Leadership and deconstruction on day 3 of NSI Lifestyle Series Producer bootcamp

Our NSI Lifestyle Series Producer students continue to blog about their experiences at bootcamp this week. Find out what they got up to yesterday on day three. Read about day one and day two.

Rachel Coe, Paperny Entertainment, interning on Yukon Gold


Rachel has been working with Paperny Entertainment for four years and is currently the associate producer on Yukon Gold for History Canada. She has a BFA in film production from the University of British Columbia.

“This morning, we focused on management. Al Magee [program advisor for the NSI Lifestyle Series Producer course] led us in a session about managing and leading your team, and Maria Armstrong of Big Coat Productions shared her management experience as both a broadcaster and an executive producer.

Once again, clear communication was one of the key aspects to good management. It’s important to communicate a clear vision to the team, to stay positive and empowering, and to effectively resolve conflicts. We already touched on all of these points in earlier discussions but we were able to delve much deeper in these sessions with concrete strategies for leading and communicating.

Jamie Brown of Frantic Films came to talk about the financial and legal sides of the business – some of my favourite areas. He talked about them in a way that could make anyone excited about business affairs which is always great to hear.

For our last session, Al [Magee] talked in depth about how to deconstruct a show, which I found immensely helpful. I’ve always noticed certain things about a show’s inner-workings as I watched but I know have more specific areas to focus on and new ways to think about and analyze them. I started applying the new skills tonight while I watched TV.

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow – especially the session on what story producers need from series producers.”

Melissa Smith, Big Coat Productions, interning on Love it or List it


Melissa has been a member of the Big Coat Productions team for the past five years. During this time she’s fulfilled many roles and is currently acting as the on-set producer for the Gemini nominated W Network series Love It Or List It.

“This program exceeds my expectations each and every day. I feel so lucky that Big Coat Productions has given me the opportunity to participate in such an amazing program. The range and passion of the guest speakers speaks volumes to the integrity of the Canadian television industry.

We started our day with Al Magee imparting his extensive leadership insight upon us. Having only known Al for three days, it is clear this is an area in which he is very comfortable and respected in. Five key tenants of leadership were discussed:

(1) Model the way: you have to be the model of behavior that you expect from the team around you.
(2) Inspire a shared vision: ensuring the team clearly understands the vision and feels inspired by this vision will create a motivated team.
(3) Challenge the process: embrace challenge, innovation and change.
(4) Enabling others to act: providing your team with the tools they need to succeed and trusting in their capabilities.
(5) Encourage the heart: positive reinforcement, genuinely and authentically caring about your team members

Maria Armstrong provided background context for the hierarchy of the broadcast system. Maria has vast experience in both broadcast and independent production. It’s crucial to comprehend the market research that is provided to broadcast executives, and how this drives their product search. The importance of always, always viewing a cut of each episode prior to network delivery is invaluable. A series producer must be accountable for the product that has been delivered to the network and be fully prepared to discuss the content at all times.

Jamie Brown of Frantic Films was an absolute wealth of knowledge on the financing and legal side of production. No series can be made without the necessary budget. There’s no show if there’s no money! Typically the production company’s executive producer and business affairs department will arrange funding and building the budget (at times in consultation with the series producer). It is absolutely essential to understand the terms of trade, CAVCO, OMDC, CRTC to ensure that no decisions are made that jeopardize a show’s financing. This is an area I will definitely be continuing to self educate in.

Al Magee rounded out the day explaining the value in deconstructing a series: ‘the more you take apart shows, the more you understand how to make them.’ In deconstructing a series one can successfully internalize the tenants that are necessary for a successful story arc that will connect with audiences. These story tenants/identifying factors when deconstructing a series are: overview; genre; originality; hook; theme; extendibility; tone; fantasy or pay off; setting; series lead; conflict; final battle; and self revelation.

I’m off to deconstruct The Bachelor Canada!”

Christina Velocci, Architect Films, interning on Decked Out


Christina is a communications graduate from York University and journalism graduate from Humber College. She has been working in the television industry for over seven years. Her experience includes television news as a production coordinator, videographer / reporter and, most recently, a news writer. Her current position is in lifestyle television as a researcher/coordinator at Architect Films

“Phew! Day three. I’ve got to say, I have probably learned more in the last three days than I did in two years of journalism college. Luckily many of the concepts I am already familiar with because of the great leaders I work with. But this program has really been laid out in a very structured and organized way. Questions I didn’t even know to ask have been answered and I already feel I will make a better member of my current team because of it.

