For pretty much my whole adult life, I have been a huge fan of television. So much so that I wrote a privately distributed Internet column, called The Couch Potato Chronicles, focused primarily on TV, from 1998 to 2009. I continue to write mini-reviews on Facebook to this day.
The television industry is one single largest industries in the world. When TV is done right it creates a beautiful reflection into our lives or the lives people people who lived in another time and place. It’s an amazing window on the world, and on our history as human beings.
Tonight we watched, with great sadness I might add, the final episode of Downton Abbey.
For those of you who may have been spelunking in caves in Borneo for the past several years, this is a British produced TV series about the Crawley family, the head of whom, Robert, is the Earl of Grantham. Downton Abbey is their Yorkshire estate. The story follows the lives of this family and their servants over a 16 year period from about 1910 to 1926.
Next to Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey is arguably the most successful British TV series in history. Dramatically, and from a historical perspective, it is pretty much without equal in the history of the television industry, for overall quality, writing, acting and production value.
It has been sold in over 240 markets and subtitled in dozens of languages. It has had a six season run that has turned the large cast into totally recognized stars around the world.
And most impressively, Downton Abbey was the brainchild of one man, Julian Fellowes, who wrote all but two episodes himself. As a writer, this puts him up in the super-hero category, as, next to historical biographies, historical TV series are the most challenging to write in my opinion, as a writer who is terrified of both.
The Business Of Show Business
Because Downton Abbey is a TV series, a lot of people don’t think very much about the business aspects of a show like this. The army of people required, not just to shoot and finish each episode, but to make sure that the historical accuracy is maintained in every single scene of the lavish production, that it is well acted, and that the story flows in an intriguing way week after week, season after season, is a gargantuan management task.
Costume designers and fabricators, wig makers, a huge production crew, set builders, car wranglers, animal wranglers, people wranglers, casting directors, continuity people, post production minions by the score. The number of expert people needed to mount and sustain a 6 years project this ornate is essentially a small army.
If you don’t believe me, just click on this link and start scrolling for a minute or so. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1606375/fullcredits?ref_=ttco_sa_1
It’s All About Teamwork & Common Goals
Managing these various departments in the production requires 100% teamwork 100% of the time. There are, in fact, very few businesses that have to run with this level of cooperation and focus at a completely breakneck pace 24/7.
Before the final episode aired there was a special award presentation from BAFTA, which is the British Academy Of Film & Television Arts. During this hour there were a number of filmed sequences designed to show some of the ‘behind the scenes’ activity involved in staging a production like this.
I got shivers just thinking about it. Because not only is the job of producing a series like Downton Abbey a massive exercise in people management, it’s also a huge financial responsibility.
Downton Abbey will generate hundreds of millions in licensing fees, syndication revenues, advertising revenues for the networks that run the series and promotional revenues from video streaming, syndication, DVD and book sales.
Great Managers Abound In Entertainment
My 80/20 Rule Of Almost Everything when applied to TV production as an industry, comes down on the side of success. Mainly because there are a hell of a lot of really talented managers in the TV and movie business. Way more than you find in just about any other segment of the business world.
This is because these people come equipped with two fully functional hemispheres in their brains. They are both creative and smart business people. They are also pretty good coaches, cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, slave drivers, negotiators, pennypinchers and head shrinkers when they need to be.
The world of business outside entertainment could learn a lot from studying how big production feature films and TV series like Downton Abbey, The Vikings & Game of Thrones come together.
People like Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Jerry Bruckhiemer., Dick Wolf, Greg Berlanti, Rebecca Eaton, Gareth Neame & David Benioff, among many others, should all be teaching at high end business colleges.
To paraphrase the actor Anthony Hopkins in an interview I saw with him a while back, he describes the movie making process as: “A family of disparate individuals who come together, fall in love with each other and the project they are working on, give everything they have with little or no regard for things like sleep or recreation, create what they hope will be some sort of masterpiece, then go their separate ways.”
That’s just a movie. Now imagine doing that 8 times a year, or 10 times a year in the case of Game of Thrones, for 6 years running and you have some sort of idea of what I’m getting at.
The business lessons that can be learned from studying the TV and movie production business are enormous and in their own way make managing most businesses seem like a walk in the park.
This is the second piece I have written about the business side of the entertainment industry. The first one is entitled: One Of The Most Powerful Brands In North America…Catch It On Tuesday.
Have a great week everybody….carpe that deim!
I am a communications professional. Through my own core skills as a strategist, writer & art director and with the help of a select group of insanely talented associates, I work with primarily B to B clients, large and small to create hard working communications in whatever sector of the marketing universe their strategy dictates the need to travel through. I am also a mentor, blog post editor and a pretty decent photographer.
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