It’s easy to criticize films and TV shows without knowing the hard work, time, and dedication put into it behind the scenes. In this episode, co-hosts Dani Behr and Tara Joseph talks about their company, Dantar Productions, and what they do in their daily lives as they explain the process behind TV production. They go into the details of the experiences and skills they’ve learned being both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, and discuss what the work environment is like in order to produce TV shows for entertainment. They also share how their personal differences became a key factor in making their company whole and successful.
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Dantar Productions: The Ins And Outs Of TV Production
Welcome to the show with me Tara and the ever-fabulous Dani.
In this episode, we thought we would touch base on what Tara and I do every day which is TV production. We thought we’d give you guys a little insight into what we do, how we do it, what we enjoy about it and the bits that we don’t like about it that are frustrating. As with every job and every career, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly. Tara and I are old but almost veterans in the entertainment industry. We’re 50 years combined at this point, which sounds long enough, thank you. Embarking in the new area of the industry, which is where Tara and I are in which is the TV production side. I touched base on it way back in the day creating a TV series that I hosted for Channel Four in the UK a long time ago. This is our first foray over the last few years with our production company and trying to knock out some great ideas in the world of unscripted and also embarking into the scripted world as well. To get going, Tara, what do you like about TV production? Let’s go straight for the kill here. What was the good, the bad and the ugly for you?
The bad for me is the word no. I do not like the word no. Neither do you.
We are no-no people.
We are cup full, not cup empty. In this business, you get a lot of rejection.
It’s mostly all rejection except for that 1% when you get lucky.
The bad is the word no. However, you and I have a lot of perseverance. We push forward. We’re constantly creating. The bit that I like most is the energy that you and I create together to be able to push forward continually. Also, what I like is the eclectic group of people that we’ve met over the past couple of years since we formed DANTAR. That outweighs the noes because I know that we are going to get a whole load of yeses.
You’ve been behind the camera for your career and I’ve been in front. I’m used to the rejection and the noes. You’ve got a lot more noes in front of the camera than you do behind. That’s the first thing. I’m used to the rejection and the noes and not getting too excited. I know when we get a little bit of good news here and there, Tara gets all out and she calls. She’s like, “Did you see the email? What did you think?” I’m like, “Tara, it’s great but I don’t get excited anymore until I see a contract or a signed contract at the least.” I’m a little bit more realistic with the reality of the business probably because I have dealt with the rejection for so long.In the TV production industry, it’s almost all rejection except for that 1% when you get lucky. Click To Tweet
I’ve dealt with rejections on other people’s behalf but you’re right.
When you’re used to it you learn and without trying to be cynical, skeptical or jaded, which is an easy route to take after many years. You learn to become more realistic with your emotions and don’t get too excited and wait for a side contract because things change last minute. I agree with you that rejection is hard. For me, not only do I not like the noes, but my hardest thing while we’re discussing the bad stuff is the length of time. We are both quite impatient people. We like things to happen yesterday. Tara and I move quickly, probably to the frustration of our partners at times. We work fast and expedite whatever needs to get done. We like to have all our I’s dotted and our T’s crossed. We do move rather fast compared to most. That leaves us to be quite impatient waiting for others all the time. For me, that’s the hardest part is the waiting game.
The waiting game is difficult because we do have a lot of energy, the two of us and the two of us together combined can be quite explosive. I mean that in a positive way.
I would use the word productive rather than explosive.
It can be explosive. We do get stuff done and spur each other.
Explosive sounds dramatic, though. We’re not dramatic.
There’s always a bit of drama in my life.
With you, yes. There’s always been drama in mine as well, but together we don’t have drama.
Don’t throw the drama at me.
I’ve got drama because I have two kids so there’s always something going on.
There’s always drama in our lives combined in different ways. We have different types of drama.
Individually but collectively, we don’t have much drama between us.
We don’t have any drama together.
Individually, we have enough to keep us going.
I know I started this show by saying that I don’t use the word no and we get a lot of noes. Saying that, considering we’ve only been doing this for a short period of time, we’ve had a lot of positivity coming our way. We’re working with some amazing production companies. We have the best in town ranging from Pilgrim Media. We’ve had amazing meetings with eOne, people at Condé Nast, Mona Scott-Young and her team there and have had various projects and development with them. We’ve already interviewed on our show and broadcast the episode with Jennifer Graziano. That’s the tip of the iceberg for the people that the two of us have met and collaborated with.
