The Five Spot: Casey Patterson

Casey Patterson is executive producer of the 25th anniversary MTV Movie Awards on April 10, a fitting task for the network that sparked her interest in TV. “I was very much the MTV generation that would go home after school, watch MTV and feel via the VJs that the network belonged to me,” Patterson says. “I knew that I wanted to be a part of that brand.” Patterson had a 20-year run at Viacom, getting her start as a talent booker for VH1. She went on to launch her own production company, Casey Patterson Entertainment, and executive produce Spike TV’s Lip Sync Battle. Patterson aims to speak to the Movie Awards audience on their terms—the nominees were announced through Snapchat—as part of a bid to shore up ratings, which slipped from 2.84 million viewers in 2014 to 1.55 million last year. An edited version of her conversation with B&C contributing editor Luke McCord follows.

Was working on live TV and specials something you always wanted to do?

I think I caught the live bug watching Motown 25.…Seeing Stevie Wonder on that show and seeing Michael Jackson moonwalk was the thing that everybody was talking about. That’s what’s irresistible about big, live-event production to me. You’re having a collective experience. It’s very powerful in that way.

Why do you think Lip Sync Battle has transitioned successfully from a late-night segment?

Because it’s in the spirit of our partners. Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Merchant and John Krasinski all have shared comedic DNA and a lot of credibility on that front. The talent that joins up to do the show really trusts their comedic sensibilities, so they’re comfortable committing and making themselves vulnerable and having a blast.

What has been your favorite Lip Sync Battle performance?

I’d have to say I really appreciated that Dwayne [“The Rock”] Johnson flew into New York in a snowstorm to battle Jimmy [Fallon]. He was the first to sign up. When he got on the plane, he sent out an Instagram video taunting Jimmy that he was on his way to kick his ass. He was deeply competitive. He wouldn’t let Jimmy know anything about what he was doing. You saw the professional wrestler come out in him. He really helped us, with Jimmy of course, set the tone for how to interact with the show.

What can viewers expect from this year’s MTV Movie Awards that might be different?

We’ve taken the show outside for the first time in more of a festival environment. We’ve taken over the entire back lot at Warner Bros., which we’re using as our stage. We’re map-projecting on all of the buildings, so the environment can change whenever we’re in a theatrical moment for a movie. We’re celebrating where movies are made, so it gives us lots of opportunity to use film vignettes. We can do interiors. We can do stunts off the top of buildings. We can do big pyro and fireworks. We’re liberated by the idea that we don’t have a proscenium this year.

What is the key to attracting a young audience to watch an event like this?

MTV has a deep connection to its fans. The [network] talks to them via social and via every show and all the talent involved every day. The celebrity culture has never been richer. [The fans] are in direct conversation with all the talent. The Rock, for instance, is incredible with his fans. He shows them every movie location. They know his dog’s name. He is talking directly to them all day long. All the talent is bringing those incredible fan bases with them.