When choosing which projects to produce, Susan Levison, WWE senior VP and head of WWE Studios, thinks about it from a selling and buying standpoint.
“We have to be aggressive and constantly talking to the marketplace and pushing our projects forward in that seller mode,” Levison explained. “But we also want to be really thoughtful about the content we pursue and bring a buyer’s discernment to what we develop and produce. Being on both sides of the table has been really helpful in my career and at WWE.”
Prior to joining the pro wrestling promotion’s production arm in 2019, Levison bought content while working at VH1 and sold content during her tenure at CBS Television Studios.
“We have sold multiple projects in the last year, from animation to light action comedies to documentaries, and we could not have done any of that without Susan’s guidance and oversight,” Richard Lowell, VP of development and production at WWE Studios, said. “As sellers, a lot of preparation goes into a project before we take it out to market. With Susan’s experience from both the buying and selling side, I’ll work hand in hand with her taking her lead on the details to make sure we have the best chance of success in that.”
At WWE Studios for just over two years, Levison developed a variety of projects across genres in original scripted and non-scripted formats for global distribution. Highlights include the multi-camera comedy series The Big Show Show, starring WWE superstar The Big Show, and a live-action film titled The Main Event, about an 11-year-old who enters a competition to become the next WWE Superstar. Both the series and film can be found on Netflix.
Netflix “is really excited to be in business with us because they know the extent and the power of our reach,” Levison said. “We have over a billion social media followers across all platforms and are the fourth-largest YouTube channel with over 75 million subscribers.
So, they want to harness the power of the WWE and put our content where viewers can find it.”
By creating shows and movies that appeal to not only core in-ring fans, but also audiences unfamiliar with the pro wrestling brand, WWE Studio content can be found on various networks and streaming service platforms including Netflix, E! and most recently A&E.
Last spring, WWE Studios partnered with the network to launch Most Wanted Treasures starring Stephanie McMahon and Paul “Triple H” Levesque, and Biography: WWE Legends, eight original two-hour documentaries about WWE stars.
Levison’s path to the entertainment industry wasn’t traditional.
After graduating from California’s Pomona College, she received a master’s degree in English at Boston University with a plan to get a doctorate in poetry. But after quickly realizing that academia didn’t suit her, Levison pursued a career in the television business.
“I had absolutely no idea how to go about it,” she said. “So I went down to the Barnes & Noble and I bought a book on internships.”
Learning on the Agency Side
Levison eventually moved to Los Angeles to intern for film producer Michael Phillips. That was followed by assistant work at CAA.
“I always tell kids who want to get into the entertainment industry to work at an agency, because you’re essentially being paid to go to grad school,” Levison said. “You learn how to be an assistant. You learn how to look at material. You learn how to talk to people. It taught me everything.”
Levison was overseeing upcoming WWE Studio projects that include a multipart documentary chronicling the life of
WWE’s chairman and CEO, Vince McMahon, for Netflix. In addition, the production company in conjunction with Paramount will release the animated feature film Rumble in February 2022.
“One of the best parts of my job is that we get to develop projects across all genres of storytelling,” Levison said. “And we aren’t confined to a specific tone. That said, our brand is very much aligned with the idea of putting smiles on people’s faces all around the world. So, we do tend to gravitate towards projects that are inclusive, fun, and really entertain people at a time when people need it so much.”
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