HRTS Member Profile: Andie Green & Sharon Tal Yguado
Andie Green and Sharon Tal Yguado are in Scripted Programming for Fox International Channels, where they are Director and Senior Vice President, respectively. I recently had a chance to interview Andie and Sharon to discuss mentoring, the global market and THE WALKING DEAD.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-SHARON: my long lasting affair with the entertainment industry began when I was in high school. I decided to peruse my love for acting and writing and enrolled into an art high school. Very soon I realized that my real passion belonged behind the stage and camera and spent my afterschool hours writing plays and directing short films. During the army (yes you heard right…I served two years in the army like every good Israeli girl) I became a special events producer. Not a common army profession so I was lucky to land it. While doing my undergrad studies in Psychology I continued working as a producer in Tel Aviv and became more and more inserted in TV. So much that I decided to apply to NYU and do my masters in Media with a focus on TV. Looking back it was such a life changing decision. What started as a two year travel/study adventure turned out to be the beginning of an exciting international career.
Four years later, after working for NBC Sports, Oxygen and going back to Tel Aviv to help launch a new TV channel, I started developing my own concepts. After selling a couple of shows in Israel I decided to take them to MIPTV (an International TV market taking place in Cannes twice a year). I was incredibly lucky and was able to sell one of my paper formats to FTVS that then pitched and sold it to Fox International Channels in Italy. I will never forget my first meeting with the management team in Rome: five young brilliant guys, who originally started FOX Kids in the US, sitting around a table trying to figure out how to launch a female channel. What started as a production meeting related to my show very soon became a programming strategy discussion. I never left Rome and stayed with them to not only develop FIC’s first female channel, Fox Life, but a second channel after and many more worldwide. I got lucky again and joined a company that in the following eight years became the largest international cable/sat network. After four years of doing programming strategy and being involved in the launches of more than 20 channels worldwide I was ready to go back to my true passion, which is development and production. It was time to move to LA and build a Hollywood-based team to focus on content development and ownership for FIC. I got lucky again when Andie joined our team six months in.
-ANDIE: like Sharon, I grew up on the stage as well. My dream was to be on Broadway. I went to theater camp, did summer stock and studied classical voice/opera in college, but I realized early in my degree that performing wasn’t for me. That being said, it may not have been my dream anymore, but it was someone else’s, so I thought, what better than to become an agent? When I graduated, I moved to NYC to start my career. I worked at a couple of agencies before coming out to LA and realizing that agenting wasn’t for me. But what I did learn from the experience was that I was inspired by the creatives I was working with. I knew I wanted to work more closely with them to be more involved in the process of making television.
After working as an assistant in development at 20th and NBC for a few years, I took a look around and saw that the industry was evolving and new models were being created that now involved a focus on the international marketplace and co-productions. An opportunity was presented to join a new LA based team at Fox International Channels. It was the perfect combination of creative and business and we got to carve a path for ourselves and create something new. Over the past four years, we’ve implemented a unique new business model that we’re excited to see continue to grow and I am humbled by the brilliant minds and the moxie of the people I feel lucky to call my colleagues.
Q: How did you first get involved with the HRTS?
-ANDIE: when I was an assistant at NBC, I was an active member of the JHRTS. In 2007 I joined the executive board of JHRTS and had the unique ability to attend the HRTS’ famous luncheons. I always believed that mentoring the next generation was the key to success and so while on the board, I spearheaded the JHRTS “Roundtable” series, bringing entertainment industry professionals to meet a smaller group of junior members, allowing them a more intimate environment to ask questions and get to know their mentors.
-SHARON: over the past four years FIC has grown its LA-based global creative and content activities. Getting involved with HRTS on a corporate level was the natural “next step” in becoming a more active member of the Hollywood community.
Q: How are audiences similar or different versus here in the States?
-it’s hard to talk about the world as a whole because audiences market by market are all so different. That said, one significant difference is related to the limited penetration of cable and satellite television and as a result, DVR consumption. We’re seeing fast growth in both of these areas but more often than not, viewers still partake in appointment viewing television. Another interesting perspective is to look at the relationship US viewers build with freshman series vs. international viewers. International audiences aren’t familiar with shows being pulled off the air after only a few episodes. US audiences on the other hand see this happen more frequently and it has therefore become a part of the DNA of their TV consumption. US viewers have in a way become their own kind of programmers – they place their bets at the beginning of every season on what they think will work and what won’t. International audiences have never been put in that position, but as global launches and simultaneous exposure to series becomes more and more the norm it will be interesting to see how this will change the viewing habits of people around the world.
Q: What are some of the ways in which the international market factors into your decision making process as you develop a new property?
-while we operate channels outside of the US, we carry a US brand. And because of the identity we have established, our audiences look to us to bring them the best of American content. That said, while American culture travels easily, we still have to be judicious in our selections, making sure that concepts have universal appeal and that our audiences in different cultures can in some way relate to the subject matter. While there are shows we love about American sports or politics, we have to be careful that the shows we develop have familiar touchstones...in any language.
Q: You’re working with AMC on THE WALKING DEAD, how did that deal come together and why is the show such a hit around the globe?
-it’s actually a funny story. We came out of a management meeting with all our region heads after deciding that we want to ramp up our global content initiatives and invest in TV projects at an early stage. The consensus during that meeting was that we should mitigate risk by going after a safe show – a procedural. For the next couple of months we passed on numerous projects that we simply weren’t inspired by. And then came The Walking Dead, exactly what we said we were NOT looking for. A colleague from our UK office who is a comic-book fan urged us to get a hold of the script and luckily we did. We read it and there was no question. Whatever was decided during that management meeting was forgotten. AMC, the network and studio on the show, was looking for a partner to help them finance the project. To be honest they weren’t looking for us either at first. They were talking to potential international distribution companies instead. We met Charlie Collier and Marci Wiseman in NY and explained our model to them. They were sold two minutes into the conversation. Two networks (one US and one International) would team up to build a TV show into a global hit – activate a global marketing campaign six months in advance and launch the show day-and-date globally, almost like a theatrical release. The show was an instant success because of this unique partnership and because needless to say, the material spoke for itself. It was artfully written and produced.
Q: How do you see the industry changing over the next few years?
-media platforms are beginning to look more towards content ownership and we will likely see this trend continue to grow. The traditional television model will always remain strong, but we believe that financing TV series in a similar fashion to film financing is becoming more and more common. We’re also seeing a rise in digital platforms moving aggressively into producing original content in a similar fashion to what happened in cable a decade ago. Digital homes like Netflix and Hulu are already producing their own original scripted programming and many more are poised to follow suit.
Another interesting phenomenon that is very relevant to our business is what we’re seeing resulting from the growth in social media. In the past, television had very much been a local business, with film being the industry with the global reach. Now that there is a viable platform for global conversations, there are more opportunities to “release” television series in a similar fashion to a global movie release, allowing the entire world to experience the content at the same time and influence global sentiments.