Thursday, January 18, 2007

Meet Rich Bye - Part Two

What is your exact title at Magical Elves and please describe the path that brought you there. It would be great to know what other shows you have worked on.

RB: I guess it would be “Executive Producer”. I’ll be executive producing a handful of shows for the Magical Elves in 2007, including Project Runway. I studied Political Science and English at the University of Delaware and graduated with a desire to make documentary films that addressed political and social issues.

I started as an intern at MTV News and Specials in 1992 which was an election year. They were in the midst of “Choose or Lose” and producing a number of long-form documentaries in the political/social arena so it was a good fit. I worked my way up through their system and left in 1996 to work with RJ Cutler (“The War Room”, “A Perfect Candidate”) producing/directing documentary shorts for his first tv program, “Edgewise” with John Hockenberry on MSNBC.

I ended up working with him for nearly 6 years on a number of projects, including:

“The Residents” (13 hour doc series on surgical residents at the UCLA Medical Center for TLC)

“The Real Rosanne” (Rosanne Barr’s ill fated reality comeback for ABC)

“American High” (13 part doc series that followed the lives of 14 high school seniors in Highland Park, Illinois for Fox and later PBS) - I won an Emmy Award in 2000 for my work as a producer on this series.

I had done a pilot with Jane Lipsitz in 1995 (she and Dan Cutforth own/run the Magical Elves) when she was in charge of development at VH1 and we enjoyed working together and found that our sensibilities were in synch. Flash forward 8 years and Jane and I had both moved from New York to Los Angeles. I was finishing an overall deal with RJ’s company (Actual Reality Pictures) and it happened to be at the same time that Dan and Jane were handed the first season of Runway. They were one of the first people I met with and I jumped onboard.

Oh, I did the second season of “Growing up Gotti” for A&E between seasons 1 and 2 of Runway.

What was your favorite season of Project Runway and why?

RB: I don’t know that I have one but I’m most sentimentally attached to the first. It was such an enormous amount of work, everyone was putting in between 15 – 20 hours a day during the shoot… It was absolute madness. We fed off of the creative energy of the designers so much and in that sense it really felt like we were all producing the show together.

I remember interviewing Kara Saun late in the production schedule. We had no resources so I was shooting, monitoring sound, and conducting the interview at the same time. It was close to midnight and I was so exhausted I fell asleep as she was answering one of my questions. She woke me up, we both laughed about it and we finished the interview. There was a camaraderie and trust we had with the designers that was very special. They were jumping off the cliff every time they received a new challenge and so were we! We didn’t know what was going to happen or how we would handle it. It wasn’t spoken, but what we both shared was an abiding trust in the creative process… Trusting it enough to know that you discover things along the way that make the final product better than anything you could have pre-conceived. That’s not to say we don’t have a plan, we do. We create a basic framework for the designers but strive as much as possible to give them freedom to play within it. We really try to be fluid in how we produce the series to keep it from being too rigid and formulaic.

For me, season two was the easiest to produce. I love so many of those designers and had a lot of fun. Season three was difficult because of the incredibly tight schedule on both the production and post-production side but the level of talent was probably the highest and I felt the challenges were some of the strongest we’ve had. Plus, it found a wide audience which we’re all thrilled about.

But what I’m most happy about is to hear how so many of the designers from each of the seasons have gone off to do such great things.

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