Interview: Producer Kit Redmond on Prime Time in Ottawa and passion projects

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The Prime Time in Ottawa conference from March 6-8, 2013 will include discussions on global trends and how they will affect Canadian producers, a panel examining the increasing challenge Canadian theatrical films are experiencing in reaching Canadian audiences, as well as a look at lifestyle and reality television.

Kit Redmond, CEO and Executive Producer of RTR Media Inc., will be one of the speakers, and she took time to answer some email questions about the conference and her career as a producer, which has spanned more than 30 years.

She’s created/produced and commissioned a wealth of lifestyle, factual entertainment and documentary series. Her current projects include Income Property on HGTV Canada and US, Mother of the Bride for SLICE, and BBQ Crawl for Travel and Escape.

Kit managed the National Screen Institute’s Totally TV program and the Sparkplug project. In her five years with the program more than ten projects proceeded to be commissioned and broadcast, including HBO Canada’s acclaimed series Less Than Kind, Global’s Da Kink in my Hair and CBC’s drama series GUNS.

Kit developed the Innoversity Open Door Pitch, served twice as the WIFT/Banff/Warner Brothers Mentor and is a past Vice-Chair of the board of Toronto Women in Film and Television (WIFT). She is the winner of the WIFT Mentorship award, The Innoversity Angel Award and the Female Eye, Maverick Award.

Tell us what you hope to convey at the Prime Time in Ottawa conference?

I hope to listen at the Prime Time Conference because every year I learn a great deal about the trends and the issues in our industry. I often come away inspired and motivated.

What you hope to get out of it?

This year I specifically want to learn more about creating new business models for content.

How did you get into producing?

I started my career as a reporter for CBC Television. As a reporter you must self-produce. I quickly grew frustrated with short-form reporting and ventured into longer current affairs pieces. Next I became a host and worked with a producer and I realized how valuable it is to have someone produce you so that you deliver the best content.

I am fortunate to have three children. During their early childhood years, I freelanced a great deal so that I had flexibility and was able to spend more time raising them. During those years, I produced a lot of radio documentaries. That was an invaluable experience because it taught me the importance of clear, strong writing and of sound.

When we moved to Toronto, I had my first opportunity to series produce and to this day, that is one of my favourite jobs. I love building teams and then executing the vision of a show.

Now I am an executive producer and a CEO. Today I produce companies, versus individual shows and many of the skills I acquired in my early producing days still hold true. You need a clear vision, hire the best team, give them the resources they require and then let them shine.

How do you shepherd a project from concept to series?

Wow … that’s a tough question. I use the three P’s: perseverance, passion and patience. It takes a great deal of perseverance, passion and patience to birth a television series.

First it starts with a great idea or a great character. Then you must do the hard work of research. You have to test your idea, work through your craft to see if it is sustainable and if you can execute it.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen. Great concepts you can execute are rare.

Usually if we have a good idea, we’ll trial balloon it with a broadcaster or a client. We don’t want to do a lot of work only to find out that it is already in the works with someone else. If we get initial interest then we work through what we call a “series generator.” My business partner Al Magee created this process. It consists of a series of questions that you must systematically work through to develop your idea into a concept, then a pitch, potentially a bible, then a demo or pilot all the way through to a commission.

My factual company RTR has a development team headed by the brilliant Jenna Keane, so once we have broadcaster interest Jenna and her team work through development. For our scripted company, I work with my partners Al Magee and Carolynne Bell and with writers to develop a project.

Once the project is developed to the pitch point, we pitch it with the objective of securing development financing. Once that is done we work on a bible for the show and potentially a demo or a pilot. We hire a team at this stage. Then we work closely with the broadcaster or client so that when we deliver the development materials we are ready to head into production if and when the project gets a green light. At that point we hire the best team we can find to produce the project. Jenna, in her role of Creative Head, closely oversees the first three episodes to ensure that the concept we developed is executed. Once we have three episodes locked and approved by the network, then Jenna and I check in on a regular basis and heavily when it comes to renewal and plans for a season two.

What do you look for in a project before you’ll get behind it?

I look for a great idea, with great characters, that I can be passionate about and that we can finance and execute successfully. One question I ask myself is will I love this project as much in five years as I do now. It will take five years to create a real hit, which means a series that has the potential to run up to 65 or more episodes and that we can build a brand around as a business model.

What do you think the most important characteristics are of a good producer?

I think you have to be talented, skilled, patient, curious, a good manager and a little bit crazy.

How has the industry changed since you started your career?

Ok … I’m 54 and I started when I was 21 so it’s changed a lot. What hasn’t changed are the stories. They are the same and the way we tell our stories are basically the same. I have a huge appreciation of our craft. We are writers, storytellers. We use pictures, sound, plot, character, worlds, and themes to tell our stories. I love it and that’s why I still do it.

If there was one thing you’d change about the Canadian television industry, what would it be?

I wish we could move faster. We are truly blessed with a supportive and nurturing cultural and tax policy that support our industry and our culture. The downside of it is that it is slow to react and now our industry is changing so quickly, we must be fast in order to maintain a leadership position in the world. So I would like to be able to move faster and with greater flexibility.

What do you consider your greatest career achievement so far?

I often say that I haven’t had my greatest achievement so far. I’m still learning. If pressed, I think my greatest achievement is the joy I take in working with teams to tell stories well that connect with an audience. Whether it was a volunteer video I did with school children, to our YouTube videos on our Coral channel, to our big competitive series, or scripted projects, I get the same thrill, moments of bliss, when story, team and audience all connect. I love it.

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Diane Wild

Diane is the founder of TV, eh? She loves books, movies, TV, science, space, traveling, theatre, art, cats, and drinking multiple beverages at the same time.
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