Realscreen January/February 2019

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061 SPOTLIGHT This past September, Fly on the Wall was behind the YouTube Original special event Will Smith: The Jump, in which the actor live-streamed a bungee jump out of a helicopter near the Grand Canyon to mark his 50th birthday, and for charity. Will Smith: The Jump generated over 17.5 million views within the first 48 hours of the video going live. YouTube Originals wants to create innovative content unique to its platform while teaming with established partners such as Fly on the Wall who have years of experience in the live genre. Ben Relles, head of unscripted programming for YouTube Originals, worked with the indie on the Katy Perry and Will Smith events. He describes Fly on the Wall as "exceptional collaborators" who were open to feedback over the course of producing those two projects. "They have truly made an effort to understand interactivity on YouTube and how to leverage some of the tools [within the platform]," says Relles. "For example, on both the Katy Perry and Will Smith specials, viewers could choose their camera angles in real time, and Fly on the Wall's experience with Big Brother was a huge asset there." But even with years of experience in the live space, Grodner says the genre brings its own challenges. While shooting The Jump, for example, the team had to figure out how to stream live from a location with no production infrastructure or even WiFi capability. Thunder and lightning storms leading up to the actual jump jeopardized the project up to the very last minute. Looking forward, Fly on the Wall is working with SpringHill Entertainment, the shingle established by basketball legend and executive producer LeBron James and producing partner Maverick Carter; in association with Warner Horizon Unscripted & Alternative Television, on another reality competition series for CBS, Million Dollar Mile. Hosted by former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, the 10-part series will head to major U.S. cities where everyday athletes will have the chance to compete to win US$1 million every time they run the Million Dollar Mile. The key challenge of the course is that it also features elite athletes whose only goal is to prevent the contestants from winning the money. Describing the format as a "massive undertaking," the production challenges on the upcoming project include shooting mammoth obstacle courses in downtown Los Angeles at night. During their first night of filming, the team was once again faced with weather issues, as condensation made the obstacles slippery. "We had to move quickly to resurface everything in order to still stay on budget and schedule," says Grodner. Meehan says this type of project is unlike anything they've done up to this point and he's hopeful the competition-meets-game show will stand out. But even with having the star power of a heavyweight such as James behind the project, Meehan says it's still a battle to attract substantial audiences in an era of fragmented media. "That's the big challenge: how do you launch a show and get a second cycle?" Meehan asks. Ultimately, a show can only be as good as the team behind it, and both partners say that working as trusted and trusting collaborators is essential for giving a project its best shot. And when it comes to managing a diverse slate, this synchronicity allows them to "divide and conquer." Fly on the Wall has a small group of approximately 12 full-time staff based out of their Los Angeles headquarters. However, depending on the productions on the slate, throughout the year they bring on approximately 500 freelancers on a number of projects. In 2018 alone, the prodco partnered with 12 networks and produced more than 500 hours. YouTube's Relles says he senses that from a production teamwork standpoint, Fly on the Wall has a solid, dependable core working on the projects. "They're very collaborative and truly understand how to work together." We pride ourselves on being able to work for all different sizes of networks and streaming services, and all different levels of shows creatively and from a budgetary standpoint." Fly on the Wall's diverse slate incorporates a range of content, from live streaming events to home reno programming such as HGTV's Flip or Flop Atlanta.

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