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Producer Perspective: John Burrud

CableU is proud to present prolific and acclaimed producer John Burrud, President of Burrud Productions. John got his first real taste of the world of filmmaking at age 14. John accompanied his father, Bill Burrud, on a walking safari in Africa for an episode of the company's famed Animal World series. John was hooked. He worked and studied gradually developing multiple skills as a cameraman, writer, director, and producer. You may currently watch John's production Women Behind Bars on WE tv. For a full length bio and complete list of credits click here.

CU: Where do you find inspiration for a new show idea?

JB: Most of our ideas come from current events, things seen on the news, the Internet, in articles, etc. Sometimes they just come from my crazy imagination or that of one of my equally crazy associates.

CU: What research do you do before going into a pitching session?

JB: With a new network, often research isn’t enough, and sometimes you have to actually produce an ultra-cool demo or brochure just to get their attention. On the other hand with clients that I have had a long relationship with and have produced many successful shows for, I can simply send a title and short paragraph to gauge their interest. If they like it, I’ll then follow up with in-depth research when creating a proposal or demo. Lastly, don’t always go for the networks “type”. They’ll tell you to closely watch their network and see what’s working. Many of our most successful shows have been “counter to type” programming. Who would have thought Women Behind Bars would work for the “wedding” network, WE. They still have lots of wedding shows, but I think to some degree we’ve changed their programming a bit. Be ahead of the curve not behind it!

CU: What advice do you have for upstart producers trying to get their foot in the door?

JB: Make sure you wear steel tipped shoes. It’s tough, and don’t fall too much in love with your idea. Be adaptive and always be prepared to take your concept in a new direction. In fact, when your pitches aren’t working ask what they’re looking for. Once they’ve told you, tell them you have just the idea to fit the bill and you’ll send it when you get back to your office. Then work like hell to develop it!

CU: What show do you wish you had produced and why?

JB: Well I’ve pitched many shows which have been rejected and then shown up on the network … so I wish that I had produced all of those. All kidding aside, I try not to ever look back and say “I wish I could have produced that show, I would have done such a better job”. I try my best to focus only on the next great idea.

CU: What types of shows do you think are most in demand now?

JB: Happily prison shows are still really big. We’re in our third season of Women Behind Bars, and our fifth 2 hour special of Women On Death Row. Character-driven reality shows also work well.  We’ve got several in development, but I must be honest … it’s hard to find that character with the perfect chemistry

CU: What types of programs do you wish were in demand now?  (or think should be)

JB: I’d love for real family oriented programming to make a comeback, but it seems that today’s shows have to feature the dysfunctional family rife with problems that they must work out while yelling and screaming.

CU: What types of projects interest you most and why?

JB: I’ve always been attracted to real human interest stories. I love Women Behind Bars because you learn exactly what makes these women tick. You see these women through the eyes of their victims and the victims’ families; you hear their accusers and their defenders speak out. It’s a total perspective on the human condition.

CU: How important do you think it is for your show idea to have an online component?

JB: It’s extremely beneficial for promoting the show and creating buzz. Most of our contracts include additional online content that is not seen in the final show. This creates “exclusivity” for the online content and drives viewers to the website.

CU: Where does most of your budget funding come from, if not from the network?

JB: Most of our productions are co-pros (you don’t cover the budget, but you control foreign distribution, home video, and ultimate ownership of your show) and we have a budget deficit of about 60%. If you have bundles of money lying around that’s great, but here at Burrud, we seek out a beneficial relationship with a likeminded distributor who’s willing to become more of a true partner than the typical “advance/guarantee” distribution arrangement. CABLEready has filled that bill perfectly for us!

CU: How often do you attend industry conferences and festivals, and which are most important for your business?

JB: I try to make the big ones, but another advantage to the aforementioned CABLEready arrangement is that I have people I truly trust representing my interests at all of the major conferences and festivals. If they need me, I’ll be there!