Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Meet Rich Bye - Executive Producer of Project Runway

Have you ever wondered who was really responsible for the decision-making on Project Runway? I have. Whenever I asked any of the designers who REALLY was in charge, the answer I always heard was "Rich Bye." So, I knew I wanted to know more about him and I thought that you, dear BPRs would too. Here is the first part of the BPR interview with the Emmy-winning producer:

BPR: Rich, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Our readers are the world's biggest Project Runway fans and it is a real treat to hear from the producer of our favorite show.

Will there be a season four of Project Runway?

RB: Yes, there will be a season four of Runway and we’re all very excited to get back into it.

BPR: Have the auditions been scheduled?

RB: They haven’t been scheduled yet. I’m guessing they’ll take place sometime between the middle of March (at the earliest) and the end of May (at the latest). We’re still in the midst of figuring out the production schedule for the next season. There are a lot of moving pieces… Once they’re figured out, it will all fall into place.

BPR: What will you be looking for in the contestants?

RB: There are a number of different qualities that we look for which makes casting runway a challenge. First, the designer has to have a number of prerequisite skills to even be considered, ie: construction skills, a certain level of experience and maturation of his/her design aesthetic, a real portfolio that should include current work as well as examples of recently designed looks.

If the designer is studying design, a recent graduate of a design school, or employed in the industry it’s important that we see work they’ve produced outside of those realms. We really need to see what their own point of view is as a fashion designer independent of how they’ve interpreted a class assignment or developed something under someone else’s umbrella. We’re looking for fresh creative vision - Tim and the industry professionals that help us cast want to get excited!

We want to pick designers that we know have a good shot at succeeding. The show is really about rewarding the creative process and if we don’t feel that a designer can meaningfully engage it and be successful we have to pass.

From my standpoint, passion, sincerity, and confidence are critical factors. We’ve seen more than a few talented designers come into the room with zero confidence and a striking inability to get excited about their own work. Tim and I are often baffled by this. This is your one opportunity to make an impression. Express some confidence! Don’t be afraid! Be passionate for God’s sake!

I’d also say that we’re looking for designers who have a fresh and compelling point of view about the world. How they choose to express themselves through their life choices, opinions, and personal style is important and taken into consideration.

BPR: Will you be at every audition in every city?

RB: Yes. I have been since the first season.

BPR: Who invents the challenges?

RB: It’s a huge collective effort. There are a number of different (and important) parties involved in producing the show. We all submit ideas during pre-production and end up with a massive list of potential challenges. Me, Dan Cutforth, and Jane Lipsitz narrow it down to a short-list and have weekly conference calls with all of the parties to pare it down until it’s finalized. It’s a pretty opinionated group so there’s a fair amount of compromise and we usually don’t finalize it until late in the game which puts me in a bind in terms of locking the schedule but we always seem to “make it work”.

The first challenge of the first season was supposed to take place in a drug store but at the last minute the store dropped out so we scrambled and found the grocery store which ended up working out for the best – talk about happy accidents. On the “recycling challenge” in season 3 I signed the location agreement with Waste Management as the vans filled with designers were pulling up which was cutting it a bit close for me. Also, for the “dogs” challenge in season 3, the location we were originally going to use in Central Park for Tim to surprise the contestants went away the night before we were supposed to shoot it. Lightning struck an old tree in the meadow we were going to use and the whole area was cordoned off with yellow police tape. Luckily, Park Services was kind enough to offer three alternates the morning of the shoot and we survived.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two of BPR's interview with Rich Bye. We ask how he became the Executive Producer of Project Runway, what his favorite season is, his favorite challenges and his favorite episodes.