10 Things We Learned From Bill Hader, Judd Apatow, Samira Wiley and More at Variety’s TV Summit

Brooke Karzen, Ty Pennington and Lisa VanderpumpTune In! Variety's TV Summit, Panel, Los Angeles, USA - 13 Jun 2018
Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Variety’s Tune In! TV Summit brought together network presidents, CMOs, talent, showrunners, producers and more to discuss the future of TV content and the fast-evolving media landscape. Speakers at the daylong conference, held Wednesday at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, included such boldface names Judd Apatow, Mark Burnett, Bill Hader, Norman Lear, “Handmaid’s Tale” trouper Samira Wiley, “Big Brother” host Julie Chen, “Vanderpump Rules” star Lisa Vanderpump, “Trading Spaces” co-star Ty Pennington, and “Looming Tower’s” Bill Camp.

Here are 10 takeaways from the summit:

Samira Wiley on Representing Gay Black Women in “The Handmaid’s Tale” 

Wiley, who plays Moira, best friend to Elisabeth Moss’ Offred on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” spoke about modernizing Margaret Atwood’s novel during a panel examining Hulu’s casting of that show and others. Bill Camp of 9/11 drama series “The Looming Tower” was also on hand. Wiley said she was drawn to the role of Moira because “I feel like I’m definitely attracted to very strong women, and Moira is definitely that, she’s such a badass. In the book that it’s based on, it is a very white world, and I was interested in the fact that the creators of this show were interested in me.”

Although when she admitted she didn’t know what the Emmy-winning show would become, she felt the role was personally significant as “there’s something so powerful about being able to play a black gay woman as a black gay woman for people in the LGBT community to look up to, and all of those things just seemed like the right cocktail.”

Mara Brock Akil Reveals The Mission of “Love Is __” Is to Show Real Black Couples

Akil, the creator, showrunner and executive producer behind OWN’s new show “Love Is __,” offered a look at the inspiration behind the series, which follows the love story of a black Hollywood couple inspired by her life with husband, filmmaker Salim Akil. “I don’t think we’ve really seen the humanity of black love,” she said during the show’s panel. “There are moments, don’t get me wrong, but I think we have a lot more work to do when it comes to our storytelling and our humanity and the direction of this is almost like an independent film or a foreign film. We still don’t know black people, we still don’t really know who we are, our humanity, our vulnerabilities, and I’m still trying to paint that out, I’m still trying to get to that truth.”

Transitioning Successful TV Programs Into Digital Content

Paula Kaplan, executive VP of talent and development for Viacom Digital Studios, advised on creating “snackable” short-form content with the rise of digital platforms, some of which has come from shows that have already been a hit for the company.

“The ‘Cribs’ franchise, which was obviously a big franchise, what MTV has done, has evolved that for Snapchat, we have a great partnership with Snapchat,” Kaplan said. “We just had one season of ‘Cribs’ on Snapchat and we’re going to do another one as well as, we’ve taken that notion of ‘Cribs’ and partnered with Snookie from ‘Jersey Shore,’  and we’re going to be doing a cooking show with her for YouTube. So it’s a great opportunity to take an existing franchise and try to figure out how to do digital and ultimately potentially go back to the other side as well.”

Conde Nast Entertainment President Talks Telling Stories with Snapchat

Dawn Ostroff, one of the event’s keynote speakers, explained how the Conde Nast brand has moved beyond print magazines to transform its content, starting with two true crime shows. She contrasted Vanity Fair’s true crime show, “Vanity Fair Confidential,” which airs for 48 minutes on Investigation Discovery, with Conde Nast’s crime series on Snapchat, saying it’s “literally the pendulum that you would see on ’48 Hours,’ ‘Dateline,’ or any of those shows but we tell the story in four minutes. We tell the story in Snapchat style… it’s done millions and millions and millions of views in a day, so that’s amazing to see how you could take a four-minute crime and reinvent it for a different generation.”

Advertising for Today’s Short-Attention Spanned Audiences 

During the “Dollars and Sense” panel focused on advertising, Tiffany Kirk, managing director of investment for Horizon Media spoke about taking pointers from Hulu when it comes to giving both advertisers and short-attention spanned audiences what they want. “Hulu, they have this great model where as a viewer, I can sit there and watch the time go down and I know exactly when the content is coming back on. I truly believe that people understand that content’s not free. They’re willing to sit through an ad but not eight or nine of them, so I think that’s going to be a real disruptive and good thing, the challenge is going to be what’s the cost.”