I know I have said this once before but after hearing about budgets, vision, storyline, management and many other components of a series producer I’ve found an even greater appreciation for my mentors at Architect Films. It’s really astounding to hear all the duties of a series producer from day to day and month to month. I have always appreciated the experience and insight of my exec and series producer but after just three days in this course I will look at them with wider eyes because of their abilities to do their jobs seamlessly and with ease. I can only hope to achieve that kind of success.

OK enough with the props. For today the most important thing for me was deconstructing a show. I know what I like in a program and what makes it popular but Al [Magee] was able to really categorize what a show needs to make it a hit. It was nice to see a show broken down into its components, piece by piece. I think having a better understanding of these components will really help me develop or follow through with a great show idea.

One other great thing today that I forgot to mention was hearing from a speaker [Maria Armstrong] who has literally held every position in this business from network exec to series producer. [This was] very important to me because she really approaches the management of a show from many perspectives.”

Kate Green, Frantic Films, series TBD

Kate Green

Kate has over 15 years experience working in the film and television industry as a producer, director and writer. Kate’s passion and enthusiasm for each project is what drives Kate to produce quality entertainment on time and on budget regardless of genre. Find Kate on FacebookTwitter,LinkedIn and at Kate Green Productions.

“One of the focuses of today was leadership. We were asked the question, ‘What motivates you to lead?’ I think for me this comes back to some of the core reasons why I love producing. I love giving people the opportunity to be their best version of themselves. Finding out what a person is good at and putting them in a position that will enable them to succeed is extremely satisfying. Producing is like a puzzle sometimes where you’re trying to figure out how to bring all the pieces together, either financially or creatively, and move them forward in the same direction to accomplish the end result. That result is a great story that takes the viewer on a journey and perhaps changes them or at the very least entertains them. A crew member or host, however, will first follow the person (the leader), then a plan, but what keeps them going is a shared value. I think most good leaders agree that the best shared value is integrity.

All of this got me thinking back to my core values as integrity is a big one for me. On my website the three words that I used to describe myself and my company are creativity, passion and versatility. After today I feel that this is truer than ever and along with integrity are the things that motivate me to lead.

We had Maria Armstrong from Big Coat Productions come in next. Maria is a powerhouse and wealth of experience and knowledge. As someone who has been on both sides (broadcaster and producer) it was so valuable to hear her thoughts on communication with your production executive at the network.

The day ended with Jamie Brown from Frantic Films who talked about the financial and legal aspects of a project and how the series producer must be up to date on the guidelines so as to not jeopardize the financing of a show. I love the creative side of producing but I also really love the financing and legal side. I have to admit the inner financing geek in me was totally jazzed about this session. Again I think it comes back to loving the puzzle of financing a project that I love.

I’m just so excited to start doing the work and I know the skills I’m learning here are giving me the solid foundation I need to have a long and successful career as a series producer.”

Jessica Vander Kooij, Cineflix, interning on Property Brothers


Jessica has been working on Property Brothers since its first season launch, most recently as an associate producer. Over the last 10 years in the industry she has worked on several lifestyle series and in live morning news as well as various awards shows.

“Wednesday – Hump day. It’s hard to believe that day three of the NSI boot camp is already over. It’s really moving along so quickly. We are getting inundated with valuable front line information, and once again today was fantastic.

As someone that wants to someday be a series producer you usually want to believe that the creativity of the show will be the biggest priority. Unfortunately this isn’t necessarily the case. There is quite a lot to consider and today we had the pleasure of diving into the financing and legal aspects of producing a series (just the tip of the iceberg) but so very informative.

A budget is something I don’t have much, if any, experience with in the TV world. Of course, I know all about budgets in my own life, I’m planning a wedding for next summer – AHHH! I understand shows have budgets and it’s always important to come in on budget but when you break it all down, it’s quite fascinating. A common theme this week, from all the different experts, is that your budget drives the creativity and not the other way around. I’d never actually thought of it in those terms before. But when I hear it, it makes complete sense. A production wants to make the best possible show they can but when it boils down, this is a business and companies are in the business to make money. A seasoned TV extraordinaire said today, ‘They don’t call it producing for nothing. You are producing a product.’

