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Reel 360: On the Backlot with filmmaker Dana Richie

Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2020 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Get ready, they are making “Herstory”

Dana Richie doesn’t just tell stories—she brings them to life… This Reel Woman is continuously finding innovative, boundary-breaking ways to do it. From documentaries to scripted series, to original branded content and beyond, Dana combines her visionary approach with her ability to cut straight to the beating heart of a story—whatever that may be—to create something entirely new, authentic, and ahead of the curve.

An award-winning filmmaker and producer, Dana honed her craft at the era’s most iconic news and entertainment networks, including CNN, ABC News 20/20, and Viacom/ VH1.

Dana carried those skills with her into the entertainment world. She joined Viacom/ VH1 and helped launch flagship programming such as I Love the 80s, I Love the 90s, Best Week Ever, and Where are They Now — while simultaneously working on Behind the Music, the network’s groundbreaking and critically-acclaimed documentary series.

Dana was also VH1’s Red Carpet correspondent, covering the Oscars, the Grammys, and other major award shows. She interviewed the biggest names in film and music as well, going on the set for movie and music video shoots, and creating highlight packages that engaged fans.

Her diverse background molded Dana into what she is today: a storytelling expert with a savvy for captivating, easy-to-consume media.

Dana’s company Backlot Productions is the product of that expertise as well as her intuitive understanding of content and where it is heading.

When Dana started Backlot Productions in 2002 it was a side project. Having been in the business of creating digestible content and programming for so many years, Dana was able to foresee the untapped potential in that category for brands.

What she didn’t foresee was how rapidly her client base would grow through referrals, networking and word-of-mouth.

Landmark brands like SONY, Smartwater, Hennessy, L’Oréal, General Motors, Jeep, Refinery29, Yahoo!, Humana, Hulu and Hard Rock Café have sought out Backlot not just to shape their stories—but to do so in ever-more innovative, relevant and resonant ways.

A fully-integrated content agency, today Backlot spans entertainment marketing, branded content, reality shows and scripted sitcoms. Taking a 360-approach to content creation, every project is both authentic and results-driven— tailored to the client’s unique voice, demographics, and goals.

Not too shabby for someone who was mentored by Barbara Walters.

Currently, Backlot is at work on Music First, a scripted sitcom she created that is particularly personal for Dana. Inspired by her experience as a VH1 producer and correspondent, the show centers around a music network newsroom in the early 2000s. Also in production is Bionic Boss— that a docu-series that takes viewers inside a very different kind of workplace: a company that makes prosthetics for amputees.

Dana stays centered with yoga and meditation, and throughout her nearly-three decades in the industry, she’s developed a mantra of her own: “Keep Going.” Those two words have guided her success as a journalist, filmmaker, and entrepreneur— and they continue to drive her forward as she, and her company, and media as a whole, continue to evolve.

Let’s meet Dana.

What Did You Originally Want to be When You Grow Up? I knew early on that I wanted to be in the entertainment industry so I’m living my dream! 🙂

How Did You Get into Entertainment/Media? While at college in Texas, I got an internship at CNN Atlanta and ended up with a full-time job there upon graduation.  After two years at CNN, I got a job at ABC News 20/20 where I developed my interviewing skills for being a future documentary filmmaker and content creator.

Who Were Your Mentors? Barbara Walters was one of my personal role models and mentor when I worked at 20/20.  I watched her style, etiquette and techniques as I worked on her stories. I had the opportunity to learn from the best.  No one interviews like Barbara and I was so lucky to get an on-set education with her, even as a junior member of the team.  It helped me grow as a creative; deeply influenced my own interview style, and compassion

Name Your Biggest Achievement My documentary Gateway, sponsored by Choices Matter, that debuted in October 2019 on the opioid epidemic that’s currently on the film festival circuit.

Biggest Disappointment Early in my career, an investor partnered with my production company Backlot, which I’ve led for over a decade.  The partnership didn’t work out. Though we remain friendly I learned great lessons about perseverance and fortitude, never give up and believe in yourself against all odds – it works!

Name Your Biggest Pet Peeves Inconsistency, lack of integrity, no follow through.

Predictions for Entertainment/Media over the Next Decade Brands will become their own studios driving customized content to engage fans.

Name a Job You Had that Would Surprise People I worked in my local Houston, Texas bagel shop.  It lasted one day!

Who Plays You in Your Life Story? Carrie Bradshaw.

What do You Wish You had More Time for? Relax.

Do You Talk to Yourself? Positive self-talk is crucial for success.

What Inspires You to be Creative? Romeo, my beloved 13 year old Beagle/Chihuahua mix.

On the Backlot with filmmaker Dana Richie

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