Thinkfactory CEO Adam Reed talks to TV Real about the company’s new event series My Great Big Live Wedding with David Tutera, which puts the stories of the “most deserving couples in America” front and center.
No matter what genre Thinkfactory Media is tackling, story comes first. And that certainly holds true for its new event series, My Great Big Live Wedding with David Tutera, in which the production company is telling the stories of the ten “most deserving couples in America” as they throw them weddings they’re likely not soon to forget.
There’s a two-time cancer survivor. A son of a Charleston church massacre victim. Two wounded warriors. A lung transplant recipient. Resilient victims of Hurricane Irma. Survivors of the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting in Las Vegas. And nonprofit organizers committed to helping at-risk youth. Thanks to My Great Big Live Wedding—a brainchild of Reed and Lifetime’s Gena McCarthy—they’re all getting the weddings of their dreams, planned and officiated by wedding maven David Tutera.
“It was one of the most difficult castings we have ever done because you have to treat it with the respect it deserves,” Reed tells TV Real. “You have to give the wish fulfillment but also tell the backstory. You don’t want them to be dark; you want it to be a hopeful, uplifting, amazing story of humans who are so well-deserving because of who they are and what they’ve been through in life.”
The premiere episode on Lifetime brought My Great Big Live Wedding to Southern California, where Redmond Ramos, a former Navy Corpsman combat medic who lost his leg after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan, married his firefighting partner Krista Cona. Speaking to TV Real just days before it aired, Reed says, “It’s like literally every day this show gets bigger and bigger because these stories we’re telling, they’re so incredible that the deeper we get, we just want to do a more amazing job for their wedding. And now I’m going, Okay, it’s time to go live, so here we go!”
“Typically, when you’re running a show, you go, Here’s your showrunning team, here’s your creative and you go. [With My Great Big Live Wedding], we have to make sure the casting and story teams are interfacing with the live team, who is interfacing with David’s vision and his team, and putting the wedding on,” Reed adds. “It really takes a village on this show to seamlessly integrate to pull this off.”
While My Great Big Live Wedding has its unique set of challenges, unscripted programs are familiar territory for Thinkfactory, which has been behind the successful Gene Simmons Family Jewels, Marriage Bootcamp and Mama June: From Not to Hot series, all of which have sold internationally.
“Everything we develop and sell here at Thinkfactory, we really try to look at it from a global perspective,” says Reed, who has little doubt that My Great Big Live Wedding will follow the same route. “You can easily go, Hey, who are the most deserving couples in the U.S., and now who are the most deserving couples in whichever territory that you’re in.”
The idea of celebrating the nuptials of the “most deserving” couples sets My Great Big Live Wedding apart from other wedding-genre series—as does the fact that it’s live. Audiences, who serve as an extended guest list, root for the couples in real time and get to partake in surprises the show has planned for the newlyweds, while also being taken aback by twists even they don’t know are coming.
Though Reed acknowledges that a segment of the audience will tune in for the “what could go wrong” factor inherent in a live show, My Great Big Live Wedding’s live element isn’t the bedrock of the series.
“If you lead with live, you’re dead. This show has got to stand alone,” says Reed. “At the end of the day, we’re telling a story, and we’re sharing characters with the world. And if you don’t love a story, if you don’t love a character and there aren’t real stakes—if those three things aren’t available, it doesn’t matter how live a live show is; no one is going to watch. We really try to look at it as: live is the cherry on top, it’s never the ice cream.”
The stories, of course, are the ice cream in this metaphor. “The stories that we can tell, and the backstories of these people, that’s what’s going to suck you in,” says Reed. “If you’re not crying three minutes into the show, we haven’t done our job.”
With My Great Big Live Wedding, Thinkfactory has put together a wedding-genre series, a human-interest docuseries about some of America’s most inspiring individuals, a potential global format—and a live show. It fits in no genre and many genres. These are the sorts of formats, the sorts of programming risks that Reed is animated about.
“I’m excited to see more and more networks not only willing to take those risks, but recognizing that Thinkfactory is kind of on the forefront of trying to bust genres, and think a little bit extraordinary and figure out how do we elevate and stand apart from all of the noise that is out there,” says Reed.
“We’re known for literally producing in every genre of programming, and it’s the way we built the company,” Reed adds. “We never wanted to be, Hey, we’re just a doc company, or we’re just a format company or just a live company. We’ve done every genre of programming, and that’s why we’ve been so successful and continue to be.”