Today was also great because we finally had the chance to hear from Al Magee. His passion for television truly comes out when he speaks about the many different aspects of show running. The leadership it takes and management along with really understanding a show’s purpose and process. I look forward to hearing more from him this week and working with him over my eight-week internship.

With each different lecture, a common thought that comes to my mind throughout the day is, ‘What kind of series producer I would be?’ It’s really fascinating because every series producer has a common goal and job that they need to maintain, but in a way they all have a unique individual process of making it happen. I can certainly identify where my weaknesses are and where I need to grow but also I feel I am coming to understand where my strengths lie.

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s topics especially post production.”

Ann Whiteway, Cellar Door, interning on Chef Michael’s Kitchen


Ann fell into the television industry in 2001. She spent the last 11 years with Cellar Door Productions working on lifestyle, children’s and documentary programming.

“We’re a little more than half way done and I’m trying to figure out how to say how each day seems to be getting better and better without discounting the speakers on Monday and Tuesday… I think it’s just a symptom of being in the moment – each day has been absolutely incredible!

Thank you to Maria Armstrong and Jamie Brown for taking the time out of their busy schedules to come in to speak to us. Thanks so much to Al Magee for devoting his entire week to us and his words of wisdom today.

Quote of the day, ‘Honor your word as expected by the world.’

We talked a lot about leadership today. What motivates a person to lead, how integrity is a key distinction in leaders and the reasons people will follow someone.

I believe that most people want to be lead, whether they realize it or not – but could never explain exactly why. Today I think I can.

Based on the last three days I’ve learned that leadership is hard – and sometimes thankless. So it takes a special person to take on the oftentimes overwhelming responsibilities of leadership knowing that the pay off at the end may only be their knowledge of a job well done.

We discussed five characteristics of a leader:

(1) Leaders model the way. They model the behavior they expect from everyone else.
(2) Leaders inspire a shared vision. From time to time, they may need to remind themselves and others of that shared vision, but recognize the need to do so. A leader works backwards. They see the end result and work back to figure out the steps to get them to that end result.
(3) Leaders challenge the process. They need to be OK with some uncertainty and willing to embrace challenge and risk change.
(4) Leaders enable others to act. Leadership is a team effort – they say ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ and they are aware when the people around them are feeling off and work with them to empower them.
(5) Leaders encourage the heart. They genuinely care about the people around them, getting to know their strengths and weaknesses and how to support them.

Who wouldn’t want to follow that person?

We covered so much more but to write about it all would take pages.

I feel so privileged to be in this program. I’m learning more than I could have imagined with these amazing speakers who are so willing to share their knowledge and experiences. Thank you!”

Nicole Butler, RTR Media, interning on Mother of the Bride


Nicole has been working in television production for over 15 years. She is currently working as a line producer for RTR Media with credits including Mother of the Bride for Slice and Summer Home for HGTV Canada. She holds an undergraduate degree in film studies from Queen’s University and an MFA in screenwriting from York University. 

“We started today by delving into the question of leadership with Al Magee. Thinking about leaders you realize how many different leadership styles live out there. I value Al’s calm and frank approach to the NSI sessions this week. A great leadership approach to follow.

The heart of what we talked about is that you have to commit to being a leader. You need to model the way, inspire a shared vision, energize people, challenge processes and enable others to act. That’s a lot to live up to. But if you are given a position of power, you had better be ready to trust yourself to take on the challenges and lead.

Working through how to deal with difficult conversations brought back some memories. I would not call the difficult conversations I’ve had career highlights, but without tough experiences you aren’t going to grow.

We received great insight from our next two panelists Maria Armstrong and Jamie Brown. Maria described her vast experiences as both broadcaster and producer to give a clear picture of expectations on both sides. Jamie provided amazing notes on financing, regulatory and business concerns that every series producer should be aware of.

We finished our day with a great review on how to deconstruct a show. Such a fun breakdown led by Al. Being able to reference and talk about the structure of shows like Bachelor Canada, How to Look Good Naked, etc., well I think it’s why we are all here. Isn’t it? I loved our discussion about creating produceable moments in unscripted television. How can a produced moment be authentic viewing for an audience? Yet, every moment needs to feel in some way genuine. And, thinking about how the process in a lifestyle or reality TV show has to be structured in terms of story points, character and conflict.”

Program manager Brandice Vivier – who runs the NSI Lifestyle Series Producer course – is also writing about bootcamp. Read about day oneday two and day three.

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