It’s interesting when you speak to someone like Jen, it’s taken me a few years to get to the point where I am now. I feel that things are on fire for her. Although we don’t want to wait a few years because by that point I’ll be nearly 60, but I feel there’s the energy behind us and that’s great. I also think that the kind of shows that we’re creating fall into different categories that perhaps other people aren’t necessarily as specialized on. You have your real estate experience that we capitalize on.You can be more realistic with the reality of the business when you have dealt with the rejection for so long. Click To Tweet
Bringing the real estate expertise to the mix brings an element that most TV production people don’t have. We have that unique ability to give them some inside info into the world of real estate, property and design. From my 30-plus years being in that area as well simultaneously that gives them a different perspective on how that industry works and the entertainment that can be brought from that. They love that and that seemed to bode well for us to this point. With our experience within entertainment and our casting, we seem to do well on our casting, don’t we? People love it.
On the way we work, maybe we should backtrack, break it down for the reader. The way it works is this. In the world of TV production, there are two ways of working, conceptually and physically in the sense that Tara and I have a conceptual production company. We create the ideas, concepts and the formats, we cast it, we put the team together, and we will join forces and collaborate with what we would call a physical production company. They have all the cameras, editing, and the big development team. They’re the heavyweights. We come in with the idea in the package and we hand it over to them and say, “Go make it,” if they like the idea. Some production companies do all of it together all under one roof. Some people rely on outside production companies like DANTAR to bring them the ideas and they go off and do the shooting and editing.
One of the things that Dani and I are good at is we know many people globally. We’re able to build eclectic interesting casts. One of the things that we’ve become known for is going to third-party production companies with extraordinary cast members who may be in a variety of different fields whether it’s real estate, the legal world, dance music, and literally anything. A lot of people are appreciative when we go to them with the cast because it saves them a lot of work, time and money.
We are good at that. Not to float our own boats here, but why not? All my years of being on camera and a broadcaster, I know what works in front of the camera, who can deliver and has that je ne sais quoi to translate on camera. It’s the same for Tara in the sense that she’s been a manager and an agent so she’s always had an eye for talent and what she feels is going to be successful as well. We both bring that to the table. An average producer or development person in a production team doesn’t have that kind of experience, may not see the same things that Tara and I see. We see the X-factor, we know when someone’s got what it takes and has that little extra special something. That’s in our favor.
It’s interesting because I do agree that having been in the business for so long, I automatically know the second someone walks in the room if they’ve got it or if they haven’t got it. It’s an inbuilt beacon.
It’s star quality. I’m the same as you. It’s that extra factor. Sometimes they need some refinement and a little extra something to groom them and get them ready for the industry. There’s that role undeniable star factor about them.
Sometimes in the UK, people are more or less willing to give attractive women an opportunity. If you’re an attractive woman in the UK, people try to knock you down. They don’t try to build you up. There’s a general feeling in the UK that happens. Whereas over here, people build you up and they want you to have success.
The reason why is because they are bit intimidated by anything that’s out of the ordinary. They want the girl next door, average Joe, or the relatable average British person. Anything that’s a little bit extra, out of the ordinary, too glamorous or too much they feel like it won’t be relatable. They don’t want to take a chance on it. Whereas in the States, it’s all about bigger and better and they want somebody who’s much more attractive or much more talented than the average person. They go for extremes here, which raises the bar.
It’s a different outlook and how people are viewed. Dani, tell me when you’re at home in the evening watching TV, what do you turn on to? What do you think? I look at the show and I’m like, “This is inspiring me to create the next big show for DANTAR Productions.” What is that show that you look at and you love?
To go back a few years, I hosted a show that was the first-ever reality TV show. I’m making that claim. Most people would agree with that. I’ve been in the world of reality for a long time and watching it evolve over the years has been interesting. We all have our guilty pleasures of terribly bad cheesy TV shows that are awful, but they’re absolutely brilliant. I have to say, one of our production partners, Jen Graziano, who was on our show, her show Mob Wives was a great reality show as far as fantastic characters, a lot of drama, great backdrop and storylines.
