- Dominic Tatrai
Katch University was very excited to host producer Barbara Wall for an informative talk about all things entertainment. With over twenty years of experience as an executive, Wall was Senior VP of Television for Lionsgate for eight years, before eventually moving to her current position as Head of Content at Morgan Creek Entertainment Group. Wall has helped develop award-winning shows such as Mad Men, House, Weeds, and the more recent TV adaptation of The Exorcist (2016). She talked about her time in the industry, the roles of producers, the process of pitching, all while giving advice for those whose passion is entertainment.
Before making her way into the industry, Wall originally planned to work in politics. She started temping in entertainment to fill some of the downtime that she found herself in, and also to satisfy her sister, who told her, “For God’s sake get off the couch.” Her first job in the industry was as an assistant, but she only worked for three weeks, as she wanted to head back to Nashville to work in politics and “save America.” Thankfully she did come back to California, and was hired in the story department at Paramount on the feature film side. Later she was recruited by Betty Friedan, a famous feminist writer and activist, to work for the creators of television show Dynasty (1981-1989). After that, her first network job was at Fox, where she was a current programmer. This job enabled her to learn a lot about how television production companies work, as she got to meet all the showrunners and writing staff while being able to see the evolution of a TV series. Moving through the industry, she eventually found her way to her current job as a hands-on producer, which out of all her roles she loves the most.
When discussing the current state of entertainment, Wall also talked about the influence of streamers. According to her, “Streaming has revolutionized the business as I’ve understood it.” She told us that Morgan Creek Entertainment doesn’t even pitch to networks unless there is a specific reason to do so. She also noted that international productions are on the rise, as streamers and studios look for new customer bases. In fact, thirty percent of Morgan Creek’s slate is international productions. “We do a ton of international projects... I think that’s where the future is.”
To interns, Wall recommends getting a current programming position as a first job. “It is trial by fire. You are thrown in, and it is full guns blazing, but you learn everything from production and budgets and writing and how you go from season one to season two…” It also allows you to build relationships with people that could help you in the future. When asked how to present material to others, Wall placed importance on knowing the landscape. Know who you are selling to and the specific product they are looking for. She also recommends allowing your material to change based on the buyer. When discussing a producer’s job, she says “A producer’s job is to find and source material. You’re constantly meeting writers and directors and filmmakers.” She also says that the hardest part of the job is not knowing what creative decisions in a story may cause it to be left on the table. For writers nervous about pitching, she says “Don’t think of it as anything other than a conversation. That you’re going in to tell a story, and writer’s love to tell stories, they love to write, this is just a verbal version.” Wall ended her talk with a conversation about diversity. She says that inclusion is a very important factor in filmmaking that needs to happen, from writing to producing. “In my mind, it’s a must. And it’s long overdue.”
Wall is currently working on franchising out properties such as Ace Ventura, Young Guns, and Dead Ringers, which is due to be a series on Amazon in the near future. Be on the lookout for more of her amazing work.