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December 17, 2020 |

TBI Vision

TBI Wrap 2020: Off The Fence’s Ellen Windemuth; Cottonwood’s David Michel; Green Inc.’s Stephen Stewart; NENT Studios UK’s Richard Halliwell

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As a tumultuous year for the industry draws to a close, TBI talks to execs from all corners of the world to get their thoughts on the past 12 months and what the year ahead might hold. This is the final instalment of a five-part series, which will run every day this week.

Ellen Windemuth

Ellen Windemuth, CEO, Off The Fence, WaterBear

What has been your favourite show of the year?

Dick Johnson Is Dead. My father died of Alzheimers, so I really felt it – this film is original and beautifully made.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

Zoom calls work – one can develop ideas, structure business deals and go through cuts – it’s much more productive than I thought!

What are you most excited to see in 2021?

This year was less ‘exciting’ than it was watching in awe while platforms come to the marketplace and linear cable/satellite channels go cloud-based. Where will this giant shift take us?

What keeps you awake at night?

Not being able to see my team members at WaterBear and Off The Fence as I usually do, we meet to bond and tie our strategies together. I really worry about the team spirit and miss them all.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

All English-speaking countries and German-speaking Europe. There are a lot of great things happening for us.

David Michel

David Michel, President, Cottonwood Media, Co-Founder, Federation Entertainment

What has been your favourite show of the year?

The drama series Raised By Wolves on HBO Max.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

You never spend enough time developing – the lockdown actually gave us that time we never would have had otherwise, and it allowed for the creation of a few great properties we are currently pitching.

What are you most excited to see in 2021?

Real life, physical trade shows!

What keeps you awake at night?

The ongoing wave of restructures and consequent lay-offs effecting media groups in the US.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

Latin America.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

Feel-good content.

Stephen Stewart

Stephen Stewart, MD, Green Inc.

What has been your favourite show of the year (that you haven’t been involved with)?

The Morning Show, for having the guts to commission, write and shoot something so on-the-nose that was still unfolding as it went to air. And it was great.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

The world has got smaller due to Covid-19 – from Belfast, a Zoom call with a commissioner in Los Angeles is just as easy and as effective as one in London – oh, and one of our formats is shortlisted for Realscreen.

What are you most excited to see in 2021?

A plate of pastries and cups of coffee in the office, as it means the team is back in one place.

What keeps you awake at night?

My brother is fighting cancer, so nothing about the TV business keeps me up at night. It’s only TV.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

Northern Ireland… wouldn’t that be nice.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

Unscripted entertainment. It’s cheap, cheerful and fast turnaround compared to scripted… and people want fun.

Richard Halliwell

Richard Halliwell, CEO, NENT Studios UK

What has been your favourite show of the year?

I have hoovered up The Right Stuff on Disney+, just fabulous. Programming that proves that there are very few issues (technical, emotional or spiritual) which cannot be resolved with bourbon and cigarettes at any time of day.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

Other than the bourbon and cigarettes one? Adversity isn’t always terrible all of the time. It doesn’t need to be said that 2020 has been bloody awful for a lot of people, however it has also been rewarding to see people pushing through that and finding new and creative ways to drive the business forward. At a time when keeping your head down and playing it safe would have been entirely reasonable I have seen members of our team go the opposite way. I have been really impressed with the levels of entrepreneurial thinking, self-motivation and desire to ‘push through’ to the other side.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

To find ways to give people more space to innovate and to make their own mistakes, or more frequently as we have found, make their own successes.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

I am actually really excited to watch the UK market next year. As we at NSUK see the fruits of a strategic shift into developing and producing scripted content and offering that to the market via a new and equitable business model we are getting huge interest from UK broadcast partners who are also looking for commercial solutions to commissioning pressure.

As we are funding shows predominantly out of the UK and with equity investment, we see the US in particular as a greenfield opportunity to generate significant backend for our partners. The increase in appetite from the US combined with the ongoing difficulties in production mean good things hopefully for those of us with shows in the can or coming out of the edit.

What keeps you awake at night?

A realisation that we didn’t empty the fridge when we left the office in March and the prospect of sentient cheese when we finally return.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

Hopefully UK-led scripted productions from fledgling studios.

You can also catch up with our earlier instalments of TBI Wrap 2020. Part one, featuring GloboPlay’s Ana Carolina Lima, ITV Studio’s Julian Bellamy and Starz’s Superna Kalle, can be found here.

Part two, featuring BBC Studio’s Paul Dempsey, Argonon’s James Burstall and White Spark’s Briege Whitehead, can be found here.

Part three, featuring NENT Group’s Filippa Wallestam, Fremantle International’s Jens Richter, Entertainment One’s Noel Hedges and Viu’s Sahana Kamath, can be found here.

Part four, featuring Fox Entertainment’s Michael Thorn, Yes Studios’ Danna Stern, CuriosityStream’s Clint Stinchcomb, Nippon TV’s Mikiko Nishiyama and TikTok’s Richard Waterworth, can be found here.

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