Stacey Snider has run major movie studios and a very well-heeled independent production company over her long career in Hollywood. Now for the first time, she’s working for herself as a partner with Elisabeth Murdoch and producer Jane Featherstone in Sister.
The executive, who has steered Universal Pictures, DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox is now attempting to build a new kind of production entity that is guided by the mantra “curate excellence.” On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Snider details the steps that led her to team with Murdoch and Featherstone, and she outlines the company’s focus on film and TV production as well as investments in other digital media companies.
Sister has the luxury of resources to finance its own development, Snider says, and it is endowed with leaders who have strong track records and deep relationships.
“We’re fiercely independent. We believe that independence is an asset to the creator,” Snider says. “They’re paid to incubate and develop material. When it’s ready and only when it’s ready, we can go find a home that really understands their show.”
Sister has offices in Los Angeles, London and Manchester, a footprint that speaks volumes about the global nature of content these days. Having the U.K. roots give the operation business advantages on the copyright front, and it makes Sister a company with a truly international perspective on entertainment. It also keeps the top leaders working efficiently in a Zoom world.
“When they are sleeping, we’re working (in L.A), and when we’re sleeping, they’re working,” she says. As the trio got to know one another before formally launching Sister in the fall of 2019, Snider felt she truly had found kindred spirits.
“What became clear was that our passions synched up and our values and our ethos,” Snider says. “We saw the world in the same way.” Murdoch is the primary investor. Featherstone, a veteran U.K. producer whose recent TV projects include “Chernobyl” and “Gangs of London,” has a keen instinct for nurturing writers and producers “who have something to say.”
Sister has a broad slate of TV series and movies in various stages development. One of the company’s selling points to creatives is that Sister can give writers and producers the time to work with material and decide the best format for a given project. Snider said she’s been thinking a lot about the future of movies and the recent debate over what defines a movie these days.
“There are stories that have a beginning, middle and end and should be told in roughy two hours, and there are stories that require a more leisurely or a more immersive time frame,” she said. “I’m not a snob about what a movie is.”
Although traditional rigid definitions of film and TV have been blurring for some time, Snider stresses that it’s important for creators have a strong sense of what kind of entertainment experience they’re delivering and why.
“Our whole team asks ourselves, ‘Are we padding this to make three or four episodes and really the story should just grab you by the throat, entertain the shit out of you for two hours and exit stage left?” she says. “Or is this story something you want to spend six to eight hours unpacking?”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
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