NYU Stern School of Business

Undergraduate College


Fall 2011

Instructor Details

Course Meetings

T, 4:55pm to 6:10pm

Tisch T-UC21

Final Exam:

Schedule exceptions
    Class will not meet on:
    Class will meet on:


Course Description and Learning Goals

This is a specialized EMT course within the Entrepreneurship Center designed to provide students with a framework for understanding the dynamics of producing (as a business profession) and the basics of pitching a creative idea and the knowledge to sell it.

The course will cover the most important steps in the production of a network TV or cable series, a feature film, independent film, a Broadway production and an advertising television commercial.  The course will explore all the elements a producer must know, understand and eventually become skilled through mastery of development, including idea development, script selection, finance, budgeting, timetable development, team building, talent selection, salesmanship, contract and union negotiation, regulations, technology and other relevant core competencies.


Course Objectives

To provide students with a framework through lectures, the latest industry news, case studies, and readings of articles and selected chapters of relevant texts of the critical problems and opportunities facing the contemporary producer, both specialized and generalist.

To learn the basic concepts, terms, and principles that apply to the role of producer in the entertainment & media industries.

To analyze the activities of the producer within the specific job functions that are required to effectively and efficiently complete a project.

To build a body of knowledge and information through understanding the various disciplines that cut across all the competencies required for the producer to effectively function as a key member, and in most cases, the leader of the creative and business team, assembled to complete a project.

To understand how pitches get attention from real world buyers, and how to create unique “buzz” to get in the door.


Assessment Components

The class will be graded on the following basis:

Class Participation/Attendance                       25%

Stanford Case: “Denise de Novi”                   10%    cases to be distributed in class 

Treatment                                                        10%

Pitch Proposal Document                               20 %

Presentation                                                    25%

HBS Oprah Case                                            10 %  cases to be distributed in class 

Total 100%


Professional Responsibilities For This Course

Instructor Policies

Late assignments are not accepted.  If you miss any assignment deadlines, i.e., at the start of a class period on the due date, you forfeit a grade on that assignment.

Absences/tardiness will lower your class participation grade significantly.

Class Preparation

Topics for each lecture are identified in the syllabus.  It is critical that you do the assigned reading for the week in advance of the lecture since that session will build on the reading material.  There is a case study for some of the lectures.  It is recommended that when you are preparing for the class, read the assigned chapter(s) from the text or handouts given a week prior to class.

Students are encouraged to visit deadline.com before each classso that they may be prepared to discuss the latest entertainment news. Deadline.com is the leading trade entertainment website. Throughout the course we will be applying the course work to discussions of current events in the world of film and television.

Class Participation

You will be evaluated on class participation by both the professor and lecturers.  It is pertinent we learn your names for fair grading and interpersonal interaction.  Do be sure to complete the information sheet. 

Please contribute to class sessions – not just talk, and be ready to disagree with others and develop your own position, and engage others (rather than just the professor) in lively discussion.

In a good class session, the majority of the learning comes from each participant attempting to understand the issues, limitation of theory, case problems, alternatives, etc.  If successful, your increased insights and understanding will come from within and from your interactions with one another rather than from the instructor.  Please continue with the reading assignments as scheduled regardless of whether the class activities at times fall behind schedule.


Required Course Materials

WHAT A PRODUCER DOES: By Buck Houghton, published by sillman-james

CASE Reading: Denise Di Novi: Movie Producer  Stanford GSB, OPRAH HBS


Course Outline

Week 1                        September 6                 INTRODUCTION TO PRODUCING: FRAMEWORK

WHO IS THE PRODUCER: WHAT ARE THE PRODUCER’S RESPONSIBILITIES: WHY IS THE ROLE IMPORTANT ?    The Role of the Producer   Platforms and Pipelines  The Timeline of a Project

The producer is the consummate entrepreneur for the entertainment and media industries. He/she is the business person who initiates finding the creative concept, assembles the creative team, and  arranges the financing  to transform the concept into a finished retail product. The producer is often responsible for  finding distribution, guiding marketing, licensing ancillary rights and  needs all the skills required to develop the product into a revenue producing enterprise. A producer is very often ultimately responsible for the budget, timetable, obtaining production insurance, non-performance (or arranging for a completion bond) as well as managing the legal  issues surrounding the products development.

It is the producer who usually sets up the production company when a start-up entity is required or heads the executive team when a new product is being developed by a major film studio, cable operator, radio or television network, record label, “Broadway” theatrical company, or advertising agency. In the new technology environment, it is often an entrepreneur with producing skills who initiates the partnership or enterprise which gives birth to an interactive media company, web-site , software or game development company. As we cannot cover all of these various permutations of the entrepreneurial producer; we will focus on feature film, radio and dramatic long form TV programming (TV Movies and Miniseries), and advertising via commercials. We will study the similarities and differences between the job responsibilities and the career role of the producer in these various mediums . We will discuss the skills which must be developed through training and experience which help a producer to raise his odds of completing a project profitably.

