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From advice on starting your own production company to working with established brands, leading producers shared their top tips for aspiring content entrepreneurs at Realscreen’s panel discussion,  ‘The Way We Work: Evolving the Prodco Model.’

Moderator Pierre Brogan, Head of Unscripted at Paradigm was joined by panellists Sean Cohan, President at Wheelhouse; Jennifer Daly, President of Critical Content Studios; Jonathan Skogmo, CEO of Jukin Media and Sam Barcroft, CEO of Barcroft Studios, who answered questions about the logistics of running a production company in an increasingly digital world.

Here are their main tips:

What would you have done differently as a production company if you could start again?

Cohan: I would have liked to have recognised the success we were going to have. If we’d have known we were going to create global brands in the future, we would definitely have invested more.

Daly: I wouldn’t have changed anything. The most important thing is always to believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who say yes.

Skogmo: I would have told myself this: If you are not failing, you’re not learning.

Barcroft: It’s important to remember that creativity requires waste. Things can take longer than you think they will.

What do you think about digital content? Can it be transferred from online to TV?

Barcroft: Yes, YouTube in particular is a brilliant casting resource : Justin Bieber was discovered on there. In the last 2 years, we’ve taken 6 series from digital to TV. Data is key, it’s important for your company to have a team of people number crunching to see what people want.

Daly: Digital content doesn’t necessarily translate into linear TV.

Cohan: I agree - influencers aren’t necessarily portable. It’s great to have the data, but more important is bringing great stories to networks and buyers. The focus should always be on storytelling, rather than where the series came from and who it will attract.

(Photo by 'New Orleans Event Photography')

Which brands have you worked with? How do you approach a brand if you feel you have a product for them?

Cohan: We have worked with a company called Shopify who are an e-commerce platform. Wheelhouse struck a deal with them to finance a show called ‘American Adventures which involved entrepreneurs giving up their 9-5 jobs. We had an incentive to make great content, they had an incentive to drive entrepreneurship as they are a global brand.

Daly: When we work with brands, we prefer to go to media companies who represent the brands or companies who focus on bringing in the brands content.

Barcroft: My advice would be to research the brands who are already working hard in branded content and target them primarily.

What is your advice for companies starting out now in today’s landscape?

Skogmo: Just go for it. There has never been an easier time to create content.

Daly: Don’t spend too much money. There are plenty of platforms where you can showcase your work for free. I’m working with an upcoming producer who is a one-man-band and puts everything onto YouTube. If you really can’t afford it partner with someone who can, such as a school for aspiring creatives. Don’t talk about it, don’t write about it, just make it.

Cohan: Make sure your people are great. Hire great talent, find great partners, work with people who will help you really differentiate yourself. Be meticulous, take your time to find the right people.

Barcroft: Bringing through young entrepreneurs is important, as is diversity. Don’t waste a moment because life is short. Saying you can’t sell something is an excuse when at the same time you’ve sold something on Amazon within 3 days.

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