For me, that makes a great TV. Look at The Housewives franchise, that is a great example of good unscripted television. You’ve got a great product that can be franchised into multiple series and multiple locations and it all comes down to the cast. A lot of these shows are produced in the way that the cast members don’t have scripts but they definitely set up the scene where they know and can predict there will be some drama. You get five women in a room that some like some of them and some don’t like the others, you put some alcohol there, you put them in an environment where they’ve been hanging out for too long with too many drinks. At some point, it’s going to blow up.
Another production partner of ours, Mona Scott-Young, who has molded me in entertainment. Mona created the Love & Hip-Hop series. It’s a classic example of great television with a brilliant cast. She discovered the Cardi Bs and all of those characters that came out of that series. They’re fantastic over the top personalities where you put them in a room with a bunch of other eclectic personalities and you’re going to have drama. A lot of this stuff, you couldn’t even write as a script if you wanted to.
It’s interesting because what we’ve also found is that sometimes we don’t even need to have the format as long as we’ve got a great character. Sometimes a third-party production company will call on us and say, “We’ve heard you’ve got X, Y or Z. Therefore, can you bring this person in because we think collectively we could build a show around X, Y or Z.”
There is that way of doing business in what we do there. It depends on the show. If it’s a formatted show, we have to get the format down and worked out properly. If it’s cast-led and we have a great cast and we know they need to be doing something on the screen. It could be a situation where we bring them in. We’re not sure where they fit and it all depends on the buyers. What I mean by the buyers is who’s buying the show? Is it Netflix, Facebook or Apple? Is it the networks like ABC, CBS or NBC? Is it the cables like Bravo, A&E, Discovery, etc.? Depending on what the buyers are buying, as in the stations, and their mandate changes all the time as well as their execs, which make this industry extremely hard to pinpoint and to predict. Different executives want to buy different things for their station. We’re at the mercy of them most of the time. To finish what you were saying, sometimes we have a great cast or a great character that’s perfect for TV, but we’re not sure how they fit into a show and who’s going to buy it.
What is helpful for us fortuitously, Dani and I are represented by the United Talent Agency or UTA and they send us a TV mandate monthly so we can understand and have a clear vision of what each network and cable station are looking for. You take that information and you work from it and see where you land. When you’re working with a cast and you get the cast, what do you do with them? Much of our time is spent doing Skype interviews with these people. In fact, one of our production partners is in the middle of doing a whole string of in-depth Skype cast interviews for a show that we’ve been working on for some time, which we’re excited about.
It’s a cast-dependent show.Perseverance is definitely the key to success in the TV industry. Click To Tweet
This will not happen, the show, without the cast being fantastic. It’s a real process and something that we love doing but by no means does any of this happen quickly. It takes time.
Not only does it take time. It takes forever. We’ve worked on the show for a couple of years.
It’s still in development.
The day-to-day of it all is quite interesting and the new skillsets that we’ve had to learn along the way. I’m a little bit more technical than you, Tara, wouldn’t you say?
Do you mean online?
Yes. We have to create decks and sizzle reels and know how to do your editing. I’m taking charge of this one because I am a little bit more tech-savvy than Tara. Tara is organized and her managerial skills come into the mix with following-up, making sure contracts are signed, and cast interviews are set up. Her organizational skills are second to none. During this process of setting up this company, we organically found our own roles, which is quite interesting, “You’re going to do that and I’m going to do this.” Probably most business partnerships, unless you’re clear on who’s going to do what, when, this was an organic process of let’s embark on this and see what happens. Through the duration of the time, we’ve found our own roles based on our strengths and weaknesses, wouldn’t you say?
100%. We’ve discussed this in the past. You and I are different people, but we’re good friends and have known one another for years. Because we’re different, that’s what makes DANTAR work.
We are different from our personalities but the common thread and glue are between us. With any good business, partnership or collaboration, there has to be a strong element of trust and respect. Tara and I go way back and we’re good friends, we don’t socialize that much funnily enough because we work together so much, we probably need a break at the end of the day. There’s an underlying level of respect and trust, which we know without a doubt, God forbid anything would happen we know we would always be there for each other. We know each other’s family, which helps.
