Faculty Note: Chris joined the full-time faculty at American University in August 2004 as Distinguished Film Producer in Residence and founded the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at the School of Communication, which he now directs. While at American he continues to produce films, give speeches, and conduct workshops across the country. He is writing two books: Adventures in Wildlife Filmmaking (for Sierra Club Books) and another about a different kind of wild life—his three daughters and how to be an effective father. CableU was fortunate enough to recently get Chris's responses to our 10 producer queries. For Chris's full bio, click here.
1. Where do you find inspiration for a new show idea?
Newspapers, books, friends, colleagues, internet, parties, conferences—any place where people are talking about things which deeply matter to them. I produce environmental and wildlife docs, so I’m interested in those kinds of issues.
2. What research do you do before going into a pitching session?
A lot! I learn everything I can about the subject.
3. What advice do you have for upstart producers trying to get their foot in the door?
Find mentors who take you under their wing and guide you. Also network relentlessly.
4. What show do you wish you had produced and why?
I wish I had thought to produce “An Inconvenient Truth” before others did. They exercised their imagination, I didn’t. They were daring, I was not.
5. What types of shows do you think are most in demand now?
In the wildlife area, reality shows with on-camera presenters who get up close and personal with wild and dangerous animals.
6. What types of programs do you wish were in demand now? (or think should be)
Shows about conservation that are so effective that they move viewers to action.
7. What types of types of projects interest you most and why?
Projects that deal directly with a major social problem that we as a society need to solve, such as climate change, toxic pollution and habitat loss.
8. How important do you think it is for your show idea to have an online component?
Critically important. It is unthinkable not to have one.
9. Where does most of your budget funding come from, if not from the network?
From foundations, individual donors, and corporations.
10. How often do you attend industry conferences and festivals, and which are most important for your business?
I attend them all the time, including Wildscreen in Bristol, UK, the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, MT, and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Jackson Hole, WY.
For more on what Chris is up to visit his company and organization's websites: