Disney’s Dana Walden On Growing Opportunities For Smaller Production Companies, Leaning Into Failure & Fostering Diversity – Deadline


Dana Walden has seen a lot of major changes during her tenure in the entertainment industry and she doesn’t see things slowing down anytime soon.

Walt Disney Television’s chief of entertainment spoke about new opportunities for smaller production companies and diverse young voices over the next ten years in a wide-ranging interview at the Harvard Women’s in College Business Conference.

She also discussed how Covid has affected the TV business and Walt Disney TV operation and talked about the importance of gut feeling in a data-driven world. She also revealed how she caught the attention of Peter Chernin 25 years ago.

Walden said it was “hard to imagine” what the industry would look like in ten years because “change is happening so quickly.” “Our business is now going through a period of a little shrinkage. We are seeing bigger companies growing and acquiring different smaller companies and trying to understand“ how can Netflix control all the shows that it distributes on its platform ”, which leads to a little disadvantage for the production companies that want to Whether it’s Disney or Amazon or Warner Brothers with HBO and AT&T already and Comcast, you see all these big companies trying to figure out how to control as much of their content as possible. “

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“Once the downturn reaches a certain point and when we get out of Covid and a lot of opportunities are opened up again, there will be more opportunities for smaller production companies over time as the artists will want to be with a smaller company to nurture their ideas and find out exactly what is right. This will lead to all. Other kinds of opportunities. If you watch great content, you will be really happy, because the next 10 years will bring more artists, storytellers and great consumer products to your viewers. We will see ten great years of growth and opportunity. “

One of the main opportunities, she said, was a more diverse list of shows, including Disney series Dave, Rami And the Atlanta Plus Michaela Coel’s HBO series May destroy you. She said there are a lot of “new voices on the scene” and that this trend of budding storytellers will only continue with the proliferation of platforms. For example, she said, programs on the Freeform Youth Distortion Network, should be narrated by young storytellers, who are more in tune with their audience. She said, “We are at an extraordinary moment in the field of content and this is because of the diversity of stories.”

She added that she is proud of the way Disney has done in making her organization “look like” the audience we serve “and that starts with appointing CEOs of color and women.” We have welcomed business leaders, incredible innovators, CEOs of color and decision makers at the highest level. ” This is where we must start if we want meaningful change, “adding that these executives are” magnets “for the best talent for creating diverse” effortless “content.

On Covid, Walden said it had been an “unimaginably difficult” year as Disney General Entertainment closed about 150 shows but praised shows like Public Hospital And the And bachelorette For being a “pioneer” in terms of returning to production and was proud that the Covid transmission rate in its production was less than 1%, especially given the sharp rise in Los Angeles over the past few months

On a broader level, Walden said the common denominator for all of his performances, be it Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Simpsons or 24, The initial idea “frightens her”.

“Over time, I learned that when I feel this fear and my heart beating again, I lean on that. I leaned on the thoughts that make you fear,” she said. “In the world of live broadcasting, we talk a lot about algorithms and data, but I still don’t think there is anything that can replace a great CEO’s ability to hear an idea and say ‘This is the right choice’ and ‘This isn’t the right choice.’

When asked what motivated young people wanting to make their voices heard in business, she repeated a story about how she moved from Fox’s advertising department to a creative role. She said that during a company retreat in 1995, she decided to impress Peter Chernin, whom she met several times but always said, “It is an honor to meet you”.

“I thought I was not making the right impression. I’m going to pick my shot, and be very forthright and very forthright in what I think of our business. I’ll say something that means something to him. When it came time to give a short presentation, I was so honest that our studio wasn’t holding the right kinds of Deals, and he wasn’t working with storytellers to make presentations. I put together a strategy for how to be more meaningful with creators. I knew something good had happened because I was sitting next to him at dinner that night. The result of that dinner was a chance to get out of the hype and after some pass. Time with Peter, I had the opportunity to move to the creative zone. “



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