Posts Tagged ‘David McKillop’

Letter From The Train 09 15 15 Unsettling times…

September 16, 2015

As I start to write this, I am sitting in the café car [which has no service] on the 7:15 train out of New York Penn to Hudson. For the rest of the week, I’ll be upstate. On Thursday, I am driving down to Connecticut to visit with a friend/business colleague.

This morning, I had a lovely breakfast with my friend David McKillop, who had been EVP/GM of A+E. He has since left and they have set him up in a production deal. He splits his time between California and New York and this week he was in New York.

My admiration of David is tremendous. He has an interesting view on what is going on in media and we have great conversations about what’s going on. It’s always an intellectually stimulating conversation and he turned me on to some podcasts I will listen to as I am on my way to Connecticut.

It’s been an interesting few days. I have been a little out of sorts and I’m not sure why. Nothing bad is going on. I just feel a little cranky after many days of feeling quite wonderful. I’m hoping a few days upstate will restore my equanimity.

There is restlessness in the world. Europe is in the midst of an enormous refugee crisis. Even Germany, with its opening arms, has regulated its borders to try to maintain some order. Hungary has raised fences and barbed wire. The flood of people is overwhelming a system that is used to open borders. Their needs are tremendous. And the resources to address those needs are not tremendous.

Putin is placing tanks and troops in Syria to bolster up the Assad regime. They are placing tanks at the perimeters of an airport in Latakia. It looks like they are setting up a base there.

Syria grows more complicated by the moment. Half its population are refugees. These are not necessarily poor and uneducated people. They are often the middle classes that no longer feel safe. I listened to a report the other day on NPR; the Syrian refugee interviewed was a successful businessman. He had two homes but no longer felt it was safe for his daughter. They were fleeing so she might have a life that was not marred by barrel bombs.

It is an extraordinary situation; it has not been seen since the end of World War II.

In Egypt, the military killed eight Mexican tourists, mistaking them for a caravan of terrorists. They were on the way to camp in the western desert. There are, of course, conflicting reports on why this happened. President al-Sisi of Egypt has apologized. Another reason not to go see the pyramids this year.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has been toppled by his own party. The liberals in Australia, including my friend Lionel’s brother, are ecstatic.

There is a new Labour head in the UK who is very left leaning. He is not off to a good start. He seems to be alienating his own party and set some veterans off because he kept a “respectful silence” during the singing of “God Save the Queen.” He is a republican.

But they’re not rid of Queen Elizabeth II yet. He has also put in place a shadow government of a mostly boy’s club and that has been met with derision.

It’s dark now. I can no longer see the Hudson River; it is lost in the darkness. Lights gleam on the west side of the river. I’m tired and will wrap up now.

Letter From New York 04 22 15 From robotics to singing in the rain…

April 22, 2015

Last night, on a balmy New York spring night, I went at 5:00 to Junior’s Deli on 45th Street in the heart of New York’s theater district and met Cathy, my middle niece, her husband and their two daughters, Clare and Isabel, for a pre-theater dinner. They were off to see “Matilda” and I was off to see “It’s Only A Play.”

Cathy and Michael live in Portland and my brother is there watching after their two sons who had just accompanied he and his wife to Machu Picchu. I don’t get to see Cathy and her family very often so it was a cheery visit and then we went off to our respective performances.

Amazingly, after the performance, as I threaded my way through a hideously congested Times Square, I ran into them on the corner of 44th and Broadway. We laughed and hugged and then moved on.

I curled up in bed and started to read a Peter Wimsey mystery but soon feel asleep, Kindle in hand, only to wake later to turn out the lights.

This morning I had breakfast with David McKillop, who recently stepped down as GM of A&E and stepped into the role of Chief Creative Officer at a new production company called Propagate, which is being funded by A&E. He’s partnered with Howard Owens who used to run Nat Geo.

It was a glorious spring morning and we walked around Union Square for a while after breakfast, strolling past all the vendors that form the Union Square Farmer’s Market, then walked over to 7th Avenue where we parted. He off to a meeting and me to day of talks called “Imagination,” being held in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival.

The morning was devoted to robotics. While Elon Musk is terrified of intelligent machines, all these speakers were gung-ho enthusiasts of artificial intelligence and robots, as long as every one followed Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics.

It was fascinating. The demonstration of Watson, IBM’s Supercomputer, was impressive. The video they showed reminded me of “Star Trek.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, spoke in the afternoon about the technology advances they are making in serving ads and video content to their 250,000,000 users and that was impressive, too.

After the 3-D printing talk “Eating Your Way Into 3D Printing” I had to leave to go view a cut of a sizzle reel my friend Todd’s company is working on.

While I was involved in all these fun and rather joyful activities, the world ticked on.

