Vanessa Shapiro, CEO of Nicely Entertainment, talks to World Screen about changes in windowing brought about by the coronavirus, the challenges and triumphs of Nicely’s first year and where her 20 years of experience in the industry will steer the company next.
Just two months into the Covid-19 lockdown, Gaumont and MarVista Entertainment alum Vanessa Shapiro unveiled Nicely Entertainment, a distribution and production company serving the global market with a focus on scripted TV series and movies. Marking its one-year anniversary, the company has been boosting its offering of holiday and romance-filled features, as well as expanding into drama and YA TV shows.
WS: How does the state of the global TV/media industry look at present?
SHAPIRO: During the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a global shift of traditional windowing. The closures of theaters are at the forefront of the window collapse, with more movies being released day and date or skipping the theaters altogether. The industry needs to figure out a new revenue model as we’re now seeing a new way of consuming content. The result of the pandemic has created a more captive audience in front of their screens at home, but yet less box office or TV ads revenues. At the same time, the apparent winners are the SVOD and AVOD platforms with a substantial subscriber and audience increase.
I think the trend of binge-watching created by the streamers by releasing full seasons at once on their platforms is here to stay. This on-demand trend is going stronger, with traditional broadcasters now also launching their own streaming platforms, with new services such as Peacock, Paramount+ and HBO Max. Furthermore, AVOD is emerging as a successful new model attracting younger audiences, especially in the U.S. where cord-cutting is still on-trend.
WS: Nicely just celebrated its one-year anniversary. What have been some of the high points and challenges?
SHAPIRO: We are very proud of the work and content created during our first year in business and look forward to many more years ahead! Clearly, the biggest challenge has been the shutdown of production in March 2020, but like many other production companies, we took that time to read, develop and prep a full slate of movies. As soon as we were able to start shooting again, we went into production on four movies over the summer with our different production partners.
With over 20 years of experience in the industry, from my early days at Sony to MarVista Entertainment and Gaumont, I learned everything from finance and business affairs to sales and production. All of the combined experience, skills and relationships I built over the years prepared me to establish Nicely. Every company I worked for brought me closer to opening Nicely and gave me the tools to develop and expand the series co-production model. For instance, during my time at Gaumont, I was blessed to have worked on the global Amazon Prime series El Presidente with amazing talent.
WS: What are some titles on Nicely’s slate you’d like to highlight? Any recent deals you’d like to note?
SHAPIRO: We are focusing on feel-good movies. With the challenging year a lot of people just had, we believe that audiences around the world are looking to escape reality with some romance and holiday spirit!
In 2021, we are expanding our holiday movie offerings with seven new Christmas movies that will be ready for delivery this holiday season. The first ones to be completed this winter are A Christmas Wish in Hudson, where an unlucky-in-love designer finds her love match in a widowed firefighter, and Christmas in Crumbs, where a baker matches wits with a marketing executive sent to save her family’s struggling fruitcake company and finds a holiday romance along the way. Finally, in Christmas Lover’s Anonymous, a best-selling author hides her love for Christmas after an ugly breakup and finds love again when joining a website for people who are crazy about Christmas: “Christmas Lover’s Anonymous.”
On the romance front, our new titles released for MIPTV include 10 Steps to Love, where Sophie relies on her 10 Steps to Finding Love list in order to meet her true love. And in Wedding Cake Dreams, a cake designer, who as a girl dreamt about her future husband, goes to her sister’s wedding and discovers that the “man of her dreams” is the best man.
We finished 2020 with four new Christmas movies that premiered on Lifetime during the holidays. On the TV series side, we are focusing on dramas and YA content with already five new series in different stages of development and production, including one that will be released in 2021, the upcoming Netflix original series Dive Club.
WS: How have production protocols been modified amid the ongoing pandemic?
SHAPIRO: The whole production industry has had to adapt and change the way production is conducted. From PPE equipment to tests to quarantine, Covid has dictated a new way of working at every level. It is short of a miracle to produce any movie or series right now, and I applaud all the talent and content creators for all their hard work and capacity to adapt to this new normal.
WS: What are some opportunities on the horizon as you look ahead to the next year or two?
SHAPIRO: Content is king, and we see it staying that way for the foreseeable future.
Our first goal is to keep growing our movie offering, and as such, we’ll continue to expand our annual production and distribution slate with a total of 12 new movies that will be released in 2021 and up to 15 per year moving forward.
Our second goal is to grow our TV series co-production and distribution business, and we are already in active development and production on several TV projects, including the upcoming Netflix original series Dive Club, which follows a group of skilled teenage divers as they strive to uncover a mysterious disappearance that will change their small town and each other forever. Dive Club will be released in 2021.
And we just announced the new kids’ and family series Folktellers, in development with Peter Mohan (Hardy Boys) attached as showrunner and based on the book series Folktellers: The Excerpts from an Unknown Guidebook. The series tells the story of an unassuming teenager, Aaron Anderson, who has his world turned upside down as he learns that his destiny is to become a Folkteller—a guardian and wielder of those essential stories that comprise the hopes, fears and potential of humanity across all dimensions.
We will be announcing additional TV projects in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!