We’ll be there for one another.
That’s a huge factor.
I did like it when you came over and ate my Kit Kats and Double Deckers.
It was fun. I felt ill afterward. I overdose on British chocolate because she’s got this little secret stash in her little cracker tin. I was like, “I know you’ve got something somewhere.” She’s like, “Go to the tin in the kitchen.”
There are not many people I would share my Double Deckers or my British Kit Kats, not American Kit Kats.
She knows I will replace the stock at some points. That helps. If you’re looking to get into whether it’s production or any partnership of any sort, your roles are defined from the get-go. Sometimes it organically works out to who does what and when. Using our differences, personalities and skillsets, that worked out naturally for us. What I will say as well is we both work at the same speed. That has helped.
Most people don’t.
If Tara was all up in my grill being hyper, “Have you done this? Have you done that?” I worked at half the speed that I do, I’d be left frustrated, annoyed and irritated but because we both work at the same speed. Likewise, she would be left frustrated, agitated and disappointed.
“Have you done this yet? You still haven’t done this?” It would be a nightmare.
We’d both be annoyed. The fact we both work at the same speed, diligent, tenacious as each other, energetic and mindful of timing. Also, we’re both driven and ambitious. Our basic characteristics are similar and that helps with a partnership.
Let’s discuss what we hope for the future for DANTAR. We want to sell shows and create material that sells.
You already know that I’ve already picked my Golden Globes dress out. That is a big goal for me. I want us to have a show created and produced.
Also, an Emmy.
I’ll take any one of those statues. I’ve got my dress which is what I’m trying to say. Being acknowledged by your peers in your industry is about as good as it gets, especially in such a fiercely competitive and hard industry to get anything over the line as we’ve discovered.
When we both went into this, I don’t think we realize that a few years down the line would still be waiting. It’s a waiting game. It doesn’t happen. You see shows on the TV and you think, “That’s nice. That must have happened quite quickly.” No, that is a lie. It doesn’t. Scripted takes even longer.
We’ve spoken to people who have told us they’ve been in development for 6 to 8 years on the show.
I have a good friend who’s been in development with the show for HBO. A few years later, he’s still in development, but it’s going to happen. They believe it’s going to happen. It takes time.
Perseverance is definitely the key to success with this industry. If we can leave you with any advice, perseverance, tenacity, keep the momentum going and all of those things. Networking helps. If you are in TV production and you can make your way to LA to Hollywood, you definitely have an advantage because this is the mecca of television. You are constantly surrounded by people in the industry, whether you’re going out to a coffee shop, bar or a party. At some point or another, you will meet industry people. Which is all about schmooze, isn’t it?
Yeah. We’ve both been in different situations. You were sitting in a coffee shop and met someone important. I was out for dinner and met a friend of a friend and he was important and we both ended up having meetings at these specific production companies. Wherever you go in this town, you’re potentially meeting people who could be life-changing to you.
That would be the first bit of advice I would give is to move to LA. Get yourself La La Landed and be around the people who are making and creating. Be where the industry is happening. That’s the first bit and the second bit is the perseverance.
Don’t give up.
It’s an industry full of rejection. It’s 99.999% rejection with that tiny little point, dot, percent of hope and success. It’s the ones that stayed out. It’s not easy. You need to have something to pay for your bills. You might have to have a couple of side hustles to keep you going but that’s how it is here. We want you to stay tuned in. We have some exciting news. Tara and I are developing a series of webinars and some masterclasses to help those people that are looking to get into the industry whether it’s in front or behind the scenes. As I’ve said our several years of veterans in this industry collectively, we have a little bit to offer. Stay tuned because we will be filling you in with when these webinars will be launched and our masterclasses. It’s all exciting. We’re super keen to mentor and help you be the person and be in the industry you want to be in.
Stay tuned and thank you for reading. It’s always a pleasure. You will be hearing from us again soon.
Stayed tuned to our episodes. We have some exciting guests coming up so make sure you tune in to all our future episodes.
- Pilgrim Media
- Condé Nast
- Mona Scott-Young
- Jennifer Graziano – Previous Episode
- United Talent Agency