Yesterday the Saudis said they’d stop bombing Yemen but this morning bombs were still falling there, with the country lurching toward a humanitarian crisis as supplies are floating out at sea because of the Saudi embargo.

When I was in India there was lots of news about a land development law that the Modi government is attempting to pass. It would ease the government’s ability to expropriate land belonging to farmers for other uses. It is hugely controversial and hotly debated and stridently opposed by the Congress Party, the opposition to Modi’s BJP.

Today there was a rally in Delhi protesting the bill. At it, an Indian farmer committed suicide, hanging himself from a tree. He left behind a suicide note saying the recent extraordinary rains and hailstorms had ruined him. Rahul Gandhi raced to the hospital and the PM, Modi, is said to be “shattered” by the incident but probably not so much that he will withdraw the law.

Britain, which is facing elections on May 7th, is working overtime to figure out what is going to happen if the Tories lose. If the Scots become the power brokers in the formation of a new government, there is a concern about the results. “Constitutional crisis” is on the lips of a few.

Thousands of Ethiopians have taken to the streets to march in protest against IS’s killing of thirty of their countrymen for being Christian.

Prime Minister Abe of Japan paid slight attention to Japan’s wartime responsibility in a speech in Jakarta, which raised the ire of Japan’s neighbors but not so much that Xi of China wouldn’t meet with Abe. The two had a thirty-minute meeting and stressed their determination to continue working on their relationship. It almost sounded like an estranged couple continuing their therapy sessions.

The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis would stop in Cuba while en route to the US for his visit here. Cuba will probably go mad for the Pontiff.

The bright spring morning turned to afternoon clouds and rain, which has now stopped though the grey continues. I am off to dinner tonight with my friends David and Annette Fox, celebrating my return from India with take out from Indus Valley, our favorite neighborhood Indian restaurant. Will be a good time.

Letter From New York, Feb 10, 2012

February 10, 2012

Or, as it seems to me….

Last week, at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC, gathered the glitterati of the non-fiction film business, if the folks who work in this world could be called “glitterati.” It’s mostly a hard working crowd, the folks who produce, program, schedule, develop the hundreds of hours that fill the schedules of any cable network that shows non-fiction programming. The event is called Real Screen.

Across the ballroom where the opening party was held, sponsored by A+E Networks, David McKillop, now SVP of Programming for A+E but who, until recently, was holding the same job for History Channel where he helped resurrect that channel from ratings doldrums with the like of Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men, not to mention Pawn Stars. Success there resulted in his moving to A+E, which had reached a ratings plateau. He is one of my favorite people in the business, a man who became a friend after helping resolve conflicts with a pilot I had worked on back in the days when he was with Discovery Channel.

I went to Real Screen without much of an agenda, not really being there to sell shows but to reconnect with people and work on distribution for Odyssey Networks. I spent Monday in the joyous process of seeing people, reconnecting, spending a few minutes with Steve Burns, who until recently ran programming at Nat Geo, who good naturedly was saying he was surprised anyone was talking to him since he didn’t have a budget anymore. But he needn’t worry; lack of budgets will not decrease his overall popularity; he is at heart a filmmaker and, as such, is well respected. He began his career in the cold and snow, shooting films for National Geographic.

When I first started going to Real Screen lo those many years ago, it was a clubby little world of a few hundred, most of whom knew each other unless they were neophytes to the business and looking for ways to “break in.” It’s different now, 2000 or more crowded the hotel. No one could get into the lobby without a pass; security was tight. In the old days, the lobby was full of folks who didn’t spring for registration but got the benefits of attendance by playing lounge lizards, taking up a bar stool and waiting for the world to come to them – and it did. No more. My friend Gail Gleeson and I had to meet across the street for a simple hello. Acadiana, a southern themed restaurant close by, found itself the recipient of extra business, I’m sure.

The cable business is in full bloom. The panels underscored the health of the present by focusing exclusively on that with no forward facing discussions about digital and its impact. The present is too rich, too full right now to worry much about a pending future even though that future is out there and coming on full steam.

That the present is full and rich and seen as getting richer was evidenced by the number of agents who attended. They were there from all major players; twenty-five from CAA alone! They gave extravagant parties, courting the cable players as they would court Hollywood. Let the good times roll.

Many of the young “Turks” making digital video successful would fall into the non-fiction category but there seemed no room in the tent of Real Screen for them – or at least not much room. Hence, the very nascent International Academy of Web Television that had its first awards show at the CES. Prediction: it or someone very like it will soon begin to have a conference like this but focused solely on those who are doing web TV, of which there are many and it’s a number that is growing.

Personally, it was rich, professionally helpful but ultimately, because I am now more of a new media person than an old media person, left me wanting something more, some workshops about the differences between producing for the web and for television – or are there any? But that’s not where Real Screen is now and may be never will be but that doesn’t change that the future is changing and we’re living in a more multi-platform world than ever before.