Week 2                        September 13               THE TWO PATHS OF A PRODUCER

In order to produce your pitch, you must have a track record, either with a production company or studio/network.  You will have worked in production for a number of years and after some time devlop the requisite credentials and understanding to be a key product supplier to film and television buyers.

There are also “overnight” successes, people with little professional reputation who have a good idea and figure out a way to catapult it.  “Good Will Hunting”, “Blair Witch” “Sh*t My Dad Says”, are important examples of how you must be unique to compete.

Key points:

Why does anyone want to listen to your pitch (you’re famous, you have a reputation, you have a good agent, you were the headline yesterday, etc)

Who is your audience? What kind of shows or movies are your buyers looking for?  How can you demonstrate that you have vision and can take your buyer ahead of the pack?

What do you have that no one else can provide? (exclusive access, talent attached to your pitch, the first time ever, etc)

Materials (to be distributed in class):

“Cooking Up A Hit Show” Wall Street Journal article, Dec 10 2010

In Class: breakthroughs from nowhere: video of “Ballin’ on a Budget” “Impractical Jokers”

Week 3                        September 20               DEVELOPMENT AND PRE-PRODUCTION 

Once you have gotten a green-light on your pitch, what likely follows is “step-deal”.  That is a process of development/pre-production in which the network or studio will require you to produce a group of deliverables before they green-light the entire series or film. 

1.         Developing the story arch

2.         Obtaining rights and location access, protecting your work

3.         Understanding production math for Independent Films, Features, Network Drama/Comedy Pilots, and Reality Shows

Week 4                        September 27               PRODUCING FOR THE BROADCAST INDUSTRY                


Network Television:   Understanding television networks and stations vs. cable networks and MSOs

Television Syndication:  Barter, stripping, and independent sales.

Network television budgets remain higher per episode average than most cable shows, but the limitations are greater.  Networks require shows that can make money in ancillary markets, and all must have the potential for cable or station syndication (by being highly episodic like sitcoms, CSI, HOUSE) or generate large revenue streams through licensing (such as American Idol and Glee).

Key discussion points will include:

Long form dramatic television versus reality and               Foreign Television and Split Rights

Game show programming                                                         Return on Investment

Cost efficient production techniques                                         Syndicated Television

Networks and Major Station Groups               

Week 5                        October 4                     PRODUCING FOR THE CABLE INDUSTRY

Guest Lecturer: Jason Hervey, Bischoff Hervey Entertainment

Cable networks offer a great range of production possibilities and more entry points for producers of all levels. From Steven Spielberg to never-heard-ofs, everyone can produce for cable. But with the acquisitions of high priced sports, hits like Mad Men (AMC) and The Closer (TNT), high end talent like Conan O’Brien on TBS, and very expensive reality shows like Deadliest Catch (Discovery), the high end of cable is very much like network television.

But for low cost scripted and non-fiction, there are still abundant opportunities for the dependant producer to get in and make a name.

Key discussion points will include:

How to pitch cable networks

The different types of reality shows: documentary, non-scripted

How scripted can you make non scripted?  (examples of successful series including Deadliest Catch vs. House Wives, etc.)

Types of Cable Television, Basic, Pay and Pay per View    

Production budgets

Standards and Practices, what can you show and say?        



Week 6                        October  18      FUNDING & FINANCING        

Funding and Financing:

Investor Incentives

Setting up your company

The Big Five Investor questions               

Week 7                        October 25       PRODUCING FOR THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY


The opportunity to make mini-movies running :30 seconds in length, or even shorter to :15 and :10 second ID’s is all part of the Advertising Agency producer’s career challenge. The productions can include live action, animation, talking heads, all moving type, or exquisite photography and music costing the equivalent of a low budget independent feature film. Some agency producer’s start out as art directors, some producers become TV commercial directors and some go on to be movie directors . We will examine the responsibilities, training, product, and disciplines required to turn out 100 or more commercials a year for major Agencies, as part of the interpretation and development of a creative team’s concept for a product or service.

Product integration had become an integral part of television and film revenue, but the producer must learn how to integrate the product without damaging the story.

We will review the Nielsen ratings system that controls all commercial advertising dollars.

Week 8                        November 1     THE FILM FESTIVAL CIRCUIT 

Guest Lecturer: Professor Lynne Kirby, former SVP Programming, Sundance Channel

The Film Festival Circuit:

The Festival Calendar

Submission process and materials you need

People who can help you

Week 9                        November 8     PRODUCING FOR THE DIGITAL MARKETING COMPANY 

How to organize the team, developing storyboards, pitching the clients as part of the producing team, budgeting, pre-production, post production, understanding the importance of the brand, building the social networks utility, funding the space, creating a digital media plan.

