Producer Perspective: Michael Hoff


CU: Where do you find inspiration for a new show idea?

MH: Personally, I usually get new ideas from print media: newspapers, magazines, books etc.  Also many ideas are offspring of projects we're already working on, a next incarnation or brand extension.  Then of course, I have a great development team that combs the planet for great ideas.

CU: What research do you do before gong into a pitching session?

MH: Hmmm.  I try to make sure that it's not in their inventory already, that it's on brand, and that they can afford it.  Then, I try to anticipate more technical questions like access, cost, legal issues, etc.  Basically, I'm thinking what kind of ammunition does this person need if they were to present the idea to a largish internal group.  We want to make sure the concept is truly viable and has legs.

CU: What advice do you have for upstart producers trying to get their foot in the door?

MH: Pick one person at one network who you are most likely to get access to, and focus your attention and ideas on their needs.  In other words, avoid a shotgun approach.

CU: What show do you wish you had produced and why?

MH: If you are asking about other company's shows, I wish I had produced them all.  If they were poorly done, I think I could have done it better.  If they were well done, I'm jealous that I didn't get the chance to produce them.  Needless to say, I often find it difficult to watch our competitors' shows in a relaxed and objective manner.

Regarding shows we have developed, right now, I have two shows I wish I had produced.  The first is the series version of the pilot we did for Fox called "Interrogation Room."  It may have been the best show we ever did.  It got great ratings, but circumstances beyond my control have held it back from going to series.  Next would be our Bigfoot and Monsters series.  We have an awesome Bigfoot demo with some outstanding re-cre with amazing make-up and effects.  I think we could really bring a whole new cinematic level to factual re-cre.  But again, sometimes it's complex turning wishes into reality.  Oh, and one other just occurred to me.  "Bad Kitty" a great series about a group of women who take "boudoir" photos of women and men. Great content, great characters.  It's ahead of its time.

CU: What types of shows do you think are most in demand now?

MH: Everyone continues to look for character driven content.  They are all looking for an organic team that deals with high stakes and/or high emotion situations.

CU: What types of programs do you wish were in demand now?  (or think should be)

MH: I don't really have any "wish" lists.  The fundamentals of what viewers want are eternal even if formats change.  Everything changes....everything stays the same.

CU: What types of projects interest you most and why?

MH: My training, background, and interests are diverse.  So I like almost every genre.  I guess I really enjoy topics that are a hybrid between the extremely emotional and intellectual.  I like making what some people think is "dumb", smart.  For example, our Hooked franchise with NGC.  You could say it's just a fishing show, but it's a damn smart fishing show.  Perhaps the same with our WEtv "Chain Gang Girls" specials.  You think it's going to be just sensational and trashy, but it's actually insightful and moving.

CU: How important do you think it is for your show idea to have an online component?

MH: It's important, but not essential at this point.  More and more television viewers are going on-line.  But networks are still trying to figure out a business model that delivers a return on their investment.  That means for us, there's no money out there.

CU: Where does most of your budget funding come from, if not from the network?

MH: If it's a co-pro, we look to distributors and other territories to help cover the deficit.  Then of course, sometimes we cover a portion of the deficit ourselves.

CU: How often do you attend industry conferences and festivals, and which are most important for your business?

MH: More and more and more.  RealScreen is the first priority.  I usually also go to at least one MIP.  We've stopped going to NATPE.  I like the Science Congress.  And last year for the first time we went to the Wildscreen Festival in Bristol.  That was good.  Then of course, Lisa Mao, our Director of Development, and I are on the road almost constantly meeting with clients as often as possible.

Producer Bio: President & Executive Producer Michael Hoff has worked in broadcast and cable television for more than twenty-five years. During that time he has earned nine Emmy awards for producing, directing, and writing. In the 1980s Michael was best known for his work at KPIX-TV as Show Producer of Mac & Mutley and Executive Producer of Evening Magazine. Beginning in 1991 Michael began his independent production career. Working with a young Discovery network, he produced 39 episodes of The Adventurers and 26 episodes of Those Incredible Animals with Loretta Swit. In 1993 he formally incorporated as Michael Hoff Productions, Inc. Over the last ten years, he has executive produced hundreds of hours of programming in every genre for every network, including Discovery Channel, Court TV, Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel, and HGTV. During that time he also advanced his understanding of how to produce programming that succeeds overseas. Today he takes great pride in a growing staff and business that knows how to deliver value for worldwide factual programming. Michael Hoff Productions Website