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NAB Show: Breaking Down Barriers for Aspiring Filmmakers

"Engaging Emerging Creators" panel at NAB Show 2022
(From left): Kevin Sullivan, head of growth for Ideas United; filmmaker Elle Gravitte; and Abe Mohammadione, VP of experience for Ideas United; during an NAB Show panel. (Image credit: © 2022 NAB)

LAS VEGAS — The NAB Show panel “Engaging Emerging Creators to Tell Authentic Stories” looked at how inviting aspiring filmmakers to share their projects can result in truly impactful films. Abe Mohammadione, VP of experience at Ideas United, spoke about the company partnering with Apple, among others, to help college students produce films. Before the age of YouTube, Mohammadione said the ability for a college student to bring their project to film was “very limited.” 

Ideas United’s Campus Movie Fest, which goes back some 20 years, shared editing software and know-how with students, resulting in more than 27,000 short films. Suddenly there was “no boundary or barrier” for what was in their minds, said Mohammadione. 

Filmmaker Ellie Gravitte spoke of entering a contest to pitch a promo to ABC Entertainment for one of three ABC series. Making the final round of the ABC Women’s Production Program, she flew to Burbank and pitched her idea for a spot for A Million Little Things. She won and got to direct the commercial. 

“It was an absolutely incredible experience,” Gravitte said. “They had handed complete creative control over to me.”

Kevin Sullivan, head of growth at Ideas United, hosted the panel. Based in Atlanta, Ideas United is a creative studio working with what it calls a “global community.”

Gravitte said she looks for transparency and good communication with production partners, who ideally offer “completely open communication about what the scope of a project is going to look like” and their vision for it. 

She added that she felt thoroughly supported when working with Ideas United. “I have felt really, really safe asking stupid questions of you guys,” she said, “which is crucial.”

Mohammadione gave another example of Ideas United seeking out voices who may have otherwise never been heard. DC Comics had a streaming platform, DC Universe, and fans were asked about the kind of shows they want to watch on the platform. The initiative elicited 2,000 ideas. The top 10 entrants got a trip to Burbank, met the DC Comics team and shared their concepts. Three ideas were greenlit to go to pilot, and two got a limited-run order. 

Alas, the DC streaming platform “dissolved,” Mohammadione said, and the shows have not been produced.

Pairing up aspiring filmmakers with more seasoned ones results in better films, the panelists said. Feedback from a partner from a different background can also prove helpful. “Being open to the answers you’re going to get is so crucial,” said Gravitte, who added that she “felt so safe and supported in pitching my ideas.”

Mohammadione discussed an Ideas United project with Starbucks to celebrate National Coffee Day, which depicted genuine moments of love and joy over a coffee and under the roof of a Starbucks. “Everything you see actually happened,” he said. “Being open to the evolution of a concept is really key to the entire thing.” ■

© 2022 NAB

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.