Week 10          November 15               PRODUCING FOR LIVE THEATER (Broadway  or  Off Broadway)

This session will introduce and discuss the Pitch, selling your idea, and understanding the markets in which to sell your product. We will discuss the character and methods of most of the major worldwide marketing events for Touring. We will explore what they mean to a producer who is raising money for one’s own productions or selling the product after completion with differing sources of financing

Discussion of the Pitch Proposal – How To Develop

Week 11          November 22   TAKING THE PITCH TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Guest lecturer: Marc Juris, President and COO, truTV

Taking the pitch to the next level:

Creating a business plan

The Art of the Pitch – verbal and written

Research who you will be pitching to and customizing your pitch for their style

Week 12          November 29   PRODUCING FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY


When we think of the major music industry representing The bulk of a $40 Billion dollar music industry worldwide is represented by the Big Four:  Warner Music/EMI, SONY/Columbia Music, BMG/RCA  Entertainment, Universal Music/ Polygram. These are the major players in the development, distribution and marketing of recorded music in almost every genre with labels specific to certain important music sub species. The producer needs to understand these new issues:

Genres….Demos….The Talent Pool….Recoupment…..The Contract…..The P&L Statement…..Expert Support……Creative Process…..Multi-Functional approach

The New Paradigm: MP3/Napster ……The A&R Function….Distribution Channels….The Producer’s Function…..Radio Plays…… Cross Overs……The power and influence of Glee, American Idol, and other mass-market music placement

Distribute Take Home Case 

Week 13          December 6


Week 14          December 13


These descriptions and timelines are subject to change at the discretion of the Professor.


Group Projects

Guidelines for Group Projects

Business activities involve group effort. Consequently, learning how to work effectively in a group is a critical part of your business education.

Every member is expected to carry an equal share of the group’s workload. As such, it is in your interest to be involved in all aspects of the project. Even if you divide the work rather than work on each piece together, you are still responsible for each part. The group project will be graded as a whole:   its different components will not be graded separately. Your exams may contain questions that are based on aspects of your group projects.

It is recommended that each group establish ground rules early in the process to facilitate your joint work including a problem-solving process for handling conflicts. In the infrequent case where you believe that a group member is not carrying out his or her fair share of work, you are urged not to permit problems to develop to a point where they become serious. If you cannot resolve conflicts internally after your best efforts, they should be brought to my attention and I will work with you to find a resolution.

You will be asked to complete a peer evaluation form to evaluate the contribution of each of your group members (including your own contribution) at the conclusion of each project. If there is consensus that a group member did not contribute a fair share of work to the project, I will consider this feedback during grading.



At NYU Stern we seek to teach challenging courses that allow students to demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter.  In general, students in undergraduate core courses can expect a grading distribution where: 

Note that while the School uses these ranges  as a guide, the actual distribution for this course and your own grade will depend upon how well  you actually perform in this course.


Stern Policies

General Behavior
The School expects that students will conduct themselves with respect and professionalism toward faculty, students, and others present in class and will follow the rules laid down by the instructor for classroom behavior.  Students who fail to do so may be asked to leave the classroom. 


Collaboration on Graded Assignments
Students may not work together on graded assignment unless the instructor gives express permission. 


Course Evaluations
Course evaluations are important to us and to students who come after you.  Please complete them thoughtfully.


Academic Integrity

Integrity is critical to the learning process and to all that we do here at NYU Stern. As members of our community, all students agree to abide by the NYU Stern Student Code of Conduct, which includes a commitment to:

The entire Stern Student Code of Conduct applies to all students enrolled in Stern courses and can be found here:

Undergraduate College: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/uc/codeofconduct
Graduate Programs: http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/studentactivities/involved.cfm?doc_id=102505

To help ensure the integrity of our learning community, prose assignments you submit to Blackboard will be submitted to Turnitin.  Turnitin will compare your submission to a database of prior submissions to Turnitin, current and archived Web pages, periodicals, journals, and publications.  Additionally, your document will become part of the Turnitin database.


Recording of Classes

Your class may be recorded for educational purposes


Students with Disabilities

If you have a qualified disability and will require academic accommodation of any kind during this course, you must notify me at the beginning of the course and provide a letter from the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD, 998-4980, www.nyu.edu/csd) verifying your registration and outlining the accommodations they recommend.  If you will need to take an exam at the CSD, you must submit a completed Exam Accommodations Form to them at least one week prior to the scheduled exam time to be guaranteed accommodation.


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