program pitches that have been submitted in advance, and offer their suggestions on how to refine and strengthen the proposals. The session is open to all NATPE attendees.


A second, more specific two-day brainstorming session for unscripted show producers will be lead by Scott Sternberg of Scott Sternberg Productions. Participants will focus on developing show ideas, building a production team, and taking concrete steps to bring a show to market.  These sessions are limited to those who submitted proposals in advance to Sternberg.


Both sessions are designed to coach budding producers to bring their show ideas to life and move them forward to market. The development workshop will focus on projects that are in the early stages that have not yet moved into actual development or distribution.


Goodman said that out of a pool ranging from documentary, scripted and reality genres, three were selected for in-depth discussion during his workshop. His panel will dissect details of the selected proposals, including casting, shooting, distribution, sponsorship opportunities and other issues. “Each panel member will bring his or her own unique perspective to each project,” Goodman said. “Some will focus on production and cinematography, some on social media exposure, some on sponsorship. We think it will be a big benefit to the creators whose projects we discuss, but we also want all the audience members to learn something from our discussion.” 


In addition to producers, actors, distributors and ad agencies can learn from the discussion to help them shepherd their own projects through the development process. “It’s rare to get an inside look at how industry executives make decisions on buying or selling programming and bringing projects to market,” Goodman said. “This session will be like playing poker open-handed. Everyone will be able to see everyone else’s cards.”


Scott Sternberg’s  Emerging Producers workshop will also focus on one to three projects in development, but will take the form of an open forum for unscripted programming only. Sternberg said that a group of 12-15 selected participants will work together as a team in a freewheeling environment “just as we would in our company. We’ll brainstorm ideas and settle on one or more ideas—a food show, a reality show, travel—it could be anything.”


Participants have been chosen from the ranks of producers, but also from “anyone who thinks creatively and has a passion for the business,” Sternberg said. “Everyone can learn something from working sessions like this—especially me! We’re going to squeeze everything we can into our two sessions and finish up with something that’s ready to move forward into development.”


At the conclusion of the workshop, Scott Sternberg Productions will develop and finance the selected project(s), produce a sizzle reel, and bring the programs to market. Post NATPE, workshop participants will continue working via conference calls as the process moves forward.


“It’s our job as a production company to know the market,” he said. “We know which companies are looking for which type of shows. We can tell when a project has ‘legs,’ and where we might place it.”


Sternberg is founder and president of Scott Sternberg Productions, a full service multi-media production company specializing in unscripted program content. His Hollywood-based company provides series and specials to the domestic and foreign markets, and brings select foreign productions to the U.S. The company also produces and develops content for online distribution with the goal of crossing content from web to other media outlets. Credits include Nuclear Nightmare: Japan in Crisis, a documentary about the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami; Exposed, with Deborah Norville, a show that explores what happens when the glittery world of Hollywood collides with the dark world of crime; and Shatner’s Raw Nerve, an interview show hosted by actor William Shatner.


Goodman is co-founder of New York-based Believe Entertainment Group that develops and produces premium original series for digital and TV distribution. Positioned at the intersection of content, media, and brands to deliver innovative solutions for the world’s biggest talent, distributors and advertisers, its programs include The LeBrons, an animated series from the mind of NBA Champion and MVP LeBron James; New York Toast, a celebration of the people and places that make New York the best city in the world; Adulting 101, a series advising millennials on how to buy a house, establish credit and other adult-centric topics.