How National Geographic Picks Their “Geniuses”

In a discussion amongst the women behind “Genius: Picasso,” Carolyn Bernstein, executive VP of Global Scripted TV for National Geographic, recalled how the choice of Einstein for the first season “felt not just incredibly appropriate for our brand, where science is a huge, important category for us, but also a great way to start the franchise with one of the world’s most famous scientists and sort of undeniably brilliant genius.” She added that landing on “creative and artistic” genius Picasso, played by the unanimous casting selection of Antonio Banderas, offered a “fun pivot away from science and towards the arts because if felt unpredictable.” In the hopes of continuing to show the breadth of their franchise in the third season’s focus on “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley, Bernstein is excited to explore “how this person has changed the culture,” especially “a person maybe a lot of people don’t really understand and know completely how she’s done that.”

The Importance of Leaning Into Talent Like Will Smith for Marketing Purposes

Claudine Cazian Britz, head of entertainment partnerships at Instagram, shared a clip of Will Smith hosting an Instagram Live conversation with an astronaut in space with the audience in the Four Seasons ballroom. Cazian Britz told the story of how after Will and his team called to make the request for the social media opportunity to promote Nat Geo series “One Strange Rock,” “we were like: How the heck are we going to make this happen? No one’s gone live before to space on Instagram.” But after a flurry of calls and figuring it out ultimately, she noted that “this is a perfect example of how leaning into talent can inspire opportunities maybe you didn’t imagine could exist.”

Bill Hader Admits to ‘Anticipatory Anxiety’ Before “Saturday Night Live” Tapings

In recounting how he just went back to host “SNL,” the “Barry” star shared how he still gets nervous by the live TV aspect of the show, not fully knowing what he is doing when everything keeps changing. As a cast member, “I would get very nervous when I did ‘SNL’ before every episode. I would just have a bit of a panic attack. This time it was no different.” Hader shared that Lorne Michaels even came in before the recent show and “was like: ‘Can you just relax?'” But once the show kicks in and Hader begins doing all his impressions, “I’m fine. It’s anticipatory anxiety is what it’s called. If you experience that, you know it blows.”

“Big Brother” Broke The Rules To Tell Contestants About 9/11

In discussing how much reality shows reflect what is happening in news headlines, “Big Brother” host Julie Chen revealed how the remaining three houseguests were “each told by producers in five sentences. If they asked anything, we told them more. If they didn’t ask, they went about their way.” At the time, the contestants noticed there were no planes flying, but they were “in their own bubble” and producers had to “get all our ducks in a row because we had to break the rules to tell.” Chen also noted how the people in the house were the last to know when Donald Trump won the presidency. Fellow panelist Lisa Vanderpump chimed in, joking: “That’s not a bad thing.”

How Reboots Can Offer Both Familiar and Reimagined Narratives 

SallyAnn Salsano, creator and executive producer of “Jersey Shore Family Vacation,” explained how “the world is in such a crazy place, and it makes you feel comfortable to watch a show you know. It’s like you’re at home, like you’re hanging out with old friends.” “Queer Eye” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” creator David Collins added that he had an inherent fear having to cast a new Fab Five fifteen years later. “Does lightning strike twice? But the time is right in the Trump era. The original show aired during the Bush era, so it’s time to come and shake the waters up again.”

Of all the shows in Norman Lear’s sitcom stable, “One Day at a Time” was an optimal choice for rebooting because the core characters were not as iconic as Archie Bunker or George Jefferson or Fred Sanford. “One Day at a Time” also lent itself to a reimagining rooted in the experience of a Cuban-American family in Los Angeles. Lear insisted that “we do not see enough Latinos for their population at all.” He went on to say how “we have a President talking about it all the time. He doesn’t want any more coming in. We’re having to deal with that constantly. It’s in our face. It didn’t start that way, but the ‘One Day’ Latino version is a clear effort to help people understand that family life among Latinos has great similarity to family life everywhere else.”

(Pictured: Warner Horizon Television’s Brooke Karzen, Ty Pennington, and Lisa Vanderpump)